The Lord is my Shepherd – Psalm 23, Part 1

1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3He restores my soul.

– Psalm 23

My daughter wants to be a mommy when she grows up. My son wants to be a football player. And my youngest, well she just wants to be “tall”. 

From early on, we all develop dreams for ourselves – some big, some small, some even tall. And as we grow, the plans may shift, but we never stop dreaming. We all want something. And I think we all fear when those things are threatened. 

Sometimes, I think we see God as the threat. What if he doesn’t give us what we want? What if he didn’t seem to come through on something before?

In Psalm 23, David begins by declaring the Lord as his shepherd, his caretaker. A shepherd himself, David would have been familiar with all the responsibilities required, as well as the pitiful realities of the sheep. He would have been familiar with the lack of glamor, the smells, the mundane tasks. But as life progressed, he also would become familiar with a life of royalty, a life as king. Yet instead of metaphors of rule and riches, he writes here of shepherding. Except he refers to himself as the sheep. 

Because David knew the Lord.

He knew the Lord is good. Tender. Near.
He knew he couldn’t survive without him.

I think most of us know, too. But I also think we forget. 

We forget that He is Lord. We forget what a tremendous gift it is to be under the direct care of the Most High. We forget that he is generous. That we lack nothing, because he lacks nothing. That he is rich, and his riches are credited unto us.

We forget that He leads us to green pastures. Where vegetation is alive, abundant. That he is life, and that he came so we could have life abundant. And I think we forget that we need to be led there. That we need to be led away from the temporary things of this world that are just illusions, mirages that will all fade away. 

We forget that He gives living water, the only satisfying quench to our desires. We forget the depths of our thirst, the depths of our anxiety. That we live with an insatiable longing for something beyond ourselves, beyond this world. He brings us to himself, to refreshment and peace. And when we drink of him, he promises we will thirst no more.

And we forget that He is Healer, Jehovah-Rapha, the Great Physician. We need restoration. Not just a makeover, but an overhaul. Not just on the surface, but for our souls. I think we forget that we don’t have an inherent right-standing before the Lord Almighty, nor an intrinsic goodness within ourselves. We need someone to do for us what we could never do on our own.

The Shepherd – He is good. He is good to us

He satisfies, gives rest, leads and restores. We are in desperate need of everything he has to give. And He is so generous to make it all available to us.

Years later, when Jesus took on flesh, he declared to the crowd, “I am the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11). He is the reality of the prophets, of the Scriptures, of the psalms. He laid down his life for his sheep. He stood in our place and accomplished for us the perfection of the law we could not attain, and He endured the wrath from our violations. And he stands as the gate, that all, any, whosoever might enter through him would be saved. Would find pasture. 

He did everything. 

We can all have ideas and dreams for our lives. I think our differing passions and talents reflect the beauty and creativity of God. I also think our desires can reflect the innate sinfulness of man. Sometimes it might be hard to tell the difference. Either way, our chief response is always to offer it up to the Lord. Because to fear him getting in the way of anything good is to forget him as the Good Shepherd. We can thank him when he doesn’t give us what we want, because He is for us and not against us. We can praise him for intercepting us on the trajectory to death and promising eternity in a new and perfect kingdom, where we will never again experience the damaging effects of sin. And we can worship him for making himself available to us.

The Good Shepherd is the Great King. The God who has made himself known, and who wants to be known. He is the one who reigns and the one who gives. Whatever our aspirations, whatever our dreams, we can trust in his timing, his leading, his shepherding. For he is good. He is my shepherd. And he is yours.

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. – Psalm 37:3-4

For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. – Revelation 7:17

Worship: Good Shepherd
Goodness of God

Study: This series of 4 posts is based on a deep dive of Psalm 23, using the Abide Method – Observe, Interpret, Apply. Spend some time in these verses, and feel free to use the prompts and additional scripture references below.

1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3He restores my soul.

– Psalm 23

Observe – What does it say? 
How would you summarize the text?
Who is the Lord? What characteristics or attributes are true of him?
Whose shepherd is he?
What does the shepherd do?
Where does he take the writer of the psalm?

Interpret – What does it mean? 
If the Lord is a shepherd, what is the psalmist referring to himself as? 
What do you know about sheep?
What things do you turn to, to “shepherd” (lead and guide) you through life?
Why is the psalmist not in need? How has God provided for your personal needs?
How is it easy to let God lead your life? How is it hard? (Talk to God about this!)
Can we lay in green pasture/find rest on our own?
If the psalmist is being led to still waters, is he starting off there?
What can you assume about the former condition of his soul if his soul is restored?

Apply – What does it teach us about God? 
List some attributes that this passage teaches us. 
How do these attributes affect the way we view the Lord’s shepherding?
How is God satisfying? (Isaiah 49:10)

How does it point to the Gospel? 
Who is the dominant/lead person in this Psalm? 
Who has accomplished salvation for all people? (John 19:30, Acts 4:12)
Who does Jesus claim to be? (John 4:13-14, 10:7-11, 14, 28)
What did he do? (John 10:11, 17)
Where does God bring us? (Colossians 1:13)

How does it apply to your life?
Is there anything God is calling you to do?

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