“The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.” (Psalm 23:1–2)
At first it seems strange that David’s primary character in Psalm 23 is a talking sheep. Yet if anyone understood sheep, it was David. He spent his formative years out in the open Judean pastureland shepherding his family’s flocks. His experience taught him that sheep were prone to wander and were stubborn at times. He knew their needs and their weaknesses; he was aware of their vulnerability to the heat and dust storms, to snakes and wild animals.
David knew that sheep needed guidance and protection, a shepherding voice that reassured them and led them to safety. They needed a shepherd who would find lush green grass they could eat and would search for still water they could drink. The sheep would then finally lie down and rest, secure with the shepherd, who took care of all their needs.
David’s shepherding prepared him for kingship (Psalm 78:70–71). It also gave him a picture of his own journey and relationship with God. This picture carried him through his years on the run from Saul and through the magnificent highs and significant lows of his kingship. Hundreds of years later, this talking sheep is the voice behind the Bible’s most famous psalm, providing reassurance and comfort for generations of people.
It’s humbling to compare myself to a sheep, but I see David’s parallels. When I journey through everyday life—work commitments, family, marriage, community—in my own strength, I get conflicted, worn down, overwhelmed. Sometimes I stubbornly carry on, striving to present a picture-perfect life. I want to prove that I can “do it all.” My weary soul paints a more honest picture: I’m tired, empty, and vulnerable. I’m like a sheep without a shepherd.1