“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. ~ Psalm 23
It was a long time ago in a land far, far away, both in space and in difference. It was a time that was more tranquil and peaceful. A shepherd boy by the name of David was out on the hillside watching over his father’s sheep. He sat down and wrote some of the most beautiful, penetrating, powerful songs of faith that the world has ever known. David had the sensitive spirit of a poet or a musician, but also the courageous spirit of a warrior. He combined these elements in writing the great songs of faith wich you and I still enjoy. The Twenty-third Psalm is one of the favorites for many of us.
Seated one day on a hillside, David cut a slice out of his own life to consider what it meant to be in relationship with God and what the relationship might mean in terms of the nature of God. He thought of himself as being a good shepherd, one whose father had trusted him with his own sheep. He knew what it meant to do good and to be good in terms of the sheep. As he sat there and thought about that, he said, “As I am, surely God must even be more.” So he wrote the first line: “The Lord is my Shephard.”
At least eighty times in the Bible, the Lord is referred to as “Shephard” to define the nature of God and also to describe our relationship with Him. You may recall, as well, that Jesus referred to himself as the “Good Shephard.”
The amazing thing to me is that these words, which were written more than three thousand years ago, in a time, in a place and in a way so different from our own, are still so relevant, penetrating, and meaningful in a highly industrialized society. Some of you may have not have even seen a live sheep, much less have known a shepherd. Yet, the message still stands. Ours is a God who cares, prepares, and preserves His own.
It is also interesting to me, as I tried to substitute another profession or occupation for that of the shepherd, that somehow it did not quite fit as well as it does to say, “The Lord is my Shephard, I shall not want”? Is that poetry, or is that possible? Is it possible for us to see, and honestly believe, that just because of our relationship with God, we will have no material wants? Is it possible for us to see, and honestly to believe, that we will be secure, much less more secure, than a person who has no faith at all?
Clearly, that is not what David is saying. He was a wise man. Surely he knew as well as we do that is not the way it works. What I believe he was saying is that the basic, essential needs of our lives are met in God. What, then, do we lack? What else should we want?