The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
Psalm 23:1, NIV*
This is a comfort psalm for many, and usually what stands out to me is the first part, about green pastures, still waters and a restored soul. I’m aware of other key points: the paths God chooses to guide me in are for the sake of His glory, and sometimes those paths are through dark or enemy-infested places.
Still, somehow I come away with a warm feeling and a sense of the message being about me: He cares for me, leads me, and “[s]urely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (verse 6, NIV*)
A few days ago I read the psalm again, still thinking about “my way or God’s way,” and saw it from a different angle. Don’t you love Scripture, the depths of meaning waiting to unfold?
Verse 4 talks about His rod and staff comforting us. I’ve heard it said the rod is for fighting off predators, the staff (or crook) for pulling sheep out of the messes they get into.
I’d always taken the “comfort” here to mean the actual use of these tools, but now I see knowing God’s strength and desire to care for us is part of the comfort. We don’t have to wait until the situation requires Him to use them.
If our confidence is in Him, we don’t need to fear or fret. With our eyes on Him, we see the psalm is really about Him anyway: He is the shepherd, He leads and provides, and it’s for His glory. The goodness and mercy we receive radiate from Him.
And yet it’s so typical of us to choose our own ways, follow our own inclinations and interests. We try to follow God, but on our own terms. In the little things, and then the bigger ones, we put distance between us and the Shepherd.
Father, thank You for Your goodness, mercy and compassion. Please forgive us for trying to shepherd ourselves in different parts of our lives. You know that never works out, and You are our Good Shepherd, ready and longing to draw us near again. Please help us to hear Your voice. Help us see our need, and when You restore us, help us discover the delight of staying at Your side. Because of Jesus, Amen.