Psalm 23A psalm of David. 1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even 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.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
Pastor Nate, the head pastor at New Life Foursquare Church of Everett, spoke on this well-known chapter today. I had never understood how full this chapter really is. I want to go through it one part at a time, like my pastor did.
The Lord is my shepherd--not a shepherd, MY shepherd. He's there for me. He's not there trying to lead my astray. He wants me to follow in his ways, and he wants to bring me back when I stray from the flock, no matter how many times I do so. My shepherd.
I lack nothing (I shall not want in some versions). Remember, this is King David saying this. He is rich. He is successful. He could have had many things, and he certainly had many comforts, but he knew that it wasn't his gold or his power that made sure he was cared for, it was God. The poorest person can still be cared for by God, no matter how hard their circumstances. They certainly don't have to be spiritually wanting if they turn to God.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters. He doesn't ask me to lay down in green pastures, he MAKES me. This isn't because he's some forceful God who doesn't give us a choice. He gives us rest in our spirit and even from the stress of life. Sheep need certain things to be able to rest, and they all have to due with security and a sense of well-being. He gives us this so that we can rest. He also sometimes has to remind us that constantly searching for greener pastures is going to give us little rest, and we often have very green pastures right where we are.
Sheep will not drink water if the source of the water is too dangerous for them. They will die of dehydration beside a rushing river. If the shepherd couldn't bring them to a quiet source of water, he would create one by making a pool or channel of water branching off from the rushing water so that the sheep would feel safe to drink. God can make us feel safe enough to drink.
Now think about this picture of walking through a dark valley with steep sides and no apparent end. But then you realize that God is right there watching your back, his rod and his staff at the ready to keep you on his path and beat back the wolves. Everything is a whole lot less scary with God at your back, and you know that even if you can't see it, even if you've gone through many dark valleys, you'll get out of it again because God is there for you. And even more than this, it was David saying this--David, who slew Goliath. David, who was a great warrior and commanded armies. Yet he looked to God to be his protector and get him through the hard times.
I never experienced this in the LDS church. I didn't know how to be that intimate with God--it really isn't taught that a personal relationship with God is the greatest goal. I've come to truly understand this and other similar chapters of the Bible far more than ever before, and I love continuing to understand more and more.