There are many different ways that God is described in the bible. One of my favorites, though, is the description of shepherd. Aside from John 3:16, perhaps the most well known passage in all of the scriptures may very well be Psalm 23. It is a beautiful, intimate portrait of the Good Shepherd!
As a person studies Psalm 23 there are two verses that are key to understanding this psalm. They are verses 1 and 4. In verse 1 we read, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” The word “my” is so important. It speaks of personal relationship. The rest of this psalm flows out of this personal knowledge and relationship with the Shepherd.
The other verse that is key is verse 4. It reads, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Tucked away near the middle of this psalm is the word, “You.” David, when writing this psalm, was fully aware that God’s presence with him was the secret to walking through the “valleys of the shadow of death” with peace.
Some scholars believe that David was writing this psalm as a young shepherd as he was tending his sheep. Others believe that he was much older and experienced in life. I tend to believe that the latter is true. It seems like as David is writing this psalm he is reflecting on his life and his relationship with the Shepherd, his Lord, who had been so faithful to him throughout all of his days. As David recalls the “valley of the shadow of death,” I imagine him remembering all of the trials and tribulations that he had endured. I imagine him remembering the pain that he brought on himself and others by his sin and bad choices. But, through all of those valleys, God had been with him and had been so faithful to him.
As you read this psalm let me encourage you with some if /then truths from each verse. Read verse 1 and then realize this: If the Lord is your Shepherd, then He is your fulfillment. Read verse 2 and then think about this: If the Lord is your Shepherd, then He is your provider. Read verse 3 and then dwell on this: If the Lord is your Shepherd, then He is your righteousness. Read verse 4 and then consider this: If the Lord is your Shepherd, then He is your comfort. Read verse 5 and then think about this: If the Lord is your Shepherd, then He is your protector. Read verse 6 and then believe this: If the Lord is your Shepherd, then He is yours forever.
I hope this psalm encourages you as much as it does me. If you don’t know the Good Shepherd, come to trust Him. Yield your life to Him. Believe in what Jesus did on the cross for you in your place. Be made new through Christ. If you do know Him, then in the good times and in the valleys, trust Him and seek Him. For He is good.