(21) The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing – Psalm 23:1

The second wisdom book is Psalms, which is the biggest book in the Bible. It is a collection of 150 songs and the quickest way to find the book is to open a Bible in the middle as the Psalms sit at the centre of the Bible. About half the Psalms were written by King David and others were written by the musicians that David appointed to make music in Jerusalem and their families. Some were written later, up to the time of the exile, so the book that we have today was probably compiled around four hundred years after David’s time, similar to song books that are used in churches today which combine old and new compositions.

David had a difficult upbringing and faced many difficulties throughout his life and this comes out in his Psalms which range across the whole range of human emotions. An accomplished poet and musician, he was able to express his fear, anger, loneliness, despair and hopelessness as well as his joy, contentment, delight and sense of awe. (For examples of these see Psalm 142:6 for fear, 7:6 for anger, 13:1 for loneliness, 22:1-2 for despair, 22:12-18 for hopelessness, 145:1-2 for joy, 131 for contentment, 1:2 for delight, and 8 for a sense of awe.) However, underpinning all his expression of transient emotions is a sense of his deep faith and confidence in the Lord which cannot be shaken whatever life throws at him.

David’s most famous poem is Psalm 23. David, the shepherd, cared deeply for his flock. He knew what they needed to live contented lives, led them daily to find pasture and water, and was prepared to put himself in danger in order to keep them safe. When he volunteered to go out and face Goliath he told Saul that he had killed lions and bears when defending his sheep, so demonstrating that he knew how to keep a cool head in the face of danger as well as showing an extraordinary love for his flock. Jesus said that “the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11) and David was a great example of this.

What David had learned out in the Judean countryside was that the love he had for his flock was a reflection of God’s love for his flock, his people Israel. He wrote:

“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)

The Lord anticipated David’s needs and provided for him. God protected him in good times and bad and gave him direction, intervening with his ‘rod and staff’ in the same was as a parent will grab a child to stop them going into danger or discipline them to teach them right and wrong. What David learned out with his sheep provided a framework of faith for his life, whether he was on the run or in the palace.

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