Psalm 23 is one of the most popular and beloved psalms in the Bible. We often hear it recited at church or during times of mourning, yet it’s more than just a beautiful, poetic stanza.
Before David became king of Israel, he was a shepherd. He took care of and protected flocks of sheep, and he wrote this psalm describing God as a shepherd and God’s people as His flock.
Through this beautiful metaphor, Psalm 23 gives us invaluable insights into the character of God and His plan for His children.
God is Our Caring Provider
1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
Verses 1 and 2 explain how God is like a shepherd who provides and cares for His sheep. We have need of nothing because our Shepherd provides everything. We can rest and relax knowing that God is taking care of us. With God leading us, we experience peace and provision.
Now understand—sheep are not the smartest animals, so they need someone to take care of them, protect them, and even correct them. Sheep need guidance to safe pastures, and we too need a Shepherd to guide us to safety and lead us to provision.
Sometimes we think we know better than the Shepherd; we’re sure that we can take care of ourselves, but we really can’t.
In Mark 6:34, Jesus compared the people to sheep: “And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things.” Obviously, shepherd-less sheep are not a good thing; likewise, we need Jesus to be our Shepherd.
God Cares for us Spiritually
3He restores my soul; he leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Our Shepherd cares for us, and He is able to restore our souls.
Our soul is comprised of our mind, will, and emotions. There’s not one person on the planet who hasn’t experienced some pain, disappointment or grief in their soul. But the good news is this: our Shepherd cares for us, and He is able to restore our souls. He restores and heals our minds and emotions, renewing and strengthening our very lives!
Our Shepherd also leads us in the right way. In John 10:27, Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” When we submit to His will and His way, we can be sure that He’ll guide us along the path that is best for us. And for the sake of His name and His glory, He guides our wills to line up with His.
God Protects Us
4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
Sheep are pretty helpless animals, unable to defend themselves. Without a shepherd to protect and guide them, sheep are easy targets for predators. Additionally, because they are dumb, sheep wander off and get lost, putting themselves in great danger.
Shepherds often risked their own lives to rescue their sheep. They carried a rod and staff to protect and correct their sheep; they beat off any beast trying to attack, and they prodded sheep who were going the wrong way to steer them back to safety.
It’s the same with us: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). Sometimes we wander off and get into trouble, but we can trust that God cares for us and will protect and guide us if we’ll allow Him to.
When we go through difficult times, we don’t need to be afraid because we know that our Shepherd is with us in the midst of it. We can take comfort that he protects and guides us with His rod and staff, walking with us in the darkest of valleys. Even when faced with death, we don’t need to be afraid.
God Blesses Us
5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
There’s no way around this: God actually honors and blesses us right in front of our enemies! That’s right! He shows off by abundantly blessing us before the very ones who want to see us fall! We don’t have to worry about what others say or think about us because we know that God has our backs and that serving Him is never for nothing.
He will never fail us, and He’ll make sure that justice prevails. After all, “If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” (Romans 8:31). We can be sure that God’s goodness and mercy will pursue us every single day when we allow Him to shepherd us. With God’s love and goodness overtaking us, we can dwell in His presence every day until we finally spend eternity with Him.
Jesus Christ, Our Good Shepherd
In John 10:11, Jesus declared, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” He was clearly referring to the fact that He was giving His life to save us, His sheep.
Jesus was the Shepherd who became a sheep. Isaiah 53 is full of Messianic scriptures describing what the Messiah would be like. Verse 7b says, “He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.” God the Father sent His Son Jesus to become the final blood sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.
“John [the Baptist] saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’” (John 1:29). Thank God for the Good Shepherd who became the perfect, sacrificial Lamb of God, removing our sin, guilt, and shame and making us right with our Heavenly Father!
~ by Jennell Houts
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