“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.”
In describing the Lord as a shepherd, David wrote out of his own experience because he had spent his early years caring for sheep. Sheep are completely dependent on the Shepherd for provision, guidance, and protection. The New Testament calls Jesus the good shepherd; the great Shepherd; and the Chief Shepherd. As the Lord is the good shepherd, so we are his sheep — not frightened, passive animals, but obedient followers, wise enough to follow one who will lead us in the right places and in right ways. This psalm does not focus on the animal-like qualities of sheep, but on the discipleship qualities of those who follow. when you recognize the good shepherd, follow him!
When we allow God our shepherd to guide us, we have contentment. When we choose to sin, however, we go our own way and cannot blame God for the environment we create for ourselves. Our shepherd knows the “green pastures” and “quiet waters” that will restore us. We will reach these places only by following him obediently. Rebelling against the shepherd’s leading is actually rebelling against our own best interests. We must remember this the next time we re tempted to go our own way rather than the shepherd’s way.
Death casts a frightening shadow over us because we are entirely helpless in its presence. We can struggle with other enemies — pain, suffering, disease, injury — but strength and courage cannot overcome death. It has the final word. Only one person can walk with us through death’s dark valley and bring us safely to the other side — the God of life, our shepherd. Because life is uncertain, we should follow this shepherd who offers us eternal comfort.
In ancient Near Eastern culture, at a banquet it was customary to anoint a person with fragrant oil as a lotion. Hosts were also expected to protect their guests at all costs. God offers the protection of a host even when enemies surround us. In the final scene of this psalm, we see that believers will dwell with God. God, the perfect shepherd and host, promises to guide and protect us through life to bring us into his house forever.
This psalm is a joyful proclamation of God’s providence. Humankind can live free from fear because, like the good shepherd, God will always provide, protect, and guide this flock.
We live in a world in which many, if not most, people are engulfed with fear and anxiety. Some fear the future; they’re anxious about what’s going to happen. Others fear the past and they’re anxious about what has happened. And still others fear even the present, anxiety has gripped their souls and they cannot imagine how they can cope with the ugliness of present circumstances in their lives. Thousands of people each day wake up with untold burdens to bear and anxiety with which they must deal. Are you bearing secretly a heavy burden?
Are you anxious about your finances? For many of us this is an area of tremendous concern, but sometimes we slip from concern into anxiety and are possessed with thoughts about the tentativeness of the security of our financial future. Some of you have kids in college and you do not know how you’re going to make ends meet as you continue to help them. Some of you have mortgage problems. Others have insurance problems and are anxious about what the future holds.
For some of us it’s not finances per se, as much as it is simply worried about the future and where you’re heading in life. You’ve graduated from College, you’re married, but you still wonder where life is taking you or what it is that God really wants from you. As far as you know you’re seeking Him and doing all that you know to do and have been taught to do. But still you’re not sure about what’s ahead.
The question then becomes, “How does God want me to respond to the anxiety, fear, stress, lack… in my life?” Well, like all the great questions of life, Scripture affords us an answer. David says that we should trust God as the good and faithful Shepherd and rejoice in His grace. Now, it must be said that responding to God in this way will not necessarily solve your problems, but God will provide confidence as to what He’s doing in your life. He will convince you, as He did David, that it is He who is leading your life, He is the One who is in control of all the details and circumstances. This will lead to greater peace and a knowledge that “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Scripture of the day: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” ~ Romans 8:32
Pastor Peter Okereke Jr.
The Living Word Ministries Inc.
Copyright Reserved, 2012.
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