The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.Psalm 23
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads 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 mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
I’ve had this passage memorized for as long as I can remember. I have clear memories of reciting it in Sunday school when I was five or six. One of the great benefits of having a passage memorized is you can meditate on it any time you want to. A potential downside is that when verses are so familiar, you can take them for granted without fully appreciating them. This is a psalm that I often find helpful to close my eyes and spend a few minutes focusing on, in order to break through the familiarity and really soak in the message of comfort and peace.
The Lord Is My Shepherd
Without spending a great deal of time researching the characteristics of sheep, I know a few things about them:
- They know their master’s voice and follow,
- They need protection from predators, and they wander.
We are the same way. At least with the second two characteristics: we need God’s protection and we often stray off the path. But do we always know our master’s voice? Are there things we can do to be better tuned in, such as spending quiet time meditating on God and the things we read in the Bible, just like David did? Could we easily write a psalm about what we know about God, as David did? Could we break out in song about the things God has done for us, extolling the characteristics we know about Him? How can we get to know God’s voice better?
I Shall Not Want
Do we feel there are things we lack, or do we believe that our shepherd provides everything we truly need?
Look at all the action words in the next section. I love action words, because they give me something to imitate. But in this case, most of the actions come from God, which is comforting. I don’t have to do all the work.
- He makes me lie down;
- He leads;
- He restores.
So much of the action in our life comes from God, though we may not always recognize it.
- We could do more lying down in the green pastures He provides.
- We could do more sitting quietly beside the still waters He leads us to.
- We could be more cognizant of the restoration of our souls that He provide.
- We could do more following His lead down the path of righteousness.
- We don’t have to lead; we must simply follow.
These verses show that the places God leads us to are good. It doesn’t say He leads us into the shadow of the valley of death, although we can’t say definitively that He doesn’t, for our own good. But what we do know is that for whatever reason we find ourselves there, He is with us. Our response needs to be trust. Why? Because He is with us! His rod and staff are there for us, to protect, direct, and comfort us. When we find ourselves among enemies, God is there too, preparing a table for us, anointing our heads with oil, making sure we have all the resources we need to face any situation.
The psalm ends with some of the most comforting words in all Scripture . . .
Surely Goodness and Mercy Shall Follow Me
We don’t have to pursue God’s goodness and mercy, in the sense of seeking something hidden or hard to lay hold of. God’s goodness and mercy will follow us, chasing us down to catch us! And, ultimately, even if we don’t always recognize that goodness and mercy in this life, we will see its fulfillment when we are given the blessing of dwelling in the house of the Lord forever.