“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” (Psalm 23:1–2).
Virtually every educated mind in the English-speaking world has heard the words of this psalm of King David. These words to our loving Shepherd have been spoken by many a soldier under a star-filled sky during a dark night in a foxhole on some faraway battlefield. These are the words whose syllables have been formed by, and whispered through, the lips of many while dying on a bed of affliction. These are the very words, like a lullaby for fear, that have brought hope and peace to millions across the centuries.
When, in a Galilean setting, Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11), every hearer’s mind must have raced back to these words of the psalmist: “The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1). One of the clearest pictures of Jesus in the Old Testament is here in this old and oft-repeated psalm. The first five words hold the key and form the foundation of the entire chapter. “The… Lord… is… my… shepherd.” Once sealed in our hearts, these words speak volumes about our own relationship with the good Shepherd.
Note the first two words, “The Lord.” The scripture does not say, “A Lord is my shepherd.” It says, “The Lord is my shepherd.” There is no other Lord. He is preeminent. If you speak of Washington, I can speak of Lincoln. If you speak of Beethoven, I can speak of Handle. If you speak of Alexander, I can speak of Napoleon. But when it comes to Christ, He stands alone. He has no peer. There is only one Lord.
Only the records of heaven have recorded how many martyrs have laid down their lives and met their deaths because they insisted on the first two words of this psalm, “The Lord.” They gave their lives to proclaim the truth: Jesus is the one and only Lord.
David continued, “The Lord is my shepherd.” Oh, the depth of meaning of this little two-letter word. This good Shepherd, Jesus, is with me right now. This is not past tense. It does not say, “The Lord was my shepherd.” It is not future tense. It does not say, “The Lord will be my shepherd.” He is not only preeminent, He is present — “The Lord is my shepherd.” He is with us at this present moment to meet our immediate needs.
But there is more. The psalmist said, “The Lord is my shepherd.” Jesus is intensely personal. There is a huge difference between saying, “The Lord is a shepherd,” and saying, “The Lord is my shepherd.” What a difference comes to life’s circumstances and situations with that little word, my! We may hear of someone’s child who is deathly sick and have compassion and feel sorrow. But what a vast difference it makes if it is “my” child. This is not just any shepherd of whom David speaks. This is my shepherd. You are not simply some insignificant speck of protoplasm in this vast array of solar systems. The fact that the God of this universe is concerned about you and me personally gives purpose and meaning to our brief sojourn here on this small planet, suspended in the vastness of the immeasurable universe. Say it softly and ponder this wonderful truth—“The Lord is my shepherd.”
One thousand years after David penned these words, Jesus made it clearly known He was the One the psalmist spoke of, saying, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11). We find Jesus, our Shepherd-Savior here in the Psalms.
We find that Jesus is not only preeminent, present and personal, but HE is also protective. “The Lord is my shepherd.” One of the primary tasks of a shepherd is to protect his sheep. Without a good shepherd, the sheep could not find their way to water or other necessities. The shepherd keeps a constant vigil, watching for wild animals or other dangers that might harm his sheep. A good shepherd also goes after the sheep that strays from the fold. Who could ever forget the story Jesus told of the lost sheep in Luke 15? Without a shepherd, sheep are virtually helpless. They cannot find their way through treacherous mountain passes or run fast enough to escape predators, nor are they strong enough to defend themselves. Sheep are not prepared for flight or fight. Just as sheep need their shepherd, so do we need ours. Yes, “The Lord is my shepherd.”
To this very day, Bedouin shepherds can be seen on the hillsides of Judea walking with their sheep along the mountain paths. They are always in front of the sheep, never behind them. That is because, unlike cattlemen with their cattle, shepherds never drive their sheep. Shepherds lead, and the sheep follow. Our Lord will never force us or drive us against our will. He leads us, and all we have to do is follow.
As we journey through God’s Word, we find Jesus in every book of the Bible. No clearer picture of Him is found than in the book of Psalms. He is our Shepherd. From His lips come these poignant words, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).
Are you listening?
Are you following?
Taken from The Bible Code by O.S. Hawkins. Copyright © 2020 by Dr. O.S. Hawkins. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson.
O.S. Hawkins is the chancellor of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has served pastorates, including the First Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, for more than 25 years. A native of Fort Worth, Texas, he has a BBA from Texas Christian University and his MDiv and Ph.D. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. For almost a quarter of a century, he served as president of GuideStone Financial Resources, with assets under management of $20 billion, serving 250,000 pastors, church staff members, missionaries, doctors, university professors, and other workers in various Christian organizations with their investment, retirement and benefit service needs. He is the author of more than 40 books and regularly speaks to business groups and churches nationwide. All of the author’s royalties and proceeds from the Code series support Mission:Dignity. You can learn more about Mission:Dignity by visiting MissionDignity.org.
Read more articles by Dr. O.S. Hawkins at: https://www.goodnewsfl.org/author/o-s-hawkins/