“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need” [Psalm 23.1 NLT].
As a spiritually sensitive soul, David over a period of time and without too much difficulty would have seen clearly and experienced unmistakable parallels between the diligent care of his sheep and the Almighty’s painstaking attention to every minute detail of His children’s lives. Consequently, David could truthfully declare, “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need” [Psalm 23.1].
The Lord was to David, in every area of his life, an exceptionally good shepherd and in Psalm 23.2 David testifies to the truth that “He lets me rest in [the extremely scarce] green meadows; [and] he leads me beside peaceful streams.” Based upon these words we stress and rightly so it’s spiritual benefits and these are faithfully accompanied by the overarching sense that God is in His heaven and all is well with the world.
David who intimately knew the heart-beat of the shepherd, goes on to say that God “renews my strength” and the present tense indicates that He is doing this for His people every day. This is why we should not be in a panic to move from where we are but we are to be still in God’s hand. You may be wondering, what then is the divine purpose behind this period of seeming inactivity? God has diligently arranged your circumstances so that He can guide you along the right paths, therefore, bringing honour to His name. It is interesting to know that “right paths” can also be translated as “sheep tracks”, which are, when surveyed by the non-shepherd undecipherable, however the shepherd knows his individual sheep by name and he can carefully follow their footprints over the steep hills and through the deep and dangerous ravines and then, back home again with the sheep to a place of peace and safety. We have here a microscopic picture of God’s providential dealings with His people.
Therefore David goes on to say, “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me” [Psalm 23.4]. At that time the brave and fearless shepherd had a difficult and a dangerous vocation to fulfil. Therefore, the wise and faithful shepherd would be prepared for all eventualities. For example, having his rod and his staff within easy reach of his hands indicates that the themes of protection and preservation are to be found in Psalm 23.4.
However, there are shepherds who teach that it is OK to break the leg of a wandering sheep and then to carry it home on his shoulders. Why perform this deed? This act, they believe, will prevent the sheep from wandering again. However, on the other hand, I am inclined to believe that the wise and discerning shepherd will always guide his flock in safe paths which would often involve them in passing by a thicket where a ravenous lion was lurking and a large cave where a mother bear whose cubs had recently been taken from her care was already preparing to pounce on the passing sheep. These God-designed and specifically detailed deliverances, even if it meant taking the long way round, will be satisfactorily explained in eternity.
David said, “You [will] prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honour me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings” [Psalm 23.5]. The shepherd’s reward for faithful and very often life-threatening service is to be invited by his master to sit with him at his table and to enjoy close fellowship with their friends. While all this was occurring, his master’s servants brought into the banqueting hall a procession of their main antagonists, all bound and fettered in chains.
David concludes this encouraging and enlightening Psalm with these sweet and beautiful words, “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever” [Psalm 23.6]. For our part, we have been extremely privileged to join the great and ever increasing number of believers who continually quote regardless of their troublesome and complex situations, this Psalm over and over again. You may be wondering why go down this particular theological avenue? Multitudes of people have discovered, delighted in and devoured God’s words of peace and assurance, which have repeatedly brought comfort and clarification to His people whose bedtime and breakfast companion has often been sprinkled with suffering, trials and tribulation. However, the truth, from God’s perspective is that “His goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever” [Psalm 23.6]. [David McArdle]