"The Lord Is My Shepherd"
That positive assurance is the beginning of the 23rd Psalm. How marvelous the comfort that it brings to the child of God. The love, care, and protection of His people make up this Psalm. It is intensely personal: a one-on-one relationship between the child and his Father; between the sheep and his Shepherd. There are seventeen personal pronouns of the first person. That is the relationship we have with the Lord: personal and individual. There is nothing - no one - between me and my Savior!
The Lord's goodness is set forth in two figures: (l) as a shepherd (vs. 1-4) and (2) as a host (vs. 5-6). Let me make some observations about the first figure.
"The Lord is my shepherd." Psalm 100:3 says that "We are his people and the sheep of his pasture." Jesus said: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:11). We belong to the Lord, the Lord belongs to us. Note the possessive pronoun "my." "The Lord is my shepherd." The child of God can say with confidence. "If He be a shepherd to no other person, He is a shepherd to me; for He feeds me. He keeps me, He watches over me."
Notice that the tense is present. "The Lord is my shepherd." At this very moment, regardless of place or circumstances, He is to me a loving shepherd. Because this is true, "I shall not want." He graciously supplies all my needs.
"He maketh me to lie down in green pastures." The haste, the strain, the frustration of life, makes me weary: but the shepherd "maketh me to lie down," to be still, to take my rest. (cf. Matt. 11:28-30). It is in "green pastures" - the place of plenty - that the sheep find sustenance. It is in the "green pastures" of God's word that His sheep find nourishment for the soul. The shepherd does not drive, but "leads me beside quiet waters." By the "quiet waters," the sheep are refreshed. How very comforting are the blessings of our Shepherd.
"He restores my soul." In a careless moment, the sheep falls over a great precipice, a limb is broken; or its body is wounded by a beast. The good shepherd binds up the broken limb, heals the lacerated parts. If by some careless or foolish act, we stumble and fall over a mighty precipice of sin, and we are badly hurt, the shepherd binds up the broken heart and starts us on our way again. To our original purpose and place, he restores us. We need to recognize the beauty and love in restorative grace. "He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." This he does by his word, which is "a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil: for Thou art with me..." Observe the assurance of the Psalmist, even in death. He does not say that we walk in the valley, but "through the valley." We walk through the valley in the light of immortality. It is not "the valley of death," but "the valley of the shadow of death;" and there is a difference. Death as a substance or reality has been conquered, and only the shadow remains. Praise God! Where there is a shadow there must be a light somewhere. The light is in the risen Christ. Who is afraid of a shadow? The shadow of a serpent cannot sting. The shadow of a beast cannot devour. The shadow of death cannot hurt or harm.
"I will fear no evil." The Psalmist does not say that "evil" will not come. "Evil" has come and will come. "Evil" will come even to the good man. But with the Lord as my shepherd, I "will fear no evil."
"For Thou art with me." How glorious is that comfort. Even though I must go through that lonesome valley, I will not do it alone. The Good Shepherd will go there with me. His blessed presence gives me courage and eases my fear of that time and place. With his "rod" he defends; with his "staff" he directs us. The same One who guides us in the dark valley will lead us into the light.
"For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "Death is swallowed up in victory. 0 death, where is your victory? 0 death, where is your sting?" Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ. (I Cor. 15:54-55).
My brother and sister, let us be certain that "the Lord is my Shepherd," in the fullest measure. "Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. 0 what at foretaste of glory divine." CAH.