Psalm 23 And the all-satisfying Shepherd
by Brax Carvette, Blog Editor
“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 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
The Lord is my Shepherd
When God is our Shepherd, it means we don’t have any lack. That’s what David says, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” He provides for all our needs. Here are three things that I can think of that the Bible says God will provide for us.
- He provides for our material needs. We do not need a million-dollar home, we don’t need a brand-new sports car, we don’t need that $300 dress or that $600 suit. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content (1 Timothy 6:8) and our heavenly Father knows that we need these things (Matthew 6:32).
- He provides everything we need for godliness (2 Peter 1:3). In Christ Jesus, we (at least) receive an inheritance in heaven (1 Peter 1:4), any and every spiritual blessing that belongs to Jesus is also ours (Ephesians 1:3), the fruits that the Spirit produces in us (Galatians 5:22-23), and abundance of love as we grow in our knowledge of God—which is also given to us by God (Philippians 1:9).
- He promises to provide for us at the heart-level by being our everlasting joy. He satisfies our souls with Himself (Psalm 63:1-2, 5-8); He is better to us than life itself (Philippians 1:21, Psalm 63:3); He is greater than all we could ever achieve (Philippians 3:7-11); He promises us that if we come to Him to drink, we will thirst no more (John 6:35).
Led in paths of righteousness
“He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” God is our shepherd, and we would say that He is the best shepherd. If I told you that I had met the greatest painter in the world, but then you met him and he showed you one of his paintings and it was just a stick-figure, what would you think of him? What would you say about him? What would happen to his reputation as a painter? What would happen to God’s reputation if God’s sheep were wandering around in paths of unrighteousness? What would it look like if God’s sheep were not filled with godliness but instead were malnourished in heart and diseased in soul? What would happen to God’s reputation? To the world, God would look like a careless shepherd! God will lead us into righteousness because His glory is at stake. God is as committed to leading us on the paths of righteousness as He is to glorifying His Name. You will grow in righteousness, little sheep. Fear not! It is His good pleasure to transform you into His image! He will do this, because He must do this or else not be glorious.
Walking through the valley
“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.” Notice what just came before, namely, being led “in paths of righteousness.” See that the path of righteousness goes straight through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. If you are on the path of righteousness and you experience suffering-- depression, loss of a loved one, a miscarriage, loss of job, cancer, persecution—you haven’t taken a wrong turn, little sheep! You’re following the Great Shepherd! The path to heaven winds through the Valley of Death, but we fear no evil, because we have a strong Shepherd that has laid down His life for us. He doesn’t send us into Death’s Valley without first defeating Death with His own death. He doesn’t send us in to Death’s Valley without joining us in its Shadow. The rod and staff that He carries are not in His hands to harshly correct the sheep, they are in His hands to crush the skulls of the wolves that try to eat us up! The rod and staff are in His hands for our protection-- not that we wouldn’t suffer, but that our souls would be protected from leaving the path and walking away from the Shepherd.
Dining in the valley
So often, we just want to get through the valley to the other side. But it’s in the valley that David writes, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Some of our greatest banquets in the presence of God will come in the middle of the Valley of the Shadow of Death—we dine at death’s door. The sweetness of the wine we drink every time we enjoy Communion reminds us not of the other side of Death’s Valley, but the Cross’s Hill. There is a sweetness that Jesus has for us in our suffering.
Goodness’ and Mercy’s pursuit
But sometimes it seems as though we’ll never make it to the other side of Death’s Valley. We are powerless little sheep trailing behind the omnipotent Shepherd. We stray often and think there’s no possible way that God could still show us grace again. But God's goodness and mercy are tenacious. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” God has two sheepdogs, Goodness and Mercy, and they will not stop pursuing us until they have overtaken us. This good God will surely bring us safely into His home so that we will live with Him and enjoy Him forever. Amen.