"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." (Psalm 23:1-3)
What a beautiful picture is here painted - needy sheep under the direction and care of the great Shepherd. The Lord is often described as a shepherd. As an example we read in Isaiah 40:11, "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young."
Then in Ezekiel 34:11, "For thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out."
How reassuring to know that the Shepherd will search for His sheep, will find them and carry them safely to the fold. Left to themselves they would never find the way. We read, "For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." (1 Peter 2:25) The lost sheep have been found and are now secure with the Shepherd.
David is able to say, "The Lord is my Shepherd." It is one thing to believe the Lord is the Shepherd, but to say He is my Shepherd brings great joy and peace. The Psalmist spoke of God as my rock, my strength, my refuge and my salvation. It may be asked, "How can I say that? I feel unworthy. How could I claim that God is my salvation and my shepherd?"
Jesus provides us an answer to the question. "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." (John 10:27) Do you hear His voice? Not an audible voice but His voice which draws you to Him. Do you follow Him?
Jesus said, "This is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise Him up at the last day." (John 6:40) Do you believe on Him? If you do that is evidence of eternal life. As a believer you can say, He is my Shepherd.
With Him: No Wants
Sheep left to themselves want everything. They cannot find food and water; they cannot defend themselves. But the Shepherd is the great provider. He will provide their temporal needs.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us not to worry. "Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?" (Matthew 6:25)
And He will also provide their spiritual needs. The Lord said to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9) And so Paul could say, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
The battle against the world, the flesh and the devil is intense but strength to overcome is provided. The sheep are weak and they sometimes wander but the Shepherd watches over them.
With Him: Rest
The Shepherd provides rest. He makes them lie down in the green pastures.
The Lord leads His sheep into the green pastures of His Word where they find rest in His promises. How often trouble and fear make rest impossible! The pressures of life take their toll. Anxiety about the future robs the worrier of his rest.
But then comes the promise, "as thy days, so shall thy strength be." And another found in this green pasture, "When thou passesst through the waters, I will be with thee." By the blessing of the Spirit of God the promises are made real and now the weary soul finds rest.
With Him: Guidance
The next expression is reassuring, "He leadeth me beside the still waters." Just knowing that He leads is a great comfort. How difficult it would be to travel through the paths of life without His guidance. Joseph Gilmore expresses it beautifully in his well-loved hymn:
He leadeth me! O blessed tho't!
O words with heavenly comfort fraught!
Whate'er I do, where'er I be,
Still 'tis God's hand that leadeth me!
Sometimes 'mid scenes of deepest gloom,
Sometimes where Eden's bowers bloom,
By waters still, o'er troubled sea,
Still 'tis my God that leadeth me!
We often feel to be in a stormy place. The waters are troubled, the challenges are great. But our Shepherd then leads us beside the still waters. He brings us to a quiet and peaceful place and, as we give thanks for the peace enjoyed, we acknowledge we were led there by our Shepherd and it is for His name's sake that these blessings are ours.
With Him: Restoration
Finally, He restores our souls. There are seasons when we feel to be cold and barren. Our zeal has declined and joy has faded. A sense of sin has broken the heart and the influences of the world have had their impact.
David frequently prayed for the Lord to quicken him and here he acknowledges the answer to that prayer. The Lord Himself restores the soul. He revives us and enlivens us. He restores the joy of salvation, He warms the heart with a holy zeal, He renews a right spirit within.
“And the children of Joseph spake unto Joshua, saying, Why hast thou given me but one lot and one portion to inherit, seeing I am a great people, forasmuch as the Lord hath blessed me hitherto?” (Joshua 17:14).