“The Shepherd” (Summer Series: Psalm 23)
Scripture: Psalm 23:1-3
The author of Psalm 23 was David who was both a king and a shepherd. Although he was familiar with the roles and responsibilities of both, he chose to call God his Shepherd and not his King. This meant he, the greatest king in Israel’s history, identified himself as a weak and helpless sheep and not a strong and mighty lion. As Christians, we also need to identify ourselves with sheep in order to identify Jesus as our good Shepherd. This sheep and Shepherd image is one of the dominant metaphors by which we understand how we are supposed to live as Christians. Psalm 23:1-3 teaches us that Jesus is the good Shepherd who provides and protects his sheep.
Until you confess that you are sheep, God cannot be your shepherd. But the admission of being sheep is not easy because these creatures were incredibly vulnerable, blind and dumb. To admit this about yourself is ego-brushing and pride-killing. The Bible however likens us to sheep over and over again (Ps. 119:176; Is. 53:6; Mt. 9:36; 18:12; 1 Pt. 2:25) and the chief characteristic is that we stray away from God. We are by nature weak and wandering but we do not want to admit this. We want to be strong and self-sufficient like the world tells us to. However Psalm 23 is a song of the weak. It’s a song that boasts not in the sheep’s strength but in the Shepherd’s. That’s why this psalm was known as a psalm of confidence. Our confidence doesn’t derive from ourselves but the Shepherd who condescends to covenant with us.
David declares that the Lord is his Shepherd. This is God’s personal name. And yet what David declares is highly relational, personal and intimate. He says, “The Lord is my shepherd” and not just “a shepherd” or “the shepherd.” Although it is humbling and humiliating to admit you are a sheep, if you are the Lord’s sheep then it is an honor to confess it. This is covenant language – “I am his sheep and he is my Shepherd.” To belong to Shepherd means we will never lack anything. Not because God provides everything we want and desire nor because he gives us everything we think you need. Rather we will never lack with God as our Shepherd because having God himself is all that we need. To have him is to lack nothing because he is more than enough for us.
As our Shepherd God makes us lie down in green pastures and leads us beside still waters. Sheep by nature are nervous and anxious and they will only lie down if they feel safe from predators and satisfied in their thirst and hunger. This means God does two things as our Shepherd. He provides the satisfaction that we need and he protects us in ensuring our safety. Ultimately God does these two things for us in Jesus Christ. Jesus came in the line of David and declared, “I am the good shepherd” in John 10. When he declared, “I lay down my life for the sheep” he did it to provide himself as our perfect sacrifice and protect us from sin’s curse and God’s wrath by taking it upon himself. As the good Shepherd he did this for us and now Jesus becomes our green pastures and still waters. We can lay down and rest in him because he has laid down his life for us. Jesus is the good Shepherd that we need and he does everything to provide and protect us. He is our safety and he is our satisfaction.
Group Discussion Questions
- Share something you found either interesting, memorable, convicting, confusing or challenging about the passage/sermon.
- In what ways have you been shaped by the message of the world that says you must be strong and not weak? How do you tend to view and respond to weakness? Give a few examples.
- What’s the hardest reason to believe that God is enough for you as your shepherd? Are you learning anything about what it means to say “The Lord is my shepherd and that’s all I need to know”? Share those lessons and the circumstances of those lessons.
- How can you get to know the good Shepherd better? How can you experience in deeper, fuller ways the protection and provision of Jesus? How can he become your safety and your satisfaction?