We are looking at Jesus, our Good Shepherd, in Psalm 23. We see in the verses for this week that our Shepherd is always by our side. He walks with us in every circumstance we encounter in life. The shepherd is the protector and guides the sheep through the dark valleys and into greener pastures. We need our Shepherd to lead, comfort, and help us get through dark and lonely times.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 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 runs over. Psalm 23:4 – 5
A valley is a low area between hills, typically where you can find a river or stream flowing through it, but it may be dangerous. As the sun goes down behind the mountains, shadows cast a dark reflection. The most accurate translation of the Hebrew for the phrase “shadow of death” is “darkest valleys.” Perhaps you have walked through difficult valleys, i.e., illness, addiction, broken relationships, and experienced emotions such as discouragement, anger, faith, joy, etc.
We all have valleys that we need to go through so we can go to another place. Walking through the valley indicates that we’re not stopping to live there, but we keep going because our Good Shepherd is with us leading and encouraging us.
Valleys are part of life’s journey, and even when they last a long time, they are still temporary. 2 Corinthians 4:17 describes our afflictions or troubles as light afflictions, which are for a moment. No matter how small or great, short or long our sufferings, our Shepherd is always there to meet us in our need and to work things out for our good (Romans 8:28). Every valley has a purpose and is filled with God’s presence. With our Good Shepherd by our side, He gives us the grace to go through!
We do not have to be fearful when we go through the valley because our Shepherd is with us, and we can trust Him to bring us through. The Shepherd protects and comforts us. Nothing we fear is greater than our God!
For God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1
The shepherd used his rod to protect the sheep against predators. He also used the rod to count his flock as they passed under it one at a time to make sure they were all safe with him. The staff was used to guide and rescue the sheep, draw the sheep to himself and keep them close. Both of these actions show how much the shepherd loves and cares for the sheep.
We, too, can feel safe, secure, and comforted in the presence of our Shepherd! We are never alone because our Shepherd never leaves us. When we are comforted, we can comfort others as they walk through their valleys too.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3 – 4
Our Good Shepherd invites us to come fellowship at His table even in the presence of our enemies, i.e., lack of peace, doubt, difficult circumstances, etc., because He is there to protect and provide for us. He has already won the victory. The enemy, Satan, is not invited to the table because he comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).
Tables are places we gather to eat together, talk, and share our day and things going on in our lives. Sheep don’t eat at a table, but we can see here that the table represents a generous host or king throwing a banquet celebration. A king or wealthy host would invite important and favored people to his table in the Hebrew tradition. The king’s favor was obvious to everyone, including any defeated enemies. Our King’s table is a place of blessing, favor, and communion.
In ancient Hebrew culture, servants would have prepared the table, not the host. But here it is our Shepherd King who prepares the table for us His sheep. He is a humble King with a servant’s heart serving the sheep (Philippians 2:6-8). We must be very valuable to Him!
It was also a custom to honor guests at the table by anointing them with oil. Olive oil mixed with sweet, fragrant spices was used. The longer the meal lasted, the more oil would trickle down over their face and necks, cooling them and releasing the fragrance. Shepherds anointed their sheep’s heads with oil to prevent lice and other pests from annoying the sheep or them burying into the sheep’s ears and killing them. In other words, to avoid distraction and destruction of the sheep.
When we come to the Lord’s table, He anoints our heads with oil to set us apart or consecrate us and bring healing. The anointing oil represents the Holy Spirit’s presence and action in our lives.
It shall come to pass in that day that his burden will be taken away from your shoulder, and his yoke from your neck, and the yoke will be destroyed because of the anointing oil. Isaiah 10:27
When the Lord anoints our heads with oil, He reminds us that He has chosen us, protects us, and we can receive a fresh filling of God’s Holy Spirit every day. The more we stay in the presence of the Lord, communing with Him at His table, the more aware we are of His presence and power to lead, guide, and strengthen us each day.
When Our Shepherd anoints us, He gives us an overflowing cup of joy, peace, hope, thankfulness, grace, love, and praise.
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11
All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 4:15 NIV
And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you. 1 Thessalonians 3:12
May my lips overflow with praise, for You teach me Your decrees. Psalm 119:171 NIV
Do you believe that He is big and powerful enough to handle any situation you face or find yourself in? Do you know that He loves and cares for you? Do you accept His invitation for blessing, favor, and communion? Are you ready to experience His presence, protection, and pleasure?
Spend time in the presence of your Shepherd-King through God’s Word, in prayer and worship. You will experience His overflow of goodness in your life.
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us. Ephesians 3:20
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. ® Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. http://www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc. ®