I read Psalm 23 a few days ago. I’m so familiar with it that I catch myself reading it without giving it much thought. I have to force myself to slow down and actually try to peer into what it is saying.
I have, as I’m sure some of you have, memorized it in the past. It is the one psalm that almost everybody has some knowledge. It seems like every funeral in every TV program quotes a least part of this psalm. I doubt David ever realized it would become such a commercialized and publicized item.
This psalm is a very personal expression of David’s trust in God. To read Psalm 23 is to get a glimpse into the very heart and soul of David. It is a window into the core of this great man of God.
I’m glad this wasn’t the only psalm David wrote. If it had been, I would be somewhat discouraged. David, in this psalm, seems to have it all together. But, thankfully, David wrote many more psalms — several of which are the polar opposite of this psalm. In those psalms, we find out David didn’t always have it together. At times he was a major mess. If you read just the psalms David wrote you will see a man who struggled in his walk just like we do. And yet he never lost sight of the fact that the LORD was his very own personal Shepherd.
Let’s consider this first verse.
David, the shepherd, uses imagery he was very acquainted with and most people can understand. He knew what it was to be a shepherd and to have the heart of a shepherd. So, when describing his perception of God he used the image of a shepherd.
My desire isn’t to go into all the particulars of the shepherd/sheep relationship. We all have some idea of what that entails. We know what this verse says, but in the back of our minds do we hear something like the following? —
If the LORD is my shepherd then … Why doesn’t He remove all my fears, anxieties and doubts? Why am I sick? Why doesn’t He heal me? Why did He let me get sick in the first place? Why am I so poor? Why does my car keep needing repairs? Why did my mate leave me? Why am I going bald? Why … do I want?
Perhaps it’s our perspective and lack of understanding. Our verse is true — absolutely and all the time. This means: whatever condition we find our self in is exactly where God wants us. It’s in that condition, as we look to Him, He wants us to realize we are not lacking. He is with us. He knows what we’re going through. He is supplying exactly what we need.
You see: God does work all things together for good to those that love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Paul gives insight into what our perspective should be when he wrote in Philippians 4:11 — “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”
David (the shepherd) knew and loved his sheep at all times. I can’t imagine David telling one of his sheep: “Forget you! You don’t want to be a good sheep, well then I’m not going to be a good shepherd. You’re on your own buddy!” That’s not how it works.
Yehovah is our shepherd even if we’re horrible at being sheep. He’s not waiting for us to get our act completely together before He decides to fulfill His role as our shepherd. He is committed to His flock — for better or for worse. That’s why we can read this psalm and personally take to heart all that it says.
And this is why the words of Yeshua become so powerful as we read them in John 10:11-15 — I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
He laid down His life for His sheep. He knows them. And they know Him.
If you know the Shepherd through salvation in His shed blood, then you too can say:
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.