The Lord Is My Shepherd (Part 1)

Friends who live in Jerusalem testified of the renewed cycle of violence taking place around them. I was intrigued by their description of a local shepherd and how he calmed his little flock:

“On Saturday morning, for the first time in three years, we had a major conflict on our street… Six Israeli jeeps of soldiers were protecting our street as we headed out to our Sabbath Meeting. The soldiers responded [to Palestinian rioters] by firing tear gas canisters at regular intervals.

“In the midst of all this, the Lord showed me something very touching. His ways are not our ways. While all this was going on, just below our fence in our yard, an elderly Moslem shepherd had gathered his sheep around him during all the commotion. I went to the edge of our fence and saw him there. We greeted each other in Arabic. Every time the guns fired tear gas, the sheep jumped and were afraid. The shepherd never stopped talking softly to his sheep. He reached out with his staff, constantly touching each sheep very gently. Several of the other sheep a few meters away ran to the shepherd when the guns fired. The shepherd was talking to me in Arabic, but was totally unaffected by what was going on just 200 meters down the way. This picture of God’s dealing encouraged us amidst all of our conflicts and difficulties. Just like it is written in Psalm 23, He truly is an oasis of calm and rest when evil men and problems surround us.”[1]

This contemporary glimpse of pastoral care reminds us of King David’s famous Shepherd’s Psalm–Psalm 23. As a young man, David tended his father’s flock. We can imagine the many days and nights he tended those sheep. This occupation gave him natural opportunities to grow in wisdom, stature, bravery, and spiritual vitality. Imagine him composing psalms and serenading his flock as he praised the LORD.

The Bible repeatedly compares God’s personal, faithful care of His people to a shepherd tending his flock.

David wrote, “The LORD is my shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me]. . .”(Psalm 23:1, Amplified). In the Old Testament we read, “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock…” (Psalm 80:1). “He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; he gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:11, NIV). In the New Testament Christ uniquely fulfills this role. Jesus declared, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own” (John 10:14). The writer of Hebrews called Him, “that great Shepherd of the sheep” (Heb. 13:20), and Peter affirmed, “For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd … of your souls” (1 Pet. 2:25).

Does this mean that God is the shepherd of everyone? Notice that David personalized this testimony: “The LORD is my Shepherd.” We were all born into this fallen world alienated from God and in need of His redemption (Rom. 3:23;5:17). Isaiah compared us to erring sheep:

“All we like sheep have gone astray;

We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the LORD has laid on Him [Jesus the Messiah]
the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

Therefore, we are summoned to receive Christ as our Savior and Lord: “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:9,10). Only those who have been reconciled to God by grace through faith truly know God as their Shepherd (See 2 Cor. 5:21; John 14:6).

Christ described the characteristics of those who have put their faith in Him. They recognize His voice, enter the fold through Him, know Him, and follow Him (John 10:4,9,14,27). What blessings are given to His people! Jesus promised, “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand” (John 10:28,29).

Notice the cause and effect relationship in Psalm 23:1.

It is because the LORD is my Shepherd, that I shall not want. The Hebrew word translated “want” is “chacer,” meaning, “to lack, be without, decrease, be lacking, have a need.” It does not mean that we are guaranteed ideal circumstances; rather, that God will provide for all of our ultmate needs. Paul likewise taught, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).

Charles Spurgeon expounded on this text:

“I might want [lack] otherwise, but when the Lord is my Shepherd he is able to supply my needs, and he is certainly willing to do so, for his heart is full of love, and therefore ‘I shall not want.’ I shall not lack for temporal things. Does he not feed the ravens, and cause the lilies to grow? How, then, can he leave his children to starve? I shall not want for spirituals, I know that his grace will be sufficient for me [2 Cor. 12:9]. Resting in him he will say to me, ‘As thy day so shall thy strength be’ [Deut .33:25]. I may not possess all that I wish for, but ‘I shall not want.’ Others, far wealthier and wiser than I, may want, but ‘I shall not'” (See 1 Tim 6:6).[2]

The story is told of a devout Quaker who leaned on his fence one day and watched a new neighbor move in next door. After all kinds of modern appliances, electronic gadgets, plush furniture, and costly wall hangings had been carried in, the onlooker called over, “If you find you’re lacking anything, neighbor, let me know and I’ll show you how to live without it.” With our hearts in contented fellowship with the Good Shepherd, there are many things we can live without!

The rest of this wonderful 23rd Psalm is a pastoral tribute to the ways that God faithfully meets the needs of His people.

The neighboring psalms further expand on the reasons for the Shepherd’s sufficiency.

Psalm 22 foretells the Shepherd’s sacrificial death:

“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me… My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots” (Psalm 22:1,15-18).

This was fulfilled when Christ suffered and died on the cross for us (Matt. 27:35-46). Christ Himself declared, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

Psalm 24 heralds the triumphant return of the Great Shepherd:

“Lift up your heads, O you gates!

Lift up, you everlasting doors!
And the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The LORD of hosts,
He is the King of glory” (Psalm 24:9-10).

This is the hope that we have in Christ! “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Pet. 5:4).

Can we not fully depend upon this Shepherd who loves us so much and faithfully sustains us? Hymn writer Charles Price Jones commends to us this life of spiritual contentment. [3]

“All I Need”

Jesus Christ is made to me,

All I need, all I need,
He alone is all my plea,
He is all I need.

Jesus is my all in all,

All I need, all I need,
While He keeps I cannot fall,
He is all I need.

He redeemed me when He died,

All I need, all I need,
I with Him was crucified,
He is all I need.

Glory, glory to the Lamb,

All I need, all I need,
By His Spirit sealed I am,
He is all I need.


Wisdom righteousness and pow’r,

Holiness forevermore,
My redemption full and sure,
He is all I need.”

Can you say “amen” to this?


[1] Letter of David Schmidt

[2] Charles H. Spurgeon, Treasury of David.

[3] “All I Need,” by Charles Price Jones (1865-1949).

Copyright 2001, 2010 by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial use if author and is cited.

Unless indicated otherwise, biblical quotations are from the New King James Version, copyright by Thomans Nelson, 1982.

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