“The Lord is my shepherd”. (Psalm 23:1)
We can probably give a nod of the head and accept that in the time of David and this psalm there would have been confidence in the relationship between the LORD as the shepherd of Israel who cares for his sheep and the host who cares for his guest at a banquet or feast.
We can see that the faithful celebrate God’s attention to the nation of Israel under the titles of shepherd and host of a banquet and within that see themselves, as individuals, being recipients and benefitting under the LORD’s goodness and mercy.
This is a well known and well used psalm in the religious practices of today, it often appears at funerals and other times of stress and sorrow.
Has this exposure contributed to a “generalization” or “secularization” of the psalm? Is it now little more than a “religious contribution” to the situation in the hope that it will provide some solace to the hearers and participants?
Is there still the question of who is part of the flock or invited to the feast? In the time of King David it was the faithful keepers of the covenant between the LORD and the people of Israel. Today it is those who can truly call Jesus ‘my Shepherd’ and know that they have a place at the wedding banquet of the Lamb by way of their faith and commitment to Jesus Christ as LORD.
There is first person ownership and identification with the Shepherd, he is “my shepherd” not “our” or “their” but “my”. A table is prepared for “me” in the presence of “my” enemies, “my head” is anointed with oil … and “I” shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Even today we speak of the personal relationship with the Lord through his son Jesus Christ just as the psalmist accepts recognizes his relationship; so we can take the same steps of faith and know the shepherd for ourselves.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 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.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. (ESV)
And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants[a] to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. (Matthew 22:1-10 ESV)
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. (John 10:11-16 ESV)
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” 10 . (Revelation 19:9 ESV)