The Lord is My Shepherd

The six, poetic verses of Psalm 23 have given hope and encouragement to countless generations. Its author, David, the King of Israel, uses a simple but powerful word picture to communicate his perspective of what it's like to experience life on journey with God.

Recently, as part of a personal Bible study, I dug into this familiar text to see what I could find. Today, I thought I would share with you what I discovered.

Photo credit: Audrey via Flickr cc

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.

In this writing, David explores his identity as a sheep. A helpless creature in need of a caregiver and a defender. As a former shepherd, he knew exactly what his statement implies. This is not David the king, the warrior. No, this is David the sheep, one of many who is completely dependent on The Shepherd.

David revels in his low position, boasting of its benefit. "I lack nothing," he says. What a statement! Nothing? Nothing at all? Can we possibly live in a state of complete satisfaction? For David, this was found in the care of the Lord.

He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.

What more could a sheep want than tall tender grass and an endless supply of fresh water? Well, maybe a nap. That's right, rest. Not hurried or rushed but peaceful and calm. The time of abundance is not a quickly passing phase, but an extended moment that can be savored. A time of refreshing, refueling and restoration.

He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.

Where weakness and frailty once was, now there is strength, deep strength. Soul strength. Not a sugar fix that lasts only a moment, but a refreshing that permeates every fiber of his being. After this blissful time of rest and refreshment, it's time to move. Time to experience new things, time to find other place that will provide.

This is not an aimless wandering or a random journey. There is a skilled and caring guide. Some paths could bring danger or risk of harm. The Shepherd knows which ones are best. He knows where they all lead and His leadership can be trusted. Why? Because of who He is. He is not just any shepherd, He is THE Shepherd.

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.

This is the hard part of the journey. The part that no one wants to experience. When the good times are just a memory and a dark cloud takes up residence over your life.

Note that we don't get into this place by wandering off. No, we are led here as well. We may not want to be in this dreadful place, but even here we are not alone. We are with the Shepherd. He has brought us here. Why? We don't know. What we do know is that He will be faithful to bring us through. We don't have to shake in fear. We can trust that He is who He says He is - the Good Shepherd.

You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.

We will have problems on life's journey. People will let us down, even without trying. But others will purposefully hurt us, striking out to cause harm. When this happens we want our savior to not only protect us but destroy them.

Sometimes He will choose to bless us in spite of what those around us are doing. In plain sight, those who hate us will witness the Good One serving us graciously and generously. He will lift us up with honor and respect and share with us His abundance. In His care we will be loved beyond measure.

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

What is our shepherd like? Full of everything right and nice and pleasant and joyful. He is... Good! Good to His very core. And out of that goodness comes an overwhelming love that will never abandon or forget or betray. His love will protect and guide us safely and carefully into eternity.

What are your thoughts on this passage? What does it say to you?

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