There are several popular hymns based on Psalm 23, which is special. These should not be empty words  but words that live in our heart. This Psalm encourages peace of mind, a rare blessing today. “The LORD is my shepherd!” Have you ever thought that Jesus would have seen his Father as his shepherd and what these words would have meant to him? See John 16:32 and ponder Isaiah 60:6-9 and how our Lord knew the scriptures, they came alive in his mind!

The Lord shepherded David throughout his life. He “put away” his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah as soon as David asked, because he knew the overall condition of his heart. However, David’s life went through turmoil after that; but ponder the kind of Psalms this event caused David to write! Then reflect on the value of those Psalms to many individuals ever since! In God’s foreknowledge “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Some of these things at first seem bad!

Good sheep are ever listening for their shepherd’s call. If their motive is right they will never be in dire need, there will be “still waters”. And when life gets difficult the shepherd will make His presence felt and open the way forward. The need for restoration indicates some difficult situations when the sheep might cry out, “My God why have you forsaken me?”. We read this in Psalm 22:1 which indicates David had some moments of desperation himself – before his greater son used those words on the cross.

“He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his names sake” (verse 3). Notice it is “for his name’s sake” – it is because we bear His name, we belong to Him; that happened when we took on His name in baptism. When we are baptised we can say, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for you are with me” (verse 4).

Most of us have experienced valleys at some stage, but it is the valleys that help us to appreciate the high hills and the vision they give to us. Life that is lived on a flat plain provides no vision. What are the “rod and staff” that comfort us? They are symbols, we suggest, of strength and support and the control (when needed) exercised by the shepherd. How marvellous is the vision of the last verse, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever”.