Psalm 23 is one of the most beloved passages in the Bible. The Psalmist David began the heartwarming psalm by saying, “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.” David, himself a shepherd, knew well the role of this common and familiar Middle Eastern occupation in Biblical times. As David penned the Psalm, he doubtless was thinking of the close, intimate relationship of a shepherd and his sheep. The loving shepherd knows each one by name and cares for them completely. He leads them into green pastures beside still waters, and he watches over his sheep, protecting them from impending danger and defending them with his very own life.
To say, on the one hand, “the Lord is my Shepherd,” is to say, on the other hand, “I am the Shepherd’s sheep.” The sheep is among the most helpless of all creatures, totally defenseless and dumb. Its bite is not dangerous, and it has no horns to fight with. The animal cannot run fast, climb well, or swim strongly. Left to its own devices, a sheep will not long survive. In this Psalm, the writer is acknowledging his own frailty as a man and confessing his own total dependence on the Shepherd.
In John 10:11, Jesus Christ made the bold statement: “I am the Good Shepherd.” When Jesus made that statement, He was referring back to an Old Testament Scripture in Ezekiel 34:31: “And you my flock, the flock of My pasture, are men; and I am your God, says the Lord God.” Here Jesus was in fact identifying Himself as God incarnate! Jesus was God in the flesh, and He is the Good Shepherd. Jesus was saying much about Himself and His role with those who receive Him.
Our Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, loves us, His sheep; He cares for us intimately and knows each one of us by name. Our Good Shepherd makes us to “lie down in green pastures beside still waters. He leads us in the path of righteousness, for His name’s sake.” He watches over us and protects us from impending danger. He defends us against enemies that seek to kill, steal and destroy, so we shall “fear no evil.” Our Good Shepherd even was willing to lay down His very own life for the sheep.
As we meditate on this truth, we are challenged to lay aside all self pride and acknowledge our total dependence upon The Good Shepherd. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Is.53:6) Our Good Shepherd turns none away, but welcomes all into His flock, and “His strength is made perfect in our weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9)
Jim and Judy Vaught are ministers at Calvary Assembly of God in Mount Airy.