The Lord is my Shepherd . . . can you finish the line? I bet many of you can finish the whole Psalm. I distinctly remember committing Psalm 23 to memory in kindergarten complete with sing-song intonation and hand motions. My three and four year old have even managed to learn its succinct, themed lines. However, due to this psalms’ posterity, it’s easy to gloss over the verses without sensing the glorious weight of its words. In a recent reading of Psalm 23, the Spirit effectively peeled off the scabs of familiarity. I began the psalm in a stupor of self-pity but left the psalm with a keen sense of joy and gratitude to my Shepherd Savior. I am so thankful that God’s Word is ever true and active, ever piercing and transforming, ever comforting and present for His needy sheep.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
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.
Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything, everything I need. He the very Son of God offers unflagging care and constant oversight. He ensures my rest, nourishment and peace. When I am soul weary and physically depleted, He renews me. Like a little child defying bedtime, I resist rest, but He makes me lie down. Knowing my propensity to fear, He directs me to the still waters, the Living Water. He washes away the black stain of my sin with His blood and clothes me new in His righteousness. He sets my course, leads my steps and prevents my fickle heart from straying from the righteous path I cannot find or manage apart from Him.
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.
Before taking up the shepherd staff, Jesus first offered himself as the perfect sacrificial lamb forfeiting His life for mine. I bleated scared and helpless: my wool matted fast in thickets of sin. Jesus moved with compassion, bore the wrath of God and shattered the power of death. Death where is your sting? Gone. Where is your victory? Vanquished. Death howls empty threats in defeat, reduced to a mere shadow. Though my Destination lies beyond the valley of death, I do not fear because Jesus, the defeater of Death, leads me. Sin tempts, Death taunts, but my Shepherd protects and directs me with His staff, corrects me with His rod. I am safe.
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.
Though yet in enemy territory, I am never left wanting. He sets my table, He fills my cup, He anoints my head. I do not want. I have no lack. His mercy at once leads and follows me: His provision and blessing mark me as His own. The shadows of this life dissipate in the ever present rays of His goodness. He drained the cup of wrath and serves me the cup of blessing. Like every journey, the path rises and falls, eases and intensifies but the loving Shepherd remains constant throughout. Without a doubt, He will safely lead me to the ever green pastures of His Celestial Country to live in the light of His presence forever. Yes, I am headed Home.
I myself will be the Shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice. Ezekiel 34:15-16
Praise Him! Praise God for such a Shepherd. Rejoice to serve a God who desires to be known and reveals Himself in the visible and written Word. Exalt the Shepherd who fills His sheep with Spirit and strength and ensures our safe arrival in His eternal pasture.