For many believers, the 23rd Psalm is a passage of scripture that is known by heart. Many more are familiar enough to recognize the phrases that describe the Shepherd’s care.
But what do all the references really mean? I have only seen sheep in petting zoos and on back roads in sheep country. I really don’t know very much about them. And the impressions I have are not too favorable toward them being a smart or regal animal. But I have read a wonderful book written by an actual shepherd who takes each verse and explains it from the perspective of a shepherd, and why the sheep need and value each specific thing in this Psalm.
I understand that You, Lord God, are the Good Shepherd, who plans for, provides for, cares for, calms, protects, feeds, guides, restores, heals, comforts, and sacrifices for, even lays down Your life for, the sheep. And I am represented by a sheep.
Thank You Father that You are my Shepherd. Other sheep have masters who do not care about them. They go hungry and become diseased, living a life without shelter or protection. But You provide all things for me. You meet my every need.
You provide a place for me to rest that is full of the nourishment I need and free from pests, aggravation from the rest of the flock, and fear of predators. You lead me where clean, fresh, shallow water stands still for me to drink from so I don’t become sick from dirty, poisoned water. Or get dragged down or carried a way in deep, rushing water. When I become world-weary and feel discouraged, depressed, and are down-cast, You renew me. You give me hope, and bring restoration to my life.
Father, thank You for showing me a good, right way to live that will bring honor to Your name. Left alone I would go my own way and become entrapped in the selfish, greedy ways of the world. Thank You that even in the darkest places, where I am the most vulnerable, You go with me and protect me. You bring me through these valleys to a higher place. You drive away the predators who seek to devour me with Your rod: a symbol of Your power, authority, and strength. Thank You that I have Your Word, and that there is power in it. And that it can also be used as Your staff, to examine, corral, and direct me. In Your protection and direction I am comforted.
I am blessed Lord, that You have walked this earth before me. You know every trial, every temptation I will face. And You have prepared me for it. Like a shepherd removes the poisonous plants before he brings his sheep to feed, You have prayed for me to be in this world. Even with enemies all around, You stand guard and intercede for me, praying for my faith to be strong.
“You anoint my head with oil” to consecrate and heal me. For sheep, it is a life saving measure to drive out parasites that would lay eggs causing inflammation, blindness, and death. The Holy Spirit in my life brings understanding and healing to me. And overflows my cup with abundance and blessing. Yet even when there is suffering in my cup, Your suffering on the cross, and the life You poured out for me, pours over into my cup and overflows it with Your strength and vitality and blessing.
Because You are my Shepherd, You bring goodness and mercy into my life. But You can also help me leave it in my path, as a legacy to others. I can deposit into other’s lives, blessing, forgiveness, encouragement, inspiration, and peace. Help me do that.
I choose to be in Your flock, Your household, forever! I will never leave. I want to be in Your presence, in Your care, all the days of my life, and then after that, for eternity. Amen
Psalm 23:1-6; A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller