Week 17 – God, My Shepherd (Psalm 23)

Read Psalm 23:1-6

You could do a virtual dive via a quick Google search to see what songs are considered to have defined your generation. As a millennial (someone born between 1981-1996), the artists that provided the background music for our adolescent years range from the Spice Girls, Blink 182, and Nelly to Taylor Swift and Drake. If the names of these artists are as familiar to you as the Dumi language, a language in which only seven people speak on the entire planet, that’s alright; you’re probably of a different generation with artists and songs that would be just as familiar as our shared knowledge of the Dumi language. Some songs resonate with specific generations, but some transcend the ages, like our national anthem, Christmas songs and melodies, and songs by Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Lynard Skynard, and Michael Jackson, just to name a few.

This week we turn our attention to Psalm 23, a song by David that has and does transcend the generations both inside and outside the Church. Even if someone doesn’t attend a church or listen to some form of biblical teaching, they have most likely heard all or a portion of Psalm 23 during a funeral service, while watching a movie, or listening to a song. Yet for those of us who are part of God’s flock, those of us who are His sheep, this song of David, while well known by many, can define our lives and provide a comforting and encouraging playlist for us as we see how our Good Shepherd cares for and protects us as the sheep of His pasture.

We are not sure when David wrote this top hit. Still, we do know that as a good shepherd in his younger years and his intimate relationship with the LORD throughout his lifetime, David could make this comparison of the LORD as the shepherd and he as His sheep under His loving and watchful eye. The truths about our God in Psalm 23 that David experienced are still true of God today, and He, as our Good Shepherd, will do the same things for us as He did for David if we are the sheep of His fold. I pray that as we see how the LORD shepherds us, His Spirit will give us a deeper appreciation for His gracious acts on our behalf and cause us to walk ever closer with Him daily and listen to His voice for our well-being and His glory.

After defeating Goliath, David’s life continued on an upward trend. He married Saul’s daughter, became good friends with his son Jonathan, and was a victorious commander in the army. Things began to turn for David once Saul became jealous of David. Saul’s envy of David was so great that he attempted to kill this national hero. To save his life, David fled into the wilderness. While in the wilderness and playing a life-or-death game of hide and seek with the green-eyed Saul, many men came to join David. While these men were from the lower levels of society, they would become David’s mighty men of valor. In 1 Samuel 30, David and his men return to their city after being rejected by the Philistines to find it burned down and their families captured by the Amalekites. The grief and anger were so great that David was greatly distressed because his men were contemplating stoning him for their loss.

What did David do? What would you and I have done if we were David? Defend ourselves against the anger being hurled our way by the hurt? Become angry with God? Quit? David does none of the above but instead strengthens himself in the LORD (1 Samuel 30:6) and then seeks the LORD’s direction (1 Samuel 30:7-8) and obeys His leading (1 Samuel 30:9). What causes David to respond in this way during such a time of crises and loss? Psalm 23 tells us why.

The most important idea or theme in Hebrew poetry is placed in the middle of the piece. In Hebrew, the center of this Psalm is the middle portion of verse four which reads, “for you are with me” or as the NLT translates, “for you are close beside me.” David knew that he could go to the LORD for strength, direction, and peaceful confidence during this crisis because He knew that God was present, that He was close enough for him to do so, just like a good shepherd is present with his sheep so that they too are not in need of anything no matter their current situation! Let’s look at this chapter to see how God cared for David and how He desires to care for us.

Psalm 23:1

The LORD is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.

David uses the personal and covenant name of God in this Psalm. He sees Jehovah as his shepherd and himself as one of His sheep. This description of a personal or individual relationship with the LORD would have truly grabbed the ears of David’s contemporaries. There was a great understanding of God being the nation’s shepherd, but not so much of a focus was placed on a personal relationship with the LORD. David understood the LORD as being Shepherd over the whole flock (the nation) and each sheep that made up His flock (the country). Shepherds knew their sheep, and each sheep knew their shepherd, there was a unique bond between each sheep and the shepherd, and David saw this similarity in his relationship with God. Since David knew God was his ever-present shepherd, he needed nothing and desired nothing; David was content with his shepherd’s presence and wise provision. No matter the abundance or scarcity David experienced throughout his life, David would agree with the lyrics from the following song, “Every Need Supplied.”

Every need supplied
Every need supplied
Healing, Cleansing, Sweet peace inside,
Every need He supplied.

The author of Hebrews advises us not to find contentment in money or possessions but that our God is always with us.

Hebrews 13:5

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

David’s relationship with the Good Shepherd as seen in Psalm 23, the song lyrics of Every Need Supplied, and Scripture remind us that Jesus by Himself can satisfy and that He will provide for all our needs according to His wisdom and from His great riches (Psalm 50:10; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Philippians 4:19). The question that we have to answer is this, “Is Jesus, the Good Shepherd enough for me?”

Just as the LORD was enough for David, is Jesus, our Good Shepherd, enough for us?

Christ leads us out of empty religion and into the lush green and life-giving pastures of relationship with Him (Psalm 23:2; John 10:8-16). He allows us to feast on His nutrient-rich Word, refreshing us through it and His Holy Spirit (Psalm 23:2-3; Psalm 119:25; John 7:38-39). Just like the LORD led David, Jesus leads us as we draw near to Him in prayer (Proverbs 3:5-6; James 1:5), through His Word (Psalm 119:33-35, 45), and the Spirit’s leading (Luke 4:1; John 16:13-15; Acts 13:1-3; Acts 16:6). He has promised to never leave us, no, and never forsake us (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5) even when experiencing death, the doorway that leads us into His presence, He is with us, the One who has removed death’s sting and power (Psalm 23:4; 1 Corinthians 15:54-57; 2 Corinthians 5:6-8)! He protects us from our enemy who desires and schemes to devour us (Psalm 23:4-5; John 10:10; 1 Peter 5:8), provides healing for us (Psalm 23:5; Isaiah 53:5; Mark 2:1-12; Revelation 21:4), blesses us (Ephesians 1:3), and whose goodness and mercy (God’s covenant love) will pursue us every day of our lives until we are with Him forever (Psalm 23:6; Matthew 26:27-29; John 14:1-3; Revelation 21:3)!

A few years ago, I found myself on a fraudulent business loan that was in default and a partner in a hemorrhaging business. I was mowing on the side to help pay for a lawyer and frantically searching for financial records and a digital paper trail on this loan. At the time, I was furious and fearful. I was enraged that such a close friend would do this to my family and me and was afraid of losing the house as it was part of the required collateral for this loan. During one of my quiet times during this season of life, I was sitting at the dining room table when I felt the Lord ask me, “Am I enough for you?”

I can’t find my journal from that morning, and the Scripture for that day escapes my memory, but I can still recall the Lord’s presence and specificity as He asked me this question. All I could do was make this His question to me my prayer. I wanted Him to be enough and to satisfy my soul, no matter the outcome of the bleak and painful situation. I tearfully asked the Lord to be enough for me. For Him to help me find my supreme peace and delight not in deliverance from the loan but in the One who has delivered me from the penalty of my sin and who could deliver me from unrighteous anger and bitterness. To find rest in Him, not in justice rendered in my favor through the legal system, but in knowing the One who had justified me for eternity before God, even if justice was not served in this case. To be free from the fear of losing a home that was merely temporary because the One who had made His home in me wasn’t moving out, He would not forsake me.

From that morning on, while my emotions often needed to be sanctified and brought into submission under the Holy Spirit and the Word, I was at peace with whatever the outcome (though I had a preference) because the LORD, my Good Shepherd, heard my cry and answered my prayer (Psalm 120:1) making Him enough for me like He did David 3,000 years ago (Psalm 23:1). In addition to Him answering this prayer, He also delivered my family and me from the situation regarding the loan. Without a doubt, through thick and thin, I can testify that His goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life, and I look forward to the day that I will dwell with Him forever.

Will you make the following your anthem or your prayer?

He is all I need. He is all I need. Jesus is all I need. He satisfies, My needs supply. Jesus is all I need.

A couple songs for worship or to use as prayers for Christ’s sufficiency in meeting every need as our Good Shepherd.

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