From Journey the Word
David was a shepherd, so he knew what the shepherd's work and the sheep are like. Therefore, He was able to bridge that God is a Shepherd who cares for His Flock - His People. Let's see the amazing imagery he gives us and how we can understand how he wrote this Psalm.
|Psalm 23||The Shepherd's Work||Application for life|
|The Lord is my shepherd||Sheep can recognize their shepherd. Care for them means ownership of them.||We are like sheep under God's care who belong to Him.|
|I shall not want||Some sheep wander off to greener lands, but this is dangerous.||God meets my deepest needs.|
|He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:||The shepherd has a crucial role to make sheep feel safe, and they will not rest until they feel safe from threats.||God makes me free to rest, especially in Him.|
|he leadeth me beside the still waters.||Sheep refuse rapid currents of waters, as they don't swim well. Therefore, the shepherd needs to find calm water.||We can drink of God's Holy Spirit who is water to our thirsty souls.|
|He restoreth my soul:||Some sheep struggle to get up quickly, as they may be dehydrated. The shepherd may have to prod the sheep or help it get up.||God cares for and keeps the heart and mind of those who love Him and that He loves.|
|he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.||Sheep, like humans, are creatures of habit. By overgrazing, they can destroy their own pastures and must be led to a new land. But only shepherds know the best way to get there.||God will always lead us on the right path according to His Promise.|
|Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me||Valleys on the way to high pastures often have the best grasses, but there are many hidden dangers that may lurk for sheep.||God knows and deals with the fears and deadly dangers of life for us.|
|thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.||Sheep need to learn to trust their shepherd. The shepherd's rod protects them, disciplines them, and saves them. It is meant as a tool to guide them.||God's discipline, guidance, and protection keeps His People safe.|
|Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies||Usually shepherds must prepare the pasture to remove poisons, toxins, and other bad things to ensure clean eating. Predators can wait ready to pounce on unsuspecting sheep.||God provides for our hunger, even when enemies surround us.|
|thou anointest my head with oil||Flying insects can cause problems for sheep especially during the summer. Oil is a natural bug repellent that can also heal the skin.||God takes care of our bodily needs.|
|my cup runneth over.||The good shepherd is willing to take the sheep to better grazing areas and water sources.||Our provision from God is abundant.|
|Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life||Sheep can aid in the fertility of the land and can transform wilderness into fertile fields. The good shepherd makes blessing follow his sheep.||God's goodness and Magnificent grace will be with us our entire lives.|
|and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.||Sheep are taken back to the shepherd's property during the fall and winter.||We shall be with God for eternity.|
The Old Testament's view of the shepherd
- God is the Shepherd (Genesis 49:24; Psalm 23; 80:1).
- God's appointed leaders are under-shepherds (Ezekiel 34).
- Many people in the Old Testament were actually shepherds for their jobs: Abel, Moses, David, Abraham, Isaac, Rachel, etc.
- Foreign leaders were occasionally called shepherds because of their leadership of God's People (Isaiah 44:28).
- The prophets used shepherd imagery pointing to the Messiah's coming (Ezekiel 34:22-24; 37:24; Isaiah 40:11; Zechariah 13:7; Matthew 26:31; Mark 14:27).
The New Testament's view of the shepherd
- Jesus is our Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:34), our Good Shepherd (John 10:1-30), and our Great Shepherd (Hebrews 13:20).
- Jesus had compassion on the large crowds that came to see Him because they were as sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36; Mark 6:34).
- Jesus used sheep and shepherds in His parables (Matthew 12:11-12; 18:12-14; 25:31-46).
- Jesus commissioned His Disciples to care for His sheep (Matthew 10:6; 10:16; John 21:16-17).
- Jesus is the lamb of sacrifice (John 1:29; Acts 8:32; 1 Peter 1:19; Revelation 5:6).
- Elders are shepherds under Christ (1 Peter 5:2).
Jesus' actions in response to normal shepherd duties
|Duties of the Shepherd||Jesus' Work|
|Lead the sheep to safe water and pastures.||Calls His Disciples to follow wherever He leads (Matthew 4:18-22; John 10:4-9).|
|Protects the sheep from predators, pests, and other dangers.||Warns, intercedes, and rescued His People (Mark 8:15; John 17:12-15; Matthew 20:28; John 10:15).|
|Feeds the sheep, which also involves removing poisons and toxins from the food.||Feeds the crowds of people, for He Himself is the Bread of Life (Matthew 14:13-21; 15:32-39; John 6:22-71).|
|Cares for weak or sick lambs.||Cares for the weak and sick (Matthew 14:14; 14:34-36).|
|Disciplines the wayward sheep and retrieves the lost.||Rebukes His Disciples whenever needed, and fins those who have lost their way (Matthew 14:29-31; 16:23; Luke 22:31-34).|
|Protects the cultivated land and crops from the sheep.||Guides His Disciples in the way of caring about others (Luke 6:27-36).|
|Prevents over-grazing.||Teaching His Disciples to be wise and harmless (Matthew 10:16).|