Posted January 24, 2017
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.He makes me lie down in green pastures.He leads me beside still waters.
Psalm 23 is the most well-known of David’s psalms. In it, David, who was a shepherd in his early days prior to becoming king, describes God as His shepherd. This passage reminds us of three truths:
We are not shepherd-less.
When life or circumstances get crazy, it’s easy to see chaos as either the absence of God or abandonment by God. We think things like, “If God were real, this wouldn’t happen…” “If He loved me or were near me, this sorrow wouldn’t afflict me.” And yet here David loudly proclaims that in every season we might find ourselves in, there is a shepherd. We are not a shepherd-less flock without direction; we are not alone!
We have a shepherd with a name.
Merely having a shepherd is not necessarily good news. Shepherds can be evil and cruel, mistreating their sheep. Bad shepherds can ignore their sheep, or only look after themselves. David tells us that our shepherd has a name: the LORD. When you see LORD in all caps in the Bible, it is referring to God’s personal, covenantal name that He gave to His people. In revealing His name, His aim was to reveal what He was like. In this case it not only reminds us of His lordship, but also His covenantal faithfulness. Though we are a wayward flock who often reject our shepherd seeking out other shepherds who we think might provide for us in ways we want, amazingly we find in God a shepherd who is faithfulness in spite of His sheep. We may be stiff-necked and stupid, but God is tender-hearted and faithful. He isn’t vindictive, but has graciously covenanted Himself to His people!
We have a shepherd who leads & provides.
God’s name tells us that God is good, and His goodness manifests itself in two ways in these verses: leading His sheep and providing for them. God’s sheep are never in want because He is leading them and knows just what they need in order to provide for them. In this passage we find God extending food (green pastures) and drink (still waters) to them as well as rest. They are laying down in these green pastures of plenty with their shepherd; they are being led by still waters so they can drink in peacefully.
God’s greatest demonstration of goodness and provision was in sending His only Son, who is known as our Good Shepherd (John 10:10), to take on flesh, become a sheep (one of us), and ultimately lay down His life for us that we might be brought into the fold of God. He was abandoned and in want that we might become beloved sheep. He was laid down not in green pastures but rather on a gruesome cross and in a cold tomb; He was led not by still waters but rather turbulent waters of rejection by His own Father for the sins He did not commit. This Shepherd we come to is trustworthy and kind!
If we as sheep could understand this goodness and trust in it more, we would leave His side much less often. Tim & Kathy Keller concluded their devotional on Psalm 23 in “The Songs of Jesus” with this prayer:
Lord, if I fed on your love, grace, and truth, I would not be in any want. In this life I will never attain that, yet you are always with me, and someday you will lead me to my true country, the home I’ve been looking for all my life. Help me rest in that. Amen.
Song by Zach Winters.
Artwork by Jesse Owen.
Devotional by Joel Limpic.