Why Does the Bible Say “The Lord is My Shepherd” in Psalm 23?

"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want." Learn more about the meaning and significance of this well-known phrase from Psalms 23.

Christianity.com Editorial Staff
Why Does the Bible Say “The Lord is My Shepherd” in Psalm 23?

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth 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 thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. Psalm 23 KJV

The Importance of “The Lord is My Shepherd”

A shepherd describes a more close and devoted relationship. Whereas a king might do what's best for the majority, a shepherd knows and stewards each one of his sheep.

In the parable of the lost sheep Jesus says:

What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? - Luke 15:4 (ESV).

A shepherd cares deeply not only for all his sheep as a whole but also for each and every single one.

This is how God cares for us. He knows each of our comings and goings, he knows every hair on our heads, he knows when even one of us is lost and has made every provision to find us through His Son Jesus Christ.

Why Do We Need A Shepherd?

Now if the Lord is our Shepherd, that makes us the sheep. Prone to wander. Entirely and always reliant on our Shepherd, whether we realize it or not.

But here's what we need to understand: we can't see God as Shepherd if we don't see ourselves as sheep. When we open our eyes to how much we really need and rely on God for everything, the more we realize His provision in our lives. But if we live in the lie that we can do this on our own, we wander and drift away from our true source, looking for satisfaction in artificial places.

So when David says "I shall not want" he is acknowledging how completely reliant he is one God as his Shepherd.

“I shall not want” because God, as a good shepherd, will ensure I have everything I need. “I shall not want,” not because of what I've done or can do but because God loves me. “I shall not want” because I know God personally as my Shepherd.

Meaning of Psalms 23

Psalms 23:1-6. Under a metaphor borrowed from scenes of pastoral life, with which David was familiar, he describes God's providential care in providing refreshment, guidance, protection, and abundance, and so affording grounds of confidence in His perpetual favor.

1. Christ's relation to His people is often represented by the figure of a shepherd ( John 10:14, Hebrews 13:20, 1 Peter 2:25, 5:4 ), and therefore the opinion that He is the Lord here so described, and in Genesis 48:15, Psalms 80:1, Isaiah 40:11, is not without some good reason.

2. green pastures--or, "pastures of tender grass," are mentioned, not in respect to food, but as places of cool and refreshing rest.

the still waters--are, literally, "waters of "stillness," whose quiet flow invites to repose. They are contrasted with boisterous streams on the one hand, and stagnant, offensive pools on the other.

3. To restore the soul is to revive or quicken it ( Psalms 19:7 ), or relieve it ( Lamentations 1:11 Lamentations 1:19 ).

paths of righteousness--those of safety, as directed by God, and pleasing to Him.

for his name's sake--or, regard for His perfections pledged for His people's welfare.

4. In the darkest and most trying hour, God is near.

the valley of the shadow of death--is a ravine overhung by high precipitous cliffs, filled with dense forests, and well calculated to inspire dread to the timid, and afford a covert to beasts of prey. While expressive of any great danger or cause of terror, it does not exclude the greatest of all, to which it is most popularly applied, and which its terms suggest.

thy rod and thy staff--are symbols of a shepherd's office. By them, he guides his sheep.

5, 6. Another figure expresses God's provided care.

a table--or, "food."

oil--anointing oil, the symbol of gladness.

cup (which represents abundance)--are prepared for the child of God, who may feast in spite of his enemies, confident that this favor will ever attend him. This beautiful Psalm most admirably sets before us, in its chief figure, that of a shepherd, the gentle, kind, and sure care extended to God's people, who, as a shepherd, both rules and feeds them. The closing verse shows that the blessings mentioned are spiritual.

Shepherds and Stewardship - Related Bible Verses

John 10:11 ESV - I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

1 Peter 4:10 ESV - As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:

1 Corinthians 4:2 ESV - Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.

Titus 1:7 ESV - For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain,

John 10:14 ESV - I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,

1 Peter 2:25 ESV - For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

1 Peter 5:4 ESV - And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Hebrews 13:20 ESV - Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,

Revelation 7:17 ESV - For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Matthew 9:36 ESV - When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Isaiah 40:11 ESV - He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.

Sources

The Lord is My Shepherd, I Shall Not Want (Lessons from Psalms 23) - ibelieve.com

Psalms 23 Commentary - biblestudytools.com

Image Credit: Wikipedia


Originally published December 16, 2019.