There is a famous psalm written by David that, if written in today, would be Christian music’s number one hit – a multi-platinum recording. It is Psalm 23 and perhaps you have heard of it’s lyrics? There can be no question that this song beautifully expresses the goodness of trusting in a personal shepherd. But, I understand that a shepherd probably holds very little weight for those of us in a busy city or even a quiet suburban town. So, let’s modernize this reference that David, and later Jesus, used. Instead of calling the main character a good shepherd, lets exchange it for the word ‘bodyguard.’ The idea of a constant protector is what David was communicating and David, a once shepherd-boy turned mighty king, understood the importance in taking care of helpless animals. David also knew that the Lord was faithful in providing and watching over him.
Can we echo this response when we find ourselves running or hiding in metaphorical caves? Can we echo this when we feel forgotten or lost? Hopefully, we aren’t only proclaiming the following words found in Psalm 23 when life is working in our favor. For the truth is, these words can produce the most power in our lives when we feel the very weakest. Let’s take a look at each well chosen lyric to further understand David’s words to God:
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
There is truly so much wisdom to be gained from these verses, especially when we attempt to discover God in our lowest of moments, calling Him our forever Lord. Below, let’s look at just the first half of verse one, dissecting what David felt:
Notice that David begins by saying that the Lord is His shepherd. He is emphasizing the word “THE” because He is well aware that there is no one else but God who can protect him from life’s snares and pitfalls. Do we truly live this way? Do we camouflage this protection with other things that bring about a false sense of security? Truly, God is THE only thing that can bring about comfort and peace. Can we call Him the one and only thing that we need?
Next, David chooses the title for God Almighty as “LORD,” which means master or owner. While David could have chosen many adjectives to describe the God he knew intimately, he chose to call Him Master. I immediately think of a subject serving a King when I hear this title and I truly believe that this was the reverence and honor that David was broadcasting in this opening line. How can we make God our Lord? While we often call Him Savior and Lord, Savior implies that we can do nothing but admit He saved us undeservingly from our sins, but Lord requires action on our behalf. We must place God in the highest position of our lives at all times, surrendering to Him as Lord like David did. How can we begin to make God our Lord each and every day?
David didn’t stop there. David continues by clearly communicating that THE one and only LORD, master and owner of his soul, IS. This word IS implies a present tense. David is not saying he remembers God was his provider when he felt God’s direction more clearly. Instead, the Lord IS, which means currently. God is always present and personally with us just like a bodyguard protecting a celebrity from crazy fans. Sometimes we may feel like we need a constant hand to hold when life is pulling us in a thousand directions, while other times we may feel invisible, looking for His hand to grasp us tightly. David was vocal in the moments when he felt forsaken by God, yet He never ceased to praise an ever present Lord… even when He couldn’t feel God’s presence. David believed God was always there. How can we acknowledge God’s presence in our lives regardless of our circumstances or emotions?
The next word is MY, which is very personal. MY house, or MY children, implies it is yours to claim. The Lord was David’s personal claim. This cannot come without a solid relationship. Yes, relationships go through highs and lows, but knowing that a relationship is yours, much like a marriage, can bring a sense of forever commitment which brings about true joy. Do you call Jesus yours?
David uses a word we often lack connection with, which is the word SHEPHERD. A shepherd has a responsibility and obligation to care for animals who would otherwise roam without guidance. We are the sheep. We can easily be led astray and we need someone to direct us. David saw himself in this manner; wouldn’t you also admit this to be true in your own life?
I’d like to close by putting some thought into the nature of a sheep, so that the real attention can be placed solely on the importance of a shepherd. I am assuming you haven’t spent much time with sheep recently, so I went to this website called Sheep101 (yes, there is such a thing) and this is what I learned,
“Sheep have a strong instinct to follow the sheep in front of them. When one sheep decides to go somewhere, the rest of the flock usually follows, even if it is not a good decision. For example, sheep will follow each other to slaughter. If one sheep jumps over a cliff, the others are likely to follow. Even from birth, lambs are conditioned to follow the older members of the flock. This instinct is ‘hard-wired’ into sheep. It’s not something they think about.”
I can now further identity with my sheep-like nature, can’t you? I can find myself listening to others instead of listening to what God has to say about me. I then end up following mere men instead of following God’s perfect plan. If you are any thing like me, you have once or twice blindly wandered somewhere you’d never thought you’d be because you forgot to seek true wisdom. If not for the grace of God, I could follow my flesh and others around me, right until the end of my time. I am very akin to a sheep. Thus, I am forever thankful for a loving shepherd who leads me in the right direction. I believe that David hand selected these wonderful words, “the Lord is my shepherd” to remind himself of God’s goodness. Will you also proclaim this promising song over your life today?