Probably the most famous Psalm of the bible, this delightful Psalm of David has been spoken and sung the world over across the generations, bringing comfort and hope to many. In it we are shown a beautiful tapestry of God’s attributes, the experience of the soul that trusts him and the chief end of such reliance upon him. It’s David’s psalm but I believe it’s one that every person who trusts in Christ will identify with.
The Lord as Shepherd (v1)
David, himself once a shepherd, uses the metaphor “Adonai Ro’i” (Hebrew), meaning “The Lord my Shepherd,” (v1) to describe God. This echoes Genesis 49:24 where God is described as “ The Shepherd, the Rock of Israel.” Like a shepherd, God not only watches over his sheep (believers), but provides nourishment, leading his sheep to “green pastures” (for food) and “still waters” (for drink), he shelters them from storms, and is heavily involved in protecting his sheep from predators.
Knowing the Lord as “My shepherd” has helped readers across generations trust that God is watchful, caring, nurturing and protecting toward his people. Do you trust God as such a shepherd? In light of the fantastic news that God our Father sent Jesus to sacrificially pay for our sins, readers today have ever more reason to trust in God as the Good Shepherd of their souls.
The Lord is our Provider (v2)
Since he could tell of the Lord as his shepherd, David points out “I shall not want.” This is comparable to Genesis 22:14 where God is called “Adonai Yireh”, “The Lord will provide (or will see).” As his shepherd, God provided for all of David’s needs and gave him peace. David’s testimony of God leading him to “green pastures” and “still waters” further declares God’s faithful provision. We can be confident that God sees our needs and provides for them.
The Lord is our Restorer (v3)
David’s life, like yours, wasn’t in a vacuum devoid of trials. He went through deadly trouble and traumatic tragedy and yet could sing of God’s restoration declaring “He restores my soul”. God makes things right with our soul (mind, emotions and will). This isn’t just relegated to restoring one’s peace following a crisis but also includes returning the person to right passions, feelings, desires and attitude. The hebrew word used for restore, “yeshoveiv”, comes from “shuv,” which means “to turn or return” and is the root of the word “teshuvah” which means “turning back to God through repentance” (Hebrew4Christians.com). God being our Shepherd calls his sheep to return to the right path. David illustrates this experience testifying “He leads me in paths of righteousness, for his name’s sake” . Whether a believer or not you were made to reflect God’s righteousness. God being the fullness of righteousness leads every one relying on him into right thinking, speaking and doing for his own glory.
The Lord is our Comforter (v4)
Despite times of danger and crisis, which David paints as walking through “ the valley of the shadow of death,” he could say “I will fear no evil” because God was with him. Drawing again on the theme of God being his shepherd David gives reference to his (God’s) rod and staff to highlight God’s comforting presence in the midst of trials. For some the thought of comfort provided by a rod and staff is simply bizarre! Point taken. However, it’s worth noting that a shepherd’s staff in David’s day could be used to hook around the neck of sheep to keep them close to him, and to rescue cute lambs stuck in rocky crags. And the rod of course could fend off blood thirsty predators.
David’s own experience as a shepherd fighting off the bear and lion who thought they had an easy three course meal (Sam 17:34-35) is a reminder of how God our shepherd fights for our protection. It’s not too hard imagining the sheep being comforted by David’s presence with them. God is our great Shepherd and comforter. Though in his wisdom he takes us through, rather than around, many troubling valleys, we can be comforted in knowing that we are not alone, but have the presence of the Great I AM who is all powerful, all knowing and perfect in loving us during these dark periods. Are you in touch with the Shepherd’s comfort? Even those facing death this very minute can be comforted by the strength and life of our Shepherd who laid his life down for us on the cross and raised it up again, meaning they can shout out like Paul “O death, where is your sting” (1 Cor 15:55-56) for as Christ Jesus lives so will they whose hope lies in him.
The Lord is our Victory (v5)
David goes on to declare “You [God] prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (v5, parenthesis added). For one to eat in the presence of their enemies in David’s day would have meant that his enemies were rendered powerless and defeated. God honours and brings victory to those who draw near to him and follow him. This was David’s experience. David’s mention of God anointing him and his cup overflowing gives further confession of God’s provision of power and lavish grace that soaked his life. God makes room for every believer at his table and in his presence are pleasures forever (Psalm 16:11).
The Lord is our Hope (v6)
David knew God as his sure hope. He had enough experience of God’s ways to be certain that God’s “goodness and mercy” would follow him “all the days of my life”. The hebrew word used to indicate follow, “yir-de-fu-ni” also means to pursue, chase, hunt. This gives a staggering picture of God’s relentless loving kindness and care toward David (and every believer). And as such David could confidently assert “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Do you have such a confident view of God’s love and plan for your life? Scripture attests to this reality (2 Cor 4:17; 1 John 2:17; 1 John 5:11; Romans 6:23; 1 Tim 1:16). It’s God’s promise for you who believes in the only name under heaven by which anyone can be saved – Christ Jesus our Good Shepherd.