The LORD is my shepherd…
David, an imperfect psalmist understood and wrote about a perfect truth: the Lord’s care for His people. This revelation came about by the inspiration of God and not through David’s contemplation, determination, or achievements. The most we can do is to work with the Spirit, to follow close on the heels of Christ, but true understanding and knowledge of divine truths come from God. Breaking down the first verse of this psalm, analyzing it, gives us insight into the nature of God’s care for us.
The: The first word in the English text identifies only one Lord who we may say is a Shepherd to us. Not found in the original, or necessary in the Hebrew, it is required in English to get the point across. There is exclusiveness to God. Not all things or all beings or all spirits are the God who cares for us and watches over us.
LORD: The English translations take this Hebrew four-letter-word and translate it in all caps. It is YHWH in the original Hebrew (Hebrew was originally written with only consonants; vowels were added later). It is the covenant name of God, first given to Moses through the Mosaic Covenant, but then affirmed also by Christ in the New Covenant. We know God not by our cultural heritage by His self-revelation to us through Jesus Christ, by His Gospel and by the inner witness of His Spirit.
Is: Notice the present tense. The Lord is not a “used-to-be” god, nor is He a “might-be-again” god. He is the God of today. The Lord acts in our present circumstances meeting our needs of today. In fact, this is part of the meaning of His eternal nature: God is constantly in the present tense. If we drape God only in the garments of passé cultural imagery handed down over the centuries we run the risk of misunderstanding who He is. He is active today and the meaningful moments of believers through the centuries, recorded in hymns and testimonies, celebrated just exactly that fact, that God was active in their circumstance. As David said, as believers through the centuries have said, so we can say, “The Lord is with us now!”
My: David, for all his faults, could say that he had personally placed his trust in God as He had revealed Himself to him. This verse becomes meaningful when we through faith accept Christ as Savior, when we personally respond to the revelation of God. The consistent experience of the centuries has been that God revealed Himself to people in personal and intimate ways showing them how they might personally believe and obey Him. He does so today, that whenever the gospel is proclaimed people may hear also the voice of the Spirit speaking to their souls inviting them to repent and turn in faith to God.
Shepherd: The shepherd motif is filled with imagery. Tending sheep was common in David’s world. It was hard risky work, requiring sleepless nights, long days, and dangerous situations. As Christ said, the good shepherd gives his life for his sheep. This imagery is filled with ideas of tenderness, care, watchfulness, redemption, and sacrifice. Here in Christ we find the Shepherd who gave His life for the sheep, that we might find life and life in abundant supply.
Are you discouraged today? We all pass through such times. Look up to the Lord Christ. Place your faith in Him. He is your Shepherd, the one who gave His life for yours and now can flood your heart with His eternal life. Abide in Him. Do not abide in the discouragement or the failures of the day. Remain focused on Him in humility and faith. Faith in Christ has brought victory into lives through the centuries and can do the same for you today.
Lord, reveal to us today that You are our Shepherd, that You take care of our needs, redeem our lives, heal our wounds, feed us with Your truth, forgive our sins, and restore us to life. Give us the help we need today, both physical help and spiritual help. Shepherd our souls. Amen.