When, blessings like a river, swarm.
“The Lord is my shepherd.” And thus begins Psalm 23.
King David is the author of Psalm 23; however, as much as we Christians would like to believe, David was not the first to pen the idea of God as shepherd.
History tells us, this metaphor, of comparing god to shepherd, was common place within the Eastern world. For example:
- There was a song written about Marduk, patron deity of the city of Babylon, during the early 18th Century BC, describing his care for the weak like a “benevolent shepherd.”
- Another song written of Shamash, Mesopotamian sun-god, proclaims, “You shepherd all living creatures, together, you are the herdsman, above and below.”
- Hammurabi (c.1750 BC) claimed kingship by providing “the people with pastures and watering places, having settled them in peaceful abodes.”
- A phrase, which closely parallels Psalm 23, was found inscribed upon ancient Samaritan text and it reads, “A man’s personal god is a shepherd who finds pasturage for him. Let him lead him like sheep to the grass they can eat.”
Some Christians, learning of this, may feel it weakens David’s writing, but I feel quite the opposite. I’m sure David, a learned man, was aware of such comparisons; therefore, when he chose to liken his God to that of a shepherd, he, in essence, was elevating his God, Yahweh, above all other gods.
David spent many of his younger years, tending his father’s sheep. The book of II Samuel, speaks of two incidents where David had to kill a lion and a bear in order to protect the fold. David understood the lambs were vulnerable, and without his protection, they would most likely die. Knowing this fact, when he wrote Psalm 23, he visions himself to a lamb, that is dependent upon the shepherd, and for David, this shepherd could only be Yahweh. David humbled himself, and placed his entire well-being, within the hands of God.
I love how David makes Psalm 23 personal. He could have written, “The Lord is a shepherd” and that would have been true, but instead he writes “The Lord is ‘my’ Shepherd.” By that simple two letter word, David sheds light upon his close relationship to God.
I believe when we read Psalm 23, God desires of us, to make it personal. He wants each of us to slip our identity within this passage, and when we do, this ancient scripture becomes alive. We like, David, can proclaim a personal relationship with God, and when we are able to do that, God Himself walks with us.
Oh, what peace and joy this brings!
My Daily Prayer:
Lord, you are my Shepherd. You care about everything in my life, even unto the minutest detail. Help me today to ponder this thought.
When I’m tired, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will feel rest. When I’m afraid, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will know your protection. When I am lonely, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will know your presence. When I am guilty, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will know your forgiveness. When I’m down upon myself, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will know I’m enough. When I feel unloved, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” so I will know your love. And in that time, when I face death, help me to remember, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” and I will know comfort and peace.
Lord, thank you for this day, you have made for me. Help me to live it, with my hand in yours. Help me, to be a blessing, to those you bring to my path.
In the name of Jesus, my savior, I make these requests. Amen
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” — Jesus
When blessings, like a river, swarm
(Information about comparisons of gods to shepherd was taken from the NIV Study Bible)