The LORD is my shepherd

Posted by admin on 8 March 2021 in Psalms |

      Psalm 23:1-6

      1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

    2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

    3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

    4 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.

    5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

    6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
forever.

The author sings,

“The Lord is my Shepherd” (1a)

In other words, he sings, I am a sheep of the Lord.

Let’s think about the characteristics of sheep. Sheep are mild and gentle animals. But they are stubborn, stupid, short-sighted, coward and easy to fall, and not easy to get up. So sheep cannot survive without a shepherd. Without a shepherd, sheep easily go astray, starve, thirst, fall to the pit, are unable to get up, attacked and eaten by wolfs, fight with & hurt by other sheep. The welfare and destiny of sheep depend on what shepherd they have. We are short-sighted and stupid sheep before God. But the author sings that God is his shepherd.  How does God as his shepherd treat him? Look at v2.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,” (2)

The author of Psalm 23 sings that the Lord makes him lie down in green pastures (2). Sheep need green pastures because the grass is their food. As sheep eat the grass, the grass gets shorter. As time flows, sheep will be getting harder to eat from short grass and become hungry and tired. So shepherd regularly needs to take sheep to new green pastures where the grass is long enough so that sheep can eat them with ease. If the grass is long, it is easy to eat and provide a good cushion to lie down on them.

Higher ground has more grass and freshwater. So shepherd needs to take the sheep to higher land.  It is hard for the sheep to follow the shepherd to go higher ground of the mountain. It may be steep. It may be far. But the shepherd knows that there are better grass and water over there.

Sheep are stubborn animals. In the middle of the way to the higher ground, sheep may insist not to go further. When sheep feel thirsty and find the water on the ground, sheep may insist on drinking from it. But sheep do not know it is deadly. Dirty water on the ground has many harmful and deadly bacteria that make sheep seriously sick or dead. So the shepherd forces the sheep not to drink from the dirty water and drag them to the higher ground.

Sheep are short-sighted animals. So the sheep get lost without the guidance of the shepherd. It may walk far away in the wrong direction. So shepherd may walk far to look for the lost sheep here and there, find it and take it back to where it should be. Sheep would be content with what they have nearby. Only the shepherd can see far away and know wonderful green pastures and fresh waters on the hill and guide them there.

Sheep fall and are flipped upside down easily and cannot get up by themselves. Shepherd needs to raise it. Otherwise, sheep cannot get up by themselves and could die in that condition.

Once they arrive at the higher ground of the mountain, the shepherd needs to pour out waters from the river so that the sheep can drink from it. How much water the sheep can drink depends on how much water the shepherd draws out from the river.  Now we have Jesus as our shepherd. And we are His sheep. He knows what is best for us. If we continue to follow Jesus, we will see the best plan he has for each of us to come to reality.

See v3.

“he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

He restores my soul (3a).  The soul is more difficult to be restored than the physical body. Proverbs 18:14 says

14 A man’s spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?

For example, in physical sickness, we can fall back on the will to live; but in depression, even the will to live could be gone.

Before I met Jesus as my shepherd, I was a lost sheep. I despaired, and I thought no one loves me. I didn’t know why I should carry on to live. But my relative sister, who was a good Christian, told me that God loves me. And she said to me that God has a wonderful plan for my life. I met my shepherd, Jesus. Only Jesus saved me from my despair. He gave me the reason to live. He fanned into flame my programming talent at work. Also, Jesus gave me the mission to take care of and feed his sheep (John 21:15-17).

Jesus restores our souls from depression, emotional pain, broken will, and a loss of vitality. It is important to keep a close relationship with Jesus through Bible reading and prayer so that Jesus can use us to restore others’ souls.

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake (v3b).

Proverbs 12:28 says

28 In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality.

Shepherd’s primary concern is on sheep’s life and wellbeing. Therefore Jesus as our shepherd will keep us on the paths of righteousness where there is life as proverbs 12:28 says. The Bible says righteousness is from the faith in what Jesus has done on the cross for us. By faith, we are justified as righteous men. Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). Therefore we simply need to listen to the shepherd’s voice and follow the shepherd. Then we are on the right paths.

See v4.

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.

Rod and staff are weapons used by the shepherd when wild animals attack his sheep. Rod and staff are extremely powerful when thrown directly, and the wild animal can die immediately in one strike.

See v5.

The shepherd prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

Our enemies are those who want us to fail. They hurt and try to destroy us. But our shepherd prepares a feast before us in the presence of them. This is a wonderful and victorious experience.

See v5b.

You anoint my head with oil.

Sheep sometimes are angry at each other and hit each other with their heads.  As a result, sheep can be injured and bleed. The shepherd needs to put oil on their head so that their oily heads may not cause injuries because oil makes their heads slippery. So his oil will smooth our relationship with others. His spirit will make you wise and flexible to cope with different people with different characters.

In Hebrew, they pour oils on the head of the person who is appointed as king, priest, or prophet. Anointing the head with oil means being appointed for an important position, which is respectable and influential. So his oil honours you.

See v5c.

My cup overflows.

God blesses us to our full capacity for His blessing.

See v6.

6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

The author of Psalm sings that “goodness and love will follow me”. Sheep are supposed to follow the shepherd. But here, in return, goodness and love follow sheep. This happens where there is a deep and enduring commitment between the two. Jesus continues to provide as the shepherd while we, as sheep, are needy but unable to help ourselves.

Who is your shepherd? Are you living your life without a shepherd? Then you are a sheep without a shepherd. You are vulnerable and lost. Accept Jesus as your shepherd.  Jesus said at John 10:11 that

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Jesus laid down his life for us. He died on the cross to forgive our sins. Accept Jesus today and become his sheep. He will guide your life to life in its fullness. Amen.

Reference

"A shepherd looks at Psalm 23" by Phillip Keller

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