“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his namesake. Yea, 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. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23 (KJV)
I grew up learning, memorizing and reciting this Psalm. If I had to guess, this is probably one of the most memorized passages in the Bible.
As we continue in our “Little Golden Book” series, I thought it would be fun to take a closer look at Psalm 23, and if you have not memorized it yet, I challenge you to do so.
As a child, I remember this Psalm bringing me so much comfort and a feeling of God’s protection over me. I would recite it anytime I was anxious or worried about things. I would dream of walking beside Jesus in a meadow of flowers and resting near a pretty stream. I could imagine Him catching me when I fell, and I could feel His presence with me as I would pray this Psalm.
I never once thought about what it would cost me to be one of His sheep or what it meant to be part of the herd. These thoughts didn’t occur to me until I was an adult.
So, what does it mean to be part of His herd? Why does God repeatedly refer to us as His sheep? Let’s start by looking at what it means to be one of His sheep and why we need Him as our Shepherd:
First, sheep are conformists. They enjoy being in a herd. They find protection in numbers. Sheep are good this way, but people often are not. (Nathan Tabor)
So let’s learn a little more about sheep and how we may be like them. Like sheep, we are a bit dense. While researching sheep I found a story about a sheep that fell off a cliff and the other 400 sheep in the herd followed him to their death. We tend to follow the herd people! Think about it and I bet you can find at least a dozen examples in your life where you followed the herd. We need a shepherd!
Sheep are defenseless. They cannot fend for themselves and they cannot fight off the attacks of other animals. They are the wooly snack food of the wild. Ok, I know what you are thinking right now…You are not defenseless. Hmmmm….are you sure? Can you really handle ANYTHING that comes your way?
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8
But the most dangerous thing sheep do is wander. And they tend to wander off for no good reason. They can have everything they need right where they are but they still wander off.
We as a human race are prone to wander too. The bible is full of examples of people, cities, and nations who wander away from God. It has been that way since the beginning, Adam and Eve wander over to the tree of Knowledge. The whole human race wandered so far from God that a flood came and took over the earth.
You see, we are prone to wander in our faith and that is the greatest tragedy we could suffer. I am so thankful that I have a good shepherd who will leave the 99 and rescue me!
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? Luke 15:4
I think that it is obvious that we are in desperate need of a Shepherd, someone who will watch over us and protect us from ourselves. Someone who spends all of his time with us, His sheep. Someone whose voice we will be able to discern above all other voices.
“My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of My hand.” John 10:27
So what does it mean to be part of the herd? It means life, it means freedom from death, it means assurance that we are loved and looked after. It means experiencing goodness and mercy all the days of our life and finally, it means that we will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Let’s end our time now by praying through Psalm 23:
Lord our shepherd, you leave me wanting for nothing. I walk with you through green pastures and lie with you by the still waters. You restore my soul and lead me in the path of righteousness. Your protection is with me as I walk through the valley of death, I fear no evil. Your rod and your staff they comfort me. When the enemy attacks, you prepare a table before me and anoint my head with oil. My cup is running over with your goodness and mercy and I delight in you as I dwell in your house forever. Amen
“The LORD is my shepherd” – the literal translation of this portion of verse one is “YHWH ra’ah,” which means Lord, my shepherd. No actual verb is used, but rather just a name of God proclaimed.