The 23rd Psalm is by far, the most well-known of all the Psalms. As children, many of us were required to memorize it. So very often I have turned to this Psalm as my source of hope, peace, and quiet inner confidence. Psalm 23 is the appointed Psalm for this coming Sunday.
As a boy, David, the writer of the Psalm, was a shepherd. He knew the nature and ways of sheep. David knew that sheep were followers and needed a shepherd to nurture them and guide them to safety. It is said that David may have written the 23rd Psalm when being pursued by King Saul who wanted him dead, he experienced deep distress.
David must have engaged in intense spiritual contemplation which led him to radically shift from the view that God, although all-powerful, was distanced. He knew the Old Testament scriptures that related God’s mighty work of leading Israel out of slavery in Egypt, through the Red Sea, and through the desert, where He provided for the people’s needs and led them into the promised Land. Yet, David’s experience of God was even more personal. He experienced God as One with whom he had ongoing moment-by-moment fellowship. With his shepherding background etched in his heart, David humbly likened himself to a sheep, submissive and dependent on the Mighty, Loving God whom he likened to a Shepherd who nourishes, leads, guides, and protects. How comforting and strengthening the revelation of God as Shepherd must have been for David when his very life was at risk! The great sovereign, eternal God is an intimate God who knows and cares for His people personally, and individually.
Out of the depth of his soul, David, therefore, made a declaration of confident trust in God. “The LORD is my shepherd.” David identified the Lord as the One who has been and will forever be his shepherd, “all the days of my life.” The Lord, the shepherd meets all David’s needs; his physical, social, and spiritual needs, his need for safety and security during times of fearsome troubles, and his need for rest and restoration. David’s interpretation of God as a shepherd spoke prophetically of the coming of Christ, the Son of God, who became incarnate and resided so close to humanity that people saw Him and heard Him, and touched Him. People experienced first-hand His tender care and compassionate love in His healing and teaching ministry.
Further, David prayerfully declared, “You spread a table before me…… you have anointed my head with oil and my cup is running over.” God’s care is not only personal but lavishly abundant. In essence, David declared that the source of true meaning in life is God, the Lover and Giver who holds back nothing. This was again prophetically linked to Christ who on the cross poured out His life like a drink offering, then rose again as the Good Shepherd for all people.
David’s humble job of shepherding led him to confidently voice the spiritual richness of life with God. God tenderly, intimately, and faithfully cares for each of us. As we begin the fourth week of Easter may we take time to contemplate how God in Christ has personally Shepherded us. What other image would you use to express God’s movement in your life? May we grow in love for our Resurrected Lord. May we listen for His voice as He speaks to us in our humble daily lives, then obey Him who is our everlasting Shepherd.