If there's one psalm we've all memorized (and in the King James Version, no less), it's the Shepherd Psalm, Psalm 23. We know it and we love it -- yet every preacher seems to think he has to say something new about it. Well, I don't. Its comfort comes in part from its familiarity, and I honestly don't believe every passage needs to become something new and novel. So in keeping with the old ways, here's my take on the Twenty-third Psalm.
The LORD is our shepherd. Shepherds guide and protect, and so does this one. His rod and his staff provide rest for our souls and provision for our daily needs. God leads us into the green pastures, the ways we should go.
Sometimes those ways take us into the valley of the shadow of death. Fear and loss are indeed powerful forces -- but the power of God is greater. And the Good Shepherd walks with us in those dark hours, again providing guidance and comfort. That grace extends even when we're in the presence of our enemies. Interestingly, David makes it sound like God placed him among his enemies and then blessed him there (v. 5, "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies").
The psalm ends with a message of faith, a belief in the Shepherd's continued care for His sheep ("surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life"). But it also ends with a declaration of hope for the hereafter: "I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever." After "all the days of my life" are over, David says, I will live forever in the presence of God. For all of the sheep of the Good Shepherd's flock, this is our hope as well: eternal life with the One who cares for us.