Read Psalm 23
A psalm of David.
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
We most often hear Psalm 23 at funerals, but this Psalm offers life-giving words for us, the living. Perhaps we miss the beautiful peace and comfort offered in these verses because we struggle to relate to the comparison: a shepherd and sheep.
In verse 1, David proclaims, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” So what makes a good shepherd? Modern Farmer, an online source for food producers and consumers, shares: “Shepherds, like the sheep themselves, learn quickly that the path to success depends on tending to the flock but caring for the individual.” A good shepherd guides and provides for the group as a whole AND never loses sight of the specific needs of each individual, just as our God guides and provides for humanity AND remains faithful to the specific needs of each of us.
Verse 4 describes, “Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” The rod and staff were tools of a shepherd to protect and correct sheep. A rod is a wooden club used to defend the sheep against attacks and to prod the sheep to move in the right direction. The staff, also known as a crook, is a long stick with a curved end used to redirect individual sheep or pull them from harm’s way. A good shepherd uses these tools to protect the herd as a whole and individuals that stray. God uses His tools – His Word, His Spirit, His children, His creation – to protect and correct us. Let’s be honest: being protected or corrected may not seem comfortable in the moment! We may feel restricted, frustrated, or angry because we want to do what we want to do. But God knows more than we do, and we can trust in that, just like David.
David sings of God’s glorious guidance and perfect provision through Psalm 23. Let us listen to His voice and follow His guidance, so we can rest in the peace of His protection and settle in the comfort of His correction.
- Think of a time that God provided for your specific needs. Share this story with someone today.
- In what ways has God protected or corrected you in the past that were not comfortable? Did you fight against it or trust in it?
- How does God’s protection and correction give us peace and comfort?
Shepherd Leadership, by Blaine McCormick and David Davenport, is a leadership book based on Psalm 23. You can read a summary/review here and find the book here.
1 thought on “Psalm 23”
David writes from a place of deep connection as he penned Psalm 23. He knew the way of a shepherd well, as he spent his youth tending sheep. 1 Samuel 16 tells of Samuel being sent to Jesse of Bethlehem to select a king from his sons. Where do we find David? He was taking care of the family’s flock of sheep, was brought in from the field and anointed king. He’s no longer a shepherd but vividly remembers those experiences from his youth. He tells of the Lord leading, renewing, comforting, preparing, anointing, loving, & pursuing his own. One of my favorite paintings of Jesus is of him carrying a lamb in his arms. It captured my heart as I recalled John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” This perfectly captures the nature of God’s love for us. Today I want to lean in to the “rod & staff” as a loving provision for my life, as it proves I belong to him. Hebrews 12:6 says “Whom the Lord loves he chastens.” It will not be pleasant but will be for my good and his glory, so that nothing stands between me and my Savior.