The Good Shepherd- Psalm 23
By Steph Nickel
Jesus is the Good Sheperd, and so much more! Steph Nickel explores the well known passage of Psalm 23, and reflects on its beautiful meaning.
The Lord Is My Sheperd
Psalm 23 says,
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.
my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, He leads me beside still waters. He restores 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 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.”
This psalm is familiar to thousands of people, perhaps millions. While it is often shared at funerals, I believe it has much to teach us here and now as well.
“The Lord is my shepherd.” Entire books have been written on this topic alone, but for today’s purposes, I’d like to share just a few thoughts on the subject. The shepherd cares for the sheep. He provides for them and keeps them safe.
Jesus, The Good Sheperd
In John 10:11, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd.
The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Taking care of the sheep was more than simply a job for the shepherd. And the same is true of Jesus. He did, in fact, lay down His life for His sheep.
Sheep are skittish creatures; they frighten easily. Those green pastures and still waters supplied their physical and emotional needs. And we, as believers in Jesus Christ, can find peace and provision as well.
With all this talk about green pastures, still waters, and souls restored, we might get the impression that life with Him will always be peaceful and easy, but we know life in this world is far from easy.
Jesus, The Protector
The phrase “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” is clearly the reason this psalm is often quoted when someone passes away, but notice the picture painted by the words “the shadow of death.” Fear for our own life or the life of someone we love casts a shadow on our mind and emotions.
By extension, death may not only mean physical death. We may fear the loss of a job and the death of the status quo. We may fear the loss of friends and family and the death of our relationships. We may fear the implementation of restrictions on the expression of our ideas, our faith even, and the death of our freedom. I’m sure you could add your own fears to this list.
Now sheep cannot fend off their enemy. Whether it’s danger from predators or following the wrong leader (sheep aren’t very discerning in this regard), they need someone to protect them and lead them on the right path. And so do we.
Jesus, The Guide
As Christians, we have a leader. But Jesus Christ doesn’t always lead us where we want to go. Truly, who wants to walk through the valley of the shadow of death? Who wants to sit down at a table with their enemies? But we can trust God. He will lead us where He deems best. His perspective is much different than ours. And we can trust Him completely.
Leaders in Bible times were often anointed with oil as a sign of their call, their position. It was an honour. And the psalmist said here that the Lord anointed His head with oil. What an assurance after proclaiming that he would have to dine with his enemies!
Jesus, The Provider
Further, in John 10, Jesus went on to say, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (v. 10).
Abundant life . . . that’s what “my cup overflows” reminded me of. We may not have abundant life in the way some people measure it, but it is Jesus’ promise and He will fulfill it—in His way and in His time.
God is good and merciful. We may sometimes forget, but it is always a good practice to consider what we have to be thankful for, what bad things could have happened but didn’t. It is often simply a matter of deliberately redirecting our focus, something many of us have to do on a regular basis.
Jesus, For Eternity
And that last portion of the psalm . . . wow! The psalmist was confident that he would dwell in God’s house forever. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we, too, can be assured of an eternity with Him. And that is the most peaceful, reassuring thought ever.
I’ve often mentioned the importance of being humble, and this psalm makes it clear that we must acknowledge our inadequacy and our need for a guide, provider, and protector, a shepherd. I am so thankful that the Lord Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
Children, especially young children, like to make lambs by gluing cotton balls on an outline of a sheep. Whether you have young children or older offspring, the similarities between believers and sheep and the Lord Jesus and a shepherd will give them—and us—lots to think about.
Stephanie is a freelance writer and a contributor to our Christian internet radio station, HopeStreamRadio. Read and hear more from Steph Nickel on the contributor’s page or at Steph Nickel’s Eclectic Interests.
Stephanie’s show, “Family Life Lessons,” airs from Monday to Friday on HopeStreamRadio.
Other Posts About Psalms
Crawford Paul –Psalm 139 Part One
Crawford Paul – Psalm 139 Part Two
Images courtesy of:
Sheep Fields- MyHollydaze
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