A few months ago I was tasked with Psalm 23 to preach at a college chapel service. Psalm 23 is a well-known psalm, and I have heard a few good sermons on that text. One sermon was so phenomenally done that I was intimidated with the task of preaching that text.
The first line, “the LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want,” fits right up there with John 3:16 as one of the most well-known and recited scriptures in all of Christian history. The word “my” really stood out to me this time. It is a small word and it may not seem like a very big deal, but I think the use of the word “my” is a huge deal.
David could have said, the LORD is “a” shepherd and it would have been fine. GOD’s word would have still been true. Everything that David says after stating that the LORD is “a” shepherd would have still been very true. But David did not use the word “a” but rather he used “my.”
David’s use of the word “my” lets us know that everything David is about to say, he knows from personal experience. He is not telling you because of some academic studying, though there is nothing wrong with that, and it would not make it any less true. He is not telling you based on the words of someone else. David is not telling you what he has heard. David is telling us what he knows from his own personal experiences with the LORD.
I think it is pretty easy to say that those that we are close to in our lives now started out as just a person. My wife at one point in time was just a young lady. My best friend at one point in time was just a dude from another town. My coach was at one point in time was just a coach of a lot of other coaches in my county. However, those a’s turned to my’s.
Those a’s turned into my’s because of some personal interaction. Those a’s turned into my’s because of some communication, cultivation, time, and proximity. Those a’s turned into my’s because of going through some good times, bad times, fun times, and sad times—TOGETHER.
I believe David was not just waxing eloquently when he penned, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” but rather David was giving us a glimpse into how GOD went from “a” shepherd to “my” shepherd. I think that is why this psalm resonates with so many people. This psalm is a hopeful psalm.
Dear people, a life with GOD is not promised to be a static life. A life with GOD is a dynamic life with seasons as vast as the summer and winter in the midwestern United States. It’s a life of victories, defeats, achievements, and failures. It’s a life that needs leading, restoration, protection, and provision by a shepherd.
I was challenged by David. I cannot just tell people about a shepherd. I must tell them about my shepherd. How about you?
Grace and peace.4