The 'qualities' on a good shepherd's CV will undoubtedly include the ability to patiently direct and selflessly protect his sheep. Like all shepherds, God is gentle in guiding us. (Isaiah 40:11). This does not mean we’re left without free-will because a large part of being made in God’s image is to be able to choose (like He can). We make a conscious decision to be totally dependent on God because we know from experience that He will lead us in the right ways.
With Him at the helm, we'll always be filled and satisfied. (11 Peter 1:3.) Walking ahead, a shepherd leads his flock to ‘green pastures’. However, when he needs to round them up he may walk behind or even beside them. When they’re weak or injured a shepherd carries his sheep. On days when I can’t seem to see God ahead of, or beside me, it's because He is holding me in His arms.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters.
Again, with God as our rightful leader, there is continuous prosperity and new growth (Ezekiel 34; 14). The grass in spring is always greener than at any other time in the year because this is when it’s most fertile. In God our prosperity is not only a seasonal passing but a lingering one, a lying down. God’s perpetual flowing waters of life pours out in abundance. (Revelation 7:17) How relaxing is the sound of calm water in the back garden on a lovely summer’s day, with a light breeze blowing the leaves on the trees? We’re guaranteed rest with God when He takes us to the well to drink of this living water.
He restores my soul. He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Sin takes its toll on our souls and can potentially cause it to perish. Thankfully, Jesus’ blood continuously washes us and through His sacrifice and His word. By His authority and permission, our way to heaven is illuminated. (Proverbs 4:11) Sometimes – even in lighted environments – it’s difficult to see our destination. Especially when the path is bendy and has a few sharp turns. However, it gets progressively easier if we look out for just one light at a time. We are assured that even though we can’t see the end of our journey like a good shepherd, God will always protect us on our way there.
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.
David protected his sheep at all costs even when it meant challenging dangerous wild animals. What hope would we have, and how totally enveloping our desperation would be if there was no hope in our Shepherd’s protection in an increasingly wild world? The dejection a person experiences when their soul - the gift God has given all of us - is left unfulfilled is understandable. Can anything fill that hole? How much more horrible fear would be if God wasn’t our careful shepherd? God’s rod of correction and His supporting staff that steadies us so we don’t fall when we stumble, are a comfort to us.
When David was a shepherd he must’ve depended heavily on his staff while tending his sheep. It’s no wonder he knows how much we all need one. When his sheep ran astray I’m sure he did not hesitate to use his rod. It seems ironic that a rod can be a comfort but when we discipline our own children we do it not because we derive a sadistic pleasure from seeing them squirm, but because we love them. For, wouldn’t it save time if we allowed them to do just what they wanted? Wouldn’t our lives be a breeze if we didn’t have to spend half of it telling our children off? God invests an interest in us. As a leader He takes the time and puts in the effort to occasionally show us that even His rod can be comforting.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anointed my head with oil, my cup runs over.
In this verse David seems to be making reference to his culture in which a host’s job was not only to feed and make his guests comfortable, but to protect them as well. One was anointed to take up a position of leadership and honour (akin to an elder, a king or an especially welcomed guest like in Luke 7:46). When the host poured drinks for the ‘celebrity’ guests he didn’t just fill their cups, he filled it until it overflowed (imagine the clean up after the guests have left). I supposed it’s the equivalent of serving our relatives in the plates we normally eat out of, but taking out the best china for say when the Queen drops in for tea.
Not only has God invited us to His table of feasting, but He protects us while we partake of His grace, He honours us with an anointing, and transforms us into His most welcomed guests by overfilling our cup.
Surely goodness and love shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Because God is our Shepherd and protector, guide and host, we can now rest assured that despite enemies and the occasional ‘valleys of death’ all will be well with us. (Psalm 27:4-6). God is alive and in charge, therefore life is good!
Though deeply tucked away into the sea of scriptures in the middle of the Bible, these verses seem to be, apart from John 3:16, the most well-known in the Bible even to people who are unfamiliar with the scriptures. Only God knows why this is so, but I like to think this was His divine will because Psalm 23 is all-encompassing. If we allow God to be our shepherd, we would believe Him, obey His word, and let them lead us to do His will.
Is this applicable to today’s society? By all means! Psalm 23, like the rest of God’s word is everlasting and unchanging. And in an age of fast-paced lifestyles and expectations of instant gratification, God still desires to be our shepherd and to lead us to quieter waters. God can reboot our spiritual drives if we allow Him. Using the bible as our hard drive, we can learn all over again how to maintain constant contact with Him.