Presently I’m studying Charles Swindoll’s LIVING THE PSALMS Study in which one of the Psalms we studied was the 23rd Psalm. What I learned was so revealing it caused me to view my relationship with The Shepherd in a whole new light. It makes the relationship between me and my Shepherd, our Shepherd more poignant, more alive, and draws me closer to such a loving, caring Shepherd. I hope sharing some of these insights with you, it draws you closer to Jesus Christ, our Shepherd. My prayer is it gives you new insight into this Psalm that is so familiar to us.
Through insights into the characteristics of sheep and the shepherd’s relationship to the sheep and his responsibilities we can gain new insights into our relationship with Christ.
Sheep lack a sense of direction. They can get lost in the familiarity of their own territory. In our walk with Christ we can’t guide ourselves–we must rely completely on the Word of God and the voice of our Shepherd-Savior to keep us from losing our way.
Sheep are virtually defenseless. Other animals have growls, claws, sharp teeth, keen sense of smell, hearing, speed, venom, ferocity to protect themselves. However, the sheep is awkward, weak and ignorant, have spindle legs, tiny hoofs, and pitifully slow. So it is with the believer against the Enemy. It is only in the Shepherd we find our strength and protection.
By nature, sheep are unclean. They will remain filthy indefinitely unless the shepherd cleanses them. Without the Shepherd’s cleansing, we remain perpetually dirty.
Sheep are easily alarmed and will actually run over each other, racing away from what startled them. The shepherd catches the sheep; gently, but firmly, forces it to lie down and feed quietly on grass beneath its feet. We also at times of turmoil sometimes need to be forced to feed on His Word and lie down and rest by our Savior’s feet.
Sheep are instinctively afraid of rapidly running water. As a result, even though they may be tired, thirsty, and hot, they’ll only stand and stare at a fast-flowing stream but never drink from it. For this reason, shepherds lead their flocks to quiet, peaceful waters.
Sheep are easily distracted and if they see a clump of grass will wander to it giving no heed to where the flock is pasturing, becoming easily lost. Sometimes followed by other members of the flock. Quickly danger can overcome them. It is the shepherd that calls them by name and it is only the shepherd’s voice they will respond to. If a thief or anyone else attempts to call them, they will pay them no heed. Redeeming is not accomplished by the sheep. It’s only by the shepherd’s action the lost sheep is restored to the flock. It is only by the blood of Jesus Christ, our Shepherd, the lost are redeemed and restored to God’s kingdom. It is only when He calls our name we run to our Shepherd.
One of the most interesting revelations Charles Swindoll received from Charles W. Slemming writings regarding the shepherds of the Middle East. When a shepherd moves his flock to a new field, the shepherd will corral the sheep until he has personally walked every inch of the new field for adder holes. When he finds a hole he will fill it with grass and pour oil from his pouch into it. This renders the viper helpless and he is trapped in his hole. Before allowing the sheep to enter the field, the shepherd will take each sheep individually and anoint his head with oil thereby protecting the sheep if by chance a hole was overlooked. By oiling the viper’s burrow the shepherd has prepared the table and the sheep are able to eat abundantly; by anointing heads with oil, the sheep have protection to enjoy their abundance.
Many times in the wilderness there was no streams so the shepherd relied on wells to quench the thirst of his flock. Some wells were 100 feet deep so the shepherd used a leather pail, which held about one gallon, and a long rope. The pouch was lowered, drawn by hand, and poured into a stone basin beside the well. This process could take at least two hours for a flock of a 100 sheep if the shepherd allowed the sheep to drink all they wanted. Our Shepherd-God provides “abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” according to Ephesians 3:20.
Swindoll mentioned that F. B. Meyer in his book THE SHEPHERD PSALM refers to “goodness and lovingkindness” as our “celestial escorts”. Charles states, “another commentator suggests they are “God’s Sheepdogs” ever near His flock, ever nipping at our heels, always available. Notice “goodness and lovingkindness” are action words. They are “following” us “all the days of our lives”. It is with His “sheepdogs” The Lord comes to find us when we are wandering, when we are lost.” He knows right where we are. He knows the circumstances we are in. There is nothing that happens to you that is not a part of His plan for you and He has neither lost nor left behind a single one of His sheep.
Throughout this Psalm, David remembers his days as shepherd and relates them to his relationship with his Shepherd. Hopefully, this better enables you to personalize this psalm to your relationship with your Shepherd.