The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Psalm 23 (KJV)
All of my life I have interpreted verses 2-4 in the following manner. The Lord makes me to lie down in green pastures and He leads me beside still waters which restore my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name sake. Then IF I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I need not fear any evil for He is with me.
A recent Bible study on Psalm 23 however, has caused me to re-think my interpretation of these verses.
I am always a bit hesitant to write a blog about sheep because I know several members of CB know a great deal about sheep whereas my experience with sheep has been limited to petting them or giving them a little snack through a fence at a farm, fair or petting zoo. I know they are soft and wooly. I know they must be sheared regularly and I know that domestic sheep require the care of a shepherd. Left to their own devices, it is difficult for them to survive very long on their own. I also know that sheep need to be moved to fresh pasture periodically. This is not merely for their own health but for the health of the vegetation as well for they will do permanent damage to it if they graze in the same area for too long.
The author of Psalm 23 was King David who spent his youth as a shepherd. His family lived in Bethlehem which is situated in the Judean Hills and also borders the Judean Desert. After the snow melts in the mountains it is customary, as it is in many parts of the world, to move livestock up to the fresh, fertile mountain pastures. Such a move, while necessary, is also quite dangerous. David would have had to move his sheep through dark valleys and dangerous ravines. He would have had to have been even more on the lookout for wild animals than he would have been out in the open country where they could be seen much more easily.
There is no IF about it. In order for David to get his sheep to the green pastures and still waters, he had to lead them through dark and dangerous valleys. Our Good Shepherd must do the same.
In all honesty, I do not desire to go through dark and dangerous valleys. I do not want to travel rocky, slippery paths or inch my way along a ledge. However, if I want to get to those "green pastures and still waters" I have no choice. I must faithfully follow the Shepherd, even though the way seems treacherous. I must put my utmost confidence and trust in Him that He not only can but will lead me safely to new heights where I will feast in greener pastures and drink more refreshing water than I could ever have imagined.
I must trust the Shepherd and follow Him... no matter what.
Scripture quotation taken from the King James Version, Public Domain.