The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
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 your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
forever. (Psalm 23:1–6, NIV)
Like a shepherd, God cares for his people. The famous Psalm gives us one of many pictures that the Bible paints for us of God in the hopes of helping us understand him. In the New Testament, God is described as a Father. Elsewhere, he’s been described as a husband. Jesus compares himself to a mother hen. And here, the Psalmist compares him to a shepherd, a common image for the agriculturally based society in which it was penned. The shepherd devoted himself to watching over the sheep, seeing to it that they were fed and watered and protected from foes. Through heat and cold, through bright sunny days and dark scary nights, the Shepherd was always there, never leaving the sheep, never letting them face any hardship by themselves.
A phrase near the poem is commonly translated, “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.” The word translated “follow” is an interesting one, in that it has very negative connotations in the original Hebrew language in which the poem was written. It was used for “pursuit” as in a predator chasing after its prey or an army chasing an enemy. It was also used to describe persecution.
Thus, a powerful image is drawn by the poet, because he twists something negative into a positive, creating an unforgetible image of God’s people being chased by the ravenous rabid dogs of Goodness and Love. Are we going to let them catch us, or are we going to keep on running?