“I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.”
Psalm 23 is perhaps the most well-known and dearest passages of Scripture. However, I think sometimes, it is so common, that the meaning is overlooked. We’re talking about promises from the Good Shepherd here! This is important, life-giving information!
“The Lord is MY shepherd,” It is a choice to take on the Lord as Shepherd. For many years, I refused Christ. I didn’t want Him to ruin my life. I had a handle on ministry and doing good things, and I had seen too many people who followed Christ turn away, so I rejected salvation. It was fine for others, just not for me. I could handle myself. How wrong I was! I saw that when things started to fall apart. Jesus so desperately wanted to lead me, to gather me in His arms, and to shield me. Now I know Him, and though it is hard, I try to follow Him, because He is good!
“I shall not want.” Want in this instance means need. I am totally dependent on God. If He forgets something, I’m in trouble. But because He is faithful, I know He will give me all the Good things that I need. He will not leave me lacking, but will satisfy every need.
“He makes me to lie down in green pastures… He restores my soul.” Green pastures. Even when there is no rain. Even when it is the middle of the summer and most of the grass is past. He brings me to green pastures. Green grass is not only full of nutrients, it is soft, and it is relaxing. Sheep eat their fill in the morning, and then lay in the afternoon, chewing the cud, and enjoying the day. God brings me to green pastures through His living Word. As I meditate on His Words to me that morning, He restores and refreshes my soul. There is so much more to this, but that’s a good start.
“He leadeth me beside the still waters” Sheep are easily frightened. If they were brought to rushing water, they would bolt. Instead, a good shepherd finds them quiet fresh water streams. Just this year, I have been learning how to be still and know that the Lord is God. BE STILL. It’s hard to just sit in His presence, not talking, not asking questions or quoting Scripture, but just RESTING. However, that “lightning bolt” will of God that I so desperately want would scare me for sure- I am just a lamb. God says, Be still. Wait. Rest.
“He leads me in the paths of righteousness, for His name’s sake.” A sheep knows it’s shepherd, and follows him. They don’t know a stranger’s voice, and they get confused as to where to go. Here, I am given a slight hint: if I’m confused, and I can’t hear the Lord’s voice, I still can go in the way of righteousness. God’s Word has the blueprint. If it’s not according to His Word, it’s probably NOT His voice.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” Following the Shepherd does not mean free of trouble. There are days sheep need shorn, or their hooves trimmed, or goats need dehorned, or branded... all of them necessary things, but painful.
“I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” YES! I don’t have to be afraid. The Shepherd is there. Sometimes, when we had bad storms, I would hear the goats or the sheep crying. As soon as I get out there, they calm down. They know from experience, the shepherd will take care of them, they don’t have to be afraid. Unfortunately, I’m not perfect, and I wasn’t always there. However, the Good Shepherd is ALWAYS there. I have no need to fear.
“Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.” You may wonder, as I used to, “Rod and staff? Seriously?” In reality though, these are two tools that are a comfort to sheep (specifically, -goats are a little different.) A rod is used to vindicate any harm that comes to the sheep. A staff guides, corrects, and rewards sheep. In the same way, it can be a comfort to us to know that our Shepherd is a just Judge, and He will guide, correct, protect, and reward.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.” It is easy to think of a literal table with food on it, but entertain with me another idea of “table.” A table of land is a broad level elevated plate of land, a plateau. Why a table in the midst of enemies? Try to picture a coyote attempting to get to sheep by climbing up a cliff-like wall of a plateau. It would be rather difficult. God gives safety in the midst of trouble.
“You anoint my head with oil.” A shepherd uses oil for a variety of things, but mostly to keep bugs off the sheep’s head (their only exposed skin), and as ointment for healing. Prayer is our tool to protect us from Satan’s unwanted bugs, or to ask the Lord for healing. He gives us as He deems we need.
“My cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life,” When we don’t have to worry about troubles, sickness, enemies, or even death, we have JOY. In Christ is fullness of joy! God’s goodness and mercy are given characteristically throughout a Christian’s life, in various ways.
“And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Back in the days of the Bible, shepherds kept their flocks in “folds” a circular stone wall with a narrow opening at which the shepherd kept watch. The house is like the barn. My sheep were kept in a barn, or sometimes in a fenced pasture. Fences that keep the sheep in, yes, but also keep the dangers out. With the Lord as my Savior, He is with me and IN me at all times. I will dwell in His presence. He has boundaries set up for me- a “house” to keep me safe.
Where are you dwelling?