The Good Shepherd in Psalm 23 meaning

Jesus is our Good Shepherd, and he is watching over us today and always

Psalm 23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Reflection on meaning of Psalm 23

When I think of green pastures, I visualise a lush English meadow with knee-high grass and a sprinkling of colour pops provided by wildflowers. The sun shines softly on the scene, which shimmers under a blue sky.

But, David, King of Israel, who wrote this Psalm, did not live in England; he lived in Israel, with a much different landscape. As a boy, he was a shepherd in Judea, so he knew exactly what he was talking about, and his ideas of green pastures were quite different to mine – and possibly yours too.

Being a shepherd in Israel meant constantly addressing challenging situations to keep the sheep alive in those days.

They lived on spartan and dangerous mountains, looking for grass for the sheep to eat while keeping them alive in treacherous conditions. 

There was not much greenery on the lower slopes of the mountains, so the shepherd had to take their sheep to higher up on the mountain to look for the greener pastures and quiet waters. 

The shepherd had to continually guide them towards food (grass) and still waters (sheep don’t like drinking from flowing streams they prefer a pool of water) to keep them alive. 

He leads me in the paths; refers to the very narrow paths that circled the steep mountains to get to the top; there was no direct path. 

Over thousands of years, the tracks had been ground out by generations of sheep and shepherds. 

There were no health and safety precautions in those days, although danger was ever-present in the form of loose rocks, crevices, and steep drops to avoid while getting the sheep up and down the mountain, keeping them well and safe at the same time.

So we can see the sheep were entirely reliant on the shepherd as they clambered up and down the mountains; King David is likening the sheep/shepherd relationship to the human/God relationship, in the manner of how completely reliant the sheep was on the shepherd. 

Like the mountain, life can be treacherous and dangerous, but God can lead us into the green meadows and quiet waters of our lives.

King David said that he had made many foolish mistakes in his life and had paid the price for them; however, when he let God be his guiding shepherd, everything had always worked out well, even if it had to be waited for. 

This way of thinking took him from a shepherd boy on the treacherous mountains to King of Israel by staying close to God.

St John, in his gospel, told us that Jesus said;

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
John 10:11 (NRSV)

Many listening at that time would have understood that Jesus was referring to the 2,000-year-old Psalm 23 and was proclaiming to be the long-awaited Messiah.

Many believed in him and let Him as their Good Shepherd into their lives.

Jesus is our Good Shepherd, and he is watching over us today. The God who created the universe, the God who knew us before we were born, is guiding us; he’s protecting you and me.

Yes, there will be some wolves in our path and things we don’t understand. 

But as sheep remain completely calm in times of crisis, so too, we don’t have to run; don’t have to worry because the Good Shepherd will fight our battles.

He’ll lead us into green pastures; He’ll restore our soul. 

We may go through dark valleys and challenging times, but we don’t need to fear any evil. 

For the Lord our God, Jesus our Good Shepherd is always with us.

You might like to read about Living with Hope in Jesus

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