Why would Christ liken Himself to a Shepherd? I've often wondered why He would pick a "role" such as this one. As I researched the role of a shepherd, I noticed that the shepherd's job was to: provide food and water, find them a place to rest, discipline them when needed, protect them against foes, spoke to them and gave them companionship, directed them in their travels, provided them a peaceful journey, and literally providing them with a worry-free life. The sheep have everything - all they need to do is to follow their shepherd and make more sheep, when you stop to think about it! The sheep never have to hunt their own food or find their own water. The sheep recognize only their shepherd's voice. They do not respond to or follow another shepherd. Isn't that amazing? The sheep are helpless without their shepherd to protect them from going in the wrong direction or from their enemies. I saw that this shepherd's job description had nine areas of care for his sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. (Joh 10:14) Do you think it's a coincidence that the Lord Himself used this occupation to describe Himself with us? I surely don't.
The most famous passage in Scriptures dealing with the shepherd is Psalm 23. When I went to it, I saw that it outlines nine areas of care as well! I got on shouting grounds! The number nine is the number for "completeness, finality, and fullness." How complete we are once we are saved! We are made full with the benefits Christ provides for us! Our salvation is final - there is nothing else needed. Praise God that the Shepherd of the Old Testament is also the Gentiles' Shepherd! And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. (Joh 10:16) No longer was salvation only for the Jew. Praise God! Salvation is complete - salvation is for all!
The blessing that came with searching out the nine cares of the Shepherd were more than I could take today. My heart was stirred and the tears flowed because of just how much Christ cares for us! Let me share with you just how He cares for you!
Notice that Christ is a personal Saviour. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Psa 23:1) (emphasis mine.) We lack nothing because of our position as Christ's sheep. He will provide for every aspect of our lives. All our needs are in His care! He is so personal that even the very hairs on our head are numbered! But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. (Mat 10:30) He knows us better than anyone. The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man, (Psa 94:11a) He is our own personal Shepherd. Our personal Shepherd has nine beautiful ways He shows us He cares for us!
(1) He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: Christ provides us with rest. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Mat 11:28) When I was first saved, I felt as though a hundred pounds had been lifted from my shoulders! The burden of sin had been removed and I felt so "free"! After I read this verse for the first time, I was in tears! My Saviour had freed me from this heavy burden and had given me peaceful rest! I can see why David used the word picture of laying down in a green field, can't you? What a beautiful depiction of the rest that Christ provides through salvation!
(2) He leadeth me beside the still waters.: Christ refreshes the soul. Each day, our time in the Word provides a time of refreshing. But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (Joh 4:14) Notice that the waters were not turbulent or even stirred. These waters were still! The Word of God does not produce confusion or conflict. It provides us with peaceful waters - still waters. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. (1 Cor 14:33) The devil has managed to cause much confusion through the many versions of the Bible. He has God's children arguing amongst themselves - confused about what the Holy Spirit was "really" communicating. God is not the author of confusion, according to 1 Cor. 14:33, so why would He provide 100 plus versions to confuse us? This is a contradiction, my friend. My Bible says that my Shepherd leads me to still waters. It stands to reason that the devil leads us to turbulent waters since he is the very antithesis of Christ. Christ is the Word of God - the devil will attack the Word to get even with Christ. But our Shepherd promises us that while we are in our blessed King James Bible, we will have still waters - peaceful waters - and no confusion can be found within its pages!
(3) He restoreth my soul: Christ provides reconciliation to the saved. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. (Heb 2:17) When we are trodden down with the cares of this world, He is able to lead His sheep away from that temptation. The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: (2 Pet 2:9) Notice this verse says that Christ specifically delivers the "godly" out of temptation. Not only has He reconciled us to the Father by redeeming us, He provides a way to deliver us from temptation! However, if we have succumbed to temptation, He restores us to a right relationship with Him. My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: (1 Jo 2:1) Thank You, Lord!
(4) He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. The Bible says that Jesus is the Word (John 1:1) - He is the author and finisher of our faith (Heb. 12:2). He left us His Word, through the power of the Holy Spirit, so that we may learn to walk in righteousness as He walked in righteousness. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (2 Tim 3:16) The Shepherd is constantly watching out for us and is ready to help. Everything we need is in the blessed Word of God and provides us with light and direction along the way. NUN. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. (Psa 119:105) He is ever watchful in His leading, making sure that we do not stumble. Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble. (Pro 3:23)
(5) Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; The Shepherd is always with us, my friend. There is no need to fear the trials of this life. He promises us that: I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. (Heb 13:5b) God is not a man that He should lie (Num. 23:19). He says He will never leave me or forsake me. Never! Period! As He protects us from stumbling, He protects us during those difficult trials in life - even the most difficult trial of all, our physical death. There is no need to even fear death because He will be right there with us. 1 Cor. 15:54-55, So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. (54) O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? (55)
A Youth Pastor I once knew, Pastor Mike Ray, told us of a trip he took his teens on to an actual funeral home. The mortician was a born-again Christian who shared how he was always able to tell when the deceased who was brought to him was a Christian. The Christian's countenance never showed fear or dismay, but had a peaceful look. However, the unsaved person's face was not so. Some would even come in with a horrible look of fear! This story impacted me greatly. It proved to me that my Shepherd's promise of walking with me through the valley of the shadow of death was true!
(6) Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. The Hebrew word used for rod here is:
Meaning: a scion, that is, (literally) a stick (for punishing, writing, fighting, ruling, walking, etc.)
(7) Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. The staff had a different meaning in this beautiful passage.
Meaning: walking stick: - staff
( 8 ) Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Notice that the Shepherd prepares the table while our enemies are right there at the door. He is laying out the table cloth, setting the place matts, putting out the cloth napkins, laying the cutlery just right, putting out the fine china and rightly placing a glass of cold water beside the plate. Jesus is preparing our table while we have struggles with the enemy. He lets us know that despite the turmoil around us, He is in control - nothing bothers Him. He continues to provide for us and He will give us peace. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (Joh 14:27) A good depiction of this was when He stilled the storm at sea. And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. (Mar 4:39) What comfort this brings the believer. No matter what is going on around us, the Shepherd is busy preparing a table to sup with us - despite the turmoil. He is always there ready to nourish us and encourage us with His Word.
(9) Thou anointest my head with oil; The oil of the Bible usually refers to the Holy Spirit. The oil here was anointed on the head showing me that the Holy Spirit will reveal to our hearts (our minds) what the Shepherd (the Word) is trying to communicate. I looked up Noah Webster's definition of anointing and the definition in this verse was:
communicate the consolations of the Holy Spirit.
Comfort; alleviation of misery, or distress of mind
No wonder David was able to pen, "my cup runneth over" in verse 5! You've been there at some point in your Christian walk where you feel that God has just "over blessed" you, haven't you? David was bragging on his God here - Lord, stop! Stop! I can't take any more blessings! My cup is over flowing - any more and I'll burst!
Lastly, David speaks of how his Shepherd's goodness and mercy will follow him, not only in his walk on this earth, but throughout all eternity. He says that he will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever in verse 6. What another beautiful depiction of eternal security. The Shepherd does not leave His sheep - ever! But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. (Joh 10:12) (emphasis mine.) Jesus said that He is the Good Shepherd, not a hireling. The devil would love nothing better than to convince you that you can lose your position in Christ after you have been saved. After all, again he is the very antithesis of Christ. Christ won't leave us when that wolf comes attacking. Thank You, Lord, for this blessing today!
The Shepherd guides those in His care.
He leads them along life's way.
He protects us from the enemy,
And He keeps those wolves at bay.
Devotional by Kate Plourde
60 Day Devotional Series: Numbers In The Bible
For an excellent follow up study by Kate, see The Shepherd
For more studies that use passages in the Psalms as the springboard: