Psalm 23:1-6 ESV
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
David is writing this psalm to express confidence in the leading of God. David, being a shepherd himself, rose to the heights of king and understood the imagery. The shepherd king needed a Shepherd King. This Psalm has comforted more people than we could ever imagine. David himself did not have a smooth rise to his ultimate calling. It was brought with rejection, attempts on his life, his own sin and betrayal. Despite the difficulties of David’s walk, he expresses his utmost confidence in the faithfulness of God.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
1. My Shepherd
The term shepherd was widely used in writings of this era. David having been a shepherd himself knew all the symbolism that went along with calling the Lord a shepherd.
David was expressing that even as king, he was under the authority of a greater King. The King of Kings. The rest of the Psalm hinges on the idea that David himself is being led.
In Psalm 25, he states his desire for God to lead him. 4-5 Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. 5 Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.
If you are a leader, you need to be led. If you are a father, you need to be led. If you are a mom, you need to be led.
A shepherd is different than a dictator. The shepherd imagery invoked care and leading for the benefit of the sheep. It was a selfless job. The sheep were the object of the shepherd’s attention.
Acts 20:28 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
1 Peter 5:2-3 2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
2. Want and Restoration
“I shall not want.” This phrase deals less with desire and more with need.
When we lead people, we are tasked with the responsibility to know what people need to get them to the desired outcome. People’s desires are often in conflict with needs. The American way of life is desire-focused. We have most all of our needs taken care of. We tend to only communicate with God about our desires, even if our desires fall short of producing anything good. God knows what we need to produce righteousness.
I need a place to live; I want a 12-bedroom house. I need a vehicle; I want a Bugatti. I need help; I want everyone to like me. I need to be led, I want to be in charge.
Matthew 6:31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Philippians 4:19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
David is submitting himself to the leading of the Good Shepherd and making a faith-filled statement that he knows everything he needs will be supplied, and then he goes on to show how that works.
“He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.” The landscape of the Bible was dry and rocky. It was the shepherd who knew where the seasonal grass and water were located.
When I don’t want to rest, he causes me to rest. When I don’t want to slow down, he causes me to slow down. The shepherd knows how far and how long the sheep can go.
The place God causes us to stop might not be a roadblock or a detour. It quite possibly could be a place to restore you. The Sabbath wasn’t established because everyone wanted a day off. God had to constantly lead the people to rest.
Ezekiel 34:15 15 I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. NIV
Green pasture and still waters are not designed to give you more confidence in yourself. They were designed to restore your soul. We make the consistent mistake of God giving us rest, and then using that rest to rely more on ourselves.
We did not lead ourselves to the green pastures and still waters. He led us there, made us stop, and waited until we were restored. Sin leads us away from restoration.
James 1:14-15 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Jesus is our restoration. John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
3. For His Name
His leading me is for His glory, not mine. If He shepherds me and then people believe in me more than the shepherd, everything is lost. He leads us to reveal himself. It’s His reputation. It’s His name. It’s about His Glory.
I must have the confidence in His character that he cannot fail me.
Psalm 117:2 For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!
God is proving Himself over and over in the way he cares for us. That leading allows us to then make disciples for Him, not us. Point people to the Good Shepherd, not our ideas.
1. What stood out to you most from this week’s message?
2. What are some times when you depended on God’s guidance to work out a problem or accomplish something?
3. Why is it sometimes difficult to remember we still need his leading as we rise in experience or position?
4. How is the experience different when we are led by someone invested in our best interests versus someone who wants to control us?
5. Confusing wants for needs can leave us constantly unsatisfied. What are some times when you thought you needed something, but it turned out to be a want?
6. How do we switch from always chasing what we want to being content that our needs are met?
7. If you are someone who lies to be in charge, what can you do to hand over control to God?
8. How can we change our mindset so we are satisfied with what God gives us - that He is enough?
9. What are some times you realized you didn’t trust God to meet a need?
10. What can we do to increase our confidence that God knows what we need and will supply it?
11. What are times when you realized you were pushing yourself too hard?
12. How can we change our perspective so we recognize that obstacles and roadblocks are times God is making us slow down and rest?
13. How do we avoid going back to where we were before God restored us?
14. When God restores us, others will notice and want to emulate us. How can we help them change their focus from us to God?
15. What do you plan to do differently because of this week’s message?