Here are five encouraging lessons that I took out of Psalm 23, which I hope will encourage you.
I Shall not Want
If the Lord is your Shepherd, you shall not want for anything more. The Great Shepherd tells us, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11); therefore, “… I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1). The Shepherd provides all that the sheep will ever need so that they lack nothing, and He even guarantees His sheep eternal life.
He Makes Us Lie Down
Sheep are not the smartest of animals. They’ll get so restless that they’ll wear themselves out. They don’t even have the sense to move from place to place and will end up eating the grass down to the roots, killing it in the process. Therefore, “he makes me to lie down in green pastures” (Psalm 23:2a). Sometimes sheep have to be led to green pastures because, as Isaiah writes, “all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way …” (Isaiah 53:6). The Shepherd sometimes must make us lie down where the green pastures are so we can feed and grow.
He Leads Us to Still Waters
Sheep will not approach water that’s running fast. You know why? Sheep can’t swim. Can you imagine a soaked sheep carrying all that heavy water in its wool, sinking straight to the bottom of the stream? That’s why the Great Shepherd “… leads me beside still waters” (Psalm 23:2b). The literal Hebrew is “waters of quietness,” and only then will the sheep drink, for they avoid swift, running, and troubled waters and would end up dying of thirst if not for the still waters.
He Restores Our Soul
How can the Shepherd restore a soul? By the regeneration of the Spirit of God and then by the precious blood of the Lamb of God, for we “… were dead in the trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1), and surely we “… were dead in [our] trespasses and the uncircumcision of [our] flesh [but] God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses” (Col. 2:13). Psalm 23:3 says, “He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness… .” The word for restore is like restoring an old car that had no engine. Our Great Shepherd restores our soul and then leads us into the path of righteousness laid out by His own shed blood (2 Cor. 5:21).
His Rod and Staff Comfort Us
Sheep are completely vulnerable to predators and total cowards. They can’t defend themselves and are very slow runners, so they are about as defenseless as any animal there is, but the rod wards off predators. The staff has a crook in it and is U shaped to make it fit any of the sheep’s neck, and by it, the Shepherd can bring us back if we start to stray down the wrong path. That’s why the psalmist writes “your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4b), and they should comfort you, too.
Of course, the Great Shepherd is Jesus Christ, Who is the Chief Shepherd over the sheep and the Head of the church. Therefore, we shall not want for anything because He will lead us to still, quiet waters, He restores our soul to bring us eternal life, and He defends us from the enemy and corrects us when we need it. No wonder Psalm 23 is one of the all-time favorites of Bible readers.