The Lord Is My Shepherd
The Twenty-third Psalm
Let's travel together through the twenty-third Psalm.Over thousands of years this has been a favourite Psalm which has brought comfort to many in many trials and troubles. It has not lost its power today. It is a favourite at funerals whether spoken or sung. As we explore it today open your mind to receive the same comfort many before have received. The Lord is still our shepherd and knows exactly what his sheep need.
The photo is mine.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul.
He guides 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 love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
A Caring Shepherd
It is thought that the great King David wrote this psalm. He had been a shepherd in his youth and knew what it meant to the sheep to be really well-cared for. In his relationship with God he had found that God also cared for His people as a good shepherd cares for his sheep.
The shepherd makes sure to find pasture for the sheep, not an easy task sometimes in an arid climate. Our shepherd, the Lord makes sure that we have spiritual food in the midst of a world that chases after material wealth. He sees that we have still waters to drink. Sheep will not drink where water is fast flowing, they need still waters. Our shepherd finds good water for us to drink to refresh our souls. Are we drinking that, or are we drinking from contaminated pools that will harm us? There are many parasites that attack a sheep and these are picked up from dirty water.There are many things in life that clamour for our attention but it is only with God, our shepherd that we will find pure water to do us good. As a shepherd David once fought with a bear to protect his sheep and another time he fought a lion. Our Good shepherd keeps us safe from the evil one too. He won the victory on the cross and we have only to trust in him to be safe.
The Lord is My Shepherd, He Restores My Soul
Sheep are funny creatures, and so are people. Sheep have a problem staying upright. They will often roll over onto their backs and then they are stuck like it, they cannot right themselves. They are completely dependent on the shepherd checking the flock and rolling them back onto their feet and making sure they have the circulation back in their legs and that they are back to normal.I remember as a teenager helping a farmer's daughter to go around the sheep checking them for this problem. It was not difficult to get the sheep to their feet, they just needed a helping hand to tip them in the right direction and then they could manage themselves. Is there someone in your life who just needs that helping hand to get them started in the right direction again?
We people are like those sheep. We get into difficulties and need the Lord to put us right again. We can depend on him being the best shepherd, who will not leave us in our predicament, but will set us on our feet again. The sheep continually get into this problem and the shepherd patiently checks them and uprights them, time after time. Jesus our shepherd is so patient with us and will gently set us on the right path, if we will let him.
The Right Way
If we allow Him to, the good shepherd will lead us the right way in life. We think we know what is best and want to go our own way, but He can show us the very best way for our life. It is not always the way that we think is best, or that others think is best for us.We have to work with the shepherd to find out what is the right way for us. He has our best interests at heart and will choose a way that suits our temperament and our abilities. He will not force us into something utterly alien to us.
As the shepherd leads the sheep to the best pasture for them and continually moves them on to new pasture, so our good shepherd will provide for all that we need, spiritually and physically.He is always thinking of what we need. He gave His life for us. He loves us dearly and cares for us each step we take in life.
Sheep May Safely Graze - Love the shades!
The Valley of the Shadow
We do not like to think of the "valley of the shadow of death", but we all pass through this valley many times. First it is when we lose loved ones. We hate those partings and do not understand them. Death is alien to us; we do not understand it. It is as if we were never intended to die. When we put our trust in Jesus the valley is something not to fear at all. It is just the dark way through to life eternal. Once through the valley the darkness will be left behind forever. For God is nothing but light and we will live in His light. We are not afraid because he is with us.
This is all very wonderful, but how are we to cope now? Our fears are very strong and we hate to feel them. We need to remind each other of God's love. This is what we do when we read or sing the Twenty-third Psalm at a funeral. The shepherd,who knows best, is caring for us. We must be gentle with those who have had difficult lives and find it difficult to believe in the Saviour's love. Those of us who have had relatively charmed lives must not expect them to come running to the shepherd, when they believe He has led them down impossibly difficult paths. The shepherd has His own way to show them His love. We should not rush in clumsily when the Shepherd has it all in hand.
Blessing Forever More
This Psalm does not end with the valley of the shadow, it ends with a table of a banquet, an overflowing cup, the vanquishing of our enemies and goodness and love all our days and life everlasting with the Shepherd, who has guided us all our way in life. It ends in triumph. Evil is banished; good reigns. No wonder this piece of literature, thousands of years old, still finds a resonance with us today. We know what it is to have our hopes dashed, but there is always hope for the future. But not "pie in the sky", hope for us now. We can begin to enjoy the everlasting life here and now if we will go the way of the Good Shepherd. Start to follow Him now and you will find blessing. I hope you will look again at The Lord is my shepherd and find comfort in this psalm, but not only comfort, encouragement to struggle on with your life, working for better things in the strength God gives you.
David, the Shepherd King
David is generally reckoned to be the author of the Twenty-third psalm. There are always "experts" who will argue about such things and come up with theories to the contrary but I think it is very likely that David was indeed the author of this Psalm.
David was the second king of Israel and arguably its greatest. He started life as a young shepherd boy, out in the world looking after his father's sheep. This was no easy task and David had fought off a lion and a bear at different times to protect his flock. He had learned skills which would help him in later life. He knew how to use a sling. This was a simple weapon which enabled him to throw a stone some distance to scare off predators. The stone moved at a great velocity and with much practice David became deadly accurate with this weapon. It was with this that he was able to kill the nine foot tall Goliath, which feat made him famous in Israel. He was not filled with pride at this killing of Goliath, but attributed it all to God in whom he trusted.
So when David writes "The Lord is my shepherd," he knows just what a good shepherd is like.