I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. (John 10:11)
The LORD. This is the personal name of God, YHWH, revealed to Moses at Mount Horeb in response to Moses’ question “[when] they shall say to me, What is his name; what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM” (Exodus 3:13-14). To the Jews, His name is so holy, so sacred, that they will not attempt to pronounce the name. Instead, they substitute “Adoni” (LORD) or “Ha Shem” (the name). The LORD is the Creator who made heaven and earth. The opening statement of the Bible asserts, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). John’s Gospel opens with a similar statement attributed to Jesus. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1-3, emphasis mine). All things came into existence with only the power of His spoken Word, which testifies to His omnipotence. The LORD is possessor, and master of all He has created.
Is my Shepherd. A good shepherd cares for his flock and will risk his life to protect his sheep. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). The Good Shepherd knows his sheep individually. “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine” (John 10:14). He knows His own so well that He will seek out the one out of 100 that gets lost.
I shall not want. Because the LORD, the Creator and Possessor of heaven and earth, is my Shepherd who willingly gave His life for me, all my needs will be met. I will want for nothing.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures. To lie down implies rest. Green pastures are peaceful. Because the pastures are green, they provide rich nourishment. Again, the LORD provides abundantly.
He leads me beside the still waters. Sheep fear moving water. If they fall into rushing water, their wool gets saturated with water and they drown. They know this, so they will not go near it. However, still water is no threat. My Shepherd not only leads me to still waters, but He gives “living water” that leads to eternal life.
He restores my soul. That is, He brings my soul back to life. “And you hath he quickened [made alive], who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1, emphasis mine). My Shepherd is the One who gives true life. “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. He leads me by His Word through His Spirit in the right way, and He does this for His reputation. In another place, the psalmist writes, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11). He also says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). Concerning the Word of God, Paul writes, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me. When I go through dark and troubled times, even where death lurks nearby, I have no fear because I know my Shepherd is near to protect me in every circumstance. I can rest in His promise “[That] we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). I am His, and I have been “called according to His purpose” I know my Shepherd and He knows me by name.
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. The rod is used for discipline. Wise King Solomon advised, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes” (Proverbs 13:24). I know that my Shepherd loves me and He will punish me when I sin, but He will never disown me. Paul reminds us of the words of Job when he writes, “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him” (Hebrews 12:5). The shepherd’s staff has a crook or “hook” at one end which is used to pull back a sheep that wanders away from the flock. My Shepherd’s staff is the Holy Spirit which constantly works to pull me back when I tend to wander away into sin. His rod and staff comfort me knowing that His desire is to keep me near His side.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. His “table” is a feast that awaits me in His presence. Even now, I enjoy His rich blessings which come in countless forms. Ultimately, my enemies are the demonic forces that would destroy my life, but they cannot. They can only stand by and witness God’s grace on me, and they hate it.
Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup overflows. In the Old Testament, anointing the head with oil consecrated, or set apart, an individual as king or priest. The oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit being poured out on a person. The Apostle John reminds us that Jesus loved us and washed us from our sin with His own blood, “And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:6, emphasis mine). Paul explains it this way, “Now he which [established] us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). His anointing is more than sufficient; it overflows my life.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. It is a sure thing. His goodness – all of His rich blessings – and mercy – sparing me the punishment I deserve for my sins – will go with me through all my days of this earthly life.
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. We sometimes think of our church buildings as “the house of God.” That is true in a sense. However, God does not live or dwell in a building. In the Old Testament, God’s presence, manifested by His shekinah glory, resided in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. However, when Judah sinned through idolatry and desecrated the Temple through pagan worship, God’s glory departed the Temple and never returned. When Jesus died on the cross, Matthew records that the veil of the Temple which separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple was torn from top to bottom opening the way into the presence of God. Forty days after His resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven and ten days later, the Holy Spirit descended and rested as a “tongue of fire” over the heads of the disciples gathered in the upper room. The flame represented the shekinah glory of God that had departed the Temple, now indwelling the believers by way of the Holy Spirit. The dwelling of God was now truly with man. Indeed, Paul reminds us of this truth when he writes, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). But more than that, we have the promise that we have a place with Him in His eternal home. Before the cross, Jesus assured us of this fact. “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3). So, I am certain that “I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”