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A life without lack: Study of a Shepherd Psalm 23

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The young man is running across the rugged, desert terrain with urgency. He hears the bleating of a lone lamb and sees it in the distance. It is trapped against the dry rocky wall of the mountain by a large bear. Just as the bear lunges at the lamb, expecting an easy dinner, the young shepherd jumps towards him, and wrestles the lamb out of the bear’s sharp, lethal grip. The lamb falls to the dry hot soil as the bear runs away knowing he has met his match.

The protective young shepherd gently picks the lamb up, and begins to wipe his wounds with his garment. Once the young man has caught his breath, he takes the lamb into his caring arms and walks him back to safety where the rest of his flock is grazing in the lush green meadow. One fat and happy sheep has grazed so much that he quietly lies down amongst the green grass in complete contentment. The young shepherd guides the little lamb out of his arms and by a gentle brook running through the meadow. The shepherd smiles as he watches the injured little lamb hobble to the quiet water and begins to drink his nourishing fill.

The young shepherd looks around throughout the meadow, counts his sheep that he knows so well, lays and takes in the peace of the moment.

This word picture is how I see David as a young shepherd. In fact, I picture him lying there, looking up at the beautiful sunset, smelling the fresh grass and recounting what he had done that day for his sheep as he proclaims, “The Lord is my shepherd” as Psalm 23 becomes a reality to him.

Psalm 23 is one of the most vivid accounts of how God cares for each of his children. I believe it is because David lived these experiences and felt like what he was doing for his sheep, God was doing for him (and for us). In fact, let’s read the first three verses of this very familiar passage from the New International Version and then I will make some important observations for us today.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.”

1. David knew, better than anyone, what a good shepherd looked like and acted like. He knew that when we submit our lives to Him and make Him Lord, then He becomes our good shepherd and a life without lack becomes available.

2. David lived in the very dry terrain of the Middle East. I’m sure it was breathtaking when he walked over a ridge with a dry, tired, hungry flock around him to find a green pasture. This is so important because he wants us to understand that in God, we are not only fed, we are fed well. I’m sure you, like me, have enjoyed an amazing meal, maybe at the holidays or a summer picnic where you enjoyed the food so much you just had to lay back and rest. David is wanting us to see that life with God as our shepherd is like that. He compares himself and us to a sheep that has eaten its fill and just lays down with complete contentment.

3. Did you know that sheep get nervous and anxious around fast moving water? With their body structure, they do not swim well. This is why David portrays the Good Shepherd is one that leads you and I by still, quiet water. In our world, we have so much anxiety, fear and distractions bombarding our soul that our shepherd wants us to know that He wants to refresh and revive our soul with quiet, still water.

4. In verse three, David explains that for the sheep to stay out of danger and go the right direction, they need to follow the right path they are guided in. David wants us to know here that we should stay on God’s right path that He guides us on. He also writes in Psalm 119 that God’s word is our light, guiding us on His path. As His sheep stay on His path not only are they safe and protected from danger, it also brings honor to the shepherd.

There are so many more wonderful observations and applications we can make from reading the rest of Psalm 23. I challenge you to read and study it a few times asking the Good Shepherd to guide you through His word as He illuminates your path. Remember the Lord is your shepherd; He offers you a life without lack.  

Jim Shelton is the Connections Pastor at Faith Harvest Church in Wake Forest.