The most popular of psalms made for all occasions is psalm 23. Books about it abound. Songs resonate through the airways. It is recited at weddings and funerals. This psalm continues to bless and amaze. Over the following blog times I’d like to share with you a type of devotional investigation into some of its verses. I’m sure there are insights you could share with me which I’d appreciate. May what follows be a joy to your heart.
‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want’ verse 1.
‘The’ emphasises the uniqueness, the only-ness of the person addressed, admired, adored. He is not one of many. He isn’t ‘a’ lord. He is ‘THE Lord!’
David is highlighting for us in his testimony a relationship of trust. As a shepherd boy he understood the faith sheep have in their shepherd. He knew their name and peculiarities. It is unknown (at least to me) when and how David and his Shepherd met. This is without doubt, David saw himself a one of the flock. The testimony he gave to King Saul in 1 Samuel 17:31-37 of The Lord’s protection highlighted this. Goliath was about to be added to The Lord’s victories through David. It is our honour to live in a similar fellowship of trust. It is our privilege to bear testimony, be it ever so mundane, to The Lord!
‘Lord’ is the translation usually applied to Yahweh. Such a wonderful imagery is here presented. The Creator who sustains the universe is the one who takes David under His care. This is David psalm. Have we the right to claim it as ours or is it wishful thinking? By the grace of The Lord we have His invitation to make this psalm our own. To make that real and personal requires a relocation of our heart, mind and allegiance. We are not automatically in His fold. His invitation must be accepted and, as it were, we must join His sheepfold. In the Gospel of John 10:16 we have the confidence to claim we are of ‘the other sheep’ The Lord has. David knew His Lord’s name. We know Him as Jesus, the Christ, The Son of God! He is The Lord!
‘Is’ expresses the assurance David had in whom he believed, trusted, obeyed. There isn’t a maybe or ‘I wish’ about it. David would be a silly sheep on numerous occasions but the ‘is’ remained. For what this word highlights is a covenant commitment between The Lord and His sheep, David. Such a covenant relationship is ours also because of Calvary’s cross and the empty tomb. When you, when I realised the meaning of the cross and believed what Jesus did was for us personally, we gave our life and destiny into His keeping. That is why we can say with gratitude ‘The Lord is.’
‘My’ is the personal aspect which should always astound. Why would the Creator choose to associate with me, let alone claim me as His own? John Newton’s hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ sums it up so well. I was a worthless sheep, scabby, wasted and infected with sin, at the mercy of life’s brigands. The Lord rescued me. I had nothing of merit, nothing of appeal yet in mercy He claimed me, as He did you! I am still a silly sheep from time to time, but The Lord keeps me in His fold. Why? Because He keeps His covenant. He will discipline but He will not remove my name from His book.
‘Shepherd’ is for us a warm and meaningful term. As we work through the psalm we will realise some of the ways He cares. However, strange as it may sound, a shepherd was not always held in high regard. The Egyptians in the days of Joseph saw them as beneath their dignity. In the days of Jesus a shepherd was considered a ‘low-life’ whose word couldn’t be trusted. In the spiritual realm of today this animosity still exists. It may or may not be stated, but its atmosphere prevails. Therefore, when you and I say “Jesus, The Lord is my Shepherd” we could be given the cold shoulder. This is why we must know the reality, personally and unquestionably, that The Lord [Jesus] is my shepherd and I am a sheep in His fold. Can you say “Amen” to that?
To be continued.
Ray Hawkins Feb 1st 2016.