“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” – Psalm 23
Psalm 23 is one of the best known texts in the Bible. It is rich with the image of the shepherd and what a shepherd does. Comforting, soothing words that we need to hear in our journey through life. It is also extremely powerful in its simplicity. By using the word shepherd to describe God, David was introducing one of the most personal and wide-ranging terms found in the Psalms and perhaps in the Old Testament about God. David often used terms like fortress, deliverer, shield, and rock to refer to God; but here he used a word-picture of one who lives with his flock and is everything to it.
Psalm 23 starts with, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want” (v. 1). In other words, I have everything I need in Jesus. Where my own desires for acceptance or my pride lead to a heart left in shambles, He restores my soul, establishing a new foundation of righteousness and hope. When I am worried about the future, I now know the ending, regardless of circumstance.
“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” (v. 4). When anxiety and worry start to consume my life, Jesus is with me, lifting my chin so my eyes rest on Him rather than my problems. His presence means that He is in control, and I am under His care.
Psalm 23 concludes with this promise: “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (v. 6). We can find find our rest in Jesus today and in an uncertain future. His love and our identity in Him will overwhelm our fears.
David was the son of a shepherd, had been a shepherd himself, and would even become known as the Shepherd King. David knew this title was applied to the person who was ultimately, on a very personal level, responsible for the care and well being of the flock. David was saying because the Lord is my Shepherd, He satisfies my needs, and I do not lack any good thing. That is the very place our Savior wants to bring us to, so that we are dependent on Him and Him alone. In real terms, we can’t make it without a shepherd, so we must allow the Shepherd to rule our lives.
Jesus Christ says “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) If you are a Christian, Jesus Christ is your Shepherd and He cares for you and will never let you go.
- Why do you think Psalm 23 become the most famous of all the Psalms? What is it that makes this Psalm so enduring?
- David did not have the privilege of knowing Jesus Christ who said: “I am the good shepherd.” Read John 10:7-30 and list what other insights you received into the shepherding of his people. How are these relevant for your life?
- David talked about how God leads us through dark valleys. What are some dark valleys you walked through? How did God demonstrate His faithfulness to you? How did that time in your life affect and shape you into who you are today?
- What does “fear no evil” mean for you? How is this possible? Do you find it easy or difficult?
- What does it mean to “dwell in the house of the Lord forever?” Is that something to experience here on earth, or just in heaven?