Summary: This is the first message in a series that takes a fresh look at Psalm twenty-three. This message examines the Lord as our shepherd.
The most quoted and best loved passage of Scripture is the twenty-third Psalm. The vast majority of Christians can quote bits and pieces of this Psalm. This passage is read quite regularly at funerals or during other times of crisis to provide comfort. This Psalm consists of only six verses but it is so theologically rich. These words written by David have the ability to comfort individuals even during the most difficult of times. Over the course of the next seven weeks we will be taking a fresh look at the twenty-third Psalm. The problem that we have living in the twenty-first century is that we are not nearly has familiar with the images used by David as were those in centuries past. I believe that this causes us to miss out on some of the richness of this powerful passage of Scripture. Today we are going to examine the significance of the image of the Shepherd. In David’s day you would have been hard pressed to not see a shepherd in your daily treks. In fact, Shepherds and their flocks of sheep dotted the landscape in ancient Israel. The average person would have understood the role of the shepherd and the uniqueness of his relationship to the sheep in his care. In the Hebrew text “the Lord is my Shepherd” is just two words. As we examine this first part of the twenty-third Psalm we will strive to get better acquainted with the shepherd and his role. We will look at this through a twenty-first century lens so that we can better relate to the concepts that David is presenting. As we bring David’s words into proper perspective we will be able to find more comfort in these words. As we gain a better understanding the images presented here we will be better able to grasp what it means to have the Lord as our Shepherd.
I. Gaining a better understanding of what it means to be a Shepherd.
A. To become a shepherd meant that you would be accepting a tremendous amount of responsibility.
1. Sheep require complete round the clock care if they are to be healthy and able to survive.
2. The shepherd assumes complete responsibility for the well being of the sheep in their care.
3. A shepherd that is not totally devoted to their sheep will have sheep that suffer endless hardships and remain on the verge of starvation.
4. A shepherd that was devoted to their sheep would have contented sheep that would thrive under their care.
5. The health and well being of the sheep was directly related to the commitment the shepherd was willing to make.
6. The condition of the sheep would always show if the shepherd was good or bad.
B. The shepherd is the caretaker of their sheep.
1. Sheep by nature are very timid, helpless and suffer from an extreme case of stupidity.
2. Turn sheep loose in the wilderness and they will die. Leave sheep to find its own food and it will die.
3. Sheep have a very poor sense of direction and lack the ability to read maps.
4. All this is further complicated by the fact sheep our usually quite stubborn and rebellious.
5. In essence the shepherd assumes quite a large task when they decide to spend their life caring for sheep.
C. The shepherd is the provider for their sheep.
1. Unlike other animals sheep do not have the ability to find their own food and water.
2. The shepherd has the responsibility to lead the sheep to best pastures and to the clean and safe drinking water.
3. In order for the sheep to thrive and be healthy the shepherd has to make sure that the sheep receive the proper and needed nourishment.
4. A shepherd who is not completely committed to providing the best for their sheep will find that their sheep suffer from parasites and other diseases.
D. The shepherd is the protector of their sheep.
1. Sheep do not have the ability to defend themselves. In fact, they have no built in natural defenses.
2. They have no ability to fight off predators and protect themselves from danger.
3. Sheep are quite fearful; they are literally scared of their own shadows.
4. In ancient Israel the loss of sheep to predators came out of the shepherds own pocket.
5. A committed shepherd would be willing to do whatever it takes to protect their sheep. In fact, if needed they would sacrifice their own life for the sheep.
II. There are two words in David’s first sentence that pack a powerful punch.
A. The significance of the word “my.”
1. The ancient Hebrews were more prone to speak of “our God” rather than “my God.”
2. The beauty of this Psalm is that it shows that God is the God of the individual.