Read: Psalm 23 NRSV
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.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I 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 goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
Foreshadowing is important to God. Think of how often ideas are repeated or reused as He works among His people: the cup, the lamb, the lion, the mountaintop, three days, forty days, and so on. David, the author of Psalm 23 is a perfect example of a recurring motif throughout Scripture. He is a little shepherd boy from Bethlehem whom no one expected to be king. He defeats a great evil. He leads His people into peace and prosperity. God is a master composer who introduces us to His melodies even before the main theme begins. Even before Jesus was born, David prepares us for the imagery Jesus uses when He claims his birthright as the heir to David’s throne.
And how does David describe the good shepherd? He cares for our needs. He welcomes us with open arms. He comforts and supports us. He protects us from harm. He even makes us lie down and rest when we are prone to wander.
Some theologians have even made the connection between this passage and the practice among shepherds at the time to break the leg of a wandering sheep in order to force it to become dependent on the shepherd. It seems cruel, but the sheep learns to completely rely on the shepherd, never straying from its master’s side as it slowly heals. Throughout that time, the shepherd often carries the sheep on his shoulders, bearing its weight and protecting it. Sacrificing even more of his strength for the troublesome sheep than the obedient ones.
Jesus makes that sacrifice for us. This peaceful passage of comfort and repose is only possible because of the sacrifice of the good shepherd, the man who willingly lays down his life for his sheep.