Psalm 23 is one of the most well-known and beloved of all the Psalms. The reason is not hard to understand. It is short, to the point, and full of comfort. The words of the Psalm, spoken by king David so many years ago, easily become our very own words in prayer.
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 forever.
The Psalm invites us to move through its 6 verses slowly and devotionally.
God means to speak directly into our souls in this Psalm. — It is a Psalm of confidence in God’s goodness.
The Psalm invites us to acquaint ourselves with God’s goodness. Something we ought to d often. Often enough that we know it...especially for those times when we suffer.
The Psalm also provides for a very meaningful language of prayer...but it also invites us to look inside the saving work of God in Jesus Christ.
The Lord is a Shepherd.
Shepherds watch after their flocks; provide for their needs, lead them to food, water, and rest. Shepherds greet their flocks each morning, and put their flocks into the safety of the pin at night.
A good shepherd guides and guards his flock.
It's a very moving thing for David to call God his Shepherd. — He says so much in that one word.
The Lord is David’s caretaker; He watches over David’s life and his safety, provides his nourishment, and keeps the movements of his life. David’s life goes through ups and downs. He suffers...some from his own sin, and some from the sin of others.
But David knows his Shepherd watches over him, guides him, protects him, and feeds him...David lacks no good thing.
And in God’s grace, this is not only the story of David’s life, but of every Christian.
Jesus describes Himself with this shepherding imagery in John 10:7-11
So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
How does God Shepherd His People?
The Psalm tells us that God shepherds us in several ways…
He meets our needs.
He gives us rest.
He gives us nourishment.
He restores our innermost self; our soul.
He leads us in the paths of righteousness.
He comforts us in times of grief and fear.
The high point of the Psalm comes in verse 3, “He leads me in paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake.”
This is really where God provides all the other blessings of the Psalm.
The paths of Righteousness that David speaks of refer to the Word of God; specifically, to our obedience to the Word of God.
He meets our needs in His Word; He gives us rest in His Word; He nourishes our souls in His Word; He comforts us in His Word.
Think of what our Lord Jesus, Himself, said when faced with hunger and danger,
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Our Lord is Our Shepherd.
He greets us each morning; He guides us into pastures of rich grasses and quiet waters; He restores our souls day-by-day. He comforts, guides, protects, and restores. He leads us into the paths of His righteousness.
And He does all of this through His Word.