We thought of the first clause of Psalm 23 this morning. While we do not know when David wrote it, we did remind ourselves that the idea of God as a shepherd is a common one in the Old Testament. The New Testament also stresses this reality except that it usually says that Jesus is the shepherd of his people.
Unlike other psalms, Psalm 23 is not a prayer. Instead it is a statement of David’s faith. Several people have suggested that this psalm is suitable as a personal creed to be repeated daily.
As far as David was concerned, here we see him contemplating the future. He looks ahead and thinks about possible consequences that may occur in his life, some pleasant and secure, others wearisome and frightening. Yet he knows that in all situations of life the Lord will look after him, that he will be his shepherd. In fact, he cannot imagine a situation in which the Lord will not be his shepherd.
The fact that he had such a shepherd gave great confidence to David. It was the Lord’s special name Yahweh that was the cause of this strength of trust that David had. David knew about Exodus 3 and how Yahweh had appeared to Moses and revealed that he was the eternal God who was aware of his people’s plight and who had great plans for them.
Obviously this confident outlook made a great contrast between David and others. Everyone needs someone greater than themselves to care for them. This was as true in the psalmist’s day as it is in ours. Many people depended on something or someone for care and protection. Sometimes they invented idols and imagined they could provide protection; at other times, they made treaties with surrounding nations in order to come under their protection. The contrast was that David trusted in the Lord whereas many other people trusted in something else.
When we then think that Jesus is the shepherd, we will find that contemplating him gives hope for the future because he will never leave those who trust in him. We can have confidence in him because he has already come to deliver us when he went to Calvary. And trusting in him makes a huge contrast between those who do and those who don’t, although the contrast requires our faith in Jesus to be stated.
Of course, Jesus is not only the shepherd that his people choose. He is also the shepherd that God chose (Zech. 13:7). Jesus is the Father’s choice of shepherd, n0t because he personally required one, but because he knew that we needed the best, indeed the only, Shepherd that could take care of us.
So what kind of person makes this confident assertion about the Lord being his shepherd? The answer to this question is those who are contrite, those who are humble, who confess that only the Shepherd can save them. The ones who sing this song are those who know that they need Jesus every moment of every day, and who know that he will be there whatever is happening. And they delight to say so, which is why they sing about the Lord who is their shepherd.