“The Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures: He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul: He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies: You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23).
This Psalm is one of the most well-known. It is of great comfort to Christians that the Shepherd leads us in this life, protects us from danger and gives us comfort in our greatest trials.
Jesus is referred to as a shepherd in both the Old and New Testaments. In John 10:11, He refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd. Not only is He the Shepherd, but as the Shepherd he is willing to give His life for the sheep. Who are His sheep? Those that follow Jesus are His sheep. The sheep recognize the voice of the Shepherd. The sheep have protection because of the Shepherd’s care.
Looking to the Shepherd, the needs of the sheep have been provided. “I shall not want.” I should not worry or be concerned what may happen to me because the Shepherd cares. The Shepherd’s compassion is that the sheep are always safe. Jesus spoke these words concerning the worries of life, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 3:33-34). Unlike an animal, man has need for more than basic instinctual things. Man has a need for the spiritual, which the Shepherd will provide.
My soul is restored when baptism for remission of sins takes place. The sin that separated me from God has been forgiven through the sacrifice of the Shepherd. The Shepherd died for the protection of the sheep (Matthew 27:50). I have been re-established with a relationship with God in which hope now reigns supreme. Because of the care of the Shepherd, I may be in the presence of God one day throughout all of eternity. The Apostle Paul states to the Romans, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in a newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
This newness of life gives me the path in which I should walk because the Shepherd is my example. His path leads me to God. His path was of perfection on this earth. When the Shepherd came to the end of His earthly path, He sat down on the right hand of God (Hebrews 12:2). The path of righteousness is not an easy one to follow. It is a path that must be traveled with sacrifice and obedience. The path is narrow (Matthew 7:13-14). Jesus however, leads us in the way of righteousness on this path, giving us all comfort from the evils of the world. This comfort comes from knowing that in Him a greater home awaits (John 14:1-6).
The goodness of God will dwell in us regardless of what the situation may be. Romans 8:28 states, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Many times we are unclear as to why things happen the way they do. So many are dealing with the death of close family members while others are suffering with their own mortality. I don’t always have the words to give the comfort that I would like others to experience. However, the words of comfort that I do speak are from the greatest comforter of all. Apostle Paul stated, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ” (Philippians 4:6-7).
One of the greatest comforts is that I can face death with joy and confidence in my heart. All mankind will walk through this valley. For those who are not of the Shepherd, it is a dreadful valley that has no promise. For those who walk in paths of righteousness, there is no fear. It is my prayer that you are a faithful sheep of Jesus. In Him all comfort and hope may be found. When we die faithful in Christ, we do not have to mourn as those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13). We can rest assured that one day they will stand before Christ with the hope of Heaven being cleansed by His shed blood. If you are not faithful to Christ, please prepare yourself for that day. For those of us who are faithful in Christ who wait with heavy hearts of sorrow, take solace in the great promise in Christ Jesus that one day we may all be reunited to never be separated again.
Scott is the minister at the Elm Grove Church of Christ. Meeting times are Sunday at 9:30 a.m. for Bible class and 10:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. for worship. Mid-week Bible study is on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. All are invited. Please visit our website at elmgrovechurchofchrist.org.