A long time ago I read a story about the Twenty-third Psalm. It is inspiring whether or not it actually happened as described. According to the story, two men were invited to recite the psalm before a large audience.
One of the men, a young orater, was especially skilled and polished in his delivery. He gave the words of the psalm with rhetorical flair and dramatic inflection. When he finished, the crowd erupted with sustained applause and cheers. They called for an encore.
The second speaker was an elderly gentlemen who leaned on a cane as he shuffled to the podium. In a muted, trembling voice he uttered the words of Psalm Twenty-three. This time the audience responded with reverent silence. They were awestruck by the power of the words. The people seemed to pray.
As they sat in silence, the younger man got up again. “Friends,” he said, “you asked me to come back and repeat the psalm in an encore. But you remained silent when my friend here sat down. Do you know the difference? I will tell you. I know the psalm. He knows the Shepherd.”
King David knew the Shepherd. When he wrote this psalm, presumably near the end of his life, he was expressing his personal relationship with God. “The Lord” is our English Bible’s euphemism for Yahweh, or Jehovah, or the I AM. It was the name by which God revealed himself as the eternally self-existent God, the One who was, and is, and always will be. David was saying, “this God is my personal Shepherd.”
In different ways, our Lord Jesus took this identity upon himself. When he declared in John 8:58, “before Abraham was born, I am,” he was claiming to be God. When he said in John 10:11, “I am the Good Shepherd,” he was claiming to be the Lord, the Shepherd of whom David wrote. Can you say with certainty that the Lord is your personal Shepherd? You know the psalm. Do you know the Shepherd?
The New Testament refers to Jesus as the Shepherd in three ways. John 10:11 says that “the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” The Good Shepherd died for our sins. In Hebrews 13:20 our Lord is called the Great Shepherd of the sheep who “was brought back from the dead..” The Great Shepherd was raised from the dead for our justification. 1 Peter 5:4 refers to the Chief Shepherd who is coming again to reward those who have faithfully served him.
Do you know the Shepherd in a personal way as the One who died for your sins, who was raised from the dead, and who is coming again? You may know him as King David did. It is a matter of faith. Believe what the Bible declares to be true about Jesus the Shepherd. He said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish” (John 10:27-28).
Elizabeth Elliot told the story of a little girl who was desperately ill and not expected to survive. Her caregivers taught her to be comforted by trusting in the Good Shepherd. The little girl learned to recite the Twenty-third Psalm on her fingers. Starting with her small finger, she would clutch each finger as she said each word, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” As she said the word “shepherd,” she would clasp her thumb in recognition of the Lord’s care for her.
One morning, after she had fought her illness for a long time, her attendants found her dead. She left a silent witness. Her lifeless hand was clasped around her thumb.
Pastor Randy Faulkner