“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul” (Psalm 23:1-3a, ESV).
When David said, “The LORD is my shepherd,” he knew something about the word picture he was using.
The first time we ever meet David, he is introduced as the youngest, all-but-forgotten son-out doing the chore none of his seven older brothers wanted to do. “Then Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all your sons here?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep'” (1 Samuel 16:11a).
When David volunteered to face off with Goliath, he claimed his work as a shepherd-warding off lions and bears from the flock-had prepared him for the fight (1 Samuel 17:34-37).
Because he knew shepherding and he knew the Lord, David found it easy to put the two together-as if to say, “The way the Lord treats me is as a shepherd would treat me.”
Our inexperience as shepherds begs this question of David, “How is the Lord like a shepherd?”
First-like a shepherd, God leads us. We need to be led, don’t we? A good shepherd leads the sheep from out in front of them, not from behind. There isn’t a place where the lambs put their feet that the shepherd hasn’t already walked. There isn’t a valley the sheep go through that the shepherd hasn’t gone through first.
There is no terrain on the horizon of your life that the Shepherd hasn’t already surveyed and approved-including the rocky ground, the most difficult times. If God doesn’t want to allow it, He will lead you on a different path, and you will not experience that hard time. But when you do-and the Bible clearly tells us, “in the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33)-don’t ever forget that the Shepherd leads you through that ground. God will use it for your good and bring you through it to the place He has planned.
Second-like a shepherd, He protects us. Sheep are so vulnerable-to disease, to weather, to predators, and to thieves that come to steal them. In the same way, the enemy of our souls would terrorize us, harm us, steal our focus, and tempt us to chart our own course, but our Shepherd protects us. It’s just as Jesus says in John 10:9-10: “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Your Shepherd protects you and wants what’s best for you.
Third-like a shepherd, He feeds us. For sheep, it’s green pastures and still waters. For us, our Shepherd provides both physical food and spiritual nourishment. Devotionals and sermons are a sampling of God’s feeding, and we can feast every day on God’s Word: “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart” (Jeremiah 15:16).
How desperately we need the Shepherd’s care! With David, we can confidently say, “The LORD is my shepherd,” trusting that He will lead, protect, and feed us today.
- In your own words, how have you experienced the Lord to be your Shepherd?
- Which need do you feel most keenly today-the need to be led, protected, or fed?
Father, I praise You for the many ways You show Yourself to be my Shepherd. Thank You that in Your leading, protecting, and feeding, You have never failed. Your faithfulness has never faltered. There hasn’t been, nor will there ever be, a circumstance or danger You can’t handle. I rest my life in Your good care and I pray this with thanksgiving. In Jesus’ name, amen.
— James MacDonald
For more from James MacDonald and the “Walk in the Word” Bible teaching ministry, visit WalkInTheWord.com.