Most of us are familiar with this lovely Psalm. Its peaceful imagery and encouraging words soothe the soul. It is a picture of our relationship with God, the Son as He guides and pastors us. It is a picture of our relationship with God, the Father as He disciplines and protects us. And it is a picture of our relationship with God, the Spirit as He comforts and leads us. Verses 1-3 read,
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.”
Sheep have no concerns. They trust completely in their shepherd, who wants them to be healthy, fed, and safe. Jesus does that for us. We can wholly have faith in and rely on Him. We have no needs that He will not meet. We do not lack anything in Him. He takes us to a place of rest with plentiful provision. We can rest because He is watching out for us. We can rest because we do not have to earn redemption, He paid for it and gives it to us freely.
In His care and rest we are made whole. Our weary souls are restored to perfection. He guides us to walk and be like He is, righteous and holy. He does all this good for us so that we can glorify him, represent His name, and let the lost know He can shepherd them as well.
Verse 4 reads,
“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.”
We walk as innocent strangers in a world of evil. But God is with us, leading us through it. Enemies surround us. The devil like a prowling lion waits to attack. The lost hate us for Christ’s sake. But we have no fears because God is with us. He protects us. He is all we need.
The shepherd’s rod is what he uses to protect himself and his sheep. It is his weapon against predators and it is his discipline for wayward sheep as he teaches them to follow him instead of straying. He also uses his rod to keep track of and count the sheep so that he will not lost a single one to its wanderings or hungry predators and so that he can know there were no sheep from a different flock among his own. Further as the sheep pass under his rod for counting, the shepherd uses the rod to examine them and make certain they are healthy and have no hidden wounds he needs to tend to. Ezekiel 20:37 mentions the rod in this way,
“I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant.”
The staff is the tool that clearly identifies the shepherd as a shepherd. The tool is used solely by shepherds for sheep, and only sheep. While the rod conveys authority, protection and discipline, the staff speaks of patient kindness. The shepherd uses the staff to keep the flock together as a unit. He will use the crook to gently lift a lamb and bring it to its mother. He uses it to bring the sheep to himself as well. And thirdly he uses the staff to guide the sheep into a new path, through a gate or along treacherous and difficult roads. He does so by gently laying the staff along the side of the sheep thus softly guides the sheep in the proper direction.
God’s discipline, protection, and guidance is certainly a comfort. We have no anxieties or worries in His care. And He cares deeply. He does more than simply provide the bare essentials. He lavishes us with blessings and gifts. He doesn’t hand us a scrap of bread and a cup of water. He lays out a meal to share with us. He chooses us and makes us holy, royal, and His heirs. We are not beggars at the door. We are not even honored guests. We are His bride and the meal he provides is a feast announcing it to everyone. We are His and no one may hurt us or touch us while we share His name and His table. Verses 5-6 read,
“You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
We will not lose the goodness and richness of God. The blessings he bestows are ours eternally. His mercy is ours forever. We will go through the world and share His mercy, His righteousness, and His love with the lost and with the saved. We are eternally God’s own beloved.
In John chapter 10 Jesus described Himself as our Good Shepherd and He made some promises to us in that description. These promises echo Psalm 23. John 10:1-5 reads,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
John 10:8-14 says,
“All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,”
And John 10:27-30 read,
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
Take comfort, Believer. You are not on your own. You can depend entirely and utterly on God. He is your Good Shepherd.