A Song Of Love And Faith Psalm 23:1

The Lord is my shepherd. - Psalm 23:1

Your mother taught you many things that you did not understand at the time. The twenty-third Psalm was among them. You liked the swing of “The Lord’s my Shepherd,” and every verse of it made a picture in your mind, but you did not think about its meaning. You could not, however, help having some thoughts of your own about the first verse.

The twenty-third Psalm is one of the first memory lessons given to a boy or girl. The reason is because it is so simple and beautiful. And somehow one never forgets the words of it. There are old people who seem to have forgotten everything they ever learned, but if anyone starts this old psalm they will finish it just like a Sunday-school scholar.

Like many simple things the twenty-third Psalm is full of meaning. What is better, it comes straight from the heart of the writer, and he never says more than he feels. Great singers or poets have a way of writing songs that make plain, simple folk discover the same feelings within themselves.

The poet Burns did this. His gift of song came from God, and all the time it was just as if he remembered things that had happened to him, and wrote down his thoughts. Once, when plowing a field, he frightened a little field mouse. Burns was very tenderhearted. When he went home at night that tiny creature, quivering with fright in his hand and looking at him with its keen black eyes, was always in his mind. So he sat down and wrote what is one of the finest of his short poems, and it is all about this little mouse.

Burns was a ploughman. When King David was a young boy he was a shepherd. A shepherd’s life was for him a glorious life, for he was strong then, and he was lithe like those of you who are in training for the school sports. David could leap from rock to rock, with feet that were, as he himself said, “like hinds’ feet.”

You must not think of David as being like the shepherds you see in this country. As his father’s shepherd in the fields of Judaea, he walked before his sheep, they followed him, and the dogs brought up the rear. Eastern sheep are very tame; they follow their keeper just as a house dog follows his master. The shepherd leads them where he pleases. That is generally to some place where they can find green grass and clear water. Then he is constantly having to protect them from danger. Often the path lies down the side of some ravine where a single slip of the feet would mean death. There are dangers, too, from robbers and wild beasts. You know the story of how David killed both a lion and a bear. To the brave young shepherd, that must have been, as we say, “great sport.”

But David was thoughtful all the time. Long afterwards those happy days came back to his mind. They brought thoughts that he felt he must write down; they were about God, and that is how we have “The Lord’s my Shepherd.” From beginning to end the twenty-third Psalm is full of the pictures you know so well.

“I cared for my sheep; God will care for me; He will lead me to the green pastures beside the still waters. If I keep near Him He will help me to do the right thing.” With God as the Great Shepherd, David felt safe, not only for this life but “for ever.”

The songs of Burns were mostly about human love. This great song of David’s is a song about the love of God: and not only that, it is a song of faith. Faith, as you know, is just trust. You are old enough to be saying to yourselves, “I wonder what sort of life I shall have when I grow up.” David had his answer—

Goodness and mercy all my life
Shall surely follow me:
And in God’s house for evermore
My dwelling-place shall be.

He was sure about it because he had known God as his Friend for a long time. His life had been a story of doing wrong, confessing his fault, and being forgiven. So it seemed to him when he looked back. What could he say that was better than “The Lord is my Shepherd.”

Shepherd, on before thy sheep,
Hear thy lamb that bleats behind!
Scarce the track I stumbling keep!
Through my thin fleece blows the wind!

Turn and see me, Son of Man!
Turn and lift thy Father’s child;
Scarce I walk where once I ran:
Carry me—the wind is wild!

Thou art strong—thy strength wilt share;
My poor weight thou wilt not feel;
Weakness made thee strong to bear,
Suffering made thee strong to heal!

I were still a wandering sheep
But for thee, O Shepherd-man!
Following now, I faint, I weep,
Yet I follow as I can!

Shepherd, if I fall and lie
Moaning in the frosty wind,
Yet, I know, I shall not die—
Thou wilt miss me—and wilt find!
(The Poetical Works of George Macdonald, i. 297.)

- James Hastings, Children's Great Texts Of The Bible