Psalm 23

‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want’ (Psalm 23:1).

Psalm 23 is by far the most well-known psalm of them all! Yet in that lurks great danger, because familiarity can often breed contempt or at least the dulling of our sense of wonder to the melodies of truth that are being sung. So let’s try and listen afresh to these familiar, yet glorious, words.

‘The Lord is my shepherd’

This was not an unfamiliar refrain at the time of writing. Many Near Eastern monarchs viewed themselves as shepherd-kings of their people — providing, protecting, and proactively leading. It was a natural image to lean upon, as shepherding was so ingrained into the culture and psyche of the people. Not so today? Nomadic shepherding, for the vast majority of us, is an alien world. I wonder what the psalmist would have grabbed hold of in our culture to point out the providing, protecting and proactive leading he was trying to describe? The Lord is my [try and fill in the blank with a modern day equivalent].

‘The Lord is my shepherd’

Here in chapter 23:1, the psalmist elevates this common picture of a shepherd-king and applies it to Yahweh (the God of the Bible). Just stop and think about that for a moment. The psalmist has seen the complete dependency the sheep grazing the scrublands of Israel have upon their nomadic shepherds and turns and points to the God of heaven and says ‘I’m just like a sheep in the way I rely and depend upon him for his day-on-day provision, protection, and proactive leading.’ What about you?

Is this shepherd-king your shepherd king? Do you look to him for provision? Do you run to his side for protection? Who is proactively leading and directing in your life? These opening words from the most famous Psalm of them all draws us to remember our utter dependency upon THE Shepherd-King!

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