The Silence of the Lambs: A Panoramic of the Christian Life from Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want,” I remember hearing as a child. It’s from the first verse of the famed twenty-third Psalm. I didn’t understand this when I was young. Why would the Bible have a verse that says God is the shepherd I don’t want? I always wondered.

Yesterday my Bible reading included Psalm 23. Several things stood out to me that I hadn’t really noticed before. The big picture I think I had missed was this short Psalm gives a panoramic of the Christian life. Take a minute and read it for yourselves:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his names sake.
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.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

The Psalmist discusses how God makes us lie down in green pastures. He makes us lie down. We can be so resistant to rest, can’t we? It’s easier sometimes to work ourselves to exhaustion than stop and rest in someone else’s work.

Even in our leisure we seek distractions to keep us from real rest. We rarely stop. He has to make us. In love, he makes us rest. He makes us lie down in green pastures.

Not only does God our Shepherd make us lie down, he also leads us beside still waters. That sounds peaceful and serene. Once I get past my urge to insist on my own work, once I submit to his rest and provision, then this passage is like a soothing balm for my busy, self-dependent soul.

Green pastures and still waters, this is living, this is the Christian life!

But David explains how God is with us even in the valley of the shadow of death. I read that and think, “Hold on a minute. Let’s go back to the green pastures and still waters.” This can’t be the Christian life can it, walking through a valley of death?

But it gets even worse. David then says that God prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. I don’t want enemies. I want people to like me. That’s one of my many flaws. Can’t we just go back to green pastures and still waters and avoid geography named after death and tables surrounded by enemies?

But as most Psalms do, this one doesn’t end in despair, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” There we have it. We live in this life with green pastures, still waters, valleys of death, enemies, and a hope that transcends it all, that we will spend eternity with God.

This panoramic view of the Christian life shows us what to expect in this life: moments of joy, seasons of suffering, walking, resting, working, enemies, death, and a Shepherd who promises to one day take us home. Why? Because he is our Shepherd. What else could we ever want?