One of the most well-known and loved psalms in the Bible is Psalm 23, a psalm of David. Before defeating Goliath and before becoming the king of Israel, David was a shepherd, and so he completely understood the importance that a shepherd plays in the lives of his sheep. In this beautiful psalm, David uses the metaphor of a shepherd to describe the Lord and all that the Lord does for us, His flock.
The LORD is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake. (Psalm 23:1–3)
David knew that the role of a shepherd was to provide for his flock. The shepherd loved and cared for his sheep. He guarded them and protected them from harm, he provided them with food and water, he took care of them when they were sick or tired, and he searched for them if they strayed. Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11), and He does the same for those who follow Him, who belong to His flock. He knows our needs and will provide for them when we seek Him and follow Him (Matthew 6:33). When we hear His voice and follow Him, we will not hunger or thirst. He will give us peace and guide us on the right path.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows. (Psalm 23:4–5)
When we follow Jesus, the Good Shepherd, we can walk through life’s dark valleys and not fear. Why? Because He is with us. He is there to lead the way for us and to calm our fears. When a shepherd leads his flock, he carries with him a rod and a staff. The staff was used to keep the sheep together, but the rod was a heavy stick that the shepherd could use to protect his flock from the attacks of predators. In defending his flock against these enemies, a shepherd would willingly lay down his own life. On the cross of Calvary, Jesus willingly gave His life for His sheep, freeing us from our sin. We can take great comfort in knowing that Jesus is with us in the trials and tribulations of life and that, when we follow Him, He will keep us free from our enemy.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalm 23:6)
When we choose to follow Jesus, the Good Shepherd, we live with the promise that His goodness and His love are with us, following us all the days of our lives. And when we follow Him, when we are part of His flock, we have the promise of eternal life. We will dwell with Him and the Father forever.
Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.