Saturday, March 12, 2022

Our Great Shepherd (Psalm 23)

"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul" (Psalm 23:1–3a).

We return now to our study of the Psalms where we find in Psalm 23 a depiction of God as our Shepherd. The popularity of this psalm stems not only from its inspiring metaphors and moving poetry but its message—a message of hope, protection, and comfort. The literary picture painted here is not God as a wrathful judge or sovereign king, but as a gentle shepherd who cares for the needs of His flock. Yet, despite the claims many unbelievers lay to this psalm as they quote it at someone’s bedside or recite it during difficulties, this message is given exclusively to God’s people. Jesus made it clear that not all people are the sheep of His pasture, for many are goats and wolves who will not graze on His holy hill. Calvin highlights this truth: “God is a shepherd only to those who, touched with a sense of their own weakness and poverty, feel their need of His protection, all who willingly abide in His sheepfold, and surrender themselves to be governed by Him.”

God is not only our shepherd in time of need, but in all the times of our lives, even when we don’t think we need Him. We live under His watchful eye and authority every moment, and in all things we are to submit to Him. The promise to those who are truly counted among God’s flock is that He will meet all their needs and protect them in all they do. The images penned by David in this psalm capture the sense of what it is like to dwell under the care of our Great Shepherd. We “lack nothing,” we “lie down in green pastures,” and we are led beside “still waters” where God restores our souls. As a shepherd faithfully heals the diseases of his sheep, binding their wounds and nursing their ills, so God heals our broken souls, breathing life into our dead hearts and leading us in lives of righteousness. No longer are we bound under the chains of sin that so torment our souls, but we have peace with God.

If any adversity or temptation should befall us during our life’s journey, even when we face the “valley of the shadow of death,” we can, indeed must, trust in God’s gracious providence. As a shepherd drives away wolves with his staff, so God drives out our enemies before us, bringing us to safe pasture where we will dwell with Him forever.

Make a list of how God has comforted and protected you during your life. Recall specific circumstances and jot them down. Put this list in your Bible and add to it as situations come to mind or as new ones occur. Thank God today for His shepherding comfort and protection in your life.