“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:1-3)
The beautiful passage above presents two persons: the Shepherd/Lord and the sheep/believer.
Jesus Christ would later use and amplify this illustration to describe His role with His followers. “I am the good shepherd,” He said, “and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father…” (John 10:14-15) For Jesus to say that His followers would know Him in the same way the Father does is an extraordinary statement. There is nothing superficial in their relationship. It speaks of a deep intimacy and a meaningful submission of One to the Other.
This is the very characteristic that stands out in the respective roles of the Shepherd and sheep in the Psalm 23 illustration. The Shepherd clearly takes the leading role in the relationship. He leads His sheep into green pastures, alongside quiet waters, down paths of righteousness and ultimately, “through the valley of the shadow of death.”
What makes these people follow Him? Is it a religious system they are following? Is it a popular movement they are joining? Are they following a set of rules in the hopes of avoiding hell and going to heaven? No! It is a Person they are following!
Jesus offers a clear explanation of their motivation: “the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.” (John 10:4-5)
Christians don’t obey biblical commandments so that they might be considered good enough to inherit God’s kingdom. They obey the Lord because they truly love Him and want to please Him. They follow Him, they obey Him and they emulate Him. They have a spiritual connection to God that enables them to discern His will for their daily lives. This is how they know when it is time to get refreshed by the quiet waters or when it is time to hit the trail again!
Psalm 23 offers the different aspects of the believer’s life. First and foremost, he must have regular, meaningful times sitting in God’s presence. Eating the lush vegetation represents the place Scriptures hold in our lives. The word for “green pastures” (Heb.deshe‘) literally refers to the tender shoots of new grass. It is the most delectable food a sheep can find. This is an apt description of what the Word of God is to the hungry believer.
The “quiet waters” describes the refreshment that comes from spending quality time in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Believers facing the conflicts of life sense their great need for the revitalizing effects of prayer.
The time spent with God is what enables the believer to get back on the path of righteousness. Sometimes it is a lonely path. It is a path fraught with dangers. Around any bend one might encounter some alluring temptress or some savage assault. But as he follows his great Shepherd, he will always have the assurance of being kept on the “straight and narrow.”
And how about you? Are you allowing the Lord to lead and direct the affairs of your life, the decisions you make, the direction you are going? Or are you the master of your own ship? Do you spend quality time with Him so that you can get His leading on your life?**********