The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
This is one of the most beautiful psalms that King David wrote. It speaks of the relationship between God and His follower, and the the things that God does for that follower.
The first few words of this psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd,” speaks of the relationship between God and His follower. What are the responsibilities of a shepherd though? This question has to be answered in order to explain it to its fullest. And the rest of Psalm 23 does just that.
The rest of verse 1 and all of verse defines one aspect of this relationship. It says, “I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters.” This aspect of the relations between God and His follower is that of a provider. Jehovah Jireh, one of the many names of God we see in Scripture, means God Will Provide. This aspect of God is proven throughout Scripture-we first see the name of Jehovah Jireh in the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham is about to sacrifice Isaac and God stops him, then provides a ram for Abraham to sacrifice instead of Isaac. And perhaps the greatest provision that God gave us was when He gave us Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, and then rose again so that we might have eternity with Him.
Verse 3 of the psalm adds another dimension to the relationship between God and His followers. It says, “He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” This speaks of God’s purpose for us. God lays out how we are to achieve that by walking the paths of righteousness found in God’s Word-the Bible. As to purpose-however we do it in the path of righteousness (we each have our different job to do in the body of Christ) our chief purpose is to to everything for the glory of God. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:31:
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
This is our chief purpose in life-Sola Deo Gloria means Glory be to God alone.
Verse 4 is loaded with different aspects of God’s relationship with us. Verse 4 reads: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; Your rod and staff, they comfort me.” Walking through the valley, that aspect is the testing dimension of God’s relationship with us. Like it or not, God tests us. His testing may be unbearable at the time, but it serves a greater purpose-to grow our faith. But as He is testing us, He is also protecting us. That the part of the verse when it says “I will fear now evil.” Even Jesus promises to us that he will never leave us or forsake us. That promise also goes into the next part of the verse, which says, “For you are with me.” Our God is a faithful God. This part of the verse describes God’s faithfulness to us-He promises that even while we may not be entirely faithful to Him, He will remain entirely faithful to us. The description of God’s rod and staff is about discipline, since that is what shepherds use their rods and staffs for-to guide their sheep and to make sure they are going where they are supposed to.
Verse 5 is also jam packed! In this verse, we see Hope, Consecration, and Abundance. Hope is found in God preparing a table in the presence of our enemies. But what kind of hope is this? It is both the hope and promise of God’s victory over those would try to prevail against us and God. But this passage shows us the hope we can have in God’s victory-His victory in fighting our battles for us is assured and promised. And consecration with God anointing us. We are set apart-a nation of priests for God-called to be holy as our Father in heaven is holy. Finally, abundance-God promises that we will have more than enough in our lives because of our faith in Him. All He asks is for our faith and trust in Him to provide it.
Verse 6 talks about blessing and security. Goodness and mercy being the grace of God and the ultimate blessing He bestowed upon us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Security we find in God’s house. Being protected by God Himself, and God being our refuge and strong tower, what other safer haven can there be for a follower of God?
As you can see entirely-Psalm 23 shows just how nuts God goes for His image bearers. So much so that He came and died for us so that we might have the opportunity to accept His sacrifice and spend eternity with Him. Show me another faith or belief where the deity does that for the whole of mankind. John 3:16 sums it all up nicely:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that those who believe in Him would not perish but have eternal life.”