Psalm 23:1

 

We are nearing the end of our summer series on favourite verses from members of the congregation.  Today’s verse is from Beryl and it is Psalm 23:1

 

1     The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

2        He makes me lie down in green pastures;

he leads me beside still waters;

3        he restores my soul.

He leads me in right paths

for his name’s sake.

4     Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

I fear no evil;

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff—

they comfort me.

5     You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

6     Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

my whole life long.

 

Why it is Beryl’s favourite…

 

 

 

This psalm is a psalm of confidence in Yahweh—showing an intimate relationship between the psalmist and Yahweh. It expresses the psalmist’s confidence in Yahweh’s guidance[1]

It is an example of a song of trust. “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want … Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (Ps 23:1, 6).[2]

As I child learning this verse in Sunday School, I without thinking took the comma out and added the word ‘that’: The lord is my shepherd that I do not want. But that is not what it says at all

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. (NLT)

 

Yahweh is my shepherd; I will not lack for anything. (Lexham)

 

It is not about not wanting our shepherd, it is about not wanting anything because we have a shepherd.

 

He is our shepherd and protector in bright days and dark days, in joy and in sorrow, in peril and safety.[3]

 

 

Notice the pronoun in this Psalm.   I tell you often that in Paul’s letters, when you see the word ‘you’ we mistakenly take it to mean singular ýou rather than its real meaning of group ‘’you’’ – you’all.   But in this psalm, the pronoun is singular.  The Lord is my shepherd. It is personal. It could have read “the lord is our shepherd’ but it doesn’t.

 

It is also present tense.  It could have read the Lord was my shepherd, or the Lord will be my shepherd, but it says the Lord is my shepherd.  Now and forever now.

 

This is a well-known piece of scripture but the psalm itself presupposes one thing:  belonging.

 

To say that the Lord is my shepherd and know it to be true, I must first of all say, “The Lord is my Saviour.”  Before he can be my shepherd, he must be my saviour.  By that I mean a personal relationship at the cross, an acknowledgement and repentance of my sin and a willingness to receive Christ into my heart and my life as my personal saviour…If he is not my saviour, he is not my shepherd.[4]

 

Think of that personal pronoun the other way around; from the perspective of the shepherd: Jesus identified Himself as that expected “Good Shepherd” (John 10:14).

 

Jesus refers to himself as a shepherd in the Gospels and is referred to as a shepherd outside of the Gospels:

 •(Heb 13:20)—“The great shepherd of the sheep”

(1 Pet 2:25)—“The shepherd and guardian of your souls”

  (1 Pet 5:4)—“The chief shepherd”

 

Jesus also uses the personal pronoun – my, mine in relation to the sheep.  We as the sheep claim the shepherd, the shepherd claims us.

 

john 10:2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers…7 …“Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father…27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”

 

This is a long piece of Scripture, but its length clearly spells out how important we are to Jesus as being our shepherd.  Jesus placed so much emphasis on being our shepherd that we can say with certainty that because he is my shepherd, I will lack for nothing, I have no need for fear.

 

Next week we are looking at the concept of God never leaving us nor forsaking us, and we have a precursor of this Psalm and Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John: We will not be abandoned to the wolves that surround us, we will not be led into unhealthy pastures nor to poisoned water. We will not be abandoned in the dark valley.

 

That is why this Psalm is a psalm of trust – us trusting that Jesus is leading and guiding and protecting us.

 

God says: My plans for you are to prosper you and not harm you, it says in Jeremiah 29:11

 

The concept of being a shepherd is not a 9-5 job, it is 24/7.  In thinking of the role of a shepherd of biblical times (as opposed to our NZ concept of shepherding):

 “In early morning he led forth the flock from the fold, marching at its head to the spot where they were to be pastured. Here he watched them all day, taking care that none of the sheep strayed, and if any for a time eluded his watch and wandered away from the rest, seeking diligently till he found and brought it back. In those lands sheep require to be supplied regularly with water, and the shepherd for this purpose has to guide them either to some running stream or to wells dug in the wilderness and furnished with troughs. At night he brought the flock home to the fold, counting them as they passed under the rod at the door to assure himself that none were missing. Nor did his labours always end with sunset. Often he had to guard the fold through the dark hours from the attack of wild beasts, or the wily attempts of the prowling thief (see 1 Sam. 17:34).”.[5]

 

And that is the picture that Jesus gives us as his role of being our shepherd. He is always with us, always protecting us, always leading us, we are never without him, and he does not take his eyes off us.

 

Story about preacher in Israel – seeing ‘shepherd’ driving the sheep – concern until found out the ‘shepherd’ was actually the butcher.

 

The Lord is my shepherd…

 



[1] Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 23:title–6).

[3] Ivan A Beals Psalms: keeping the heart aglow 31

[4] John E Hunter Finding the Living Christ in the Psalms 18