I see commercials for them every so often on TV. “The Hidden Codes of the Old Testament.” “The Secret Message of Revelation.” “Decoding the Bible.”
The truth, however, is the Bible contains no hidden messages. No secret codes are concealed within. It says what means and means what it says.
I should apologize. The title of this article was a bit of click bait. There are no hidden messages or codes in Psalm 23. There is, however, an implied lesson which many people fail to see.
Psalm 23 is arguably the most famous chapter of the Bible. The image of God as our Good Shepherd is just as poignant now as it was 3,000 years ago when King David first penned it.
The message of Psalm 23 is clear. God will always provide everything we need for our bodies and souls. He will protect, comfort and guide us. Then, when our earthly journey is over, we will celebrate with him at the luxurious feast of heaven.
One salient detail, however, often eludes modern ears as they listen to the words of Psalm 23. If our God is our Good Shepherd, that makes us his sheep. In our modern world, we actually find that image flattering. Sheep are cute and cuddly. We sing with pride and joy, “I am Jesus’ little lamb.”
When the Bible calls us sheep, however, it is not calling us cute and cuddly.
Like many pastors, for years, I have bluntly blared to anyone who will listen, “Sheep are dumb.” Recently, I learned that is not completely fair. It’s not that sheep are necessarily dumb animals. They are simply dependent. They struggle to survive on their own. They get lost. They get hurt. They go hungry without a shepherd to guide and protect them.
As 21st century Americans, we fancy ourselves as independent. We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. We take pride in our do-it-yourself projects. We are masters of our own fates and captains of our own souls.
This last week, I sat with a friend who is dying of cancer. She is unable to do the simple things she used to do: cook meals, clean her home and drive her car. She hates having to depend on other people to do what she always could do herself. It is frustrating and somewhat depressing for her.
The loss of independence as we age or succumb to sickness is difficult for many people to accept. We don’t want to depend on anybody else. We want to do it ourselves. We want to be independent like we were when we were younger and healthier.
Independence, however, is a myth.
What we come to see clearly when we are old or infirm is the truth of who we are from birth. We are helpless. We are defenseless. We are utterly dependent creatures.
We are sheep.
The only reason we are who we are and have what we have is because our Good Shepherd has provided us with the means and opportunity to acquire it. The only reason we achieve anything in life is because of the people God has placed around us who support, guide and encourage us. The only reason we have a seat at the lavish feast of heaven is because our Good Shepherd gave his life to rescue his wandering sheep.
On our own, we are sinful. We are weak. Dare I say, we are dumb.
Don’t wait until you are old or infirm to recognize your utter dependence on your Good Shepherd. Read again the verses of Psalm 23. Recognize what it is implying.
You can’t do it on your own. You need God. That is the “hidden” message of Psalm 23.