“The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He renews my life; He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:1-3 HCSB).
God’s name is at stake in us, and we can trust in His care for this very reason. The psalmist used the image of sheep and a shepherd to convey this reality. Shepherding in the land of Israel is challenging. The climate of parts of the land can prove extreme and inhospitable.
The terrain can prove treacherous for both sheep and shepherd. Human and animal predators pose threats to the sheep; moreover, shepherding often takes place isolated from other people in the midst of a dry, harsh climate. If the shepherd loses his sheep, his name is at stake.
Sheep and goats forage all the time; they move constantly. The image of the shepherd causing them to lie down indicates that they have been satiated; they have enough to eat. Within the wilderness areas of the land of Israel, flash floods are common. “Still waters” offer safe water for the sheep to drink and slake their thirst in the heat. Nourishment and water bring refreshment; this is how God leads His flock.
Within the lands east of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, where shepherds led their flocks, one finds erosional trails cut in the soil. While rain does not come often, it does come, and the soil sluffs off creating these erosional circles around the hill. This landscape sits in the rain shadow, so it doesn’t get a lot of moisture, which is essential for life. One can get lost on these erosional paths wandering aimlessly in the wilderness.
The shepherd knows the right path to lead his flock. God knows the right paths to lead us. Shepherds lead their flock from behind or on the side. If they tried to lead from the front, they would lose their flock as sheep and goats have a tendency to wander. The shepherd leads by corralling, but he knows the way to go.
Very little in our lives today bring our souls renewal and nourishment. God does. He also knows the best paths for our lives, and if we will listen and trust Him, He will lead us in the right way.
Remember His name is at stake in us. Just as a shepherd doesn’t want to lose any of his sheep, neither does God want to lose any of us. That is a comforting thought. Rest in that today.
Father, today, renew our lives, and lead us in the right paths, for Your name’s sake. Amen.