“The LORD is my shepherd”
David starts this greatest of his psalms with the words ‘the Lord.” He is making it quite clear that its focus is the Lord God Almighty. By then immediately using the word “my” he indicates that he is in a committed relationship with the Lord – in which the Lord has the power and authority.
The next word is surprising. For where God has been called King and Deliverer, Rock and Shield, in the Psalms they are distant or impersonal titles. To refer to God as ‘my Shepherd’ is to immediately conjure up a picture of someone far closer and well-known. A shepherd lives with his flock at all times and in all conditions. He is their guide, physician, protector and provider. Where a shepherd takes his responsibilities seriously there will be a close relationship of care and concern with the sheep. He will know them closely and individually. They will also know him and be able to recognise his voice.
David would have known this only too well from the years that he had spent shepherding his father’s sheep – when in addition to his normal duties he ‘killed both the lion and the bear’ to protect the flock. An early reference to the Lord as Shepherd comes from another shepherd – the third of the Patriarchs called Jacob. He had spent years looking after his father-in-law’s flocks in earning the right to marry his daughter Rachel. Shortly before he died, as he blessed his son Joseph, he referred to the Almighty as ‘the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day’ (Genesis 48:15) and as ‘the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel .. your father’s God.’ (Genesis 49:24-25)
David’s use of the expression is given an added significance when we remember that God was to refer to Himself as the Shepherd of His people through the prophets. And then Jesus completed the picture in calling Himself the Good Shepherd.
“I am the good shepherd.
The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”
Shepherds who called God ‘shepherd’ knew what they were talking about – because they could relate the way in which God cared for them to the ways in which they were called to care for their sheep. They also knew that sheep needed a shepherd – and why!
Lord I need a Shepherd – I need You – to know me intimately, guide me lovingly, heal me and strengthen me, and be with me always.
Lord Jesus You are my Good Shepherd. Please help me to come to You, follow You, stay close to You and learn to recognise Your voice when You speak to me. Amen.