Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Mar 3 2019 - Psalm 23 – The Lord our shepherd

David had been a shepherd boy, looking after his father's sheep. He had led them to places where there was green pasture for them to feed on. He had sought out streams of fresh water for them in a dry land. He had protected them from wild animals that threatened them, from the paw of the bear and of the lion; he had risked his life to keep his sheep from harm.

His experience in caring for sheep had set him thinking – perhaps even composing this psalm while at watch on the mountainside one night. He had realised that just as he cared for, protected and provided for his sheep so also, in a far more wonderful way, God cared for and looked after him. What an amazing thought is expressed in these simple words, "The Lord is my shepherd." David has come to see that the creator of the universe cared intimately for him and was concerned about the detailed circumstances of his life. He is loved by God.

But this beautiful and much loved psalm was intended to be used by all of God's people in their worship; it is not a private psalm. It speaks of God's wonderful care for each one of us. It reminds us that God's care of us extends into every day of our lives to the day of our death and then beyond: we will "dwell in the house of the Lord forever." David had come to realise that God's tender care of those he has made his own never comes to an end. We need not be afraid of anything but can confidently rest in God's care of us in life and in death.

Notice how this psalm speaks of the Lord, our Shepherd, leading us: "He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake." In the Middle East, a shepherd would lead his sheep. He would not drive them along in front of him, let alone send a dog to round them up. The shepherd would call to his sheep and lead them in the way he wanted them to go; they, in turn, would recognise his voice and follow him. They would not need to go anywhere that the shepherd had not gone before them.

But not only is the Lord our Shepherd who goes before us, his goodness and mercy also follow us all the days of our life. We are surrounded by the protective hand of the Lord who will enable us to triumph over all that threatens us.

The psalm points us to the Lord Jesus who spoke of himself as the Good Shepherd. He cares for us and has loved us so much that he laid down his life for us that we might be saved from death. And not only did he die for us, he is also raised from the dead for us and lives for ever as the Great Shepherd of the sheep. He calls us to follow him. He leads us in paths of righteousness and refreshes or restores our souls. He protects us from all those powers that threaten us so that nothing will separate us from the love of God our Father in Christ Jesus. He fills us with joy in his presence. His goodness and love never leave us; they pursue us all the days of our life. He is the Great Shepherd who ensures that not one of those who have been given into his care will be lost.

And he calls us to follow him; to walk the path he has walked. We are to care for one another as he cares for us. He calls us also to have compassion upon a world of people who are like sheep without a shepherd. He calls us to join him in seeking those who are lost and urging them to return to the one who alone can be the Shepherd of their souls.

Father God, thank you for this wonderful psalm. Thank you especially for the Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd and Great Shepherd of the sheep. Help me always to hear his voice and follow him. Refresh my soul today and lead me in paths of righteousness for your name's sake. Deliver me from all evil. Comfort me with your presence and lead me to glory.

Peter Misselbrook