These words were spoken to encourage and comfort someone who senses danger or peril.
Imagine yourself embroiled in chaos and turmoil. Controversy rages; “fake news” flourishes. Pseudo-friends show their true colors. You don’t know who to believe. Smooth tongues deceive. Danger looms. Loyalty seems lost. Trust has eroded; while confidence and optimism have evaporated. Fear threatens to overwhelm you; your courage has vanished. Your situation is dire!
Suddenly, a loyal friend says, “I’ve got your back…” Immediately, you are encouraged and strengthened. You are reminded that you are not alone. Someone is watching out for you. You feel assured because your friend means that he/she will help to guard you against surprise attacks – You know, the ones you can’t see coming from your blindside. In military jargon, “I’ve got your six.” (12 o’clock is immediately in front; 6 o’clock is behind you.) Comforting words indeed!
Remember that David is meditating and celebrating the gracious way Yahweh has dealt with him over the course of his life. David pensively reflects on both God’s promises and their past, present and future fulfillment. He depicts Yahweh as his Shepherd, his Companion, and his Host.
This stands out as we review Psalm 23.
As Shepherd, he provides, protects and guides. The initial image is that of the LORD leading David like a shepherd leads his sheep. He leads me beside still waters. That is, he goes on ahead and shows me the way to the cool refreshing waters I desperately need.
As Companion he accompanies me. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me… David sees himself in a treacherous situation (the valley of the shadow of death) but has no need to fear because Yahweh is “with” him. The idea is that Yahweh is next to or beside him. He has a formidable companion!
As Host he richly provides. The imagery of a festive meal, suggests that Yahweh, the host, honors David as his guest. David has been abundantly blessed by the presence of Yahweh, even welcomed him into his presence. Reflecting on this, David projects his faith into the future. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life… Once again, a picture of Yahweh’s relationship to David. This time his goodness and mercy are following him.
Do you see how secure David is? The Lord is in front of him – leading. The Lord is beside him – with him. The Lord is behind him – following.
Amazing isn’t it! David may have felt hopeless. David apparently thought he was all alone. He felt threatened and desperate. But all the while, he was under the watchful care of the Good Shepherd. He is more secure than he can imagine. He is hemmed in by the presence, goodness and mercy of the LORD – surrounded by the love of the LORD.
Let’s apply this to a realistic situation with which you might be familiar. Suppose you’re having one of those really bad times – not days, but weeks or even months. It seems like everything and everyone, or at least most everyone, is aligned against you. You realize that you are in a treacherous situation. You feel overwhelmed. Perhaps your health or job is threatened. Or maybe a primary relationship is falling apart. Things seem to be out of control, with no hope in sight.
You can easily identify with how David must have been feeling. Lonely, under attack, confused, bewildered, unloved, and maybe even rejected by God. But You are not alone. Almost everyone feels like this at one time or another. David did – until he reflected upon his relationship with his God. Upon reflection, he realized that the LORD was the one caring for him.
As God’s people, let us recognize and rest in these comforting truths. The LORD directs our paths, watches over us for good, nourishes and refreshes as God uses these physical lessons to reinforce the spiritual truth that the LORD deeply loves and graciously cares about his people. He sent his own Son, the Lord Jesus, to be the Good Shepherd who would lay down his life for us, his sheep. Further, remember that Jesus is our companion in times of trouble. He has promised never to leave us or forsake us. He has also promised that he will take us to be with him forever. We will be blessed far beyond what we can imagine!
As God’s people, let us recognize that even when we are in grave danger, we are not alone. Rather, Jesus will be with us even in the darkest of circumstances. We will be personally protected and watched over by Yahweh our God. This assurance of Christ’s companionship provides us with great comfort. The promise of a glorious future fuels our hope as we anticipate our future with Christ.