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  • Chad Werkhoven

Psalm 23 - Ovine Theology

If the Lord's your shepherd, that makes you His sheep.


Psalm 23 (NIV)

A psalm of David.

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,

he leads me beside quiet waters,

3 he refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right paths

for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk

through the darkest valley, 

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.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me

all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord 



Listen to passage & devotional:


Belgic Confession of Faith, Article 13: The Doctrine of God’s Providence

We believe that this good God,

after he created all things,

did not abandon them to chance or fortune

but leads and governs them

according to his holy will,

in such a way that nothing happens in this world

without his orderly arrangement.

Yet God is not the author of,

nor can he be charged with,

the sin that occurs.

For his power and goodness

are so great and incomprehensible

that he arranges and does his work very well and justly

even when the devils and wicked men act unjustly.

We do not wish to inquire

with undue curiosity

into what he does that surpasses human understanding

and is beyond our ability to comprehend.

But in all humility and reverence

we adore the just judgments of God,

which are hidden from us,

being content to be Christ’s disciples,

so as to learn only what he shows us in his Word,

without going beyond those limits.

This doctrine gives us unspeakable comfort

since it teaches us

that nothing can happen to us by chance

but only by the arrangement of our gracious

heavenly Father.

He watches over us with fatherly care,

keeping all creatures under his control,

so that not one of the hairs on our heads

(for they are all numbered)

nor even a little bird

can fall to the ground

without the will of our Father.

In this thought we rest,

knowing that he holds in check

the devils and all our enemies,

who cannot hurt us

without his permission and will.

For that reason we reject

the damnable error of the Epicureans,

who say that God involves himself in nothing

and leaves everything to chance.



Psalm 23 is certainly on any top 5 list of recognizable scriptures, maybe even in the top two. This Psalm has brought peace and comfort to scores of people throughout the generations, to both those who know God well and those who barely know His name.

Often times people misunderstand theology to be dry and boring. Psalm 23 proves that quite the opposite is true: while it may be famous for its unsurpassed poetic beauty, Psalm 23 is pure theology, describing the relationship between you and your very personal Shepherd-King.

Notice how David underscores just how personal this relationship is. He doesn't just write that God is our shepherd, although that would certainly be accurate as well, but he writes that the Lord is my shepherd. This is the relationship you must have with Him. For too many people, the Lord is just our God. Make sure that you can say with David that He's my shepherd.

Your shepherd takes a very active role in your life. He makes you lie down, leads you, refreshes your soul, guides you, prepares a table before you, anoints your head with oil, as His goodness and love follows you all the days of your life. Surely you lack nothing.

Dig Deeper

While nearly everyone loves the idea of a loving Shepherd supplying us with green pastures and quiet waters, most people ultimately (although unconsciously) reject the overall premise of Psalm 23, because nobody wants to think of themself as a sheep. Sheep are dumb and completely dependent. Your sinful nature strives to convince you that you're anything but a sheep; it wants you to consider yourself as being wiser than God and fully independent.

You're certainly not dumb. Biblical theology teaches exactly the opposite, understanding you to be made in God's image with the ability to think, contemplate and feel complex & deep emotions. Psalm 23 is encouraging you to have the attitude of a sheep, not its intellect. This is exactly what Jesus meant when He told His disciples that those who are poor in Spirit, that is, completely dependent upon their shepherd, will be blessed.

Having a strong understanding of God's providence helps you hold the tension you've been designed to live in. On one hand, learn to follow your shepherd's leading. On the other, remember that providence doesn't teach us to just 'let go and let God.' You're called here to walk through the darkest valley knowing God is with you, not be carried.

So know Psalm 23 well, not just because it's a beautiful and famous poem, but because of the awesome theology it poetically imparts.

  • ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

  • ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Make me lie down in green pastures, lead me beside quiet waters, and refresh my soul;



Read the New Testament in a year! Today: Matthew 5


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