Often, I don't sleep very well. I have a hard time getting to sleep, and I often wake up in the middle of the night and then have a hard time getting back to sleep. One of the things I've found recently that helps me get back to sleep is to meditate on different excerpts from the Bible. I've been rather fixated on the 23rd Psalm for a while (and my success rate of falling asleep after thinking about it has been pretty good), so I thought I'd do a series of posts on my thoughts on it. I hope you find them interesting.
'The Lord is my Shepherd...'I wonder... 'was it a big deal for David to think of God as his shepherd?' His family, his tribe, and his nation at the time wouldn't even spell the vowels of God's name out of reverence. Was David perhaps pushing some boundaries with the analogy of his God, his family's God, his tribe's God, his nation's God as a shepherd? I don't think shepherds were considered the pinnacle of Israeli career development at the time. I can hear people saying now: 'How can a shepherd be considered wise or intellectual? They hang out with sheep all day!' So I'm curious if someone in David's time heard this song (or psalm), and thought: 'Wow, David's going to get some pushback from the religious establishment on this metaphor.'
But God meets us where we are at, and David understood this. So David didn't have a problem visualizing God as his shepherd. As a shepherd himself, this is what David could relate to. He must have cared for his sheep to have written a psalm like this, likely based off of his experience as a shepherd.
Jesus didn't have a problem with identifying himself as a shepherd either. Interesting that He never said 'I am the good carpenter, or the good fisherman.' He intentionally proclaimed: 'I am the good shepherd, and my sheep know my voice...' He isn't a shepherd that just shows up for work and does his job - a mercenary, contractor, or hired hand. He is a good shepherd, ready to lay His life down for his sheep. He is intimately aware of the foibles and idiosyncrasies of the sheep in his flock, and ready to guide them, give them what they need.
Update Dec, 30, 2023
A shepherd is responsible for his sheep - for their safety, their well-being, ensuring they get the sustenance and shelter they need, etc. To me this first phrase implies that when I put my trust in God, He in turn, makes himself responsible for me. And could you find a more responsible entity in the universe?
'... I shall not want.'Its interesting how this phrase is part of the opening sentence of Psalm 23... 'The Lord is my Shepherd (consequently) I shall not want.' In my mind (you can disagree if you like), this provides a context for the rest of the statements made in the Psalm 23. Since God is my Shepherd, here are the things I don't have to concern myself with anymore.... and David goes on to list them.
I like to read The Message version of the Bible. It gives a modern twist/taint on what is written there that I appreciate, and sometimes provides me with a perspective I hadn't considered before. For example, I was reading 'the love chapter' in 1 Corinthians 13 one day, and the middle phrase of verse 4 popped out at me: '...love doesn't want what it doesn't have...' I think the original translation is 'love is not jealous', but I thought this was an interesting take on jealousy, lust, and necessity. The way I read it is more like '...love doesn't care about or isn't concerned with what it doesn't have....' It provided me with a new lens to read Psalm 23 with. God is my shepherd and God is love. As a child of God, I should be full of love, too. 1 John 4:7,8. And if I'm full of love, I shouldn't be wanting, lusting after, or concerning myself with things I don't have or don't need. Rather, I should be satisfied and content.
Great musings, but for me to live like that is, well, let's just say I'm not there yet.
Other posts in this series:
- Psalm 23 - Part 2 - Green Pastures and Still Waters
- Psalm 23 - Part 3 - Restoration and Righteousness
- Psalm 23 - Part 4 - Valley of the Shadow of Death
- Psalm 23 - Part 5 - A Table in the Presence of My Enemies
- Psalm 23 - Part 6 - Anointed Head, Overflowing Cup
- Psalm 23 - Part 7 - Goodness and Mercy Follow Me
- Psalm 23 - Part 8 - Dwell in the House of the Lord