I had an English professor in college who pointed out the reason we love Psalm 23 so much:
There are 150 Psalms in the bible, written by various poets, but David’s masterpiece is just plain awesome. It’s beautifully crafted, it’s comforting, and it seems to resonate with our deepest longing — that we are creatures who need to be cared for and that God would be the one who actively and consistently cares for us.
The Psalm also highlights the truth that we humans are pretty lowly creatures. We get into trouble, we wander off and need correction, we need someone to show us where to find the water or else we’ll thirst to death.
Some might take offense at these claims. We are humans after all. We reign at the top of the food chain. We build skyscrapers for God’s sake.
But let’s be honest. Humans have some severe limitations. And this is only offensive if we believe we have been left alone to suffer under these limitations.
Jesus says, “I am the good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11, ESV)
So God provides rain, food, clothing and the like for humanity. This truth has been understood since before humans began to call on God’s name.
Jesus, however, reveals a deeper truth in his teaching. A truth that contradicts humanity’s common understanding of God. God doesn’t interact with humans in a “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” arrangement. No, God shepherds us at the cost of himself.
Do I believe this?
I once theorized to Rachel (my sounding board) that people have a tendency to legalism and religion. That we tend to want to measure ourselves by what we do or don’t do because it makes us feel like we are in control.
When I told her this she gave an “off in the distance” thoughtful look and replied, “I think people actually have a tendency toward slavery rather than freedom.”
Jesus is saying to me, “Listen to my voice. I will lead you to life”
But I am a slave to other voices. My own being the loudest.
And these voices tell me where to find quiet waters but end up leading me to dark valleys. And when I am lost in the middle of the darkness I realize I’m never going to find the stream.
Because I have no idea what I’m doing.
Then, in my lostness, a shepherd’s crook hooks around my neck and I’m hoisted on the shoulders of the Shepherd. He shows me back to the green pasture. He hits me on the butt with his staff to direct me back to the herd. Then I eat, and drink, and grow. And my neck hurts. But I’m oddly comforted by the whole ordeal.
Because there is someone in charge who knows what is good and is willing to get into harm’s way to make sure I experience this good.
But do I believe it?
Do you believe it?
Maybe you are sipping at the quiet waters with great peace in your heart, and the shepherd’s voice can be heard just downstream.
Or maybe you are in the valley, intentionally moving away from the shepherd’s voice because you are pretty sure you know where to find an even quieter stream.
If the latter is the case, then let me encourage you to give up.
There is no quieter stream.
You are lost.
But the shepherd is risking it all to find you.