Promise: The Good Shepherd Promises to Always Provide for You through Affliction

J. Douglas MacMillan shares how fisherman alerted him about one of his sheep stuck on a lonely cliff’s edge with nothing left to eat.  And having had no water to soften and digest the food, it later died.[1]

In contrast, Psalm 23 promises that God will always guide Christians where they can eat and drink, ensure that they do, and provide only what’s best.

Your Good Shepherd will always provide for all your basic needs and nourishment.

Verse one proclaims,  "I shall not want.”  John McNeill interprets the phrase as, “Im looked after. Kept, provided for.”[2]

And in verse five, God prepares your table in advance.

Phillip Keller explains how he took his sheep to the “mesa” (Spanish, “table”) in the summer mountains, a high-topped plateau.  He suggests David may have had in mind how the shepherd first finds the best place for the sheep and labors to clear and cultivate it ahead of time.[3]  Just as God told the Israelites He had prepared Canaan for them with builded cities, ready-made and furnished houses, pre-dug wells, and farmed vineyards and trees.[4]

Christian, Jesus said: I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also (John 14:2-3). Meanwhile, He lays out His communion table to satisfy you with His righteousness.[5]

Sadly, we often lose our appetite.  So, as McNeill wisely comments, He is preparing a place for us, and preparing us for the place.”[6]

Your Good Shepherd will always provide you with an appropriate appetite.

Verse three sighs, “He restoreth my soul”; literally in the Hebrew, My soul he brings back,” translated elsewhere, repents.” 

Verse two emphasizes that the sheep lay resting because God has well fed them—and they drink by still waters because God led them there for peace.

Every morning, the shepherd brings the sheep back out of the pen to stay healthy, for, as Keller says, “ … if they are to benefit from the outlying fields and meadows they must be put out to pasture.”[7]

Jesus said, 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 (John 10:2-4).  The great Shepherd’s call is, Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest … ye shall find rest unto your souls (Matthew 11:28-29).

Your Good Shepherd will always provide for you along the best way for you.

Verse three says,He leadeth me into paths of righteousness”:  not the same old sinful ruts.”  Christ keeps His sheep rotating through different areas of sanctification, assuring us, I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (John 10:10).

Yet Keller notes that shepherds also take the sheep into deep wells of dark caverns for water: Many of the places we may be led into will appear to us as dark, deep, dangerous and somewhat disagreeable.  But it simply must be remembered that He is there with us in it.”[8]

Another water source are the cool streams within the valleys of verse four which are dark and dangerous—but they are the best way to mountaintop grazing and the most abundant quenching of thirst along the way.

Keller points out that valley routes, though longer, offer the easiest slope, most water, and best forage.  Yet the sun only reaches them a few hours.[9]  He thus counsels:

“… it is in the valleys of our lives that we find refreshment from God Himself.  It is not until we have walked with Him through some very deep troubles that we discover He can lead us to find our refreshment in Him right there in the midst of our difficulty … the life of God can only flow in blessing through the valleys that have been carved and cut into our own lives by excruciating experiences.”[10]

Thus David writes elsewhere, Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word, and, I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.[11]

Our Heavenly Father knows what is best, so He always provides for us along the best way to know Him Who is the Way better.[12]  Trust that The Good Shepherd Will Always Provide for You through Affliction.[13]

Grant Van Leuven has been feeding the flock at the Puritan Reformed Presbyterian Church in San Diego, CA, since 2010.  He and his wife, Fernanda, have seven covenant children: Rachel, Olivia, Abraham, Isaac, Gabriel, Gideon, and Giulianna.  He earned his M.Div. at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA.

[1] J. Douglas MacMillan, The Lord Our Shepherd (Bryntirion, Bridgend, Mid Glam.: Evangelical Press of Wales, 1992), 57-58.

[2] John McNeill, The Twenty-Third Psalm, 2d. ed. (London: Pickering & Inglis, 1930?), 22.

[3] Phillip Keller, A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm, in The Shepherd Trilogy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 39, 93-94.

[4] Deuteronomy 6:10-11.

[5] Just as Christ sent ahead to have the Passover made ready for His disciples.

[6] McNeill, 90.

[7] Keller, A Shepherd Looks at the Good Shepherd, in The Shepherd Trilogy, 176.

[8] Keller, A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm, 48.

[9] Ibid, 76, 78.

[10] Ibid, 77, 78.

[11] Psalm 119:67, 75.  See also vs. 71: It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.

[12] And we know through the fellowship of His suffering: Philippians 3:10.

[13] To listen to a sermon on which this article is based (Part 2 of four from a series through Psalm 23), visit


Grant Van Leuven