Psalms 23:1 - 6
ESV - 1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
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In Psalm 23, the Bible uses the metaphor of a shepherd and his sheep to illustrate the tender care that Jehovah gives his worshippers. He wants us to feel the security that comes to those who, like the psalmist David, can say with confidence: “Jehovah is my Shepherd.”—Verse 1. The writer of this psalm, David, was a shepherd as a youth. He knew the needs of sheep and the responsibilities of a shepherd. David, who had experienced God’s care in his life, wrote what has been called “a psalm of assurance or trust.” The divine name, Jehovah, appears at the beginning and at the end of the psalm. (Verses 1, 6) The words between describe three ways in which Jehovah cares for his people as a shepherd cares for his sheep.—Psalm 100:3. Jehovah leads his sheep. Sheep without their shepherd tend to get lost. Similarly, we need help to find the right path in life. (Jeremiah 10:23) Jehovah, explains David, guides his people to “grassy pastures” and “well-watered resting-places.” He leads them “in the tracks of righteousness.” (Verses 2, 3) These pastoral images reassure us that we can trust in God. By following the leadings of his spirit as reflected in the Bible, we can pursue a way of life that brings contentment, refreshment, and security.
We have a flock of about 20 primitive (Shetland and Jacob) wool-sheep and 2 hair-sheep on our small farm, as well as goats, cows, horses, etc. So this is the experience I’m speaking from. I’ll try not to repeat much that anyone else has already said. Sheep, while they can look VERY much like goats, are a completely different species. To understand the Shepherd, you have to understand ovine nature. There are some sweet pet sheep, but in general sheep aren’t always friendly and they’re NOT the brightest crayons in the box. If you’re carrying a newborn lamb so that the ewe will follow you, you often have to carry it close to the ground, because the mother sometimes won’t think to look up in your arms to see it. They are also VERY herd-oriented animals, some breeds even taking this to the extreme where almost the whole flock grazes in the same direction. Sheep tend to follow whoever moves first, which is why some farmers put a bell-wether goat in with the sheep. When the farmer calls the goat, and it comes, the sheep will follow it. If panicked, the sheep will hurt or even kill itself, others, or you trying to escape. If immobilized, however, it will give up. What you may NOT know about sheep, though, is that they can also be extremely aggressive. Rams (boy sheep) are unpredictable and sometimes attack anything they consider a threat, even if it’s the loving human who feeds them every day. A “pet” ram is the most dangerous of all, because he has lost his fear of humans. We also have one ewe who is very aggressive when she lambs. This can cause problems if there’s birth complications. (Oh, and she also bites when you try to shear her. I’m just glad that sheep, as ruminants, don’t have upper front teeth!) Newborn lambs are the most gentle, vulnerable, adorable creatures you can imagine. They have a sweet little bleat and they rag-doll in your arms. Lambs a few days old, however, can run at approx. 100 mph (minor exaggeration) and can tire out several small children intent on petting them. Lambs love to bounce and play, but even grown sheep can jump about three ft. High if frightened. Now let’s talk about the Shepherd. There is no 9 to 5 job when you're dealing with animals. If we hear too much commotion in the night, we’re up to check on it. If one of the ewes is having trouble lambing, even at 2 a.m. in the sleet, we’re out there trying to help her. We’ve been present at lots of births, treated some really nasty wounds, argued with sheep that didn’t want to be shorn or dewormed, and been there when older members of the flock/herd passed away. We’ve been butted, scratched by sharp hooves, kicked, bit, hit with horns, hit with a gate when a sheep came barreling out, covered with poop, and generally bruised up. And none of this is in any way unusual. But all of this can actually be very comforting. If a weak, fallible human farmer/shepherd/rancher puts up with this and routinely does this for his livestock, HOW MUCH MORE will our Heavenly Father put up with and care for us? No matter how much we run from Him, act silly, act aggressively, or just be dense, God knows that we’re only the sheep. The Shepherd doesn’t expect the sheep to know everything. He doesn't expect them to protect themselves, give themselves shots, or shear themselves; they’re sheep. The sheep’s job is simply to trust the Shepherd and follow him. The Shepherd knows the plan. (If you want to know more from a real, large-scale shepherd’s view-point, a very good book is A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller. He actually raised sheep in New Zealand (I think), traveling with them into the mountains as biblical shepherds did, and he has a great deal of insight.)
When you become a Christian, you become a sheep in God's mind. Which means that the Lord is the shepard, and He herds us into His pasture. Read the parable of The Shepard Who Went Looking For the One Sheep Even Though He Still Had 99 Left. This parable is a good reminder of the Lord being our Shepard.
It means a confession of David that the LORD is his one and only God who is taking care all of the days of his life and all God's people as well (Ezekiel 34: 11-31), although David was an ordinary sheperd, God had appointed him to become a sheperd of God's flock (Ezekiel 34: 23-24). For the believers and followers of Jesus, Jesus is our sheperd, an offsping of David (2 Samuel 7: 12-16); our good sheperd (John 10: 11-18).
WHAT DOES IT MEAN THAT THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD? PSALM 23:1 “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” SHEPHERDS guard their flocks at night whether in the open (Luke 2:8) or in the sheep folds (Zeph. 2:6), where they counted the sheep as they enter (Jer. 33:13). They take care of the sheep, even carried weak lambs in their arms (Isa. 40:11). "Shepherd" refers to not only persons who herded sheep but also kings (2 Sam. 5:2) and God Himself (Psalm 23; Isa. 40:11). Later prophets referred to Israel’s leaders as shepherds (Jer. 23; Ezek. 34). David, the author of this psalm, was a shepherd himself in his youth and knew the hardships, dedication and responsibility required to take care of a herd of sheep---an animal susceptible to wander off, go astray, get scared and become easy prey to wild beasts as we are to the devil and the evildoers of this world. The role of a shepherd is to lead his sheep to green pastures, protect them from predators, ensure none is lost or goes astray. The Lord is compared to a shepherd and the believer to His sheep. He is our protector thus we will not lack for anything; He will lead us into where we need to be, if we let go and let Him and will ensure that none of us go astray. As believers we are all like sheep or lambs, easily attracted to the things of the world and prone to become prey of evildoers. As our Shepherd the Lord has taken our responsibility, we have accepted Him as our protector, and he in turn is keeping us in His arms like a young lamb. This prayer is therefore crucial in today’s world as we all have the tendency to go astray. In the New Testament some references used a shepherd and the sheep to illustrate Jesus’ relationship to His followers who referred to Him as “Our Lord, that great of sheep” (Heb. 13:20). Jesus also spoke of Himself as the good shepherd who knew His sheep and would lay down His life for them (John 10:7-18). He also commissioned Peter to feed His sheep (John 21). Thus Jesus is truly the Good Shepherd and believers are His sheep. The claim is one of divinity focusing on His love and guidance.
To my own understanding, The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want means that it is not your responsibility to take care of yourself as a sheep. It is the responsibility of the Shepherd to take care of the sheep. Trust Him and follow Him.
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