by Lisa Leidenfrost
This is such a familiar psalm that I find myself often thinking I know it and can’t gain anything else more from it, but I went over it the other day and did gain more. This psalm uses a lot of metaphors. When you read a metaphor, try putting into your own words what you think each particular metaphor is trying to get across to you and it will broaden the sense of the psalm. Here is my attempt below:
“The Lord is my shepherd”
Shepherd means care, protection, guidance, restraint from danger, etc. My shepherd means personal care for me.
“I shall not want”
There is no more to want besides Him. Therefore, this means abundance, and needs taken care of, etc.
“He makes me to lie down in green pastures.”
Green means lush, abundance of food, and to lie down in it is to have the needs met with such abundance that you can be calm in it. You are not out searching for more.
“He leads me beside the still waters.”
Still waters conjure up the picture of (again) abundance like a large river or lake to quench the thirst. The waters are still, peaceful, not turbulent.
“He restores my soul;”
Healing, restoration, lifting up, making whole.
“He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
The Shepherd is out in front leading and He is on the paths of righteousness with a purpose. And sometimes these paths may seem twisted but this verse lets us know that we are still on course.
“Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”
Here is an example of a dark twisted path that may seem to lead in the wrong way, but the verse proceeding reassures us that it is still okay, because the Shepherd is in front leading. And because of this we can say:
“I will fear no evil; for You are with me;
The key is for You are with me. When God is with you, it doesn’t matter what path you are on. He is there and will give His abundance to restore you along the way.
“Your rod and your staff will comfort me.”
A rod and staff are used to keep the sheep in bounds and this is a comfort.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.”
In spite of there being enemies or problems, the anointing and the cup running over, shows abundance so great that it runs over. The result is overwhelming love and abundance lavished on the sheep:
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;”
And remember this is being said after the preceding verses about walking through the valley of the shadow of death. In this life, on some of the hard paths we are on, goodness and mercy may take another form but it is still there. Instead of understanding goodness as meaning ease and lack of hardships, goodness is really the closeness of the Shepherd, the meeting of needs, the care and the abundance lavished on us by a Shepherd that loves His sheep. When you’re with that kind of Shepherd, you can go anywhere.
Then the final verse sums it all:
“And I will dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.”
It is not an ‘I will run away from the Lord because He is too hard’ but a joyful running to the Shepherd to be with Him forever. There is a joy there and a peace in following forever the One who loves you so much and will take care of you all the way through.