We all have favorite verses and passages in Scripture that we’ve memorized. The words of Jesus need to be written on our hearts, and some that come to mind have to do with His love and care for us. When Jesus walked among the people, it was a time when the sight of shepherds herding their sheep was common. Because He knew the needs of sheep and the love of their shepherd, Jesus used them as an example of His love for us.
“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
When we choose to follow Him, we can trust Him to care for us and provide for our needs. The Lord being our shepherd isn’t a New Testament idea. Long before he was king, David was a shepherd. He understood the need to care and provide for his flock and likened the Lord’s love and care to a shepherd.
“[A Psalm of David]. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalm 23:1-6).
Many of us know this Psalm by heart. This beautiful poetry has given comfort in times of trouble and encouragement in times of need.
David knew from experience just how important the sheep are to the shepherd and how much care they need. He finds food and water for his precious flock, and he protects them from danger. Scripture discloses that when he was very young, David had killed a bear and a lion when they threatened his flock, and this prepared him to fearlessly face a giant. The sheep trust their shepherd, and they know his voice and follow only him. David likened the LORD to a shepherd and personalized the statement by saying “my” shepherd.
Here’s a question for you: Is the Lord your shepherd?
Green pastures and still waters give a picture of peace. As I read those words, I get a picture in my mind of a lovely lake with trees shading the green grass. Some sheep are grazing, while others are peacefully resting. They aren’t afraid of any danger because they trust their shepherd. If the sheep felt any fear, they wouldn’t be lying peacefully.
David knew he could trust the LORD to provide for his needs and protect him, and he fully trusted the LORD as his Shepherd. When David wrote these words, he couldn’t fully understand the peace and comfort of Jesus. David looked forward to the coming Messiah but was not indwelt by the Holy Spirit as Christians are today. When Jesus, who is our Good Shepherd, told His disciples that He was going to be put to death, He explained that this was necessary, but that He wouldn’t leave them, or us, without help.
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” (John 16:7).
Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us in Heaven, but Christians have the peace of God living inside of us because we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
“That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:12-14).
David recognized that the LORD does even more than provide peace and supply our needs. “He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3).
Various Bible translations translate “restoreth my soul” as “He restores my Strength” (NLT), and “He refreshes my soul” (NIV). Perhaps David had led his sheep through a very hot, dry desert to reach this place of peace and safety.
How many times have you gone through a very rough time in life, such as disease or financial troubles, but when you were at the end of your strength, God led you to a peaceful place where you rested and regained your strength?
David’s words compare God’s care for us to the shepherd’s love for his sheep. Without God we cannot have any true restoration, renewal, or refreshing. We can trust Him to only lead us along paths that will keep us safe… the paths of righteousness. When you face a choice and must decide upon a path to follow, stop and pray. God won’t lead you into sin or into a situation that will cause disgrace upon His name or upon you. We can trust Him and His word to guide us.
“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over” (Psalm 23:5).
Our true enemy is Satan. He uses people, but people aren’t our enemies. Satan’s desire is to destroy us and separate us from our Lord.
“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:10-11).
We who follow the Good Shepherd are under His protection. Whether we face a physical battle or a spiritual one, the Good Shepherd still provides for us. In the midst of battle, a soldier has little time to eat, but the Good Shepherd sets out a table for His own sheep. Spiritual food for a spiritual battle. The enemy isn’t fed, but the sheep are. The sheep are given the luxury of being anointed with oil and so much to drink that the cup overflows. Even in times of struggle, blessings abound for those who follow Jesus, but the enemy has no comfort or abundance.
David had confidence in the LORD and looked forward to the coming Messiah. He was comforted by the knowledge that he would “…dwell in the house of the LORD for ever” (Psalm 23:6b).
The Good News for Christians today is that the Messiah has come. If you have placed your faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, then you will live with Him forever. There’s nothing that can take you from Him.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one” (John 10:27-30).
That’s as safe and secure as you can possibly get.
There’s a lot of turmoil in this life. Governments being overthrown, pestilence running rampant, wars, persecution, hatred, chaos… all of this is driven by Satan. Fear can grip our hearts and cloud our thinking. If you’ve accepted Christ for salvation, remember that He is the Good Shepherd and follow Him every step of your way. Let Him give you peace.
“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
You may have noticed that I skipped verse 4. Verses 1 through 3 tell of green pastures, still waters, and paths of righteousness. All peaceful settings that we long for. Verses 5 and 6 tell of the abundance and comfort that the Lord provides in spite of the enemy’s presence and the strife Satan causes. There’s also the promise of dwelling with Him forever.
In the middle of these verses of comfort and promise, we read, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).
This almost seems out of place… very dark and foreboding compared to the green pastures, still waters, and a feast in the midst of enemy attack. A valley is a low point between mountains, and in this case, the valley has a shadow over it… the shadow of death. It isn’t death itself that covers that valley, but the shadow of death. We walk through such a valley every day. Death has always been a certainty in life, and the truth is, even as we lie down in those lovely green pastures, death is all around us. Our very next breath could be our last.
Today there’s a virus that has struck fear into the hearts of many. People who don’t know Jesus have no hope and can only know fear. Christians have the promise of eternal life with our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, and we need not fear any evil. Even David, who lived many centuries before the Messiah gave His life for our salvation, felt confident as he walked through the valley of the shadow of death.
Notice that David walked through the valley of the shadow of death instead of racing through it in fear in order to get out of it. He trusted the rod and staff of the Good Shepherd to comfort and lead him. The Apostle Paul yearned to get through the valley and be with Jesus, but knew he needed to continue his ministry on earth.
“For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better: nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you” (Philippians 1:23-24).
Christians have the Holy Spirit living inside of us. He is the rod and staff that guides us and comforts us as we walk through this world that’s overshadowed by death.
Unbelievers have no hope. They are the walking dead and are all around us. They’ve chosen to reject the Good Shepherd, and His rod and staff will bring them no comfort. Unless they repent and accept Christ’s free gift of salvation, they face eternity in the Lake of Fire. Christians have the promise of eternal life in the presence of our Lord and Saviour; our Shepherd will go with us through that valley of the shadow of death. I find much comfort in that promise, but I also feel an urgent need to share God’s promises with the lost before it’s too late. The world is becoming darker every day as Satan takes control of more and more people. Brothers and sisters, stand firm upon God’s word, don’t falter as you walk the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake, and follow His command to share the Gospel with the lost.
“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
Only faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ will bring salvation and break the bond of the valley of the shadow of death.
“Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21).
He is my Shepherd, and I shall not want… even when walking through this valley of the shadow of death.
God bless you all,
All original scripture is “theopneustos,” God-breathed.
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