The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I 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 have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23 NASB).
When I read this awesome prayer written by King David, I read it as a confident statement of faith. I believe it can be a very powerful statement of faith for all of us. When I further meditate upon the 23rd Psalm, it becomes so much more.
Can you visualize it? Can’t you see Jesus as ‘your’ Divine Shepherd? Walking along the path of life with you and guiding you every step of the way. Isn’t it comforting to visualize this?
I believe we can all get a better understanding of the fullness of Psalm 23 if we look at it from both David’s perspective as well as the sheep’s.
First of all, we know that sheep are not the most intelligent animal. With their heads down and a main interest on food, they tend to get off track and lost easily. Sound familiar? We also know they are quite vulnerable to many different predators while out in the field. The sheep are truly dependent upon a good a faithful shepherd whose voice is recognized by the sheep. This is where David comes into play.
David’s job as a shepherd was quite lowly and not highly respected back in their culture. However, it was his responsibility to tend to all the sheep and make sure they were protected and cared for. He knew exactly what it meant to be a ‘good shepherd’. It required a tireless and faithful attitude towards each and everyone of those sheep. That meant he could not even lose one.
I am quite sure that he got bored out there in the field with the sheep. In fact, I am sure he even hated his job at times. Maybe it was in this boredom that he was able to perfect his skill with a sling and stones, which we know later came in handy and even led to his becoming the King of Israel.
David was surely not a perfect man. In fact, we all know about his adulterous affair with Bathsheba and then the murder of her husband. So what was it that would cause God to say that David was a “man after my own heart.” I believe that at least in part it goes back to all that time David spent as a shepherd as a boy and young man. David not only provided the necessities to the sheep, like food, water, and protection, but he also provided them with a loving guidance that required discipline at times, and even a willingness to lay down his own life for their safety. And David did all of this with absolute faithfulness.
With our many faults, we are a lot like David in some respects. But the question is, do we really have a heart after God and His purposes? Do we have a strong desire to be faithful with what God has already given us, or the position that He has placed us in? Our answers to these questions are extremely important. God may not be leading you into a place of great power and influence like David, but I believe He is leading you to much higher places. Maybe your ‘higher place’ is becoming a better parent. Maybe it is coming alongside a co-worker who is in desperate need of a friend. Maybe it is accepting that promotion which requires you to move. No matter what it is, we can be sure that God is faithfully leading and guiding us through both the mountains and the valleys.
Like the sheep, we must learn to recognize the Good Shepherd’s voice at all times, and to trust His leading. And like David, we must be willing to choose a servant’s heart. One that is ready and willing to be faithful to our calling.
In all of this, we can be confident that we can never be plucked out of the Divine Shepherd’s hands, and that we will “live in the house of the Lord forever.”