“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, 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 23:1-4 NKJV).
Sheep are animals that need to be led. In the land of Israel, shepherds often took their sheep away from settled areas to graze. This exposed them to various dangers—the weather, terrain, and human and animal predators. The shepherd was responsible for leading his flocks to safe areas where they could find nourishment, be protected from predators, and would rein in their tendency to wander away. Because of Israel’s climate, terrain and predators, the sheep depended utterly upon the shepherd.
The daily reality of the shepherd provided clear images for the psalmist to describe God. God is a good shepherd, one who leads His flock to places of nourishment, along right, safe paths, who protects each sheep from potential dangers. The sheep depend upon the shepherd to take care of these things, as a good shepherd does.
Often the farming and herding images of the Bible fail to connect with us as they did to the ancient readers, because in our modern developed world we do not interact with agricultural or herders’ lifestyles. But the psalmist painted a clear image of our need for God and His responsibility to lead us and protect us. Do we allow Him to shepherd us? Do we allow ourselves to be shepherded?
The psalmist knew that the sheep could not survive within the hazardous wilds without the shepherd. There were no self-made sheep. Too often today, the world idolizes rugged individualism; we do not allow ourselves to be led. We do not recognize our limitations. This is where worry comes from: when we seek to take control of the things that belong to God.
Do we recognize that our Shepherd is a good shepherd? Do we trust Him to lead us and allow Him to do so? We can rest assured that if we do, we shall not want.
Our Father, our Shepherd, lead us, guide us, protect us for Your name’s sake. Amen.