Michael Chambers | Cleveland, Tennessee
Psalm 23 is universally loved because of its comforting message. When you read into the Hebrew wording, the message really comes alive. “Yahweh—the Almighty who keeps covenant with Israel—is my very own shepherd. I shall never be in need or lack because of this relationship.”
That is an awesome thought. The omnipotent, all-powerful God who created the universe and keeps it in order is the same One who constantly leads me, like a shepherd leads his sleep. He guides me from place to place, making sure I have food and water. He protects me and provides shelter. He knows me by name and takes delight in me.
David showed perfect insight when he (speaking for all of us) used the word sheep. They are not very bright animals; they’re afraid of everything and yet can be quite stubborn despite repeated training. Taking that into consideration, is it not amazing that the Lord God who inhabits the Holiest Place in Heaven cares so deeply for you in every way like an earthly shepherd cares for his sheep?
Shepherds raise and nurture the sheep. They give medicine to them. Morning and evening each individual animal is checked by the shepherd. Jesus is our Good Shepherd; He knows His sheep, and they know His voice (John 10:14, 27). When some enemy prowls nearby, when a storm rages fierce, a shepherd stands between it and the flock. When the enemy hunts for you, desiring to sift you like wheat, when the terrors of sin surround you, Yahweh God stands there to protect you. You will never be in need because of His protection and care. He is Jehovah-Jireh, your provider. He is your Shepherd!
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.” David makes an interesting point here. He says the Good Shepherd makes him sit still. Have you ever found yourself so busy that you ended up being of no good use to anyone? That is when you need to be still and know God. That is when God “makes” you sit, and makes you enjoy the beauty and pleasures all around. You may not realize that it is time to pause, but He does. And what better place to make you rest than in the midst of a lush, green field! With God, it is always “only the best!”
Former Presidents of the United States have commented while in office that they give no thought to their personal safety. They know that the Secret Service is there to protect them. Those highly trained men and women are very dedicated to their task. So much so, that the person being guarded literally lives and moves in a shield of safety. Yet the entire Secret Service cannot protect or give assurance to you for your safety as much as “the name of the Lord” can (Proverbs l8:10). He is Jehovah-Shalom, the God who gives peace. He is your Shepherd!
“He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” The caption from a cartoon reads, “There’s no reason for it—that’s just our company policy.” Life is full of such examples, but God is not like that. The two parts of this verse are connected and the basis for them is the phrase “for His name’s sake.” To “restore” means to bring back to the point of departure or deviation. When we go away from God, our Good Shepherd comes looking for us. He takes us back to the place where sin first deceived us, but He doesn’t stop there. Jesus puts us back on the path of right living—and continues to lead us. Why? Because like an earthly shepherd, Jesus cares for each and every one of His lambs. He is Jehovah-Tsidkenu, the Lord who makes us righteous. He is your Shepherd!
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” After telling that the Good Shepherd leads beside still waters and abundant, green fields, David brings in a change of tone. Now he admits that there are times of deep, dark fear and terror. But during these travels thru the abyss (which can be as terrifying as death itself) Yahweh God—David’s very own Divine Shepherd—is right there alongside him. We all have friends who will go with us thru trials, to a point. However, when even the closest of friends cannot go with us, the Lord is still there. Though He is the Almighty Lord, He brings along His shepherd staff and His walking cane. The staff, to protect me and steer along the right direction, and the walking stick to steady my footsteps. With Him beside me, and the rod and the staff on each side, I know l shall reach the end of each and every valley of shadows! When out in the plains and grassy fields, there are other sheep who need the Shepherd’s attention. But when I come to the valleys, the place of trials, the grammatical tense changes from the third person (“He”) to second person (“You; Thou”). Just Jesus and me, going where no other will go. Each fear or earth trial that comes to me—and Jesus. He is there right beside me. When the shadows hide His presence, He is still there! Job lost the awareness of God’s presence, but he was ever on God’s mind. And God was there listening to everything Job said. He is Jehovah-Shammah, the Lord who is there.
He is your Shepherd!
“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” “In the presence of mine enemies” is a wonderful thought. You see, the Good Shepherd not only leads and protects, He gives honor and victory. During the time of David, it was a common practice for a victorious king to host a feast for his generals and other guests. Prior to the meal, the defeated king and his warlords were brought in and chained to the walk and pillars. There, in the presence of their enemies, the champions feasted! The Lord knows who your enemies are and He has already defeated them! But there is more. He is carefully arranging a wonderfully spread table for you while they helplessly look on. No matter what the devil tries to do to you, God will increasingly bless you as long as you are part of His flock. For an example, look at Job. Every single thing he had, the devil took. Yet, everything the devil took, God restored double! The second part of this verse takes us deeper into the love of God: “Thou anointest my head with oil.” These words raise us from the position of “guests” (from the first part of the verse) to being kings and priests. Only priests and kings were anointed with the scented oil. We know that the world may see us merely as sheep, but God sees us as more. To Him we are mighty warriors and special priests, and the anointing is His unique sign, the Divine seal of approval. He is Jehovah-Nissi, the Lord your banner. He is Your Shepherd!
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” The twenty-third Psalm pictures the Lord in many aspects, but it also pictures Him in many places. According to verses one through three, He leads; in verses four and five, He is going alongside. Now, in the final words, we discover a spiritual truth: God’s great love actively pursues us. The literal translation? Right into His very palace! The presence of our Good Shepherd goes ahead, walks beside, and follows us closely. It’s no wonder Satan complained to God in Job 1:10 about the Divine hedge!
How secure is this ring of protection? The word “surely” means ‘’without a doubt.’ As a shepherd himself, David knew the ways and workings of God. From his own experiences, David could remember the good times and the dangerous perils. Like one of his own sheep, he could recall when he had followed the Lord and when he had wandered off on his own. David also remembered that he would follow after the sheep and securely put them into the fold at evening. Amazed at the wonderful grace of God following him throughout his life, he wrote that he himself would one day enter the safety of the Lord’s house, a welcome guest throughout eternity. He is Jehovah-Mekaddishkem, He is the Lord who satisfies. He is your Shepherd.