Psalm 23:1 - The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in the 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, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.
God is often compared with a shepherd in Scripture, with man being His sheep in need of His care. Psalm 23 is one of the most famous passages of Scripture. It discusses how God cares for us by using pastoral imagery. The more you understand the relationship between a shepherd and sheep, the better you are able to grasp the depth of the Psalm. throughout the Psalm, God is seen as Provider and Protector. The first verse declares that the Lord is the writer's shepherd. As a result of the personal relationship, David will not have a lack of provision. The author then states how as the Shepherd, God makes him lie down in green pastures. Sheep are known to be skittish animals and will not lie down unless certain conditions are met. First, their environment must be void of any fear. Second, the flock must not have any friction amongst them. Next, there must not be any parasites plaguing the sheep. Finally, they must have plenty of food. The fact that the shepherd provides to the extent that the sheep can lie down, means that he has gone to great lengths in order that the sheep may rest. The sheep's tendency to fear carries over to how they drink water. A sheep might thirst to death even in the presence of water, if the water is a running river. Therefore, a sheep must have still water to drink from in order to survive. It is up to the shepherd to seek out these pools in order to provide for his flock. Therefore, he leads them to quiet waters. David declares that God does not provide merely physical rest and renewal to him, but also spiritual.
Not only does the Shepherd lead His sheep in order to provide. He also leads them in order to protect. Verse three states that He leads him into the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. A shepherd's reputation was based on the condition of the sheep. In the same way, the Lord's reputation on earth is often based on how we represent Him. While He leads us on the paths of righteousness, it is also up to us to follow. Sheep are not known for their obedience and often wander (Isaiah 53:6). Even in the darkest times, the writer has no need to fear because he knows that the Lord is with him. A shepherd would normally carry two pieces of equipment in the field: a rod and a staff. The rod was the defensive weapon to fend off predators while the staff is what the shepherd used to guide and control the sheep. Therefore, David knows that God's protection consists of both defending him against evil as well as restraining him from going astray.
As we see through the metaphor, God's love for us is extensive. His commitment to provide and protect is vast. All we are asked to do is follow.
What are some ways in which you see God differently as Shepherd than you did before?
How can you trust God more to be your Shepherd?
Why is it that we sometimes like to take the staff into our own hands and lead ourselves?
In what ways are you similar to a sheep?
What is keeping you from lying down and enjoying the green pasture God has for you?