“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:1-4)
Psalm 23 is arguably the most familiar text in the entire Bible. In fact, it’s so familiar that even those who would not call themselves Christians can usually quote along, at least in the first few verses. The whole world, it seems, finds comfort in these words. It’s been quoted and read during times of difficulty by individuals, families, churches, and even entire nations.
But with popularity comes the danger of misunderstanding. Specifically, the misunderstanding that Psalm 23 is good news for everyone. It’s not. Now, before I go any further, please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying.
God is a caring Creator. The rain falls, crops grow, and the earth spins on its axis. Seasons change, babies are born, food tastes good, and everyone — whether Christian or not — can have a measure of happiness in their lives. These acts of benevolence are what theologians refer to as common grace — that is, the grace of God that is applicable to everyone regardless of where and in whom they have put their faith.
But Psalm 23 is not a common grace psalm. In fact, the good news of Psalm 23 really hangs on One. Single. Word. MY.
Read the first five words in verse 1 of today’s scripture.
David, a shepherd in his own right, did not say that God is “a” shepherd; nor did He say that God is “the” shepherd. He said the Lord is MY shepherd.
Some people may want God to be their shepherd; they might even think the Lord IS their shepherd, but it doesn’t happen by just wishing or thinking it’s true. Others might hang around people who are certain that God is their shepherd, but it doesn’t happen by osmosis, either.
This privilege only comes when we enter into God’s family through faith in Jesus Christ. I’m thankful that I can say that the Lord is indeed MY shepherd.
Lord, help me see you as MY Shepherd in all circumstances; “The good, the bad and the ugly” of life’s journeys. Amen.