This week, we are looking at the character of this One to whom we are called to submit. And one way we know the Lord is as our Shepherd.
Psalm 23 begins with the Hebrew words “Yahweh rohi,” the Lord my Shepherd. Yahweh, in our English Bibles LORD (in all caps), is the unique and sacred name of the Everlasting and Eternal God – the almighty, omniscient and omnipotent Creator.
The New Testament focuses on God incarnate, God in human flesh, Who we know as Jesus Christ. He is identified in John 10:11 as the Good Shepherd. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” So both Father (Yahweh) and Son (Jesus Christ) are the Shepherd of those who have surrendered to their rule.
Psalm 23 was written by David, who during his youth had been a shepherd over his father’s flock. He took seriously his responsibility as the protector of the sheep.
In 1 Samuel 17, we read of some of young David’s experiences as a shepherd. In answer to King Saul’s concern that David was only a youth, not able to go against the Philistine giant Goliath who was taunting the army of Israel, David recalls some of the dangers he faced and overcame as he was tending sheep for his father, saying this Philistine would be like one of the lions or bears he battled as a shepherd.
“Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him.” (1 Samuel 17:33-34 ESV)
Sheep are definitely not the smartest animals God created! They constantly need to be under the watchful eye of a shepherd as they graze. In the hilly terrain of Palestine, sheep faced many dangers. For example, if one sheep jumped off a cliff, and there was no shepherd there to protect them, the whole flock would likely follow. Therefore having an alert and vigilant shepherd to watch over them was essential.
Let’s look at Psalm 23 verse by verse. In these six short verses, we are promised:
* RELATIONSHIP AND PROVISION: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” (Psalms 23:1a) (The word translated “want” refers to not lacking anything we need.)
* REST AND RESTORATION: “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:2-3a)
* GUIDANCE AND PURPOSE: “He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (Psalms 23:3b)
* GOD’S PRESENCE AND COMFORT: “Even 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.” (Psalms 23:4)
* BLESSING AND ABUNDANCE: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” (Psalms 23:5)
* GOD’S GOODNESS AND MERCY AND AN ETERNITY WITH HIM: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalms 23:6)
Like sheep, we are helpless, defenseless, and even purposeless without God in our lives. We need a Shepherd who will protect, provide, and give purpose to our lives. And God wants to be that good Shepherd in our lives.
There’s just one problem. As sheep we are not always wanting what our Good Shepherd provides. W. Phillip Keller, author of A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, wrote, “It takes some of us a lifetime to learn that Christ, our Good Shepherd, knows exactly what He is doing with us. He understands us perfectly.”
We want the care of the Good Shepherd while still reserving the right to do things our way. But that’s not the way it works. Surrender to the One who is our Good Shepherd is to key to being able to partake of all the benefits of being one of His sheep. On this Thankful Thursday, let’s make sure there are no areas of our lives we are refusing to surrender to the Lordship of Christ and then give thanks to God for all the blessings that are a part of the life of surrender.