THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD
“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
“God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.
Even when the way goes through Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure.
You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.
Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life.”
Over the last six to eight months, this chapter has held a powerful place in my heart as it has been a source of truth. Showing elements of strength, perseverance, protection, provision, rest, and guidance. I love looking at these two versions of the psalm together because although they are, at their core, the same, they translate in a slightly different way to paint a more well rounded picture of what I believe David was expressing, and the Lord wants us to feel through this.
There have been a few times when I am worshiping the Lord, that I feel wrapped in His embrace, and physically calmed by the presence that I feel surrounding me. It is as if the Lord is actually giving me a hug in that moment. Telling me that He is there with me. Be still and breathe in. That is exactly what this passage is for me as well. It is a breath. When I am feeling weak, tired, not enough, unprotected, unloved this psalm reveals the ultimate truth of who God is and how faithful He is to fulfill all of his promises.
I want to take a moment to break down one of the things that I find the most comfort in. Bringing to light truths about the Lord that we may forget. Taking a moment to inhale peace and rest, and exhale a deeper assurance and trust in what the Lord promises.
I lack nothing and I don’t need a thing
The current season of my life, from a worldly perspective, is one of lacking and instability. Having been in a car accident right after Christmas that has now completely drained all of my checking and savings accounts. Needing to find a way to pay for rent and tuition, as well as gas, food, and monthly expenses in the coming months. There have been a lot of talks in my family about what to do with my financial situation lately. But even when moments of stress have come up, I ultimately have complete confidence that the Lord will provide for me. Because the Lord is my shepherd, I will not have a need for anything. Now that doesn’t mean I will always be in a plentiful season, because these words surpass worldly standards and measures. But through the Lord I will always be protected because He is my shepherd, and He will make sure I always have what I need to continue in the plan He has for me, even if that looks different then my plan and what I think I need.
Did you know that shepherds were considered to be some of the lowliest people? They were one of the only professions that lived and stayed with their work constantly. They lived with their sheep. They were watching over them constantly. There was never a day off because that would leave the sheep unprotected and vulnerable. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Lord is described as this here. He NEVER leaves us for a moment. He sustains us with absolutely everything we need. He is our protector, our provider, our safe haven.
He refreshes my soul and lets me catch my breath
God knows we need rest. He knows that we do not have enough strength to handle all of the problems and demands of the world. I am not a fan of the quote “God will never give you more than you can handle.” Most everything is more than we can handle. We are honestly very fragile things. But the place where we reach our maximum capacity, is where incredible holy intervention comes in. We were not meant to handle any of this on our own. If we were, then we wouldn’t need a God and Savior. If He only gave us what we could handle, then there is no role for Him to play. He gives us more than we can handle, not as a punishment or as an act of cruelty, but because we were never supposed to carry it in the first place. When Jesus died on the cross, that burden was taken off of us and put onto Him. So us continuing to take on the burdens of life, is taking back a burden than has already been paid for and removed.
How often do we go through life asking God for rest and then ignoring the spaces He gives us for rest? We sometimes have a preconceived view of what rest is because of how our culture defines it. We see rest as Netflix, and sweats, and face masks. Those things are incredible and refreshing but they are not restful to the soul. So when we only look for rest in those ways, we miss where He is actually giving us a chance to breathe. Think about extra traffic on the way to work or school. That is extra time that you get to spend with the Lord. When no one is free to hang out, that is a completely empty space of time that you can choose to sit in the restful presence of the Lord. Is the Lord not giving us rest or our we missing what true rest really is?
The valley of the shadow of death
The version that uses the line, “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” is actually the ESV version, but it is definitely my favorite translation of this line. Again, looking at so many different translations paints a much more encapsulating picture of the holistic meaning, which can be completely perspective shifting.
I think it is very intentional that the ESV translation says “the valley of the shadow of death.” A shadow can not hurt us. It can scare us and push us into a corner of fear. It can put lies and myths in our head about how strong we are or how strong our protector is. But it can not hurt us. They can be oh so realistic, but they have absolutely no power if you choose to not give them power. If instead you choose to recognize the power, strength, and protection of the One who is with you. So why is there only a shadow? Why can’t we be hurt by these things? They often feel so real and feel like we are being hurt by them. But this is the shadow of death. When Jesus took our place on the cross and suffered the ultimate death, death was removed from the picture. We no longer need to have a fear of death because the sacrifice has already been made. Death changed from a reality to a shadow. The enemy will try to do everything in his power to make it look as real and scary as possible. But the truth is that there is nothing it can do. It has lost all of it’s power.
The best thing about a shadow, is that in order for there to be a shadow, there must be light present as well shining over it. Illuminating that’s all it is. A harmless shadow in the presence of powerful God.
I am pursued
The Lord’s beauty, love, and goodness chase us every single day. This brings it back to the core of this chapter. That the Lord is our shepherd. He is YOUR shepherd. He is MY shepherd. He is constantly pursuing us in everything we do. It does not matter how far we roam. He knows that you are going to wander. It is not a surprise to the Lord and He is not sitting there rolling His eyes at you because He expected more from you. He lovingly taps you on the shoulder asking if you want a hug. Asking if you need help because He knows that you do. It does not matter how many times you say no, He will be there. He can not be pushed away.
Did you know that the Lord knows every single part of you? Every single thing that you have done and have tried to hide from everyone else in your life, He knows. And yet He still loves and pursues you through all of it. He sees utter beauty and perfection in you. There is no anger, shame, or disappointment. You are fully known and yet so deeply loved by a Father in Heaven that will pursue you even if it costs Him His life (oh and it already did). He died in pursuit of YOU even with already knowing every mistake that you would make. Already knowing how many times you would walk away and say that you don’t need him.
The next time you begin to be overwhelmed by the congestion and lies of everything this world pours into our minds, lean into the truths of the verse. That you have a Father who is giving you everything you need, who is giving you space to catch your breath, who has eliminated the threat of death, and who recklessly and relentlessly pursues you. You are worth that much. This is His true unchanging character forever and always.