The Lord Is My Shepherd
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.” This scripture perhaps is the most familiar among Christians and even non-Christians. It comes from Psalm 23 and teaches that God takes care of His servant’s needs for food. What in this psalm is lesser known is that it also speaks of God as the Provider of man’s spiritual needs. The psalmist says, “He [The Lord, emphasis CC] restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.”
David here identifies God as a shepherd. God makes sure He takes His servant "to green pastures" and "to still waters" like a shepherd would for his sheep. The word “pastures” figuratively refers to the green grass on which sheep feed. As to the phrase “still waters”, it describes a substance as vital to the life of sheep as grass – that’s water. Just like the shepherd tends to his sheep, God supplies his servant with all that is needed which fulfills their well-being.
Another truth relative to material needs which is being conveyed in this psalm is that God guides and protects through the vicissitudes of life. Man being as vulnerable as a sheep, he needs to depend on God for his deliverance from danger. As a sheep, each man thus can say that Jehovah cares for him, provides for him and is with him.
The writer goes on from verse 3 to talk about things that concern the soul. He says that the Lord restores his soul leading him in “the paths of righteousness for his name's sake”. This indicates that God secures ways of leading His servant along the paths which are right in His sight and glorifies His name.
Now, over in the New Testament Jesus Christ is identified as a shepherd. Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd. In John 10:11 He said, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep”. Who are the sheep then? They are those who follow Christ, namely Christians. Christians are individuals who throughout their lives demonstrate faithful submission to the authority of Christ. They have obeyed His commandments to be baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38).
The fundamental spiritual need of man is relationship with God (Genesis 1:26). While the human family had been severed from that relationship because of sin and “all we like sheep have gone astray”, Christ is the way back to God (Isaiah 53:6, 59:1-2; Matthew 14:6). This is the reason why everyone ought to come in contact with Christ because in Him “was life” (John 1: 4). The term “Word” in that passage taken from the Apostle’s preface to his gospel designates Jesus.
Christ leads people to God, after redeeming them by His own death on the cross, in order to reconcile them with the Creator. The Apostle Paul said: “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses to men, and he has put in us the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
Once a person has been reconciled to God through baptism in Christ, his soul is restored. They are restored because they now are in a relationship with God. God designed man to be in a permanent relationship with Him. But God's plan failed when mankind through Adam and Eve sinned against God and fell from grace (Genesis 3). Separation from God causes human souls to become weary as sinful men finds themselves at enmity with God (Colossians 1:21), but redemption brings them peace (Ephesians 2:14; Colossians 3:15; John 14:27).
Beside peace, the restoration of the soul comes with several other blessings, a full list of which can be found in the New Testament. I’ll only mention a few: forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1.7), salvation (Ephesians 2: 8-9), rebirth (John 3:5; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 Peter 1.3), becoming a child of God (Galatians 3.26), to be able to accede to the throne of God (Ephesians 2.18), peace of God (Philippians 4: 6-7), feeding on the word of God (Matthew 4:4)
Jesus is a good Shepherd because He provides us with every blessing (Ephesians 1:3). Jesus is a good Shepherd because He leads us to the fountain of living water (John 4). Remember his conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. Jesus said: “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty, and the water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water which will spring up into eternal life” (John 4:14).
Also, Jesus is a good shepherd because He helps us focus our minds on Him in times of trial. He had the Hebrews writer say: "let us run with perseverance in the career which is open to us, looking on Jesus, the leader and the consumer of the faith". Jesus is a good shepherd because He encourages us not to tire of longing for eternal life (1 Tim 6:12). Imagine a life with no end – it is far superior to that which we live here and now; it is the heavenly life.
Jesus is calling you, weary soul. He said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Will you come?