Ted Ancelet, National Director of Spiritual Empowerment
November’s a big month! Not only does it launch us into the holiday season, but this year we’re facing a contentious election and entering winter in the grip of global pandemic. Thankfully, as we turn to God’s Word, we find the hope and strength we need to face all of life’s experiences with grace and peace.
Our passage this month is one of the most beloved psalms and treasured Scriptures in the Bible. But our familiarity with this passage can rob us of the comfort it’s meant to bring.
So I invite you to slow down and create space in your world to read this passage with fresh eyes and an open heart. Don’t rush. Pause and remember that our sense of peace and security is drawn from the promise of God’s presence, not our circumstances.
While we cannot determine or control the situations and obstacles we face, we can determine how we respond. Most importantly, we can learn to be aware of the nearness of God with each breath and step we take.
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23 (ESV)
A loving shepherd
In this psalm, David—the future king of Israel—speaks from his own life experiences to declare his confidence in God’s care. In his youth, David was a shepherd. God uses David’s understanding of those hot days and cold nights tending sheep to teach David how he cares for his people, corporately and individually. The all-powerful, all-knowing creator of the universe, God identifies himself as a loving shepherd, personally overseeing his sheep. God’s desire is for us to know that he’s watching over us and always present with us.
Rest and restoration
In the opening verses, we see God’s desire to refresh our souls and encourage our hearts. The key for us is to recognize and follow his leading.
Do you recognize God’s leading in your life? Before we go any further, reflect on what distracts you from following God’s guidance. Don’t just read God’s Word; engage it. What noise competes with his loving voice in your life?
Acknowledge distractions, and then set them aside. As you do, know that “green pastures” and “still waters” are his promises for your weary soul.
Presence in the valley
God is not only our shepherd; he is also our shelter. He doesn’t always steer us around life’s valleys; sometimes the valley is part of our journey. But he promises that he is with us in the midst of it. God assures us we’re never alone and that we always have the spiritual resources we need to not merely survive but thrive in every situation we face.
David mentions the shepherd’s rod and staff. These are tools the shepherd uses to prod and guide the sheep. Do you have a sense of where God may be guiding you in your valley? What circumstances and relationships may he be using to lead you through the shadows and into his light?
As God leads you down “paths of righteousness,” let faith in his goodness eclipse any fear the valley may stir within you. Rest in David’s closing words: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Amen.
We’re here for you
Along with these Year of the Bible devotionals, we’ve shared how you can join with us in living out the truths we’ve looked at in God’s Word. This month we want to let you know we’re here for you as well.
Our desire is to demonstrate the love and compassion of Christ to expectant parents, kids, families, and refugees around the world. If you find yourself in need of support, we’d love to help. To learn more about our resources, CLICK HERE.
Along with these resources, Bethany staff desire to extend the love of Jesus to all those in need of “green pastures” and “still waters.” Please let us know how we can help.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 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. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:11–15
In this passage, Jesus proclaims that he is in fact the shepherd we’ve been looking for. Take a moment to reflect on the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made for us.
When you feel weak, his love for you is your strength. You have nothing to prove and nothing to merit. He has done it all. God is with you in the valley and with you when you face your enemies. Find your rest in him.
Father, thank you for sending us your Son to guide and protect us. Your love and his sacrifice ensure that we are never alone. Today, we remember and rest in his words to us: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). May we rest in his promised peace. In your Son’s precious name, Amen.