A shepherds role is to watch over, care and provide for the creatures that depend on him for their safety and well being. There are many translations and interpretations of biblical text, which can change the tone of the meaning. In the King James version, the psalm begins with 'The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.' The NIV translation, offers a different nuance, not found in common translations - 'The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.' Due to the Lord's role as our shepherd, and his commitment to that role, our present state of being is without want. We are being watched over and nurtured. He provides us with plentiful food in the form of green pastures. We are given restoration, protection and strength. In the final verse we are offered eternal love and life.
Losing someone we love can be almost too difficult to bear. We want to know that the journey of their soul will be filled with love and light and that they will still be cared for. Thinking of God as a shepherd fulfilling this role, helps us to feel that our loved one continues to be cared for and also gives us a sense that we too continue to be cared for in the absence of our loved one. A Christian Sympathy Card featuring this verse can bring much support at a time when a person is feeling so separated.
On a Christian Get Well Card, Psalm23 has such a nurturing feel to it. It makes us feel that we are not alone in our difficulties and that we are being tended to and guided with love. It gives us comfort but also strength, helping us to replace doubt and fear and put our trust in 'the shepherd'.
The representation of God as a shepherd predates psalm23. In the text known as the Code of Hammurabi, the 282 rules of conduct given by the Mesopotamian king states 'I am the shepherd who brings well-being and abundant prosperity; my rule is just......so that the strong might not oppress the weak and that even the orphan and the widow might be treated with justice.'