Psalm 23: Talking Sheep

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:1-3)

Ever catch yourself singing a song that’s so familiar the words have almost lost their meaning? You might as well be singing “baaa, baaaa, baa, ba.” Psalm 23 is like that for a lot of people. They can say it perfectly, but they completely forget they’re quoting a sheep.

sheep_350David, a former shepherd, writes the poem as if he were a sheep bragging about his shepherd to the other sheep. It’s a funny idea to imagine, but that sheep makes some great points about how reliable our God is.

First, when He’s your shepherd, you will be provided for in every way. That’s a big deal to a sheep. They’re not so good at taking care of themselves. And this shepherd won’t just make sure you get fed. He’ll make sure you get enough sleep and rest and water; he takes care of your soul and your body.

Think: Have you ever imagined what it would be like to be a sheep? How does your Shepherd provide for your need for food, rest, water, and soul restoration? Do you count on Him for those things?

Pray: Thank God for being your shepherd and taking care of you in every way.

Do: Unless you know some sheep, find a picture of one in a book or online to keep in your head for the next few days as you think about Psalm 23.

Psalm 23: A Shepherd’s Rep

“He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3)

We’re looking at this sheep’s poem for a few days. He’s bragging about what a great shepherd he has. If you think about it, quality of life for a sheep pretty much comes down to how good (or how lousy) his shepherd is, right? Sheep just eat what’s there in front of them and wander around and then eat some more. Without a really good shepherd to manage, well, everything for them — they’re mutton chops.

sheep_350But the shepherd isn’t just working for the pure joy of being loved by the sheep. For one thing, we’re not so good at saying thanks. No, he’s also working because he has a reputation to protect. Everybody knows he’s the best shepherd there ever was. He protects that rep by treating us right.

So after a day on the hills leading us to the good grass — gotta love really choice grass, you know? — he brings us home on the right paths, the ones he knows we can walk on, the ones that go in the right direction, the ones that lead us to the next place he’ll take care of us.

Think: Do you ever think of God doing what He does for you for His own reputation? Does it change your reaction to His taking care of you if He does it to bring glory to His own name?

Pray: Thank God for leading you on righteous paths for His name’s sake.

Do: If you haven’t done so before, try to memorize this short psalm.

Psalm 23: Tough Enough

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

I don’t know many shepherds — especially ones from the time of King David, who wrote this psalm. I tend to think of shepherds as gentle souls who hang out on hillsides and babysit a bunch of fluffy, dumb animals. That’s wrong. Shepherds are wicked tough.

sheep_350Listen to what David told Saul about his shepherding days: “When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear.” (1 Samuel 17:34-35)

Yikes! David was like some kind of ninja with that rod and staff. Don’t mess with shepherds! Speaking as sheep, David writes that our great shepherd — God — is strong enough to take on whatever evil might come our way. He’s tough enough that we can relax and munch on our grass and not worry. Trust your Shepherd to protect you.

Think: Do you ever think of God as being ready and willing to use His might against evil to protect you? Why or why not?

Pray: Thank God for His protection in your life against evil; ask Him to help you not to live with anxiety.

Do: Read 1 Samuel 17:34-37 to see why David said he was so good at defeating lions and bears in battle.

Pslam 23: Dinner with the Enemy

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” (Psalm 23:5)

Suddenly in verse 5, David seems to dump the sheep metaphor so he can talk about how good God has been to him. But I wonder if anyone else noticed this: In spite of the fact that David’s shepherd, God, is so good, David still goes through hard times.

sheep_350He still walks through the “valley of the shadow of death.” He is still stalked by enemies. If God is so good and so powerful, why can’t the Lord just stop all the bad things from happening? David doesn’t ask that question here, but most of us eventually do. Many people use that question as an excuse to waste their lives ignoring God.

God never promises a trouble-free life on this side of heaven, but He does promise to provide for and comfort us. David notices God doing that for him even on his roughest days: Plenty to eat; a good shower (of oil); and more than enough to drink. God is good.

Think: On your worst days, are you more likely to blame God for the hard parts or thank Him for taking care of you through the painful moments?

Pray: Thank God that He always provides for you, even when He allows hard times to come your way.

Do: Notice a few ways that God provides good things for you today.

Psalm 23: Not Wishful Thinking

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (Psalm 23:6)

The first half of this verse would be right at home on a fortune cookie, wouldn’t it? I can imagine cracking one open, reading that line, and thinking, “Well, that sounds nice.”

sheep_350But David wasn’t writing after-dinner happy thoughts to read with dessert. Psalm 23 is not a Hallmark card. David actually believed his God, his Shepherd, would bring him goodness and love in their relationship forever.

Remember, David was being stalked by murderers and knew the road through death’s valley by hard experience. But David focused on the goodness and love of God and his future in God’s house and friendship. His daily troubles faded in the light of God’s care for him.

Think: As a Christian, you can own David’s statement in this verse with confidence. Do you feel confident that it’s true? Are you convinced of God’s love for you, along with His power and goodness?

Pray: Thank God that His love and goodness will follow you all the days of your life and that you will live with Him forever.

Do: Copy this verse into an e-mail and send it to five Christian friends as an act of encouragement. Ask them to do the same. Suggest that if they don’t, they’ll get terrible and itchy acne on the bottoms of their feet forever! (Except skip that last part.)