The Lord is my Shepherd…
The opening words of this psalm don’t vary much between different Bible translations. The image is clear and straightforward, no confusion. The Lord as a shepherd, his people as sheep.
Few of our modern-day sheep farmers with their quad bikes and livestock trailers would call themselves shepherds. It’s a profession that we have largely lost, at least in this part of the world. But in Bible times, this image would have been well understood, and David, who wrote this psalm, did so with firsthand knowledge of what being a shepherd entailed, as he was one himself.
A shepherd’s job involved long hours, danger, and diligence. It required perseverance and persistence, and a level of dedication that most of us know little about in our 37-hours-per-week day jobs. He had to find places of food and water for his flock, and get them all there safely. He watched out for his sheep and brought back any who wandered off. He put himself in danger if any of the sheep got into difficulties. He guarded them against wild animals, again at considerable risk to himself. He fought for his sheep, walked with them, cared for them, and led them. They were his life.
In this psalm, David testified that his God was all of these things to him, and in the New Testament, we see this image again. Jesus describes himself as a shepherd a number of times. And not just a shepherd, but the Good Shepherd.
In John 10, he makes the following statements:
I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.
I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep, and they know me.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me… No one can snatch them away from me.
We can clearly see here the parallels to David’s imagery, and the reiteration and confirmation of what David believed.
Aren’t these all things that we hunger for? Don’t these words just shout comfort and security? Isn’t this what we spend our lives looking for, all too often in the wrong places?
Those who listen to his voice, who follow Jesus – we are his flock. We are his. He sacrificed his life to rescue us. He leads us and walks with us. He patiently brings us back when we wander off, time and again. We are everything to him. And nothing or no-one can snatch us away from him.
For me, that is one of the most wonderful things to read: that nothing can snatch me away from Christ. There is an old hymn whose last verse never fails to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when I sing it:
“From him who loves me now so well
What power my soul shall sever –
Shall life or death, shall earth or hell?
NO! I am his forever!”
The Lord is my Shepherd today and forever. I am a lost, bewildered, befuddled sheep most of the time. But I have a Shepherd. The Good Shepherd. Stronger, wiser, than any other.
And he will not let me go.