Psalm 23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
My Pastor grew up next door to a sheep farm. He shared the day-to-day life of sheep, the shepherd’s duties and the sheep’s characteristics. In so doing, today’s verses opened new meaning to me!
Did you know that there is a “lead ewe” in every flock? The sheep will follow that ewe, blindly, anywhere. He told us of a time when he saw a big cat crossing the street. Following behind this big cat was the “lead ewe” – and right behind the lead ewe was the entire flock of sheep. They followed that cat right across the street and into another field! Sheep will walk off a cliff if that is where the lead ewe goes! The sheep will walk into a bunch of bushes and get caught up. The sheep behind them will keep pushing into them, moving forward, because they follow what’s in front of them. They trample one another to move forward! The same is true if the lead ewe walks into a crevasse. The others fall right into it as well, crushing those underneath! Wow!
Listening to his account of life on a sheep farm really opened my eyes to Psalm 23. I’d like to share the insights from this message and some of my personal thoughts with you and pray you are as blessed as I am!
(1) The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. It is the Shepherd’s job to take care of his sheep – to find them a safe place to eat and dwell, and to meet all their needs. The sheep follow him because they know his voice. If a stranger comes into their midst, they panic and start running to and fro! (John 10:27-28) The Shepherd knows each one of his sheep. I love that my Saviour provides me with everything I need – I lack nothing!
(2) He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He knows what kind of food they should eat and leads them to pastures that will provide them with the proper food. Otherwise, they are like goats, they will eat everything, whether or not it’s good for them! Sheep do not do well when they graze in areas that are not level or that have obstacles. A sheep will run into bushes and their wool will get caught up. Thus the purpose of the hooked staff. The Shepherd can pull the trapped sheep out. If there is a crevasse in the land, the sheep will go down into it, get confused and will lay down and die.
That is why sheep farms have grazing land that is flat, fenced in, with no trees and no creeks. A shepherd will take his sheep to drink out of still waters that are shallow. If a sheep goes into a creek that is rocky and the waters have a strong current, it will stumble into the water. The sheep’s wool will get heavy and weigh the sheep down to a point where it will drown. Therefore, the shepherd provides the sheep with the proper food and a safe place to drink. The Lord provides us with exactly what we need from His word. We can feel safe knowing that we do in fact have His word today!
(3) He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. When a sheep feeds and drinks in areas where he is protected from the enemy, he is restored physically. As a child of God, when my soul is fed in the word of God. I am restored and fed daily in His word. I have been taught and am led in the paths of righteousness!
Also, the Shepherd doesn’t bring in new sheep into His flock without first placing them under quarantine to make sure that they don’t bring diseases into the flock. The flock may not have immunity to the new diseases, therefore, the Shepherd protects them by keeping the “new sheep” away until He is certain they are disease free! The disease of the sins of the world need to be kept from us so we do not infect ourselves as well as our church family.
(4) Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Knowing that our Shepherd meets our every need sustains us in dark times. He stands ever vigilant watching ever so carefully. When a sheep gets entangled in a bush because of his wool, the shepherd takes his staff and reaches in to pull him out. The Lord’s hooked staff is ready to yank us out of death traps – out of extreme situations in our lives. We know that if our circumstances are self induced, his rod of correction will still be for our own benefit as the Lord is Good! (Psalm 34:8) We do not have a Saviour who beats us. Instead we have a Shepherd who is gentle and caring.
(5) Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. We sit at the banquet table of the word of God each time we enter His house to hear preaching. His man, the under shepherd, preaches, teaches us and fills our spiritual bodies with spiritual food that is necessary for us to live in this world, surrounded by our enemies. Once we enter Heaven, we will have no more enemies, but until then, our enemies lie without and we need to feast at the banquet table of spiritual nourishment!
I once heard a message about the oil in scriptures representing the Holy Spirit. His oil, anoints us and prepares us for the world outside the church’s doors. Our cups overflow with God’s bountiful word from the preaching! We can then be spiritually armed for the week’s challenges! As well, our daily food (our daily bread) is given to us each time we open His word. The bounty of our banquet table is only as great as the time we spend in His word, amen?
(6) Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. Our Shepherd’s goodness (giving of Himself for our salvation) and His mercy (knowing that while we are yet sinners, dumb sheep, He died for us) follow us and are ever present in our lives. His promise to us, because of His goodness and mercy, is to dwell with Him forever!
I hope the Lord blesses you as much as He did me! How thankful I am to have such a loving Shepherd in charge over me!!