The former shepherd’s poetic trust

Posted Oct 11, 2018

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Daily Scripture

Psalm 23:1-3

1 The Lord is my shepherd.
    I lack nothing.
2 He lets me rest in grassy meadows;
    he leads me to restful waters;
3         he keeps me alive.
    He guides me in proper paths
    for the sake of his good name.

Reflection Questions

King David, who had been a shepherd (cf. 1 Samuel 17:34-36), likely wrote Psalm 23. (If the familiar phrases are “worn smooth” for you, you read the poem in one or more other versions here.) The psalm said poetically that God is the Shepherd of our souls who guides us through life’s ups and downs. This beloved psalm never looked at what anyone else had. It rejoiced in the abundance that came from God’s presence with the psalmist—a reality each of us can experience.

  • David said God guided him (and all God’s children) “in proper paths.” How much of “the weight of the world” do you carry on your shoulders? How (if at all) have you learned to put down that load, and rest in God’s loving care? Do patience and trust in God’s faithful shepherding make sense in our “now” world where many of us ask, “What have you done for me lately”? Can you trust God even when you’re not seeing any immediate results? If so, why?
  • Verse 1 is traditionally translated “I shall not want.” Modern versions say, “I have all I need,” or “I lack nothing.” Since this psalm seemed to reflect David’s days as a shepherd and an ignored kid brother rather than as King of Israel, how do you believe it defined “all I need”? How often can you honestly say you feel that you have all you need?

Prayer

Dear God, because you are my shepherd, I have all I need. I am eternally safe in your arms. Help me more fully find the inner peace that comes from that reality. Amen.

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Matt Ozment

Matt Ozment

Matt is the Media Services Production Manager in the Tech Arts ministry at Church of the Resurrection. He joined the staff in December 2014 and supports the technology needs of each special or weekly event outside of weekend worship at Resurrection Leawood. In his free time, he spends time with his 2 kids, supports his wife’s cake business, and aspires to be a novelist.

This Psalm, likely the most popular Psalm written by King David, has truly stood the test of time and is a testament to the wisdom of the one whom God had called to be a king. In contrast to King Saul, who was picked as King based on his appearance (see this past Monday’s GPS Insights by Chris Abel), King David was picked because God looks on the inside, not on the outside. God saw in him a wise shepherd. Before I delve into what it means to be a shepherd, I want to share a couple different versions of this text. 

The first is the version that likely most of us are familiar with. This version is read often at funerals, in pastoral visits, at our monthly SilverLink service for those with Alzheimers and Dementia, and many other times. This is how the New Revised Standard Version (closely related to the King James Version) reads:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths [or, in paths of righteousness]
for his name’s sake.

If this version resonates with you, take a moment to reread it. Let the words sink in; take some time to really understand the meaning of these familiar words and how they speak to you. Think of this from the perspective of a sheep who relies completely on his or her master to provide everything they need.

The second version is found in “The Beginner’s Bible,” a picture Bible I read to my young kids where many of the Biblical stories are simplified to be more fitting for children. This version reads similarly to the Common English Bible:

The Lord is my shepherd. He gives me everything I need. He lets me lie down in fields of grass. He leads me beside quiet waters. He gives me new strength. He guides me in the right paths for the honor of his name.

Trying to think from the perspective of a sheep helps me understand the meaning of this Psalm. A shepherd is in charge of the safety and wellbeing of his flock. The shepherd is the one who gives the sheep everything it needs. He guides them to green pastures and fields of grass, where food can be found (remember in the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread”). A shepherd leads his sheep to water where they may quench their thirst. By doing these things, the shepherd gives his sheep the strength they need to continue on a long journey. He takes them on a safe road, on a path where they will be protected from the enemies in the wilderness. 

And finally, the shepherd does all this “for his name’s sake.” Another way to read this is, the shepherd does all this “in the full character of the shepherd.” This is a stark contrast to the time of the Judges, where Israel had completely forgotten the character of God to the point that they didn’t know how to worship Him and kept making idols. Psalm 23 would have been written to offer a sense of the gentle, caring character of God. It would have provided a sense of peace and hope then, just as it does today. It shows that God is not angry, but deeply loves each one of us, going out of His way to provide for us our daily bread.

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