We need a shepherd
Because we live in a fallen world, we have disappointments. Others let us down and we sometimes let others down. It is especially troubling when we are disappointed by leaders. Too often we set them up for failure by having expectations that they cannot fill. To be human is to be tainted with the Fall; we are far from perfect. Perhaps this is why many of us find comfort in Psalm 23.
God is the shepherd
David begins by making a declaration that the LORD, Yahweh or Jehovah, is his shepherd. David is the king who is shepherded by God himself. In other words, David is acknowledging that he needs to be lead.
When David wrote this psalm, he was at the top of the food chain and arguably one of the most powerful men in the world. Even though he occupies such a lofty position, David knew he needed God. It is the LORD and the LORD alone who was David’s shepherd. Contrast this with current notions of self made men who need input from no-one.
A Lesson for Leaders
If David, arguably the greatest king in Israel’s history, needed God as his shepherd, as leaders we would do well to keep in mind our own need. Christian leaders, while filling the role of under-shepherds, need to remember that we are still sheep that are prone to wonder off and get lost.
Many Christian leaders have fallen into sin or error by believing their own press clippings and forgetting or ignoring their need for God. When this happens, it turns out badly for everyone involved.
The result of following
What is the result of looking to the LORD as my shepherd? David says, “I shall not want.” It is on the basis of acknowledging God as my shepherd that I can begin to experience contentment. Jesus said,
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
The rest of the psalm describe what “not wanting” looks like or foundation upon which David is content. The shepherd leads him. David understands that because of God’s character, David can expect good things from God such as green pastures and still waters. David knows that the shepherd has David’s best interest in mind.
Like David, our understanding and our practice can be two different things. David understood that his contentment comes from God, yet his affair with Bathsheba shows that, like us, he sought to find his contentment outside of God’s provision.
Without God we may at times find green pasture and still water. In a limited sense we may have some soul restoration through music and the arts. Yet it is only through the Good Shepherd, God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, that we can be truly be guided into the paths of righteousness. It is only through that relationship with Jesus Christ that we can walk through the valley of the shadow of death without fear. It is only a relationship with God through Jesus Christ that will allow us to dwell with God forever.
It is God and God alone that can provide all these benefits. The emphasis is on the character and nature of the shepherd. God is the only shepherd we can completely trust.
We let others down. We let ourselves down. Others let us down. Yet through it all God remains faithful as David reminds us in Psalm 23.