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. He
leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I
walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for
you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a
table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with
oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the
days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go
across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with
them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a
great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so
that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on
the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not
care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said
to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a
great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no
faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"
Psalm 23 is probably the most familiar psalm to most Christians and
to unbelievers. That psalm has been read almost everywhere, at funerals,
at cathedrals, over cribs, bassinets and at weddings, churches, jail
cells, and hospitals. It has been read almost everywhere almost by
everybody. One person captured it well when he said, “This psalm (Psalm
23) dries more crying eyes, raises more drooping hands and strengthens
more weakened knees than any man or angel ever could.
It is very clear what the great focus is, it is upon the shepherd.
The great comfort, or the great lesson is the shepherd cares for the
sheep. He does that in three major ways. He feeds (the green pastures),
he guides (he leads them down paths of righteousness) and he protects
(with the rod and staff in the valley of the shadow of death).
There is another place here where what is emphasized is his ministry
of feeding. Notice the other place where he feeds, vs. 4, “He prepares a
table before me in the presence of my enemies.” Why would a shepherd
prepare a table in the midst of our enemies? Why would a shepherd have a
picnic in wolf infested territory? Sinclair Ferguson in his book on the
psalm says, “To understand why, you have to understand that this is no
ordinary shepherd. His ways are not our ways and his wisdom is far above
You can well imagine if you were a sheep (and we are sheep), how you
would respond if you were threatened by a hundred wolves that were
howling at you and snarling. How would sheep respond? They would be
scared, perplexed. They would look at the shepherd and say, “What are
you doing? Why have you brought us into this enemy infested territory?”
You can imagine them asking the question, “Don’t you care?" That’s the
very question Jesus’ disciples ask him in the midst of that storm on the
Sea of Galilee. They had followed the shepherd (remember he had told
them to get into the boat), they were obedient to the shepherd and they
ended up in a frightening situation. Then they ask the question, “Don’t
you care?” Jesus certainly shows his care by silencing the storm.
Here is the big question, were they safe? Are sheep safe in the dark
valley? Are sheep safe in the midst of the storm? Are sheep safe in the
midst of their enemies? If you know the shepherd, they were perfectly
safe. Here is our greatest security in life. When we walk through the
shadow in that valley and find ourselves in enemy infested territory, on
a sick bed, in a hospital room, any of the storms of life, we are safe
because we have a shepherd, a good shepherd.
David personalizes it in the very first verse, “The Lord is my
shepherd.” He has to be your shepherd, he has to be owned by faith.
Spurgeon said, “If he be a shepherd to no one else, he is a shepherd to
me, he cares for me, he watches over me and he preserves me.”
When we think of the shepherd we can look at it from a Christological
perspective. We know who the shepherd is from our New Testament Bible.
Three times Jesus is identified as the shepherd. He is identified as the
good shepherd, the chief shepherd, and also the great shepherd.
Here is a comforting word to all of us. You have a shepherd who cares
for you 24/7. If we believe that, if we believe that the good shepherd
cares for us, then we cast our care upon him. That is what Peter tells
us to do. Peter picks up that very image of the shepherd in 1 Peter 5,
we cast our care upon him because he cares for us.