Psalm 23 is perhaps one of the most recognizable portions of Scripture in all American culture. Most church-goers, whether casual or consistent, know the Psalm even if they can only quote bits and pieces (usually the opening line). But the pitfall of having such a well-known text is that we often pass by it thinking we know what it means. But truth is packed into this Psalm and you’ll have to spend some time in it before you can dig it out fully. I’ll help get you started with a short study in this famous passage…
–“The LORD is my shepherd…” (v.1a) After technically being a shepherd for 2 weeks I know a little bit about caring for sheep and to be compared with sheep is somewhat shocking, but humorous (that’s a whole other post right there). But it’s perfectly fitting to call God our Shepherd. A shepherd works hard to care for the sheep and keep them alive and God outshines all shepherds in His care for His people..how?
1) The Best of Provision (v.1b-3): Continuing with the shepherd metaphor, David notes the “green pastures” and “still waters” that God leads him to. He is also led in the “paths of righteousness”. David has no doubt in God’s provision; he confidently claims, “I shall not want.” The end result is that his soul is “restored.” The provision of God is refreshing when you approach it with a heart of gratitude and take time to enjoy Him. But why should God do such things? “For His name’s sake.” God ties Himself to His people through Christ’s ultimate sacrifice and so provides for them lest any should claim that God is unloving.
2) Comfort in the Tough Times (v.4-5): David somewhat breaks away from the sheep talk to relate God’s provision in human terms. He gives 2 examples:
a) “The valley of the shadow of death.” Whether he’s talking about death specifically or general hard times, it’s clear that David can rest in the comfort from God’s “rod” and “staff”, symbols of His presence. David could rest easy just knowing that God was near. Kids feel the same way with parents; couples can feel the same way with each other.
b) “In the presence of my enemies.” No matter who’s oppressing David, whether physically or spiritually, he can still rest in God’s provision. David uses the drastic simile of “feasting” with his enemies around him. He’s practically on vacation while people are trying to stab him in the back! Only God can provide such comfort, such confidence. God’s provision is so great that his “cup overflows.”
–Confidence (v.6): David continues expressing confidence by claiming “goodness and mercy” being lifelong friends. He also is certain that he’ll be with God for eternity. This is a confidence any believer can tap into.
So much for David. What about us? In John 10, Jesus uses the Shepherd metaphor..on Himself. He is the Good Shepherd who cares tenderly for His flock. Thus all who truly follow after Him and live in His Word can know the same confidence and comfort that David felt. Would you say you know this comfort?
side note: I’ll return with a Plethora post next week! Perhaps…a sneak peak at a chapter??