Messiah followers enduring temporal life in the realm of what currently is, look forward to experiencing eternal life in the realm of what will permanently be. Concerning what will be, Paul writes, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9). Concerning what is, Luke records Paul as saying, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
In the thick of these pre-Heaven hardships, one’s private inner world can become plagued by fear and anxiety. When that happens the question becomes, “How does God want me to respond to fear and anxiety in my life?” And as with all the great questions of life, Scripture gives us a clear, reliable, and compelling answer.
In Psalm 23 there’s a constructive God honoring way to respond to fear and anxiety in our lives. From David we learn that the correct response is trusting the Lord as the good and faithful shepherd and rejoicing in His grace. And while there’s no iron clad guarantee that this theocentric response of trust and rejoicing will improve our current situation, we can rest assured that it will give us a measure of confidence we didn’t have before concerning the way God is working in our life. Like David, we’ll be convinced that the Lord is the One who ultimately signs off on all the details and circumstances that comprise the entirety of our moment by moment awareness and experience.
This new type of confidence centered upon the sovereignty of God results in a unique quality of shalom (peace). This shalom is not dependent upon ever changing outward circumstances but rather it’s based upon never changing internal spiritual realities. And so the central truth of Psalm 23 is that the Shepherd’s care produces shalom.
First, in verse 1 through the beginning of verse 3, shalom is produced by the care of His provision. And it’s a personal provision in the sense that within the framework and boundaries of the Lord’s will for my life I will not want; I’ll receive everything required for my sanctification (cf. 2 Pet. 1:3). It’s also a perfect provision in that we can be content with what He has decided to provide. Plus, His provision renews and satisfies. In a spiritual sense the Shepherd literally revives the life of the sheep under His care. This enables us to stop morbidly viewing life as a random collection of fleeting moments of pleasure connected to longer periods of pain, frustration, and sorrow.
Second, in the remainder of verse 3, shalom is produced by the care of His guidance. The manner of this guidance points us in the direction of righteous paths. And practically speaking, in terms of our response, this means that we need to promptly and consistently confess our sins to God. The reason for this guidance is that it’s for the sake of the Shepherd’s name. He’s committed to guiding His sheep for the sake of the glory and reputation of His own name and honor.
Third, in verse 4, shalom is produced by the care of His protection. We don’t have to be overcome by fear because the Shepherd is able to ward off any danger with His metaphorical but reality based rod and staff protection. This means that God alone determines what things are allowed to afflict us; and our going through these afflictions are for our ultimate good and deeper knowledge of Him (cf. Rom. 8:28).
Fourth, in verses 5 through 6, shalom is produced by the care of His grace. We’re enabled to rejoice in His grace because He spares no blessing. The banquet imagery employed here speaks of quality and abundance. And we’re also to rejoice in His grace because it results in constant fellowship with the Shepherd. Like David, in a context of fear and anxiety, we can take comfort in the fact that the remainder of our life can center on daily fellowship and corresponding communion with God.
So putting it all together; responding biblically to fear and anxiety in our lives means that we should trust God as the faithful Shepherd and rejoice in His grace toward us. It also means we can trust God as the faithful Shepherd and rejoice in His grace toward us because His care produces shalom. And so when one knows the shalom of God through trust in God the Son, they’re able to be at peace with God the Father. The all – important question then we need to be asking people is, “Have you believingly responded to the gospel?” If not, why; and if not now, when?” In light of the unimaginable forever of eternity; a proper faith- embrace response to this question above all questions is absolutely critical because it’s the sole requirement for the reception and application of the Shepherd’s shalom.