“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.” (Psalm 23:1 HCSB)
David knew a lot about being a shepherd. Those lessons were engraved on him by experience. He didn’t learn about shepherding from reading a book, but by leading a flock! The Holy Spirit would inspire him to pen some of the most famous words of Scripture, based on that experience. He illustrates the nature of God in these word pictures.
In John 10, Jesus identified Himself as the Shepherd of our souls. He spoke of His goodness in laying down His life for the sheep, but He also spoke of His greatness saying, “I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” On the cross Jesus gave His life for the sheep, but on the third day, He arose from the tomb. He has ascended and ever lives to make intercession for us. The Good Shepherd who died for us (Psalm 22; John 10:11) is the Great Shepherd who lives for us (Psalm 23; Hebrews 13:20) and will be the Glorious Shepherd who returns for us (Psalm 24; 1 Peter 5:4). He is the Shepherd of our souls (1 Peter 2:25)!
David tells us HE IS A POWERFUL SHEPHERD “The Lord is my shepherd” (v.1a). Focus on the first two words—the Lord. Scripture presents Jesus as the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the Lord God Almighty, the One who in eternity spoke, and the worlds came into existence.
Paul underscores this:
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For everything was created by Him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17 HCSB)
That’s a powerful Shepherd!
But His power was never more vividly demonstrated than when He reached out a lifeless hand and seized life and pulled it back into His corpse! It was this immortal One who took on mortal flesh in order to die on the cross. He was a real man with a real body, but the grave could not hold Him—I say—could not!
Hear Peter’s testimony, “Men of Israel, listen to these words: This Jesus the Nazarene was a man pointed out to you by God with miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through Him, just as you yourselves know. Though He was delivered up according to God's determined plan and foreknowledge, you used lawless people to nail Him to a cross and kill Him. God raised Him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.” (Acts 2:22-24 HCSB)
What immeasurable power was exerted! The earth quaked and strong soldiers fainted; the stone was rolled away and out came Jesus swinging the keys of death and hell! Believe Him when He says, “Because I live, you shall live also.” Through Him, we are more than conquerors. He holds us in His strong hands. No matter how weak a sheep may be—and they are some of the puniest of all creatures—there is an invincible Shepherd who cares for us.
David says, “The Lord is” not “was”. Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed, each one was, but only the Lord Jesus is!
David tells us HE IS A PERSONAL SHEPHERD “The Lord is my shepherd” (v.1, emphasis added). David didn’t say He is a shepherd—one among many. He didn’t say He is the shepherd—an impersonal one. David didn’t say, “He is a Shepherd to the world” but “He’s mine.”
If He is a Shepherd to no one else, He is to me. He knows me by name; He cares for me, watches over me, and preserves me. As sheep, we tend to wander. Foolishly, we may even wander outside His will—but never outside His care. Jesus knows our trials, tears and temptations. There are no potentials or perils we face in life, but that the Shepherd of our souls is right there with us.
We must be able to claim Him as our personal shepherd. If we cannot say that “The Lord is my shepherd” then we cannot be in His eternal sheepfold in heaven one day. There must be a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Do you have one?
We also learn HE IS A PROVIDING SHEPHERD “there is nothing I lack.” (v.1b HCSB).
I SHALL NOT LACK IN LIFE.
“He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He renews my life; He leads me along the right paths for His name's sake.” (v.2-3 HCSB).
Sheep will not lie down when hungry. Jesus provides green pastures for us, that is, physical and spiritual nourishment.
What refreshment and restoration is found beside quiet waters! There He renews us and gives us the strength we need to follow Him.
He leads us in right paths. The guidance of the Shepherd is stressed here. Thank God for the times we are led through great blessing, but at times the right paths are rough paths. “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:28-29 HCSB) Life’s pathway may at times be rocky and we wonder why we are permitted to suffer. We may be sure the road leads to glory. We will be made like Him—and all that we experience in life is to transform sheep into the image of the Shepherd.
The old hymn said it like this:
“In shady green pastures, so rich and so sweet, God leads His dear children along;
Where the water’s cool flow bathes the weary one’s feet, God leads His dear children along.
Some thru the waters, some thru the flood,
Some thru the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.
Sometimes on the mount where the sun shines so bright, God leads His dear children along;
Sometimes in the valley, in darkest of night, God leads His dear children along.
Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.” (G.A. Young)
I SHALL NOT LACK IN DEATH.
“Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff--they comfort me.” (v.4 HCSB).
Jesus died such a death that we will never have to die like that. He trod the winepress of God’s wrath alone, that He might walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He that lives and believes in me shall never die.” The specter of death that haunts humanity has become something that is just a shadow that we need not fear if Jesus walks with us.
Paul says that death has been robbed of its sting. He spoke of falling asleep in Jesus. The Psalmist describes death as a shadow. We need not fret over a shadow. I believe it was Spurgeon who noted that the shadow of a dog cannot bite; a shadow of a gun cannot kill; and the shadow of death cannot destroy.
Death is just a dark valley—even if it is the darkest valley—we must pass through. But don’t miss that—you go “through.” It is not our final destination! Death is not the end!
I once heard the story of a little girl travelling with her family down a busy freeway. As they approached a long tunnel, she became more and more anxious. She begged, “Daddy, don’t go in that dark hole! I’m afraid!” She began to cry, but her father responded, “Honey, we have to—there is no other way.” Then he told her, “Now, you just close your eyes when we get to that dark tunnel. When we get to the other side, I’ll reach over and touch you. Then, open your eyes and you’ll be in the light.” So, we come to that dark tunnel of death. When tempted to be afraid, the Shepherd of our souls, just says, “Close your eyes. When we get to the other side, I’ll touch you. Then, open your eyes and you’ll be in the light of heaven!”
I SHALL NOT LACK IN ETERNITY
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.” (v.5-6 HCSB)
Christ has a banquet table spread and is waiting for the marriage supper. The enemy of our souls, Satan and all his minions, cannot prevent Christ from summoning us to feed at His banquet. Jesus will anoint us as heirs to the eternal Kingdom. He will fill our cup and it will overflow with abundance—we will drink and never thirst again. The hounds of heaven—goodness and faithful love—will pursue us and secure us, like sheep dogs, for eternity.
We will abide in His presence as long as we live—and that will be forever! How long is forever? Imagine what heaven will be like—no sin, no sickness, and no sorrow—forever gone! It will be a place of breathtaking beauty! That is our real home! It will surpass any mansion on earth by an exponential degree!
Are you a lost lamb?
Jesus came into this world as the Good Shepherd, to seek and to save us—lost sheep that we are. He was willing to go to any length to save us—including laying down His life for us. If you have not bowed to Him and received Him as your Lord and Savior, do so now! Then you can say, “The Lord is MY shepherd!”
Are you part of the flock but have gone astray?
That is the nature of sheep. We are so stupid. With the hymn writer we must honestly admit, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it; Prone to leave the God I love.” The Good Shepherd is calling your name. You recognize His voice. Run to Him!
Must God use the rod and staff to break you?
If you are His sheep and you continue to stray, He will stop it—whatever it takes. Discipline is administered in love—but, painful, nonetheless. He is going to get you into the fold, but wouldn’t it be better to come promptly?
Give thanks to the Shepherd of our souls! “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.” Amen? Amen!