The Shepherd I Need

Psalm 23 is a “go to” psalm – a “destination” psalm – a psalm that speaks to many of the situations we face. It is the psalm often turned to when we need comfort in times of trouble or struggle. It is an oft-quoted psalm at funerals but is equally relevant for happier occasions like weddings or baptisms. Perhaps this is because Psalm 23 speaks to universal needs – needs we have in all the seasons of life – and how our Lord lovingly provides for those needs.

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.[1]

We are like sheep, and we need our Shepherd. There are times when we need assurance that situations and circumstances will work out in our lives, and our Shepherd Lord provides that assurance by giving us “green pastures” and “still waters” that bring restoration and strength. Our Shepherd Lord promises that He will give us guidance and direction so that we might bring Him glory in and through our lives. Just like a middle eastern shepherd considered his flock to be his possession, so our Shepherd Lord sees us as His possession, a truth captured by the writer of the hymn Savior Like a Shepherd Lead Us.

Savior, like a shepherd lead us; much we need Thy tender care.
In Thy pleasant pastures feed us; for our use Thy folds prepare.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Thou hast bought us; Thine we are.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Thou hast bought us; Thine we are.

Another universal need is that of safety and protection. In Psalm 23, David affirms that our Shepherd Lord, like a middle eastern shepherd who was the model for the biblical image of God as our shepherd, will walk with us through the deepest, darkest moments of our lives. If we begin to get off the path, He will take the initiative to get us back on track. He knows the sound of our voice. He hears our cries in times of fear, and He responds.

We are Thine; do Thou befriend us; be the Guardian of our way.
Keep Thy flock; from sin defend us; seek us when we go astray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Hear, O hear us when we pray.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Hear, O hear us when we pray.

Sheep have a reputation for needing constant attention. They have a knack for drifting away from the rest of the flock and getting into trouble. As do we. We are “poor and sinful” and daily need our Shepherd Lord’s mercy, grace, and power to fix the messes we make in our lives. And our Shepherd Lord is right there for us.

Thou hast promised to receive us, poor and sinful though we be.
Thou hast mercy to relieve us, grace to cleanse, and power to free.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Early let us turn to Thee.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Early let us turn to Thee.

Isn’t it good to know that our Shepherd Lord’s love for us is unconditional and unfailing? As Psalm 23 promises, His goodness and mercy sustain us through all of life – they never cease. Our Shepherd Lord will never abandon us. We all need the care and provision of our loving and faithful Shepherd Lord. This day, let us reaffirm our commitment to every day drawing near to Him, receiving His love, and doing His will, enjoying what King David in Psalm 23 describes as dwelling “. . . in the house of the LORD my whole life long.”

Early let us seek Thy favor; early let us do Thy will.
Blessed Lord and only Savior, with Thy love our beings fill.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Thou hast loved us; love us still.
Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus! Thou hast loved us; love us still.

Enjoy a beautiful performance of this hymn by the Weimar Chamber Singers at this link:


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[1] Psalm 23 NRSV

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