The 23rd Psalm is still one of the very favorite Bible passages today. People turn to it in sickness and in times of need. It speaks to our hearts in a very special and comforting way.
The Lord is my shepherd, Jehovah Raah, The Lord the Shepherd, is His title here. Raah means to tend to, to be a companion. Thus it became used as the word for shepherd. Sheep are dependent on their shepherd, as we are on Jehovah.
I shall not be in want.
The first line of the psalm sums it all up: “I shall not want” or better yet “I shall not lack.” While doe doesn’t meet all our desires He does promise to meet all our needs. No good parent meets all their child’s desires but does what is best for the child. Our heavenly Shepherd does the same for us (Psalm 34:10; Philippians 4:19).
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. Sheep are so very much like people. Or should I say people are like sheep: ignorant, helpless, vulnerable and totally dependent on their shepherd. While sheep recognize this fact, most people do not. Does that make sheep smarter than us? Perhaps so! Sheep have to be MADE to lie down. We, too, keep going way too long and live lives of stress and business until God does something to slow us down. At least the place He takes us to is a ‘green pasture.’ Soft spring grass brings nourishment to tired sheep, just as the Word of God nourishes our tired spirits. It’s what we feed on. Sheep feed on grass to produce wool. We feed on God’s Word to produce the fruit of the Spirit.
He leads me beside quiet waters, Shepherds lead sheep from the front, they don’t drive them from the rear. When a sheep sees his need and develops trust in the shepherd he will follow. If he doesn’t he will never find quiet waters on his own, for a sheep will not drink from fast moving water. When we follow our Shepherd He leads us to rest and peace.
3 He restores my soul. Neither a sheep nor a person can restore themselves. It must be done from without. The shepherd brings the sheep back and nurses them to health, as God does with us spiritually. If your soul needs restoring go to your Shepherd and He will restore you.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Sheep can’t find their way safely and neither can we. He will guide us in right, holy paths of obedience as we follow Him.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, Valleys are dangerous places for sheep. Wild animals and thieves can trap them, so they need the shepherd’s protection. Death is a scary place for us without our Shepherd. But since He has taken the sting of death (I Corinthians 15:55-56) it is only a shadow. Shadows can seem frightful, but there is no substance to them. We are safe from even the power of death with our Shepherd.
for You are with me; This is the reason we don’t fear anything, even death.
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. The rod and staff provided safety and protection, even sometimes discipline for the sheep if they continually strayed. We find comfort in the protection of our Shepherd, knowing He will do whatever is necessary to keep us close to Him, even if we stray from Him.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. He doesn’t remove our enemies but gives us a victory celebration even when the battle rages. Circumstances may be difficult, but pace and rest within are available for those who trust in their Shepherd.
You anoint my head with oil; Oil brought healing and protection, as does the oil of God’s Holy Spirit with which He anoints His people.
my cup overflows. Our blessings are more than we can contain, more than we can comprehend or understand, more than we can even realize.
6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, Literally the Psalmist says goodness and love will PURSUE us. The word pictures an animal tracking its prey, not letting it out of sight, going wherever it goes, always in close pursuit. That’s how God pursues us to bless us!
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Not only are we blessed in this life, but we will be with Him for all eternity (John 14:1-14). Every need is provided. Truly we lack nothing.
God lives as our Great Shepherd in the present (Psalm 23) because He died as our Good Shepherd in the past (Psalm 22, especially 1, 16, 18). One day He will return as our Chief Shepherd to take us to be with Him forever (Psalm 24). Take a few moments ot make a list of all God’s provisions and blessings for you, all that makes your cup overflow. Write them down, then thank God for each of them one by one.
BIBLE STUDY ASSIGNMENT
What happens to sheep without a shepherd according to:
1 Kings 22:17 ______________________
Isaiah 13:14 _______________________
Jeremiah 31:10 _____________________
Ezekiel 34:5, 8 _____________________
Zechariah 10:2 ____________________
Matthew 9:36 ______________________
John 10:12 ________________________
What does a shepherd do for his sheep:
Psalms 80:1 _______________________
Isaiah 40:11 _______________________
Ezekiel 34:12 ______________________
Ezekiel 34:16 _______________________
John 10:11 ________________________
John 10:14 ________________________
(If I can answer questions or offer personal counsel, or if you would like a free copy of my Spiritual Warfare Handbook, email me at Jerry@ChristianTrainingOrganization.org or download it from http://sw.christiantrainingonline.org/. My next book, Spiritual Warfare in the Bible, which is a more advanced treatment of spiritual warfare, is also available there for free.)