“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever" - (Psalm 23).
When bombs are exploding, earthquakes are shaking, ISIS is advancing, finances are diminishing, and a host of other disturbing things happen that can cause us to shake in fear, we desperately need peace and comfort. We personally need a Good Shepherd to care for us.
Several years ago I learned an important lesson while spending three months in New Zealand. One thing I can say about that small country is that there are a lot of sheep everywhere. There are over four million people but 30 million sheep! I learned so much about sheep during my time there, especially about how a shepherd cares for His sheep. Did you know that if a sheep falls over with all his legs in the air, he can't even get up without the help of a shepherd?
It's absolutely true. Sheep are such needy animals, and can be quite fearful and helpless.
This sounds a bit like us fearful humans. The enemy tries to spread a spirit of fear and terror throughout the nations, and we can become so weak and anxious. In light of this reality, we need a powerful and caring shepherd who can prepare a table before us right in the presence of our enemies. We need oil on our heads and our cup to brim over with life (Psalm 23:5). We want to live our life with refreshing vigor rather than walk in fear and hopelessness.
In Biblical days, in hot climates it was customary to anoint the body with oil to protect it from excessive perspiration. It was refreshing and invigorating when it was mixed with perfume. Athletes often do this before running a race. David would anoint His sheep with oil to refresh, invigorate and fit them for action. Our Good Shepherd anoints us with the oil of the Holy Spirit to fit us for His service so that we can run our race with refreshing vigor.
"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (John 10:11).
The Lord is My Shepherd
Psalm 23 is a favorite psalm to so many people. It’s one of the clearest descriptions of David’s spiritual life as a man after God’s heart (1 Samuel 13:14). In this Psalm David confesses his agreement with God’s promises and his resistance against the Devil’s lies. In these verses we see the Lord as a shepherd who cares for His beloved sheep (v. 1-4) and as a host who prepares a banquet for His honored friends (v. 5-6).
We all like parties, banquets and feasts where we can eat all kinds of delicious food. We look forward to these mouth-watering gatherings with great zeal and anticipation. But do you realize that the Lord wants to prepare a special table just for you personally? He wants you to feast on Him right in the middle of your trials and pressures, right in the center of negative things that threaten to cause you to fear and become anxious. Did you realize that when we feast on God, our enemies look different and appear small rather than powerful? This means we must turn to God and away from feeding our souls on what the enemy is doing.
Feasting on God empowers us to walk in victory over our anxiety related to our enemies. But how do we do this on a daily basis?
What it Means to Have the Lord as Your Shepherd
"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me" (John 10:14).
There are ways we can know our Good Shepherd deeply and His intimate care over our lives. There are ways to walk with a brimming over cup that is filled with refreshing life for ourselves and for others, even during difficult days. Here are some things you can do to help cultivate the intimate care of the Good Shepherd in your own life. You can know the Lord as your shepherd by:
Accepting His leadership over your life
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1).
David believed in and fully embraced God’s leadership and care in His life. God supplied all that he needed through His attentive leadership. We also must transfer the ownership of our life to Jesus’ leadership. He then can deal with our enemies. He gives us the power, wisdom and strength to accomplish all of His will in our life. We lack nothing!
Feasting on Him daily and throughout the day
“He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters” (Psalm 23:2).
If we want the Lord to be our shepherd, we must feast on Him and take of His spiritual food and drink. These are our green pastures and still waters. We get abundant provision of food from God’s Word. Sheep can lie down to rest in peace only if they eat. Because of their fearfulness and timidity, they can’t lie down unless they feel totally secure. We are the same.
Sheep are very dependent and need to be guided to food and protected from their enemies. They can’t survive without a shepherd. They also can drink from still waters much easier than fast-flowing streams. We are so similar. We are dependent on God for guidance and protection. We can best feed on Him during quiet, undisturbed times and places.
Following Him in paths of righteousness
“He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3).
If we follow verses 1 and 2, the Lord restores our strength, peace, vitality and confidence. As we apply His Word, He restores our soul (Psalm 19:7-12). He leads us in paths of righteousness that are right with Him and for us. His right paths restore our direction, ministry, and sense of clear purpose in life. We need His help to do this. When we follow God’s path, we can fulfill His plan for our life.
Walking through valleys with Him without fear
“Yea 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” (Psalm 23:4).
A shepherd uses a rod to fend off wild beasts and protect his sheep. The staff was used to guide the sheep to food and water and away from the cliffs. Even when we are in times of danger when death seems inevitable without a miracle, whether it be physical, spiritual, emotional, financial or relational, we can walk through because God is with us. David was comforted by the promise of God’s presence and protection in times of danger. The Lord promises to never leave us (Hebrews 13:5). We need not fear evil because nobody can take what God gives us. God’s rod and staff comfort us. We can trust Him.
Dwelling in the House of the Lord forever
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6).
God wants to release goodness and mercy to us all of our life. Goodness includes intimacy with Him with divine blessing and provision so that we do not lack. Mercy is forgiveness from the past so that we can live free from guilt. Following the Lord means pursing Him and ministering in His house in prayer and worship. During seasons of pressure we must not become distracted or offended at God. He will overrule the negatives for our good.
In these days we must daily learn to have the Lord as our shepherd. We must not wander off and do our own thing. In the highlands of Scotland sheep would often wander off into the rocks and get stuck. They would often jump down twelve feet and be unable to jump back up. They would bleat there for days without any help. The shepherd would wait until they were faint before pulling them up out of the jaws of death to safety with a rope. Why does the shepherd wait so long before rescuing them? Because sheep are so foolish, they would dash right over the precipice and be killed!
We are often like sheep. We won't go God's way until we have lost everything. Instead we wander and cry out. The Good Shepherd comes when we give up trying to save ourselves and are willing to let Him save us in His own way.
Let's remember this important story and let God save us His way. He promises to prepare a table for us right in the presence of our enemies. He anoints our head with oil so that our cup overflows. We must learn to feast on God. We need His leadership, His comfort and protection. He is our Good Shepherd. He will carry us through. His goodness and mercy will continue all our days and we will prevail over failure, defeat, and the attacks of the enemy. This is not the time to dread the future, but to rise up in comfort and with brimming over faith.
Listen to this song and read John 10:1-18 to study more about our Good Shepherd. When the enemy threatens you with fear, remember this:
"My unknown future is in the hands of my all-knowing and loving Good Shepherd."