The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want
The twenty-third Psalm is probably the best known of all the Psalms, and imagery of God being our shepherd carries on into the New Testament, where Jesus identifies himself as the ‘good shepherd’ (John 10:11).
King David, the author of this Psalm, was a shepherd himself, and no doubt understood the role well. He knew the dangers of protecting the flock from wild animals, and the need to lead the sheep to food and water. He knew that sheep are essentially stupid, and are not really cut out for life in the wild. They are willing to follow. They need a shepherd.
And what a joy - what a privilege - it is to be able to say that we too have a shepherd, and he is the LORD. The LORD is my shepherd. He’s the one looking after me. He’ll lead me to pastures and still waters.
But do note this: having God as our shepherd does not mean life is without its troubles. The LORD at times leads his flock through the valley of the shadow of death, but even then we must have confidence. The ‘valley of the shadow of death’ is a Hebrew saying which means a very dark place. In other words, even when the world looks dark we can be sure that God will lead us through. After all, the Psalm speaks of walking through the valley, not being left in it.
But where are we being led? To the house of the LORD:
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
The Good Shepherd may lead us through perilous and difficult valleys, but if we follow him with one eye on heaven we will walk with more confidence. Let us not be like the sheep that stray into the hedges and get stuck. Instead let us follow our eternal and all-powerful Shepherd.