The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not be in want.
David’s masterful psalm has encouraged believers through the centuries. It is not only good theology, it is also beautiful poetry. He never loses the perspective of the sheep, who can only see about a foot and a half off the ground. The shepherd stands erect and has knowledge and perspective that the sheep does not, and David caught this idea in his inspired poem, and compared and applied it to our walk with God.
Where is the Lord our Shepherd? That is, in what situations and circumstances on earth does God act as our Shepherd? David answered this by describing six places where the Lord is our Shepherd, six different situations in life and eternity where God shepherds our souls:
In green pastures: This represents for us believers rich feeding on the Word of God that builds up our souls. Often the Lord leads us to feast on His truth, to spend time studying His Word, and to consider and meditate on His Word.
Beside quiet waters: This represents the movement of the Spirit that enriches our lives and establishes our joy and our peace. Sheep will not drink from babbling brooks, but only from still waters, and there are depths of experience with God that we will only have when we slow down long enough to let Him speak to us.
Paths of righteousness: This represents the service that we do for the Lord. After a sheep is well-fed and watered, the shepherd will lead the flock out into the hillsides, and the Lord leads His flock out into the world for service.
We would expect that the Lord would be our Shepherd in such situations, of feasting on His Word, of communing with His Spirit, and of serving Him, but there are two times mentioned when the Lord is our Shepherd in completely opposite situations.
In dark valleys: Scholars debate how this should be translated, whether “valley of the shadow of death” or simply “dark valley,” but either one represents that difficult moment of confusion in life when we lose our hope and are discouraged in our soul. The Lord is still our Shepherd in such settings. Just because the valley is dark does not mean that the Shepherd had abdicated His position, and especially in such times does God seem close to us when we turn to Him in prayer.
The presence of our enemies: Another difficult time is when we are, or feel we are, surrounded by enemies. This certainly applies to temptation, when our spiritual enemy is seeking to destroy us, and even there we can find a table of spiritual feasting before us. But we never need fear in this world, whether it is a circumstance that confounds us or an enemy who confronts us, the Lord is our Shepherd and He protects us.
The house of the Lord: The final place mentioned here where the Lord is our Shepherd is in His own house. We will one day, in God’s timing, come to the end of our learning from Him and leaning on Him here on this earth, we will end our service for Him here, our dark valleys will all be walked through, and our enemies will be vanquished, even the last enemy called “death,” but we will find that the Lord is still our Shepherd as we enter into His eternal presence.
Where are you at this moment in your life? Wherever it is trust that the Lord is your Shepherd and He will give you the strength, the encouragement, the protection, the knowledge, the love and power to continue to follow Him. He sustains His own.