Psalm 23:1-6 THE LORD.
God uses the psalmist to announce his promise to care and provide for those who follow him. He cherishes them and gives them his perfect and unfailing love. He shows himself as a loving father who cares for his children and as a shepherd who takes care of his sheep.
- 23:1 THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD. Using a metaphor (i.e., figurative language, word picture, symbol) frequently found in the Old Testament (Jer. 31:10; Eze. 34:6-19), David compares God to a shepherd in order to draw a mental picture that reflects God’s great love for his people. The Lord Jesus uses the same metaphor to express his relationship to his followers (Jn. 10:11-16; Heb. 13:20; 1 Pet. 5:4; Rev 7:17).
Two truths are presented here:
- The depth of God’s love for his children causes him to protect, guide and be near each one, just as a good shepherd does for his own sheep (Jn. 10:11) But God’s highest expression of love and devotion was shown through the life and death of his Son, Jesus. God continues to exercise his guidance and care over our lives through the Holy Spirit.
- Believers are the Lord’s sheep. We belong to him and receive his special affection and attention. Though “all we like sheep, have gone astray” (Isa 53:6), the Lord has rescued and liberated us from the eternal consequences of our own rebellious way through the shed blood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ (1Pet. 1:18-19), who died for our sin. We now belong to him, and as his sheep we can respond to his voice and follow him (Jn 10:3-5; Jn.10:28,).
- 23:1 I SHALL NOT WANT. To not be in want means
- that those who follow God will not lack anything necessary for God’s purpose to be accomplished in their lives (3Jn 1:2,) and
- that they will be content with how the Good Shepherd cares and provides for them, even in times of personal hardship, because they trust his love and commitment to them (Jn 10:11; Phil 4:11-13).
- 23:2 HE MAKETH ME TO LIE DOWN.
Because of the presence and nearness of the Shepherd, God’s sheep (i.e., his people) can lie down” in peace and be free from all fear. Jesus, as the Son of God, came to bring this same promise to those who would follow him. The Holy Spirit as the Comforter, Counselor and Helper communicates Christ’s care and presence to each believer (Jn 14:16-18; 2Ti 1:7).
- Confidence and peaceful rest will be “in green pastures,” (a figure of speech for what makes a person grow and thrive in life). True growth and life come from a personal relationship with Jesus and the Word of God, which are necessary for a truly fulfilling life (Jn 6:32-35, 63; 8:31;10:9; 15:7).
- “He leadeth me beside still waters,” which represent the peace, life and refreshment of the Holy Spirit (Jer 2:13; Jn. 7:37-39).
- 23:3 HE RESTORETH MY SOUL. When God’s children become discouraged, the Good Shepherd revives and re-energizes their souls through his power and goodness (Prov. 25:13). “He leadeth me” (v. 3) by the Spirit of God (Ro 8:14) in his chosen paths, which put God’s children on a course to fulfill his perfect purposes for their lives (Ro 8:5-14). Obedience is the response of the sheep: we follow the Shepherd and listen to his voice (Jn. 10:3-4). We will not follow “the voice of strangers” (Jn 10:5).
Ps. 23:4 THOU ART WITH ME. In times of danger, difficulty and even death, those who follow God fear no evil. Why? “For thou art with me” in every situation of life (Mt 28:20). The “rod” (i.e., a short club) is both a weapon of defense against predators and an instrument of discipline for the sheep. It symbolizes God’s strength, power and authority (Ex 21:20; Job 9:34). The “staff” (i.e., a long slender stick with a hook on one end) is used to bring a sheep close to the shepherd, guide it in the right way or rescue it from trouble. God’s rod and staff reassure us of God’s love and guidance in our lives.
- 23:5 PREPAREST A TABLE. God cares for the needs of each of his children, even as evil forces attempt to destroy his or her life and soul (Ro 8:31-39).
- Confronted daily by Satan and surrounded by an ungodly society, God sustains believers physically and spiritually. He gives us what we need so that we can live and enjoy his presence (2Co 12:9-10). The Shepherd, Jesus, who laid down his life for his own sheep, has made this available (1Co 11:23).
- “Anointest my head with oil” refers to a practice provided for honored guests at a banquet. This speaks of God’s special favor and blessing through the anointing (ie. refreshing, empowering) of his Holy Spirit on the body, mind and spirit ( Eph 5:18,).
- “My cup runneth over” literally translates, “My cup is an abundant drink.” It probably refers to a shepherd’s cup, which was a large, hollowed-out stone that could hold forty or fifty gallons and from which the sheep drank.
- 23:6 GOODNESS AND MERCY. With the Shepherd staying with us through life’s journey, we will receive constant guidance, help, kindness and support. No matter what happens, we can trust God to work for our good in all circumstances (Ro 8:28; Jas 5:11). The goal in following the Shepherd and experiencing his goodness and love is that one day we will
- be with the Lord forever (1Th 4:17),
- see his face (Rev 22:4) and
- serve him forever (Rev 22:3; Jn. 14:2-3).
Dearly beloved in Christ, as we acclaim Jesus the King of Kings, there is on the other hand, the need to look inwardly and see if we allow Him to reign as King in our lives. There is never the room to address someone as Master, Lord, Oga, Nana, Baba, etc. and you do not respect him as such. Now, beloved in Christ, this same King Jesus is our Good Shepherd (John 10:11). The responsorial psalm has the popular and common but profound prayer of Psalm 23. Just for you to ponder on the prayer in this way:
- The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You acknowledge your personal relationship with Christ and your inadequacy without Him. You, therefore recognize that with Christ you can never lack in life.
- Fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose.
Whatever His providence pours on you is the best you need. You are cock sure of his reliable providence.
- Near restful waters he leads me, to revive my drooping spirit.
Your God knows where to lead you in order to reinvigorate you (physically and spiritually). Therefore, you need to follow wherever He leads you to.
- He guides me along the right path; he is true to his name.
You are saying that His guidance is assuredly-noticed by you and that there is no mistake in His dealings.
- You have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my foes.
With the Lord on your side, your enemies (if only you have) have already lost the battle and they are counted as nothing and emptiness.
- My head you have anointed with oil; my cup is overflowing.
The King of kings makes you share in His kingship so that you can enjoy his unending bounty.
- Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me all the days of my life.
You need to anchor into this so that it works for you. But do not forget to be good and kind to others too.
- In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell forever and ever.
Try to let the Lord’s house be your house. Never stay disconnected from the Source of all things – Pray without ceasing (1 Thess.5:17).
May you be blessed, beloved, as you make this beautiful Psalm your personal prayer and its content your way of life. Stay connected to Christ always.