I love this Psalm because it really does an amazing job of telling us what we can expect from a relationship with the Lord. Just to give some more depth to this psalm I looked up a little about the history behind it.
Back in the days when this psalm was written shepherds were everywhere. Keeping sheep and cattle was a way of life and most people either were a shepherd, knew a shepherd, or had a shepherd that worked for them.
The jobs of the shepherd were very simple. First, he had to lead the sheep to a safe place to rest, eat and drink. Then he had to watch over them and protect them from harm. Sheep are rather stupid creatures and will wonder off and get lost and die very easily. With no natural defenses of their own they can not protect themselves against the many creatures that would love to eat them for dinner. The one thing they did have going for them was that no matter how many shepherds were around calling for their sheep to come to them the sheep could recognize the sound of their shepherd and would only go to him. Sheep did not follow after any shepherd other than their own.
All the shepherd would bring with him was a shepherds staff and maybe a sling shot and some stones (and obviously some food and drink and maybe a musical instrument to pass the time). The staff was used in a gentle loving way to help direct the sheep with the hooked end around their neck to turn and guide them as well as gentle taps on the rump to get them moving. However, it was also used as a deadly weapon to deter potential threats. They had to kill or chase off lions, wild dogs and other dangerous animals on a regular basis!
The fact that often times the family shepherd was a boy sometimes as young as 8 years old makes that even more amazing!! I don’t know a single 8-year-old today that could face a wild lion or even wild dog and not wet himself let alone chase it off or kill it. Matter of fact I don’t know if I know a grown man who could, honestly, face a hungry, wild animal with nothing but a stick and sling shot to protect him and come out of it unscathed in the end.
So with all that in mind lets take a look at Psalm 23:
1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. (I am His sheep, I know His voice, I will follow Him, He will take care of me.)
2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. (He brings me to places of rest and feeds me, He refreshes me with His Living Water (The Bible))
3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (When I am acting like a stupid sheep and wondering off He will turn me around and bring me back to Him, He wants me to walk after Him and be a good example to the rest of His flock)
4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (No matter what terrible thing I am facing I know I can trust God to protect me and guide me out of trouble. If a little 8-year-old boy can kill a lion to protect his sheep how much more can God protect me!)
5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. (I can be so sure of Gods protection that even if I am in the midst of my enemies or in the middle of a difficult time in my life I can rest with him. God marks me as His own and not only will he give me what I need, protect me, and guide me but He will also give me above and beyond what I need)
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. (This goodness and mercy only comes from following after the Lord. Once we are His we will be His forever.)
God has so much to offer us. He wants to protect us, comfort us, provide for us and so much more. He wants to guide us down the right path and help us live righteously. When we allow Him to do this work in our lives it does two amazing things.
First, as we listen to God’s direction he leads us away from harmful situations. We will avoid untold amounts of pain and heart ache. And if we should ever fall into a hard situation (which we all do) He is there to guide us out of it and help us grow and learn from it. His word says that he works all things out for the good of those who love him.
Secondly, as He guides us He is training us to be more like Him. When we listen and follow His will we are able to be a good witness for Him. We bear his image and if we have accepted Him as our savior we also bare His name (we are adopted into the family) so the way we act and carry ourselves reflects on Him.
This is why it is so important to live our lives in a way that would honor Him. We are His representatives here on earth and with everything that He does and did for us He deserves the very best from us. Not because He will send us away if we let Him down or fail in some way but because we love Him and want to show others the power of His blessings in our lives.
When we walk away and try to do it on our own and in our own strength is when we get into trouble. We are sheep – we can’t protect ourselves from the troubles of this world and when out on our own we will quickly be overcome by them. We don’t have to live a life full of strife, pain, sorrow, and worry. If we are following our Shepherd and sticking close to Him, He will take all those things away. We may still face hard times but we will face them knowing that God is on our side and He is the one carrying the big stick – we get to just sit back and take comfort in Him fighting our battles for us.