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The most famous piece of literature in the Bible just so happens to be about shepherding. God did this for one purpose. 

David wrote Psalm 23 from personal experience. Before David lead a nation, he drove a flock of sheep. On the hillsides of Bethlehem, David faced natural foes that shaped his leadership abilities. In the wild of the fields, David killed lions and bears while taking care of his sheep. These crazy experiences built his faith and gave him a deeper understanding of God’s great concern for us.

Even when we wander, He finds us. He takes care of us. He cleans us up. When we get hurt, He heals us. When we are bound, He sets us free. When we are hungry, He feeds us. When we are thirsty, He guides us to water. 

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.

You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me

all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord


(Psalm 23; NIV)

David begins the Psalm by addressing our needs: material, emotional, mental, physical and so on. He tells us that we have no earthly need that the Shepherd doesn’t know about. We don’t need to live a life of lack because our Shepherd is taking us to His provision. We will not lack because He is taking care of us.

Often, in our western minds, we go straight to the material needs we have. Some of us need food and jobs and clothes. God has all of that taken care of—Jesus spells it out in Matthew chapter six:

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

“So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;  and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:25-34)

God is going to take care of our earthly needs. So, for a moment, let’s put aside the material or physical things we need and let’s address an area that is profoundly impacting our country: mental and emotional health. David was no stranger to mental and emotional attacks. 

We know firsthand that his family dishonored him. His father and brothers did not accept him. He lacked the needed male approval and modeling from his father and brothers. Jesse never considered that David could be a great person. David was on the hill writing songs and singing to God, when Samuel showed up to find the new king. He was the last son called in, almost as an afterthought:  

Now the Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.”

And Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me.”

But the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Then invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; you shall anoint for Me the one I name to you.”

So Samuel did what the Lord said, and went to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, “Do you come peaceably?”

And he said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice.

So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him!”

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

So Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.”  Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.”  Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.”  And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.”

And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.” So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah. (1 Samuel 16:1-13)

David knew what it was like to face family rejection and be restored by God.

When my father and my mother forsake me,

Then the Lord will take care of me.

(Psalm 27:10)

Twice, he faced attempts on his life from Saul, his king and father-figure:

Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Saul took him that day, and would not let him go home to his father’s house anymore.  Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt.

So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and behaved wisely. And Saul set him over the men of war, and he was accepted in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants. Now it had happened as they were coming home, when David was returning from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women had come out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy, and with musical instruments. So the women sang as they danced, and said:

“Saul has slain his thousands,

And David his ten thousands.”

Then Saul was very angry, and the saying displeased him; and he said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed only thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?” So Saul eyed David from that day forward.

And it happened on the next day that the distressing spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied inside the house. So David played music with his hand, as at other times; but there was a spear in Saul’s hand.  And Saul cast the spear, for he said, “I will pin David to the wall!” But David escaped his presence twice. (1 Samuel 18:1-11)

Despite all of this, David wrote Psalm 23 with high confidence in God’s ability to provide. There is nothing we face that God can’t restore in our lives. There is no loss, no mental oppression, no physical pain that God can’t heal. The Shepherd restores our souls. 

David continued the Psalm by showing us our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, knows where we need to go spiritually and how to get us through the tough times. “Shadow” has a couple of meanings. First, when it comes time to die, the Shepherd guides us from here to eternity. Paul says that when we close our eyes here for the last time, we open them in heaven immediately. Second, when difficulties come, He is with us. For an entire year, I couldn’t sleep at night. I walked the floors of my house, praying, worrying over things that were happening. I felt like, for that year, I was living in the shadows. All the while, even at my weakest, most vulnerable point, I had a Protector, a Defender, with a big, colossal staff, standing there, guarding me.

When David encourages us to “fear no evil,” he is addressing the power of anxiety. He wants us to know that we can live lives free from the turmoil of anxiety. It’s power must be broken over our lives. We don’t have to fear any evil because His presence is with us. He is with us. His rod and staff is with us. The hook on the staff was used by shepherds to bring up sheep from pits. The staff was also used to ward off wild animals. This is a picture of our Shepherd rescuing us from danger.

David closes out the Psalm by showing us God’s amazing love. He does His best when we are going through our worst. God loves to show off in our lives when all of our enemies are plotting and conspiring and planning our demise. Right in their midst, God will show us His jaw-dropping favor. He will give us a banquet table of revelation in the midsts of hardship. Some of the most significant revelations I have ever received were in the worst seasons of my life. God’s going to show off in your life. Get ready for a lavish feast with your name on it. 

Shepherds used oil to heal wounds. The oil was put on their heads to heal and stop bites from insects. We have a repellent from demonic attacks. The anointing of God protects us and heals us. The central warfare of the enemy is against the minds of man. In America, we use 80-90% of psychiatric drugs in the world. We are a nation suffering from mental oppression. God says that He has a remedy, an anointing for our minds.  

God won’t be satisfied until our lives overflow with goodness. He desires empty cups to overflow. We might be in a season of emptiness, but that is going to change. God has an overflow season for us. Our cups overflow so we can spill out for others. We can bless people. We are entering a season of overflow. Thank God for the season of overflow coming into your life so you can help others.

Wherever we go, the testimony of God’s mercy and goodness will be reflected. No matter where life takes me, the story of goodness and mercy will be there, following me around. God’s attributes and characteristics are with us. All of His attributes are with us. His mercy is with us. His goodness is with us.

Remember my affliction and roaming, The wormwood and the gall.

My soul still remembers 

And sinks within me.

This I recall to my mind, 

Therefore I have hope.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,

Because His compassions fail not.

They are new every morning;

Great is Your faithfulness.

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,

“Therefore I hope in Him!”

(Lamentations 3:19-24)