His Pathway (Psalm 23)
Have you ever had the wonderful experience of being lost in a city, a city you’ve never been to before? You’ve tried different streets, going here and there, to no avail. No matter what you do, you just can’t seem to find the way to where you want to go. It’s a frustrating experience, to say the least!
A few years ago, a friend of mine and I were on board a bus with fifty other Canadians heading to Mexico. We were actually “the lead” bus, out in front of another bus filled with Canadians also heading to Mexico. Both buses were meandering south along the west coast of California. Ultimately, we were heading for the Baja Peninsula, via the Tijuana border crossing. Our goal was to travel about five hours south of the border, to a small town, and help build houses there for a week or so.
Our first big hurdle was getting two buses successfully across the border. The bus driver tried many different routes to get to the crossing, but was utterly unsuccessful! It was quite apparent to the rest of us on the bus, and to the bus behind us, that the driver had no clue where he was going.. We wandered aimlessly for a good period of time (translate “over two hours”), trying to get to the right crossing.
Eventually, we asked the driver to pull over and let us talk to the locals. So, he reluctantly acquiesced a few moments later. I got off the bus and began to speak with a couple young men who were surprised when I approached them for help. They were very kind and explained to me how to get to the border. But, when they saw all the people on the bus and realized we were completely off track, and had been for some time, one of them asked if he could board the bus and take us to the border. We happily agreed and praised God! He took pity on a hundred lost Canadians and we paid him handsomely for his valuable time! Well, we finally made it to the Tijuana border and, after some discussions with customs officials and some paperwork, we were safely on the other side.
Trusting Our Good Shepherd
When we’re lost and someone freely offers to help us, by getting us where we need to go, it’s a wonderful experience. The same is true in the Christian life. When we gave our heart to Christ, we turned in faith to trust Him. He fulfilled His promise to forgive us and bring us into a relationship with God – a relationship we enjoy on the basis of Christ’s shed blood and the Spirit of God who now indwells us. We can therefore trust Christ when He further promises to lead us and guide us throughout this life, to rescue us from our lostness, if you will, and put our feet on the Pathway. The truth is, He loves to be our Guide, through thick and through thin.
There is perhaps no place in scripture where this is better expressed than in Psalm 23. What a wonderful psalm! People love reading this song (for that is what it is) all the days of their lives. In fact, many people read it throughout their lives, right up to their final days, and for good reason. For this is a passage that explains what Jesus means in John 10 when He refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd. He says, “I am the Good Shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (John 10:14). Again, Psalm 23 expresses the reality of God’s guidance and care for us using rich, colorful, and powerful language..
Psalm 23 really breaks down into two main parts, using two major images. In verses 1-4, the writer refers to God using the imagery of a good and sovereign Shepherd, and we His sheep. In verses 5-6, the psalmist likely switches metaphors, referring to God as a gracious and abundant Host, and we His beloved guests.
Together, these two metaphors create a wonderful picture of the God who is our nurturing and protective Shepherd and our gracious and kind Host. Here we see the God who has saved us in Christ and who leads us daily on the Pathway with Christ. He leads us in the good times and He leads us in the challenges as well. He is always present with us, leading and providing. Our response of faith is to follow diligently and stay close to Him.
He is the sovereign Shepherd who provides for us so that we can say with the psalmist, “I lack nothing” (v. 1). The psalm begins with God and ends with God, and everything in between focuses on His character and grace so that our faith will rise to lay hold of Him.He is “my” Shepherd, the psalmist proclaims! Is He mine? Is He yours?
Notice how He guides us in verses 2-3. He guides us into lush pastures and to refreshing waters. He guides us and leads us to the place where we are strengthened, nourished and reinvigorated. Note also that He does all this for us, for the sake of His reputation, His great name! He’s very committed to us and extremely vested in our lives. We need to remember and take to heart the truth that He can refresh us no matter where we’re at. From his boundless, eternal joy we receive abiding joy and constant strength for the journey.
The journey is not often easy; it’s not always a pleasant trip to the nearest green meadow. Sometimes He leads us into very dark Valleys (v. 4). However, no matter what Valley we’re in, we need not fear any danger, for He is with us. His rod and His staff reassure us that He will pull us close to Him and fend off our enemies. It’s what good shepherds do. They care for the sheep, putting the safety of the sheep ahead of their own (John 10:11-14)!
Rejoicing in Our Gracious Host
In 5-6, God is portrayed as a gracious and bountiful host who spares no expense for His guest.He is a sovereign Host who can and does prepare a virtual feast for us, right in the midst of our enemies. His love is so great for those who are His, those whom He redeemed in Christ. We can be confident that as we walk on the Pathway with Christ, with all its ups and downs, that His goodness and His faithfulness will pursue us (not our enemies) all the days of our lives. We can know and rejoice in God’s promise that we will live in the Lord’s house all the days of our lives – a reality which ultimately points to our home with Him in eternity (John 17:24).
Psalm 23 is a fantastic psalm about God’s character and His provision for us. It is really a psalm with great promises – promises that confirm God’s presence with us on the Pathway and His never-ending love toward us. Indeed, all His promises to us are certain, for they rest on the perfect Son of God and His shed blood on the cross (i.e., His perfect sacrifice; 2 Cor 1:19). Through His blood and faith in Him we are cleansed, declared righteous (Rom 5:1), and eternal objects of God’s love and desire. He has brought us into a lasting and eternal friendship (1 Cor 1:9)!
So, God bless you on the Pathway with Christ! Pray through Psalm 23 and drink deeply at the Shepherd’s well. I highly encourage you to commit it to memory, if you can, even if it takes a long time. Meditate on it and may God draw near to you as you seek to draw near to Him (James 4:8). May you learn to rejoice in your Shepherd and in your Gracious Host!