I was exhausted. It was the middle of the day and I could barely keep my eyes open. It was the end of a season of wrestling back and forth about what God’s will was in a particular area of my life, and my mind and body were crying out for rest. As soon as I got home that afternoon, I walked to the bedroom and plopped down on the bed. I didn’t sleep, but I rested my heart and mind by talking to my Good Shepherd. I didn’t ask for anything. I didn’t complain. I just told Him that I was all His. For two hours, I rested there, and as I quieted my mind completely, I could hear these words, like a stream of flowing water…
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul…” Psalm 23:1-3a
There He was, my Good Shepherd, reminding me that His voice is the voice I follow, that He is the One that takes me to green pastures, and that He is the One that restores my soul.
Reading through Psalm 23, we can see a theme… it’s all about what the Good Shepherd does for us, His sheep.
He makes us “ lie down in green pastures.” (1)
He leads us “beside still waters.” (2)
He restores our souls. (3a)
He leads us “in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.” (3b)
He is with us in the valley and we do not need to fear evil (4a)
He comforts us. (4b)
He prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. (5a)
He anoints our heads with oil. (5b)
His “goodness and mercy” follow us all the days of our lives. (6a)
There is no mention in this passage of anything that I am to do. There is no prerequisite for these blessings and protection, except this: If He is my Good Shepherd, then I am one of His sheep. A sheep knows the voice of the Shepherd and follows Him. So what is my job here? My job is to know the voice of the Shepherd, to listen, and to follow Him.
In John 10:11, Jesus declares that He is the Good Shepherd. In verses 1-5 of the same chapter, Jesus is explaining to the Jewish leaders what happens when danger comes to the sheep of His pasture. If someone comes along who is not the Good Shepherd and tries to lead the sheep away, the sheep will not listen to him, because they do not know that voice (5). But when the true Shepherd of the sheep comes (2), “to Him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” (3-4)
This imagery would have been easily relatable to His audience because Middle Eastern Shepherds were well-known for having a personal devotion to their sheep, talking to them, singing over them, and even playing a recognizable tune on a short flute they carried with them. The sheep walked with the Shepherd. They knew His voice and followed. They knew His tenderness and the safety they had in His company.
How do I get to know the voice of my Good Shepherd? I know His voice by abiding in His Word and staying in His presence. When a voice comes along to lead me astray, I will not recognize that voice, and I will know to wait for the voice of my Shepherd.
He will then lead me to green pastures and still waters. He will then restore my soul. He will then lead me along the path of righteousness, feasting while my enemies watch. He will then anoint my head, and follow me with His goodness and mercy “all the days of my life.” (Psalm 23)