The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.Psalm 23:1
It is one of the most famous verses in the Bible. If the LORD is our shepherd, why shall we want nothing? Can we be complete?
While we can find many related verses, the key portion is from the Gospel of John. Jesus mentioned this metaphor in His parable.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.John 10:1-5
It consists of the following components:
- Thieves and robbers (strangers) enter the sheepfold, not through the door.
- The shepherd alone enters the sheepfold through the door.
- The porter opens the door for the shepherd.
- The sheep know the shepherd’s voice, and they follow him.
- The shepherd knows the sheep, and he calls their names.
- The sheep don’t know the strangers’ voice.
- The sheep don’t follow the strangers and fleet from them.
While there are a lot of interpretations, the one thing we notice is that the sheep could be a symbol of our cognitive, existential limitation.
Just like the sheep, fundamentally, we don’t know where we came from and where we are going. We are in the middle of nowhere among this vast universe. What we know is the fact that our life would be a tiny glimpse of such a gigantic expansion.
What we can see is so limited. Like the sheep, we merely eat whatever in front of us. Where are the green pastures we can rest and lie down? We don’t know how to go there. The shepherd alone can lead us there:
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.Psalm 23:2
After telling the parable, Jesus added how He was related to it.
Firstly, He is the door for the sheep:
Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.John 10:7-10
There is the door to lead the sheep to the green pastures. Perhaps, for us, this is the way to lead us to the light in this world, not of this world. Thieves and robbers are everywhere in this world and of this world, stealing, killing, and destroying.
There is, however, the door for the life and light, not of this world. That is, the door for the green pasture.
Secondly, Jesus said, He is the good shepherd for the sheep as well:
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.John 10:11-13
Because of our cognitive, existential limitation, we can’t lead ourselves to the life, the light, and the green pasture. No sheep can lead the sheep to such green pasture. Nothing of this world can bring anything in this world out of this world. It is an epistemological, ontological impossibility, and antinomy.
It is the good shepherd alone who can lead the sheep to the green pasture. It is the good shepherd alone who is in this world, not of this world. A hireling is of this world; hence, he doesn’t know how to lead the sheep to the green pasture but leave them under wolves’ threats.
In the same way, we need our good shepherd to lead us to the life, the light, not of this world. Who could be such good shepherd? Who could break through such antinomy?
I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.John 10:14-18
Indeed, the good shepherd is in this world, not of this world. He can lay down his life for the sheep. He has the power to lay it down and take it again as His Father instructed. A glimpse of the eternity could emerge in such no-boundary realm:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.John 10:27-30
In such oneness, we could realize how our good shepherd leads us to the light, the eternal life, not of this world. We hear His voice. And we can taste such eternity in the latter lines of Psalm 23.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the 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 for ever.Psalm 23:3-6
Image by katalin csák