Unpacking Psalm 23

The 23rd Psalm is one of the most well-known and most beloved passages in all of Scripture. It is one of the most read and most memorized sets of verses but perhaps it is so familiar to us that we have fallen short of a deep understanding of it.  At least that's what I found true for myself.  I uncovered alot of truths in it that I had not known so I thought that might be the case for you, too.  So, for the next few posts, we are going to unpack these six verses.  Let me know what you think.

 First, The Word: (please read it, every verse.  Don't skim over it, telling yourself you are already familiar with it.  Let each verse seep into your soul.  We are going to look carefully at each one ).

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Next - the author.  Scripture tells us that this is a Psalm of David.  Before he was King David, he was David, the shepherd-boy.  Therefore, when he gives us the word-picture of God's people as sheep and the Lord as our shepherd, he was drawing from knowledge and experiences that ensure his creditability.  In other words, he know what he was talking about!
Since David asserts that The Lord is shepherd, we must deduce that we are sheep.  Some of you may have farm or veterinary backgrounds so that you know what sheep are like.  I don't.  So I did some research on the characteristics of sheep, just to help me understand why God, through the psalmist, would call us sheep.  (BTW, this is not the only time in Scripture that God's people are referred to as "sheep" so it's safe to assume God is consistently sending us a message by using this metaphor).  Here are some of the things I learned about sheep:
  -constantly need fresh water, fresh pasture
  -have very little disernment in choosing good food/water
  -early  morning dew is prime source of water
2. Traits:
 -not very intelligent; gullible
 -very vulnerable to fear, frustration, hunger
 -easily agitated, especially by pests
 -stubborn, even to the point of eating poisonous plants or drinking dirty water
 -habitual creatures, will follow same habit even if it is not helpful
 -timid, easily panicked
 -resistant to being sheared or cleaned
 -easily "cast" (flipped over on back, unable to right themselves, shepherd has to intervene)
 -too much wool can cause sheep to be easily "cast"
 -easily killed by enemies (running away is only means of self-defense)
 -completely dependent on shepherd
 -needs most care of all livestock in order to survive
 -poor depth perception/reluctant to go where they cannot see
 -frightened by sudden loud noises, such as yelling or barking
 -appetite is an indicator of health(a loss of appetite means the sheep is ill)

3. Social characteristics:
-one sheep in flock is usually the "leader"
-dominance seems to be based on physical characteristics such as size
-easily influenced by sheep-leader and by shepherd
- stampede easily, vulnerable to mob psychology
 -jealous, competitive for dominant position
 -shepherd is most effective at calming flock

In other words, real sheep bear little resemblance to the cute little lambs pictured in nursery rhyme books. The most amazing thing to remember, though, is that sheep are infinitely precious to the shepherd.
Next,  we will look at verse one.  Until then, blessings to you, my sister sheep!