I have been meditating on Psalm 23 this summer. It is always a blessing when God meets us in fresh ways through a familiar passage. Psalm 23 might be the most well-known passage of Scripture, and yet God has been encouraging my heart as though I had read it for the first time. Over the next several blogs, I am going to share some of the ways God has strengthened and encouraged my faith this summer specifically through Psalm 23. I hope you, too, are encouraged and strengthened.
As we begin this closer look at Psalm 23, ponder the following questions:
1. In your life, how do you know you need a shepherd? Perhaps it is significant pain from your past, or an ongoing struggle, fears and anxieties, or even a perpetually nagging temptation in your life. Where are the places in your life that you recognize that you need shepherding?
2. Who or what shepherd do you follow? Where do you turn to orient your heart, or help you make sense of your life’s struggles? Sometimes these are good things, but we follow them more than the Lord. Moreover, each day there are voices all around us competing against the voice of the Good Shepherd, calling us to follow after them instead. As you reflect on the last few weeks, who or what has been your primary shepherd as you strive to navigate life in a challenging world?
With those questions in mind, read through Psalm 23 below. As you read, notice all the things the psalm tells us the Lord proactively does (highlighted in green). Moreover, take note of the things we do in this psalm (highlighted in blue).
PSALM 23 (from the Christian Standard Bible)
THE GOOD SHEPHERD
A psalm of David.
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I have what I need.
2 He lets me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside quiet waters.
3 He renews my life; he leads me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
4 Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, 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 Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.
One of the first things that captured my heart this summer was the realization that the Lord is the primary Actor in this passage. He does the leading, shepherding, restoring, banquet-preparing, cup-filling, protecting, and sustaining. My role is to follow (trust), and to receive from him these life-giving realities. I play a very small part in this psalm, and yet the promises, provisions, and person of the Lord highlighted in Psalm 23 radically change my life. He does the shepherding, but I am blessed with life-changing gifts.
In day-to-day living, this has played out in profound ways for me. For example, in verse 1, David highlights that because the Lord is our shepherd, we have what we need (another way of saying “I shall not want”). There are countless ways I spend my time, energy, thoughts, efforts to secure what I think my soul needs. But because the Lord is my shepherd, I truly have what I need. In many ways, the rest of the psalm elaborates on verse 1. In the midst of a chaotic, broken, painful world, he provides green pastures, still waters, and renewal in my life. These provisions bring a reversal to the angst that often fills my soul. The Lord is my shepherd and thus I have what I need. This has profound implications for how I face today’s challenges, yesterday’s wounds, and tomorrow’s uncertainties.
I would encourage you to take a moment to read back through Psalm 23. Consider one promise from this psalm that reorients and strengthens your faith today. Pray and ask God to help you walk this promise out by faith this week, and for the Lord to remind you of this truth routinely. And perhaps share what you are learning with one other person, asking them to pray for you as well.