Pondering Psalm 23

“The Lord is my Shepherd…”

thinkingThe familiar words of Psalm 23 breathe life into my weary soul. It’s a standby for anytime I need to recharge my spiritual batteries because of something profound: It’s one of the few passages in scripture where we can see each of the Old Testament names for God:

  • Jehovah Jireh (Provider),
  • Jehovah Mekaddishkem (Sanctifier),
  • Jehovah Nissi (Banner),
  • Jehovah Rapha (Healer),
  • Jehovah Rohi (Shepherd),
  • Jehovah Sabaoth (Lord of Hosts),
  • Jehovah Shalom (Peace),
  • Jehovah Shammah (Companion), and
  • Jehovah Tsidkenu (Righteousness).

As you read through the verses, some of the references are obvious but others take a little pondering, which I enjoy. Something else worth pondering is the humility of the Lord Jesus, and that He would refer to Himself as the Good Shepherd (John 10:10-16).

One of the lowliest of all jobs, shepherding was a 24-7 vocation. Their accommodations were simple, sparse, and smelly, and they were considered outcasts, the dregs of society. But a good shepherd was invaluable.

Nazareth Village ShepherdA good shepherd devoted his life to the care of his flock.

He made sure they had food, a supply of fresh water and green grass.

He kept them healthy, tending and handling each one individually to make sure they didn’t have parasites.

He protected them from predators, providing a safe and comfortable place to rest.

Because he stayed in such close contact with them, he named each one and they learned to recognize his voice.

Doesn’t Jesus fit that description?

And don’t we fit the description of sheep:

A mother sheep with her baby lambs, courtesy dreamstimeHelpless, defenseless, easily distracted, prone to wander, poor eyesight, easily frightened, and afraid of the dark. When they’re injured, sheep often roll over on their backs and can’t get up! But when the hurt sheep hears the tender voice of its shepherd, it relaxes under his gentle touch and allows him to care for it.

Sometimes that gentle touch can seem harsh. I can’t verify this, but I’ve heard it several times and think it’s worth sharing:

When a sheep is perpetually wayward, it’s believed that the shepherd would swaddle the sheep, draw it close and break its leg. After he sets it, the shepherd drapes the sheep across his shoulders and carries it until it heals.

During that time the sheep learns to recognize the shepherd’s voice and, through his gentle care, learns to trust and obey him. It sounds cruel, but the good shepherd knows this relationship can’t happen any other way.

Hopefully we aren’t so stubborn we need to have our legs broken, but I know from personal experience that my Shepherd allows trials in my life so I can tune my spirit to hear His voice. (Care to tweet that?) And He is always trustworthy. I want to allow Him to

  •  “Fleece” me to reveal any parasites in my life and help me get rid of them.
  • Lead me along an unfamiliar path to protect me from dangers I can’t see.
  • Guide me into a new field that better provides for me.
  • Redirect me with His rod.
  • Rescue me with His staff.

Don’t you? Because our good and trustworthy Shepherd ALWAYS has our well being in mind and ALWAYS works in our lives to draw us closer to Him.

Did you ever consider this —

In the Old Testament, the sheep died as a sacrifice for the shepherd.
In the New Testament, the Shepherd died as a sacrifice for His sheep.

As if that wasn’t enough, He sent His Spirit to live within us and be our constant Comforter. I love the outline Canadian evangelist J.R. Littleproud gave this psalm:

The Secret of a Happy –

  • Life: every need supplied
  • Death: every fear removed
  • Eternity: every desire fulfilled

An oldie but goodie, check out “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” by Philip Keller.

Psalm 23 is familiar to many of us. Do you have a memorable insight?

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The boot, I’m afraid, is here to stay for a while.

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I don’t mean to. Really. I know it’s important to be fully present and feel the weight of the moment, but for some reason my contemplative self passes the baton to my snarky self and off she goes.

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Thanks for stopping by. I’d love to hear from you!


  1. Jeanette Edga

    Susan, this is so timely. Earlier this week, I read in a writing by Priscilla Shirer that “modern day shepherds” told her the sheep don’t know their voice at all. Why? Because of new technologies, they spend no time with the sheep. Jesus spent all of His time with the sheep while on this earth and then God sent us the Spirit to dwell constantly in us. If we will ignore modern day technologies and spend time with Him, we will find Him good, pleasing, protector, leader and understand His voice. If He must break a leg to have that time in order to be our good shepherd – He’s good enough to do it. Terrific post, as always.

    • Susan

      Wow, Jeanette, I had no idea about modern shepherds. But that makes perfect sense, and I love your point about ignoring modern day technologies to spend time with Him. I had plenty of time with that since my website debacle!

  2. TK Sharpley

    very meaningful and personal.

    • Susan

      Thanks, TK!

  3. sandi

    Oh, I needed this today! I am very..”Helpless, defenseless, easily distracted, prone to wander, poor eyesight, easily frightened, and afraid of the dark. ”

    So thankful I have a Shepherd to lead me. Smokey Norful has a song called ‘Where would I be?” The words ALWAYS make me tear up…..he says, “If it hadn’t been for You…where would I be?”
    And, “I’d be at the bottom, when You told me there’s a place at the top for me…I’d be on the backside, when You showed me, there’s a place at the front for me…I’d be on the outside, looking in…when You prepared me a table for Kings…..” Where would I be???

    His grace……..His mercy……..I am humbled…..thank you Susan

    • Susan

      That list of sheep attributes? As I typed those out, all I could think was “baaaaa”
      And Smokey Norful? He’s THE BEST, Sandi. I need to find that song!

  4. Etta

    Oh, so thankful for my Shepherd today and always! That He would care for me, wandering, looking for “greener grass”, fearful, losing focus on all He provides. Yes, even thankful for the times my Shepherd has picked me up and carried me when broken.
    Thanks for sharing this with us today.

    • Susan

      Thank you so much, Etta. I have to confess that I’m one of the chief greener-grass wanderers.

  5. marcia moston

    What treasures so easily overlooked in the familiar! Appreciate your digging them out. A beautiful meditation.

    • Susan

      Thank you, Marcia!

  6. Dawn

    Susan! There were times during the struggles of the last few years (deployment, health, relationships, fear) that all I could do was recite this Psalm over and over and over. I love all that you pointed out here- many Id not heard/realized before! I so wish I could be in a study you teach- such wisdom! And to top it all off, you just confirmed a suspicion I’ve had for a while that God “broke” my foot! Ha- that story ill have to share later :). THANK-YOU for being a faithful teacher!! Love you!

    • Susan

      Oh Dawn, you know I need to hear that broken foot story! I felt like I had something similar when we were in Guatemala. And I wish we could be in a class together sometime. I’d love to hear your perspective and insights!

  7. Diane bailey

    I heard this taught years ago and it blesses me again today

    • Susan

      I need to laminate it and carry it around with me.

  8. Sheila Rinehart

    Great lesson today as always Susan. Those He loves those He chastens.

    • Susan

      Thanks, Mom!

  9. Julia Tomiak

    Thanks so much Susan. I fit the description of the sheep more than I care to admit. Thank you for digging a little deeper into this Psalm for us!

    • Susan

      Thanks for stopping by today, Julia.
      Baaaaa 😉

  10. Kirsten Holmberg

    In the Old Testament, the sheep died as a sacrifice for the shepherd.
    In the New Testament, the Shepherd died as a sacrifice for His sheep.

    Nope, never considered it. And absolutely love that contrast. Though a broken leg is painful (my foot is in a boot right now!), I can’t think of a better place to be than on the Lord’s shoulders. Thanks, Susan!

    • Susan

      Oh no, Kirsten – you’re in a boot? I’ll definitely pray for you! And yes, “enjoy” that ride!

  11. Nikki

    This is why I love coming to your cyber place, Susan. Thank you for this… {HUGS}

    • Susan

      HUGS right backatcha, Nikki 🙂

  12. Hester Christensen


    I truly appreciate your insight and digging for deeper understanding. This is beautiful. Thank you for ministering to us through your writing. I needed this today.

    And, I really love the comparison with the O.T & N.T. — that is an awesome comparison and I hadn’t considered it before. 🙂

    Bless you dear, Hester 😉

    • Susan

      Thank you, Hester. I love that we share an appreciation for the O.T. 🙂

  13. Vonda Skelton

    “In the Old Testament, the sheep died as a sacrifice for the shepherd.
    In the New Testament, the Shepherd died as a sacrifice for His sheep.”

    Wow. Thank you…

    • Susan

      Thanks, Vonda 🙂

  14. Cyn Rogalski

    Great post Susan! I’ve read Elmer Town’s book about the Names of God, & it gave me a new understanding & appreciation for His wonderful gift of revealing Himself to us, as we are able to understand. What a Mighty God we serve!

    • Susan

      “As we are able to understand” — which for THIS sheep, is limited at best! Don’t you know, Cyn, we’ll be blown away by Him in Heaven!

  15. Dolly@Soulstops

    Wow, Susan…I didn’t know that every name for God is in Ps 23…Your post is encouraging and very much appreciated..I would love to call you and talk about Guatemala, if that is okay…I will e-mail you next week, hopefully…praying for you and your mom…thanks for encouraging Dea…hugs to you 🙂

    • Susan

      I’d LOVE to chat with you about Guatemala, Dolly! I’ll email you and we’ll pick a time to connect. I so hope the Lord opens that door for you!

  16. Cathy Baker

    Loved this post (the study of Psalm 23 has always been a favorite) and I also learned from the many comments shared. One thing I most appreciate about the Shepherd/sheep is how they recognized the shepherd’s voice. Many have asked me over the years how they can know if something is from God or not and one of the best ways is obviously to know His Word. He breathed it into action and there we find His heart, ways, and desires for His children. When we know and believe His Word, we know our Shepherd, and His voice stands out above all the rest.

    Blessings to you my friend!

    • Susan

      “His voice stands out above all the rest.” AMEN, Cathy! Here’s to tuning out all the other noise!