“The LORD is my shepherd...” (Psalm 23:1). Not only is Christ “The Good Shepherd,” who made provision for His Sheep through His Atoning Work on the Cross as the Sheep’s Substitute, Sacrifice, and Savior; He is also “The Great Shepherd.” Under this title, we see His Performance for the Sheep.
“Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,” (Hebrews 13:20)
“Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:21)
The Great Shepherd Concept is then seen in His Performance in the Sheep to do His Will based on His Resurrection. (Read 1 Corinthians 15:1-22.) His physical resurrection from the dead was the seal of our spiritual resurrection in Christ (Romans 6:4). This spiritual resurrection is when the Spirit of God raises the chosen Child of God from his deadness in sins and trespasses (Ephesians 2:1-5). This action is based on Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (see Hebrews 13:20); based on the Blood Atonement of the Everlasting Covenant in Christ. (See Romans 3:24-25; 5:1-2; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; etc.) Therefore, the first resurrection a Child of God experiences is the Regeneration Process (Romans 6:4; 8:2-16; 2 Corinthians 5:17).
The second Performance by the Great Shepherd is “Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ.” This process is called Progressive Sanctification. The process of Progressive Sanctification starts at the Cross in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30). But it is realized by the chosen Child of God in Regeneration (from the point of the quickened sinner (John 6:63); being drawn by God (John 6:44-45, 65); to the place of repentance of sin and confession by the sinner that Christ is his Savior (Romans 10:9-10)). This process of Sanctification is then Experiential in the believer.
Paul writes that this process of Sanctification begins in Christ and is a daily process by the Power of Christ working in you:
“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)
David reveals this Sanctifying Process in Psalm 23:1-6, in His Performance.
1) “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”
The “green (denotes life) pastures (denotes food supply)” give the sheep life-giving food and rest. Christ said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35; see verses 35-69). Those who eat of His Flesh are those who have Eternal Life. But because we are regenerated Children of God; Christ, our Shepherd, maketh us to “lie down” in His Word. This is a daily feeding and resting upon Christ. It is a continual process that the Shepherd feeds the sheep daily and causes the fruit of the Spirit to be borne in their branches. (See John 15:1-16; Galatian 5:22-23.)
The major idea here is the rest we have in God’s Word, “lie down” (or to rest in Christ, the Life, the Bread of Life).
Note: “He maketh me”; the action is from God to us, not man to God.
2) “He leadeth me beside the still waters”; or the waters of quietness.
This speaks of peace and also rest. When you are made to drink of the Water of Life (John 4:1-41), or when you are filled with the Holy Spirit; there comes the knowledge of the Prince of Peace living in you. You understand that He made Peace by the Blood of the Cross (Ephesians 2:13-14; Colossians 1:11-14, 20; Romans 5:1; 8:6; Acts 10:36; 2 Thessalonians 3:16). You understand that in Christ you have been reconciled to God (that is brought back in to focus with God) and redeemed. The knowledge of Christ’s Atonement and His indwelling of the believer is the constant and everlasting source of the believer’s peace (Romans 8:29-39).
Again it is God that “leadeth me beside the still waters”; all Glory goes to God.
3) “He restoreth my soul.”
All restoration of a Child of God to God’s full fellowship is again on the foundation of Christ’s Atonement on the Cross:
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
“And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)
Therefore, God said to the wayward Child of God: Confess your sins, and because you have been forgiven in Christ, I will restore you. Again it is by His Power we are restored; not by our power.
4) “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”
That is, God never leads into unrighteousness (James 1:12-15); but only in the paths of righteousness. (See Romans 6:4-22.) As you are given the power to walk in righteousness, you are daily being conformed to the Image of the Shepherd (Christ). This has been predestinated for every Child of God (Romans 8:29):
“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Romans 8:29)
This is all “for his name’s sake”; for His Honor and Glory. And it is by His Leadership; not by our power.
5) “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.”
The Shepherd prepared a table (primarily a table is a picture of prepared food). This is “before me,” always before us; or the supply is always before us, in His Word. He gives us food for our spirit; which food, when received, is able to save (or preserve) our souls (or our temporal life):
“Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:21)
Therefore, my Shepherd always supplies my every need:
“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
6) “Thou anointest my head with oil.”
This speaks of the outward testimony of our inward being set apart by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God in Regeneration (Romans 8:9-16).
When God commanded Moses to “set apart” Aaron and his sons for the position of High Priest, God told Moses to anoint Aaron and his sons with the Holy Anointing Oil before the people. This was an outward testimony of God setting them apart for the Office of High Priest. It also revealed they were filled with the Holy Spirit of God. The oil represents the Holy Spirit. (See Exodus 30:30.)
Those in the Body of Christ have been set apart by the Holy Spirit’s Baptism of them into Christ’s Body (1 Corinthians 12:13). Therefore, the members of His Body are kings and priests in Christ (1 Peter 2:9). As Christ was visibly anointed (Matthew 3:16), so Christ would baptize them with (or in) the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11). And this baptism (immersion) by the Holy Spirit happened visibly on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:8; 2:1-39). That is, they were Born from Above by the Spirit of God (John 3:3-8; Romans 8:1-16; Galatians 4:5-6). This happened in their spirits. But regeneration also has an outward manifestation in the fruit borne on their branches (Galatians 5:22-23). (See 1 John 5:20, 27.)
David, in Psalm 23:1-6, gave a brief, but beautiful, and in-depth view of The Performance of the Shepherd.