“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.” – Psalm 23
Psalm 23 is a beloved psalm of David. It shows us the tender, loving care that Jesus has for us as our Good Shepherd (as He refers to Himself in John 10). And though it is easy to fall into reading this psalm in a man-centered way, we must remember Psalm 23 is not about us. I do not deny that there are many wonderful benefits for us, as God’s sheep, in this psalm, but we do not receive these benefits on the merit of being good sheep. We receive them on the merit of the Good Shepherd.
You see, Psalm 23 is all about the Shepherd. It isn't about the Shepherd in an ego-centric way, but rather in an exalting way. As sheep, we have good reason in this psalm to exult in our Good Shepherd; Jesus simply holding the office of Shepherd is enough reason to exult in Him. But Psalm 23 gives us more. It reveals the way in which our Good Shepherd shepherds us, which is fuel for exulting. I see three main reasons for exulting in our Good Shepherd.
Our Good Shepherd Fills Us with His Fullness
We have all that we need because Christ gives us all of Himself. We shall not want, not simply because our Good Shepherd provides for all of our needs, but because we have the Shepherd Himself. From His fullness we have all received grace upon grace (John 1:16). Our Good Shepherd doesn’t merely provide for us physically, He provides our deepest needs. And He meets them in Himself. We find rest not in what the Shepherd provides, but in the Shepherd Himself.
Our Good Shepherd Comforts Us with His Presence
Being full of Jesus isn’t just for the green pastures and still waters; it’s for the dark valleys too. The valley is a place of dark terror that gives us every human reason to fear. Yet, David says that he will fear no evil. David’s reason for having no fear doesn’t come from the fact that he slayed Goliath – after all he’s implicitly comparing himself to a sheep here. His comfort comes from the fact that the Shepherd is with him. If we’re sheep, then the only reason we do not have to fear in the valley is if who we are with is greater than what we face. Jesus has defeated everything that could cause us to fear. Take comfort.
Our Good Shepherd Lavishes Us with His Goodness
No matter how deep and dark the valley, there is feasting on the other side. There is a table that our Good Shepherd has prepared for us where He will sit down and eat with His sheep. While the terrors of the valley may surround us for a moment, the goodness and mercy of Christ will pursue us forever. It will outlast the darkness. Our Good Shepherd ultimately leads us to the house of the Lord – a sign of full protection and safekeeping. There our cups will continually overflow with Living Water. The ultimate goodness of our Shepherd is seen in the wonder of our Good Shepherd also being a slain lamb. Our Good Shepherd guides us to the house of the Lord where we will worship the Lamb that was slain for the sheep.
“For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” – Revelation 7:17