Psalm 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
God Himself is my personal Carer. As a shepherd takes care of the sheep’s needs, God takes care of me. Because He is my Provider as well, I lack nothing. I may not have all that I want but I have all that I need.
Why shepherd of sheep (not a horse or dog carer)? It is said that sheep are one of the most unintelligent, helpless animals, just following other sheep without thinking even if to jump off a cliff. That’s why it has to be dependent on the shepherd.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters
To lie down in pastures is to already be satisfied as the need to look for a pasture or eat in the pasture is taken care of. He makes me lie down. It is His desire that I lie down satisfied. Green (and not brown) pastures for sheep mean there is provision for fresh food. He leads me not to waterfalls which may toss me about or cause me anxiety but to quiet waters where I can drink to quench my thirst and be refreshed.
3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
He will not take me to the wrong paths but to the right paths. When I carry His name, when I put my hope in Him, when I am identified with Him, what happens to me glorifies or maligns His reputation as a Shepherd. He guides me to do the right things and to end up right, not for my own glory but His.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,[a] I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Through the difficulties that I will face (valley of the shadow of death in some translations), He will cause me not to fear because He is with me.
His rod is used as a main weapon of defense.It is a comfort during danger as it can deter would-be attackers from coming closer to the sheep. It can beat bushes to ward off camouflaged snakes.
The rod is also a symbol of strength, power, and authority… in God’s case, limitless. It also serves to discipline and correct the sheep when it wanders so it can be trained to stay with the Shepherd and the flock. It can also be used to examine the sheep beyond the thick wool for any hidden problems. It can be used to count the sheep. An important part of being God’s sheep is being weighed in, so to speak, to be accountable not just for outward matters but most importantly, for what is kept in the heart.
The sheperd’s staff distinguishes him as a shepherd. Carers of other livestock do not carry a sheperd’s staff. While the rod is used for power and strength, the staff is used for compassionate duties of the shepherd. The curved end of the staff (like a hook) draws the sheep nearer to him especially when the sheep is shy or distant. When a newborn lamb is born, the shepherd uses the staff to bring it to its mother so that his own scent will not go to the newborn lamb or the mother may reject it. The staff is also used to lead the neck of the sheep towards other sheep, or to the direction where he wants it to go. It catches straying sheep. It helps to direct sheep on roads that are challenging or rugged to keep them on track and to help them get their bearings. When the sheep get themselves into a bind somewhere, the hook of the staff helps to untangle the bushes and wild brambles that entrap the sheep’s wools so that the sheep can move again.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
God Himself prepares a table presumably with the best food and drink. Or when there is famine elsewhere, God provides for His own sheep. The cup overflowing speaks of abundance, echoing God’s quality in Eph 3:20 that He is able to do exceedingly abundantly or immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.
Anointing my head with oil with His Spirit gives me His mind and heart and enables me to walk in alignment with Him, representing Him. If He is the one doing the anointing, it is His will and choice to anoint me for this work.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
No matter what yesterday and today looks like, there is certainty that goodness and love will follow me forever. And eternity will be spent dwelling with Him in His house.