Psalm 23 is a beautiful passage in the Bible that is fairly well known. As with most of God’s Word, a lot can be learned when we study this passage from a parenting perspective.
“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 the path 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.”
To fully understand the love that inspired this Psalm, it helps to understand the role of a shepherd in the time that this Psalm was written. Shepherds took care of their flocks with love and respect because their sheep were their livelihoods. The sheep often needed to travel for days, weeks, or even months at a time to find sweet, lush, green grass to eat and calm, still waters to drink. The shepherds would protect their flocks and guide them, making sure they were well cared for.
The role of shepherding is very similar to that of parenting. That is part of the reason God is often referred to throughout the Bible as “the Good Shepherd,” and Jesus as the “Lamb of God.” How comforting, as children of God, that we have His example to follow!
As parents, we need to study our flocks in order to shepherd them to lead fulfilling lives. We need to learn what still waters they want and need. We need to learn what green pastures fuel them – body, mind, and soul. And most importantly, we need to learn how to help shepherd them to meet those needs and grow into healthy and competent adults.
We are not alone in shepherding our precious flocks. God is shepherding us, while simultaneously helping us shepherd our children. And just as we are trying our best to prepare our children and equip them for success, we, too, are equipped.
As shepherds, we need to be careful that we are preparing our flocks for the path, and not preparing the path for our flocks. As far as paths go, it’s safe to say that this last year has been a “valley of the shadow of death” for most of us. These are dark times that we’re living in. We must embrace our responsibilities as parents and shepherds and keep doing our best and letting God fill in the rest. As we shepherd our children through this dark valley, we need to trust our Shepherd.
We need to remember the promise in Jeremiah 29: 11-12, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” If we demonstrate for our children a true trust in God, our Shepherd, we can build trust among our flocks.
Just as shepherds had tools to guide their flocks, so do we. Psalm 23 says, “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” According to research, the rod was used to fight off predatory attacks and direct the sheep. The staff was used to pull the sheep back to the fold and keep the sheep moving in the right direction and also to pull the sheep from harm.
Imagine that your love is your rod and your discipline is your staff. They are your tools to protect and correct your flocks. Loving encouragement can help guide your children. Wise advice can help protect them from harmful situations as you develop trust. When necessary, the appropriate discipline can help steer everyone back to the right path.
Psalm 23 then goes on to discuss how God has prepared a table for you and anointed your head with oil. We can translate this pretty literally to parenting. We prepare nurseries for our precious babies. We bathe and lotion them. We feed them and try our best to keep them cute and comfortable. And just as our cups overflow, we never let our children’s bottles, sippy cups, or bottles go empty. We get up 18 times a meal to grab whatever to meet their needs. We wash their football uniforms and gymnastics leotards. We restock their toiletries and buy their favorite snacks.
We do all of this in love, as we try our best to shepherd our children along the right paths. We hope that this path will cultivate a home culture that leads to our children believe this classic Fearless Mom mantra: “I’m home. I’m safe. I like it here.”
If you do your best to shepherd your flocks along the right path, then surely goodness and mercy shall follow (you) all the days of (your) life, and (you) shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
You’ve got this, Mom! “Do your best, and let God take care of the rest.”
To hear Bill Jones’s powerful sermon on Psalm 23, please visit LHC.org.