Like standing next to a giant Sequoia tree in order to get a little perspective on how large and majestic it really is, so here David wants to give us a perspective on the majesty and awesomeness of our God. This last Sunday Trey Richardson spoke to us from Psalms 23 to give us a fresh perspective on who our God really is. David uses the analogy of a shepherd to give us some perspective on our great God.
The first comparison we need to make is to see the difference between the shepherd and the sheep. A sheep is an interesting animal...and in many ways not a very flattering one to be compared to. Sheep are timid, easily led, fearful, and generally thought of as dumb. Even described as stupid. The NEED a shepherd. They can’t exist without one. They can’t find the right food, will eat or drink anything even if it is poisonous. They can be easily disturbed and not take care of themselves. They NEED a shepherd. With this as a backdrop we have this picture here of the Lord as our Shepherd. Here in Psalm 23 we see two things the shepherd does for us.
God is a shepherd that provides.
David starts out the Psalm by saying the Lord is our shepherd. He is using a presence tense verb to declare the reality of who God is. He IS our shepherd. This is who God is. With him as shepherd we will have no want. This basically means we suffer no lack. All that we need we find he provides. The Israelites understood that David would have been referring back to God’s provision as he led them thru the wilderness. The same Hebrew word is used...they had no lack. He supernaturally provided manna, clothing, food and guidance. As a part of his leadership he makes sure we have the right kind of food and fresh water, without which sheep will not be able to lie down and rest. Not only that but he provides it in a way that we can receive it in stillness and peace. He restores us when we get into trouble. Often sheep can get in a situation shepherds call ‘cast’. A ‘cast’ sheep is one that has somehow fallen on its back and can’t get back up. This is a normal situation with sheep. When they get in a position where their legs are level or elevated above their bodies they can’t right themselves and if not helped they will die. They need the shepherd to come and restore them. The shepherd’s job is to look over the flock every morning to make sure no sheep are in trouble. Our great shepherd restores us. He sets us back upright again. How easy it is to get in a situation where we feel like we can do nothing to get back on the right track. David is letting us know here that our God is one who will get us back on our feet. He will restore us. This is not something to be embarrassed about or focus on our failure, but rejoice in his grace and goodness to care for us. He loves to restore us! More than that he is watching out for us in order to restore us when we need it. He leads us on paths of righteousness...on a right path. You can trust that the path he is leading you on is a good and right path. Even if you purposely stray off this path you can be assured God will seek you out and ‘right’ you and get you back on the right path.
But God is also a shepherd that protects.
Often this right path may lead thru the dark valley. Even the valley of death. Often the verdant fields of food farther up the mountain were only accessible thru the valleys and they tended to come with dangers from terrain, floods or wild animals. Even when we go thru valleys like this our Shepherd is always there to watch over us and protect us. this is a declaration of fact. He is with us during, especially during, these times. His rod and his staff...his agents of correction or rescue are always there for us. At this point the focus has turned in vs. 4-6 from “I” and “my” to “you”. “You are with me”! Your rod...your staff...Your very presence is with me. A statement of fact. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemy. The shepherd prepares a field by removing poisonous or harmful plants before the sheep were allowed to eat. So Christ our great shepherd does for us. He leads us to fields of healthy food to sustain us. A ‘table’ of the Word of God that our enemy cannot poison.
Are you aware of the goodness and mercy of God in your life? Often you can’t see the jet high up in the sky, but you can see the vapor trail. We can look back on our lives and see God’s care...his mercy and goodness in our lives. We can see the evidence of his activity in our lives. He is our shepherd...you can trust him! However the greatest point of all this is that this Shepherd has laid down his own life for his sheep. David could only related to this thru the sacrificial rites of the tabernacle. It was only a vague picture of what was to come...the shepherd as savior. Jesus has come and given his life so that we could have personal access to God. The veil has been taken away. Its no longer a temple that we need to go thru or to have animal sacrifices, or a priest to go into the Holy of Holies on our behalf...Jesus has done that for us. The great shepherd has laid his life down so that thru his righteousness you could have full access to God.
Rest assured the enemy will come particularly during times of difficulty and trial and say “Now where is your God?”. This is the time when you can confidently declare with Paul “If God is for us, who can be against us. He who did not spare his own Son but delivered him up for us all, how will he not with him freely give us all things”. Thru his Son, the great shepherd of the sheep God has provided all we need. He has given us all the protection we could possibly want.
This Psalm comes to us as a statement of fact. THIS is who our God is. This is what he has done and what he will do. This is the majesty and greatness of our God. He has provided and will provide. He has delivered us from the enemies lies and will continue to protect us not only in this life, but thru all eternity. Are you fearful? Anxious? Depressed? Feeling shame or guilt? You need only go back to this Psalm and with David declare THIS is who my God is. My savior, my deliverer, my provider and protecter, my restorer....MY SHEPHERD!