23rd Psalm Part 1


Staff Member on LOA
23rd Psalm Part 1

The Shepherd’s Psalm

Psalm 23

Part 1 Psalm 23:1-3

The Lord is my Shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

The personal confession with which David begins his meditation establishes the thesis for the rest of the prayer. In effect Psalm 23 answers the question: “What does it mean for Yahweh to be my shepherd?” Since David knows well how to care for sheep, he is able to gracefully and powerfully apply this metaphor to his relationship with God.

We should note the personal “my.” The God of the Bible is Israel’s God. Faith in Him, however, is not merely tribal or corporate. It is also personal. God is known in His individual relationships. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exod. 3:6). When David was anointed King, God spoke to Samuel, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” then “the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward” (I Samuel 16:12-13). The Psalter witnesses to the intimacy of David’s relationship with the Lord. Indeed, for David He is “my shepherd.”

The mother of a young boy who was dying of cancer taught him the Twenty-third Psalm, having him repeat “the Lord is my shepherd” by counting these five words with his fingers starting with his thumb. His ring finger was the word “my.” When he got to the word, his mother taught him to hold that finger in his fist, symbolizing the personal relationship which Jesus had for him. When the boy died, he was found holding his ring finger. He died in the shepherd’s arms. All of us must come to the place where we can say that the Lord is “my shepherd.”

The word “shepherd” is often applied to God in the Old Testament. In Psalm 80:1 God is addressed: “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock” (cf. Gen 49:24; Ezek. 34:11 ff). Israel’s kings are also called shepherds. After denouncing the unfaithful shepherds of His people, God promises, “I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking” (Jer. 23:4; cf. Ezek. 34:2). And Jesus identifies Himself as the “good shepherd,” the Messianic King (John 10:11). His goodness is in His giving His life for the sheep.

For David to call God “Shepherd,” therefore, is to acknowledge God as his King, his Savior, and the One who meets all of his needs. Verse 1 concludes with the direct inference from confessing the Lord as his shepherd: “I shall not want.” Every need will be met by the guiding, providing hand of God. How then will this happen?

First, the shepherd rests His sheep: “He makes me to lie down in green pastures.” In our frantic life God desires our rest. The Sabbath was instituted, in part, to guarantee this. If we do not follow His pattern, He may even enforce rest upon us. The place of rest is “green pastures.” The Hebrew word used here means “fresh shoots.” God does not intend to rest His sheep in hospital beds but gives them lush meadows where they can graze and enjoy soft grass. Today we are so goal-oriented and compulsive that we feel guilty when we rest. We need the delight of a personal quiet time of being in God’s presence. When God rests us, there is no guilt----only the divine hand.

Second, the shepherd directs his sheep: “He leads me beside the still waters.” The verb for “lead” means to “lead to a watering place” The pools of water allow the sheep to drink freely.

As our good shepherd, Jesus provides us with rest, food, and water. When we come to Him we enter His “Sabbath rest” or salvation (Heb. 4:1-11). He feeds us with Himself because He is the bread which has come down from heaven. As Jesus tells the multitudes, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). Then Jesus gives us His Spirit to quench our thirst. Again He promises, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37).

Next, David asserts: “He restores my soul.” The verb for “restore” includes “to return, to refresh.” As the Lord shepherds us it is not merely our body which is cared for; it is our restored soul. Paul reminds us, “Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16).

God promises to meet our needs and to guide our lives. When we offer our bodies to Him in worship, He transforms our minds and guides us in His will, that which is “good, acceptable, and perfect” (Romans 12:2). Thus David continues: “He leads me in the paths of righteousness/ For His name’s sake.” It is only changed people who can live changed lives. We are ready for the “paths of righteousness” when our souls are restored. What are those paths? For us, they are simply doing the will of God, manifesting God’s rule, God’s Kingdom through our lives as we are submitted to Him. As Jesus teaches us to pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth…” (Matt. 6:10).

Through our transformed lives the name of God is glorified. We are to walk the paths of righteousness “for His name’s sake.” When we take “His name” we are to do His will. We pray that the name of God may be vindicated in us: “Hallowed be Your name” (Matt. 6:9).

In Ezekiel 34, after judging Israel’s corrupt shepherds, God promises that He Himself will become His people’s shepherd.” ‘…so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them… I will bring them….to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country….They shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture…I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down,’ says the Lord God” (34:12-15). Surely, “the Lord is my shepherd.” But there is more: “I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them------My servant David” (Ezek. 34:23). Even beyond this, Jesus is the “good shepherd.” This is God’s provision.




The Psalms are awesome and that is one of my favorites!:D



Staff Member on LOA
Thank you, I just hope that it's not too long to read. I like the Psalm's as well.