The month of March is very significant to me in many ways. On Friday March 21, 1969 I accepted the Lord as my personal Savior. On Sunday, March 23, 1969, I was baptized. During a spring revival under the leadership of Rev. Hubbard Lowery in 1994 I re-dedicated my life to the Lord. During my pilgrimage to Israel I re-dedicated my baptismal by being baptized in the Jordan River. My life has changed so much since I ascended to Jerusalem, the Holy City, Capital of Israel and I have the attestation that authorizes me to bear the title of — Jerusalem Pilgrim.
Recently I have been asked to speak at various churches and as I share my personal testimony I always share the 23rd Psalm. When you list all the needs of sheep, it’s no wonder they require a shepherd. And we are no different. Few of us are familiar with the needs and nuances of sheep because we live in a society far more industrialized than people in Bible times ever would have imagined. To fully understand Psalm 23, we must delve into the role of shepherd, one of the oldest professions in the world.
King David, the writer of Psalm 23, didn’t always rule from a palace. He grew up in a large family in the Bethlehem countryside. As the youngest son of Jesse, David was responsible for tending his father’s sheep (I Samuel 16:11, 19; 17:15). He wrote Psalm 23 out of his own experience as a shepherd of both sheep and God’s people.
David declared, “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He renews my life; He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23: 1-3).
These verses demonstrate an up-close-and-personal relationship between David and the Lord. Notice that David did not refer to himself as the shepherd. As king of a powerful and blessed nation, David realized he was handed the task of being a shepherd because of his willingness to depend on the one true Shepherd, the Lord God.
On October 30, 2001, while en-route to work, my life had come to a complete standstill. I was in a traumatic auto accident and Clay Davis found me in the middle of the highway in the dark. When he approached me he mentioned that I was 35 feet from my automobile, swollen beyond recognition and covered with blood, but I was asking him to read a scripture to me and pray. He wondered how my Bible ended up in my hands and actually opened to the 23rd Psalm. At one time my Bible was on my console in my automobile but I do not remember how my Bible ended up in my hands. I believe God was instilling in my spirit His assurance of Who He is for the days I would face after the accident and even now. After the Life Flight to UNC hospital I became conscious after 3 weeks on life support. It was humiliating to have someone do everything for me. As the staff and my family assisted me, I thought I should be doing this myself. I was totally dependent on God for everything. I could not talk because I had a trachea and I could not move. Eventually instead of feeling embarrassed that I could not do anything for myself, I felt honored that everyone was taking such great care of me was playing a very special part in my life and I was very grateful to the Lord. Since the accident I have learned to forget my problems and concentrate on someone else’s needs. Even though I am self-aware I know God will supply all of my needs. In the 23rd Psalm David informs us that this is a personal relationship. He does not say that the Lord was or will be his Shepherd but that the Lord is his Shepherd. David does not say I hope or I think the Lord is my Shepherd but he speaks with confidence and assurance as I do saying “The Lord Is My Shepherd.” I have acknowledged my entire dependence upon Christ as a sheep upon a Shepherd. It is one thing for the Shepherd to say “This is my sheep.” But it is another thing for the sheep to say, “This is my Shepherd.” By saying “the Lord is my Shepherd,” I am expressing my faith in, affection for, and joy because of Christ.
A good shepherd supplies sheep with water, food, guidance, and protection. Because sheep tend to be fearful creatures, they refuse to lie down and rest if they are the least bit afraid.
Sheep also have a terrible sense of direction. It’s typical for a sheep to wander and lose its way, even in a familiar environment. Helpless and defenseless, they still have the propensity to independently go their own way.
No wonder sheep need a shepherd! What must happen for them to experience all their shepherd has to offer? They must choose to follow the shepherd’s guidance and accept his provision. Where God guides He provides!
David’s analogy makes it convincingly clear why we need God as our Shepherd. Like sheep, we must willingly surrender to the Lord’s leadership, trusting that He can provide everything and even more than we need. And God provides more than just material possessions. As our Shepherd, He provides:
• everything we need to live and enjoy life to the fullest (verse 1);
• peace and satisfaction, even in difficult circumstances (verse 2);
• refreshment and spiritual renewal when we are broken and burned out (verse 3);
• direction and guidance when the road map isn’t clear (verse 3).
Studying the shepherd/sheep relationship presented in Psalm 23 can encourage us and strengthen our relationship with the Lord. As the shepherd knows the sheep, so God know His people. “The Lord is my Shepherd…” When David identified the Lord as his Shepherd in Psalm 23, he combined Yahweh with the Hebrew verb roi, which can mean “to tend, rule, teach, be a companion or special friend.” It is notable to point out God’s shepherding to David was a verb, not a noun, meaning there is activity surrounding how God leads His flock.
God chooses our paths, but a double choice is involved: We, His sheep, must choose to walk those paths. Sometimes the paths God chooses are hard roads to travel. We may prefer to take easier routes, but we must remember that God’s choices are for His name’s sake and in our best interests. God protects purpose. God’s glory, not our comfort and preferences, must be our priority. My purpose is to do what I do for His name’s sake. Because I don’t like the cost of an item I can’t change the price tag. “For Thy art with me.” He has promised to never leave me nor forsake me. What God has promised He will perform. He is Faithful! God you are the epitome of everything I will ever need. Lord I am so in awe of You.
Psalm 23 is one of the most comforting psalms in times of sorrow; one of the most encouraging when we face difficult times; and one of the most praise-provoking when we reflect on its vivid description of the goodness and mercy of God.
What kind of sheep will you be? We know Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has fulfilled His duties as the Good Shepherd (I John 10: 7-18). Resolve to follow Him. Trust Him completely. Accept His provision. Reflect His character. Live to give Him glory. Always be on your guard! Choose! Be cautious in the steps you take! Ask God to order your steps and help you to follow His direction. Don’t ever forget what God has done in your life. May the 23rd Psalm inspire, encourage and guide you as it serves as a reminder of God’s faithfulness in your life. God humbles us to make us realize we need to trust Him in and through all circumstances of life. God’s favor is not for a season, it’s for a lifetime. “For surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever…” Amen.