The Lord is My Shepherd
As sinners we stand in need of grace and mercy more than anything else; and David is saying that’s one thing that I shall always have. God will never cease to deal with me in mercy: and He will always be good to me. The Bible admits that there are times when He seems to hide His face as He chastises those He loves, but He never forgets His promises, and He never ceases to be good to His sheep.
The Shepherd of whom the psalm speaks of is Jesus. It was Jesus Himself who would later say, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.” So, when we say “the LORD is my shepherd” we are talking about the Lord of glory. This is Emmanuel: God with us. He is the “image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature” and the One by whom “all things were created.”
So we have here a very capable Shepherd. He is wise, He is strong, and with Him the Bible says there is nothing impossible. But what comforts David isn’t only His strength or sovereignty or wisdom. It is His character. We see repeatedly in Israel’s history that they had shepherds (pastors and leaders) who utterly failed them. But the promise of Ezekiel is that where men failed them the Lord Jesus wouldn’t. Men may not love them but God loved them; and being the Good Shepherd He had said that He would search them out and find them. He had said that He would bind them up, He would feed them, he would protect them, and He would be their shield and their exceeding great reward.
And, of course, He came as He promised. This, then, is the kind of Shepherd that we have: One altogether unlike these miserable shepherds who fed only themselves. Jesus actually lay down His life for the sheep. He was (and is) so committed to them, so full of love and compassion for them that He would lay down His life for theirs. When you say “the Lord is my Shepherd” you are talking about a good Shepherd. He is not only a competent Shepherd and a diligent Shepherd and a faithful Shepherd. He is also a loving Shepherd. He loves His sheep. And so He seeks out the scattered and the lost and brings them back to Himself. He binds up the wounded, He feeds His people, and He leads them beside the still waters. He is with them and He comforts them.
There are three things that I would like to highlight in this psalm.
First, David does not say the Lord is a Shepherd or the Lord is the Shepherd. He says the Lord is my Shepherd. What a marvellous thing to be able to say! “He is my Shepherd.” It’s so personal. Do you know that is just what He says about us. “You are mine”. He is a shepherd and we are sheep – but we can actually say, by faith, that we are His sheep and He is our shepherd. When a wolf comes a hireling flees. He’s afraid. And these aren’t his sheep anyway, so he doesn’t have a vested interest in them. He’s a hireling, and he runs. He doesn’t care for the sheep, but the Good Shepherd does. That’s why He – unlike the hireling – doesn’t run, that’s why He doesn’t forsake us, and that’s why the Good Shepherd gives His life for His sheep… because He loves them. And He loves with a love that God says passes knowledge.
Let the wonder of those words to sink in: the Lord is my Shepherd. The God of heaven and earth, the Creator of the ends of the earth, the One who takes up the isles as a little thing and counts the nation as a drop in a bucket, this great Redeemer who is mighty to save and unapproachable in the brightness of His majesty, this holy King who is good and faithful and kind is mine, and I am his. This is why David says “I shall not want.”
Isn’t that what we hope for our children, that they shall want for nothing? The question isn’t whether we are willing to provide for them and care for them. The question is whether we can. Here there is no question… Knowing nothing about the particulars of the coming days David can still say, “I shall not want.” Its as if he is asking a rhetorical question: “How can I want when I have Him? How can I truly lack anything when I have God?” David knows that with a Shepherd like the Lord Jesus he shall be very well cared for. Do you remember how Paul put it? If God would give His Son for us how will He not with Him give us all things? In other words, if He wouldn’t spare His own Son, surely He will not withhold anything truly good for us. But David is also saying “having Him I have all. I have God for my Shepherd so I already have everything.”
That is the great reality that explains the rest of this Psalm. Over and over again we read here about what the LORD will do. He makes me lie down, He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul, and He leads me in the paths of righteousness. None of that should come as a surprise because He is our Shepherd and we are His sheep.
Do you know what it is about Him that allows the psalmist to speak in this way? Again, I am not talking about His sovereignty, His providence, or His ability to look after you and protect you. I am talking about Him: the Shepherd himself – the beloved. Its because I have Him that I can say “I shall not want.” Other things can be taken from me, but not Him. And what the psalmist is saying in these words is simply this: He is enough. When the bride (in the Song of Solomon) was asked what it was about Him that was “more” than other beloveds she didn’t back down and apologize for exaggerating. She had an answer. She said, “My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.” She went on and then ended with these words: “His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.”