The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
In this Psalm,God is likened to a shepherd as well as one that prepares a feast. The sheep and the guest are considered to be David. Sheep were used many times in the bible, in an allegorical way, to teach lessons. This was easily understood by hearers, because sheep were prevalent throughout Palestine. Sheep were an important part of the Hebrew nation because they were use for sacrificial purposes as well as for food.
Sheep had many interesting characteristics. They gathered and grazed in herds. They had a tendency to stray, because they generally do not raise their heads while grazing, but kept going as long as there was grass in front of them. This was dangerous because it left them vulnerable to predators. Sheep are easily lead by shepherds. They learn to follow and to come when called, even by specific names. To do so, they must learn their shepherd by sight, as well as by the sound of his voice. Sheep are very submissive to, and dependent on, the shepherd that they have learned to trust and obey.
By accepting a goodshepherd and placing their trust in him,sheep will not want. All things the sheep needs, to live day by day, will be provided by the shepherd. He leads them to green pastures for food. He leads them to still waters to drink, since sheep are reluctant to drink from rushing, turbulent waters. He finds safe places for them to rest and sleep. He watches over them and keeps them safe from harm or from predatory animals. He searches for sheep that stray away and brings them back to the fold. He takes care of their every need. Because of their trust, the sheep will follow a goodshepherd through the most dangerous places, even though these places may be filled with predators, have sheer, dangerous cliffs, or are full of hidden pits. Yet sheep willingly follow their shepherd and are comforted by the symbols of his profession - his rod and staff.
For purposes of this lesson, place yourself in this analogy, as the sheep, and God as the shepherd. When we accept God as our Creator; when we study to know His will and are obedient to it, we are like His sheep. He will feed us with spiritual food; He willlead us to the water of life and let us freelydrink. He will watch over and protect our souls. When we stray away because of sin, realize our lost condition, and seek His forgiveness, He will bring us back into Hisfold. With our hand in His, he will lead us to safety when faced with perilous and trying times in our lives. Our shepherd truly loves us. And, when we place our trust in God - when we submissively let Him lead us - we will not want for anything.
Verse 5 has another analogy. God is portrayed as the maker of a great feast, and we are His guests. God has prepared a sumptuous feast for His children - those that accept Him as their Heavenly Provider. The feast is served in the presence of the enemies of God and His children. Yet we are safe and have no fear, when in the protective presence of God. With the anointing of precious, perfumed oil, we are treated as the most welcomed and favored guests. The cup of life, from which God serves us living water,runs over with abundance. What a privilege it is to sit at the table God has prepared for His children.
As obedient children of God, we will never be wanting. Surely goodness and mercy will follow our every step as we pass through this life on earth. Remaining obedient, we will dwell in God's house forever.