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
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.
The Message – Eugene Peterson.
Psalm 23 is my favorite psalm. Its the most popular psalm in the bible. It’s easy to imagine the life of a shepherd here in Ireland. Sheep and farms dot the entire Irish rural landscape. David the biblical shepherd King often found himself in difficult and dangerous circumstances, AFTER he was anointed. Some bible scholars say the anointing was suppose to flow down the body until it reached the lowest part of the garment of the wearer. This was so the anointing would kick in at the lowest times in life.
David lead his rock eating sheep along grazing trails. Food or moisture was sparse in ancient times and shepherds had to keep the sheep out of the farming areas. The stubborn sheep learned to trust the shepherd implicitly. Descriptions of lush meadows sounds poetic and abundant but the sheep were probably positioned right in front of tiny tufts of green rock. Jesus picks up the same imagery of this type of “followership” in John 10 when he declares, “Follow me. I am the good Shepherd and my sheep know my voice.”
Two leadership lessons jump out at me in this psalm;
1. The shepherd is good. He will lead us down the path laid out for us. Sometimes it goes through the valley of death. But if you follow him, i.e. confess sin, invite him into your heart, drink large drafts of the Holy Spirit each day and feed on the green pastures of his word (spiritual nourishment) you will get what you need for the right now.
2. There is a RIGHTeous path. Even in dangerous and difficult times. If we invoke his help, to coin a term used in old English, ‘he compassionates’ with us. He is our friend, adviser, and protector even when others fail us.