Why is Psalm 23 such a comforting portion of Scripture? Why is it so often quoted? Why is it read at so many funerals? It tells us there is a God, we can belong to this God, and this God cares for His own. “The Lord is my shepherd…” This is truly comforting.
But beware of false comfort from this psalm. It is only if the Lord is your shepherd that there is comfort to be had in it. If He is not your shepherd, then all the rest of the psalm does not apply to you. Then it would read like this:
The Lord is not my shepherd, so I shall want. He doesn’t make me lie down in green pastures. He doesn’t lead me beside still waters. He doesn’t restore my soul. He doesn’t lead me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. When I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear evil, for He is not with me. His rod and His staff they do not comfort me. He doesn’t prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. He doesn’t anoint my head with oil. My cup does not overflow. Surely goodness and mercy shall not follow me all the days of my life. And I will not dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Clearly it is of utmost importance to have the Lord as your shepherd. Therefore we need to know how we can become one of His sheep, one of His flock.
Jesus says in John 10:7-9, “…I am the door of the sheep…If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” Jesus Himself is the way by which we can enter into God’s flock, God’s flock being His people – those who belong to Him, those who are in relationship with Him. He is the means of our being saved from being separated from God and kept from relationship with Him. Sin is the issue in this. God is holy, righteous, blameless. As such He can have nothing to do with that which is sinful. We are sinful. Romans 3:23 tells us, “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We have done wrong, we have disobeyed God, we have failed to keep His commandments. We have done this from our corrupted hearts which are sinful by nature.
In Jesus saying He is the doorway to God, He is saying that He is the one who can take care of our sin problem. How does He do this? John 10:14 tells us that not only is He the door by which we enter into God’s fold, He Himself is the Good Shepherd, and it’s by what He does as the Good Shepherd that we can be saved and become one of God’s sheep. Jesus says in John 10:14,15, “I am the Good Shepherd. I know My own and My own know Me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.” It’s in Jesus’ dying for us that He is the way to God, because it is in His dying that our sin is taken care of.
Jesus, the sinless Son of God, came to this earth as a man and died on a cross. Three days after His crucifixion He arose from the dead. In these events He accomplished what is necessary to save us. 1 Peter 2:24,25 tells us what was occurring in Jesus’ crucifixion. “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” We were stray sheep, sinners separated from God. Jesus took all our sinfulness on Himself and died, paying the penalty our sins require. This is true for all who will believe in Jesus Christ, for all who know who He is, and what He did, and then trust in Him to save them. As John 1:12 says, “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become the children of God.” In faith what Jesus did on the cross is applied to us, so that in being identified with Him in that faith, His death becomes our death to sin, and His resurrection becomes our living to righteousness.
Do you believe in this truth? Do you believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior? If so, then you have “returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul” (1 Peter 2:25). You have become one of the flock of God. The Lord is your shepherd.
And that means that all of Psalm 23 applies to you. He provides for you. You shall not want. He makes you lie down in green pastures. He leads you beside still waters. He restores your soul. He leads you, leading you in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. He protects you. Even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you will fear no evil, for He is with you, His rod and His staff they comfort you. He blesses you. He prepares a table before you in the presence of your enemies. He anoints your head with oil. Your cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life. And He keeps you. You shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. This is true comfort.