Posted by: Heather | October 21, 2010

Psalm 23 – The Lord is My Shepherd

Psalm 23:1  The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

A simple verse, yet it has so much underlying meaning.  The 23rd Psalm is probably one of the most quoted and well-known passages in the entire Bible.  It is often used to bring encouragement during our greatest times of adversity, and comfort during times of grief.  It is a universally known and beloved chapter.

The Psalms are mostly credited to David, and are songs and poems he wrote during his lifetime.  There is a very interesting transition from chapter 22 to chapter 23 of Psalms.  Chapter divisions are a fairly recent invention, and aren’t associated with the original writings.  This is something modern men invented to help us find scripture passages more easily.   The song in chapter 22 is about the crucifixion of Jesus.  It describes in detail many of the verses that are more familiar to us in the New Testament.  In it, we see the same words credited to Jesus while He was on the cross, and many of the horrific acts He suffered.  There is a drastic shift beginning in chapter 23.  He goes from the sacrificial lamb of the slaughter in chapter 22, to our shepherd in chapter 23.  As I continued to meditate on this, a new picture of Psalm 23 began to form.  I began to see how His Father led Him down that path of suffering toward eternal glory, and how in turn, Jesus does the same for us.  His suffering, death, burial, and resurrection enable Him to pass from the One who is slain to the One who is now able to guide us as a tender shepherd, having taken our place in death.  As the One who has passed through that fire, He is able to take us through ‘death, burial, and resurrection’ to new life in Him.

David was very familiar with what it meant to be a shepherd.  He grew up in Bethlehem keeping his father’s sheep.  Bethlehem was the town where the sheep for the temple sacrifices were raised.  There was specific protocol used to ensure that the lambs taken to sacrifice were pure.  In fact, it was in this very place that David was called from tending the sheep to his meeting with Samuel the prophet (I Samuel 16).  Samuel named David there as the future king of Israel.   In David’s day-to-day life, he knew the rigors of caring for a flock of sheep.  He was aware of the problems of tending them, as well as the joys and rewards.  It’s in the context of his own life he can make this beautiful parallel to the God of Israel, His Word made flesh in Jesus Christ, and even down through centuries of time to relate to us.

As Jesus walked the earth, the LORD was His shepherd.  The word ‘shepherd’ here is the Hebrew word raah (ra’ah).  It’s meaning is to pasture, tend, or ‘see’ and even more specifically, to govern and rule.   Jesus obeyed the commandments of God, and lived a sinless life.  He is the ultimate example of one that truly understood the role of God as His shepherd and leader.   Jesus was even obedient to His own death according to the will of His Father.  He had everything He needed as He walked in flesh to live and do the work of the one who sent Him.

Sheep are creatures that need constant attention and guidance.  Even though Jesus was deity, He was also flesh.  As such, we see in scripture where He called upon His Father for blessing, and even petitioned Him along the way.   He lived as we do, and knows exactly what it means to live in a fleshly body while still fulfilling a heavenly purpose.

Of course, the analogy is always made of us, as humans, being sheep.  Jesus is likewise our shepherd, governor, and ruler.  John 10 is a New Testament passage that deals with this very subject.   He can shepherd us, because He knows the dangers and pitfalls of our walk on earth.  He knows our weaknesses, and is able to help us overcome them.  He knows the temptations of the flesh, so He can guide us in learning to live by the Spirit instead.  He leads us to our initial relationship with Him, and then leads us on the journey of salvation.  Salvation is not a one-time act…it is a journey we walk with God, and Jesus leads us through the whole thing as we allow Him to.  Because Jesus has been through it, He is qualified to lead us through it!  His commandments govern us, keeping us on the right track, while we simultaneously listen for His prodding in a still, small voice to move with Him.

When we trust in Him as our shepherd, we realize we truly don’t want for anything.  This simply means we don’t lack anything we need.  2 Peter 1:3 tells that through His power, He has granted us everything we need for life and Godliness.  We can trust Him as our Shepherd, because He is the ‘I AM’.  ‘I AM’ everything you need!  If we’re truly in need of something, we don’t have to seek for what we need.  We seek ‘I AM’ because He is what we need, and is able to give us anything we need to carry out His work on earth.  He is interested in Godly seed, and our cooperation with Him will produce children for His kingdom.

As the 23rd Psalm continues to unfold, I hope to walk with you through a study of how it relates both to Jesus as He carried out God’s plan for His earthly life, as well as how it relates to us as we trust in Jesus as our personal shepherd.

May God bless you today as you seek to do His will!

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Responses

  1. Hey Heather,
    This was very touching to me. At times, I have so wanted other Christians to be my shepherd, foolishly forgetting that my brothers and sisters in Christ, though usually well intentioned, are imperfect, but Jesus is truly my perfect Shepherd. I feel the Lord is drawing me closer to Him, asking me to get my eyes off others’ opinions and stop leaning on my own understanding as well and fully let Him be my Shepherd. I know that He uses others to teach and lead us, but He is still the Shepherd from where all the wisdom, counsel, guidance, love and power comes from in the first place. Thank you, Heather, for helping me, once again, turn my eyes upon Jesus. Please agree with me in prayer that I will draw closer to Him and seek Him first. You are such a special sister in Christ, and I thank God for using you to be an encourager, teacher, and wonderful friend!!!

    Love you,
    Joni : )

    • Aww, Joni, you’re so sweet! We all need the reminder, including myself, that Jesus is the only one that will never fail us. He is with you, and will help you do all He desires for Him. I believe you, more than most anyone I know, has a heart that truly wants to follow Him. He will never leave nor forsake you. I appreciate your sweet comments. You don’t know how much God has used you in my life. You’ve told me you thank Him for allowing us to become friends. I personally think I got the best end of the bargain. 🙂 I love you!


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