Monday, October 10, 2016

Good Shepherd in Psalm 23:4

artwork by Krista Hamrick

It is so energizing and exciting to participate in #Write31days, an online writing challenge where writers pick one topic and write a post on that topic every day in the month of October. Within the #Write31days category of Inspiration & Faith, I chose to focus on the topic of the Name Above All Names every day for 31 days. You can view each of my daily posts at this landing page.

Krista Hamrick’s beautiful original art prints, Name Above All Names Alphabet and Psalm 23 have so inspired me. Each of the 26 individual Names she has identified are so special, as Krista has intricately painted, almost like stained glass windows, each one with its Scripture reference.

My heart has been drawn to do a word study for each of the names included in her art print. Krista and I felt led to publish our Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ available on Amazon at this link. 

I was inspired by Chris Tomlins' anointed hymn, Good, Good Fatherwhile studying  John 10:11 

  I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. 

Amplified: I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd risks and lays down His [own] life for the sheep.

J. B. Phillips: I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd will give his life for the sake of his sheep.

The Message: I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary.

Psalm 23 is perhaps the most beloved scripture about our Good Shepherd. Ask people which scripture they love the most and which has meant most to them and many would point to the Twenty-third Psalm. It has dried many tears and lifted many out of the pits of despair and discouragement. This small Psalm deals with almost every adverse circumstance in life and how to win over it.

Verse-by-verse study of Psalm 23:4

AMPC: Yes, though I walk through the [deep, sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort me.

CEB: Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger because you are with me. Your rod and your staff— they protect me.

CEV: I may walk through valleys as dark as death, but I won’t be afraid. You are with me, and your shepherd’s rod makes me feel safe.

EXB: Even if I walk through ·a very dark valley [or the shadow of death], I will ·not be afraid [T fear no evil], because you are with me. Your rod and your shepherd’s staff comfort me.

TLB: Even when walking through the dark valley of death I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me, guarding, guiding all the way.

MSG: Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure.

Pastor Warren W. Wiersbe writes:
23:4a—This is the central verse of the psalm, and the personal pronoun changes from “he” to “you.” David is not speaking about the shepherd, but speaking to the shepherd. In the dark valley, God is not before us but beside us, leading the way and calming our fears. The “darkest valley” represents any difficult experience of life that makes us afraid, and that includes death.

23:4b—Sheep lack good vision and are easily frightened in new circumstances, especially when it’s dark. The presence of the shepherd calms them.

23:4c—The rod was a heavy cudgel with which the shepherd could stun or kill an attacking beast, and the staff was the shepherd’s crook, which he used to assist the individual sheep.

JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH—The Lord, ever-present (Ezekiel 48:35)—Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow.

Psalm 23:4 refers to the darkest valley or ravine. Each year the flock faced a very difficult time. The shepherd would lead them from the valley to the higher elevations, the mountaintops. There were many dangers: flooding rivers, rock-slides, storms, poisonous snakes coiled and ready to strike, hungry wolves lurking in the shadows; extremely adverse circumstances.

None of us are immune from life's darkest hours, the valleys, the times of sorrow and suffering, grief, and pain. Each of us must face the darkest hour of death. Notice concerning death that there is a shadow. In order for a shadow to be present there must be substance and light. Death is real, but so is God. The Light of God makes death a mere shadow and a shadow cannot harm you. Jehovah-Shammah, "God is There." "I AM There." In every circumstance God promises His presence and His power. There is no dark hour you must ever face alone.

"I will fear no evil." His presence makes fear vanish. Fear paralyzes; God's presence stabilizes. You can face anything because He is with you. Notice the rod and the staff that comfort. These instruments guaranteed the shepherd's presence. The rod is an instrument of power used to protect and defend the sheep against all fears. God has given us His Word to protect the Christian.

The staff was used to guide and rescue the sheep from dangers and difficulties. The Holy Spirit guides us and rescues us from the pits of despair. He sees us through life's darkest hours. God's Word and God's Spirit guarantee His presence. 

Pastor Octavius Winslow writes: “What a marvelous combination of note, and harmony of sound! It speaks of soul-depression; the pathway of the valley; the shadow of death; the presence of the Shepherd; and the triumph of the sheep! "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for You are with me." The spiritual landscape of the Christian is diversified in character, feature, and tint. Mountains and hills, rivers and valleys, forests and glens, grassy mounds and sunny slopes, compose it; and each succeeding and varied scene, presents some new and brighter view of the divine character, and brings the saints of God into the experience of some yet unstudied and unlearned lesson in the divine life. Oh deem nothing too small for God! If it concerns you, it yet more deeply concerns Him; if it is your care, it is still more His. "Casting all your care upon Him; for He cares for you;" and how could He care for you, felt He not your care? You are His child by adopting grace, and nothing that attaches to you as a child is alien to Him as a Father. But let us now bend our ear to this pensive yet triumphant strain of our song- "Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for You are with me."

Pastor Winslow continues: “In this valley of repentance, self-renunciation, and godly sorrow for sin, Christ is found—and found only here! This that was, in a sense, the valley of death, now becomes the valley of life! "I will fear no evil!" An elevated note of our song is this! What! "no evil" in the approach of the 'king of terrors'? "No evil" in the assaults of the Evil One? "No evil" in the near prospect and realities of eternity? "Yes," responds the dying believer, "I fear no evil! Death cannot sting me—Christ has died! The grave cannot hold me—Christ is risen! Sin cannot condemn me—Christ has atoned! Satan cannot touch me—Christ has conquered! Where does this sublime victory over death come from? "For You are with me." The presence and power of the Savior in the hour and point of death, alone explain the phenomenon. There is no fact in the believer's history more certain, as there is not one more precious, than that the Divine Shepherd walks side by side with each departing member of His flock. If ever the Savior is manifestly and sensibly with His saints, it is then. Never did He permit one of His sheep, not a lamb of His fold, to pass down the valley unsustained by His arm, uncheered by His voice, unblest with His smile. "You me with me!" breathes from the dying lips—resounds through the valley!

Pastor Winslow continues: "Your rod and your staff." The image is pastoral and exquisitely beautiful. There are few objects more picturesque than that of the shepherd and his crook. The 'rod and the staff' are essential to the office of the shepherd as to the guidance and protection of the flock. The spiritual and practical significance of the symbol will be obvious to every reflective mind. The first and primary use of the shepherd's rod is that of marking the sheep, by which they are distinguished from all others, and recognized as his own. This is the meaning of God's word, "I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant." The shepherd's "rod" is equally employed for the guidance of the flock. The shepherd's "rod" is for protection. It is a weapon of defense with which the flock are shielded from the prowling beasts of prey. There is not a moment that danger is not near, and not a moment that Christ's Rod is not outstretched in our defense. "Your rod and your staff they comfort me." Divine discipline and divine comfort are synonymous terms. The Lord tries the righteous, that He might comfort them. He wounds to heal—creates a channel for His divine consolations often through the furrows and fissures of a broken heart."

In the eastern tradition, a shepherd walks at the head of the flock. This is much different from the western tradition of driving the sheep from behind. The shepherd calls the flock out of the pen in the early morning to lead them to pools or wells of water where they can quench their thirst. He then guides them to green pastures, taking them around the rocky places where they might stumble. He assists the tiny and fragile sheep by lifting them with the crook of his staff. He runs his hand over the sheep as they enter the pen, counting them and ensuring that they have returned from the pasture unharmed. Then the shepherd settles in for the night to watch for predators. How awesome that Jesus is our shepherd. He will lead us to living water and guide us along the right path even when the way is rocky. He carries us when we stumble and watches over us during the dark nights of our lives, making us feel secure. All that He asks is that we respond to His voice and follow Him. 

Heavenly Father, 
It is comforting to know that I am not alone in the journey called life. God, I thank You that You are ever vigilant, watching over me, meeting with me in the morning, and abiding with me through the night. Even though I may walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Your name is Emmanuel--God with us--I am absolutely certain You are with me, You will never leave me or forsake me. May I always respond to Your voice and stay close to You. I gladly follow You as You call my name! In Your mighty Name Above All Names--Good Shepherd, we pray, amen.

Look Up—meditate on John 10:11 Pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.

Look In
—as you meditate on 
John 10:11 pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: "Because God is_________, I will_____________."

Look Out—as you meditate on 
John 10:11 pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.

* If you liked this post you’ll love this book – Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ


  1. Dear, precious friend! I surely needed this today. Thank you for digging so deep into God's Word and bringing out such encouragement and comfort and sharing it with us here. You are such a blessing to my family and me. Sending you much love and gratitude today!

    1. Cheryl, thank you so much for stopping by with your sweet comments today! I was just telling my dear friend and prayer partner, Linda, about your "inner view" this week with your precious son, Zachary, on your website, Homespun Devotions. May the Lord use his words to touch the hearts of many parents and teenagers, and give them a hunger to know and love Jesus Christ the way you, your husband, and your son, Zachary, know Him. Many blessings to you all!


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