Psalm 23: What a Shepherd
by Carl G. Martin
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
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 your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
I have read and sung many different and beautifully poetic translations of Psalm 23, and they have all comforted me.
Although written long before his birth, I have always thought of Jesus as the "Shepherd." Jesus is often referred to as the Good Shepherd, and many of his teachings, such as the parable in Matthew in which the shepherd leaves the flock of ninety-nine to go in search of the one sheep that is lost, remind me that our Shepherd not only loves us and provides for all our needs, but our Shepherd pursues us.
Attributed to David, the words of this Psalm paint a lush picture of our Shepherd blessing us with the peace of verdant fields and the refreshment of cool water sipped from a quiet stream. The paths on which he guides us are those of wisdom and righteousness. Greater than these, however, is the assurance that even in our darkest and most perilous days of grief, depression, fear, and despair, we are not alone. Our Shepherd is there with us.
Our Shepherd is always beside us to comfort us and to guide us, and even to rejoice with us! Verse five of The Voice translation of Psalm 23 says that the Lord "spread(s) out a table before me, provisions in the midst of attack from my enemies." No warrior in his or her right mind would prepare a feast while under enemy attack, but trust in our Lord's strength allows us to dine in peace and abundance, with a cup that overflows, while the battles of life rage around us. For we belong to the Shepherd.
Finally, we are given the promise of dwelling with our Shepherd, in the Lord's house, forever. In that time and place we will be, "No more a stranger, nor a guest, but like a child at home." ("My Shepherd Will Supply My Need," Isaac Watts)
What a blessing to be part of the Shepherd's flock.