To most folks the most quoted of all the Psalms is 23—almost everyone has heard it at some point in their life. It is interesting to me that when I was in the third grade, in public school, I was given a certificate showing that I memorized Psalms 23. We sure have come a long ways from those kind of studies in our public schools!
One of the first things that David, who is considered to be the author of the Psalm, said is: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Ps. 23:1
Shepherds are mentioned many times in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. In Isaiah 40:11, “Like a shepherd he will shepherd his own drove. With his arm he will collect together the lambs; and in his bosom he will carry them.”
Then there are the New Testament references to shepherds; the ‘Shepherd of Israel is fulfilled through Jesus Christ.
He is the “Good Shepherd” (John 10:11)
He is the “Resurrected Great Shepherd” (Hebrews 13:20)
He is the “Returning Chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4).
Many great men of the Bible knew what it was to be a shepherd–Abraham, Moses, and King David, to name a few. The lessons that we learn in the lives of a shepherd, are for our instruction in learning to walk and to obey the Chief Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Most biblical Shepherds were very hard workers overseeing Sheep and goats. In the Bible times, the sheep that were cared for were usually of the Syrian variety and had large fatty tails and a thick fleece. They were very docile and easily led and at the complete mercy of their environment and predators. The Shepherds also cared for goats who were mostly black or brown, with long flapping ears which could get easily torn on thorns and bushes as they climbed on rocky hillsides and grazed on the shrubbery.
The shepherd faced a lot of challenges taking care of these animals. He taught them to know his voice so he could command and protect them. Many times they named each one so that they would respond to the voice of the shepherd.
Different seasons of the year were very important to a good shepherd. In the spring, the shepherd would have to lead the flock to fresh new growth. During this time, the birth of the lambs would increase the flock. This was also the season for sheering of the fleece, which resulted in much celebration by both shepherds and owners.
When the summer heat would set in, the shepherds would take their sheep to graze on new shoots and on grain left among the stubble. For many days the shepherds would work and sleep outdoors allowing the flock to graze on steep green slopes by day, and guarding the flock by night.
Often times they would take them into a large cave where they could be protected from jackals and hyenas. If the howl of a hyena panicked the flock, the voice of the shepherd would reassure them and they would calm down. Each evening the shepherd would count his sheep and check them to see if they were well. In the morning he would call, and they would follow him to good pasture ground, (John 10:3,4).
At midday, he would lead them to pools of water to drink. If the water had dried up, he would then take them to a well where he would draw water for them.
During the winter months the shepherd would lead them back to the valleys and plains of home and shelter so that they would not perish in the harsh winter months. During this time, he would feed them with stored food, so that they would not have to suffer in the cold. In the spring, he would once again lead them out to green pastures.
Do you see the analogy of this? How our Shepherd takes care of us as you read the 23rd Psalms? The shepherds’ tools helped him take care of his flock. His “rod” which was a formidable weapon, usually three feet long with a sharp slate embedded in the end, a knife and a staff, which the shepherd leaned on while walking and climbing . It was said that often he would throw stones near the straying sheep or goats to frighten them back to the flock or to drive off wild animals. Many of them played on a reed pipe which he would entertain himself and to soothe the animals. In return the sheep would provide for the necessities of life as milk and meat for the table, also giving of their fleece and skin to clothing.
So when you read this wonderful Psalms, you begin to understand the care and concern that our Lord has for each of us and as the Chief Shepherd, who laid His life down for us and protects us from all that would destroy us.
So stop and read now this beautiful Psalms and think about His care and promises for you!