Beyond the Familiarity With Psalm 23

1 Nov
Psalm 23 is often referred to as the Shepherd'...

Psalm 23 is often referred to as the Shepherd’s psalm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
He guides 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 love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
(Psalm 23:1-6 NIV)

Sometimes we are so familiar with a passage of Scripture that we gloss over the power of the words. Psalm 23 is one of those passages that we have read so many times that we are in danger of missing out on the deep message contained within.

As a shepherd himself, David knew the relation of shepherd to sheep. As he penned these few verses he took on the characteristics of a sheep: prone to wander, in need of guidance, fearful of enemies, and always on the lookout for sustenance.

Our Good Shepherd provides abundantly. He is no lazy, stingy Provider, but leads us to the most luscious fields and the coolest, sweetest waters.

Through the shepherd metaphor, our Pastor God gives rest and comfort to our troubled hearts and minds. But quite literally he is our Protector as we travel through the dark valleys of life on earth. Our days are not guaranteed to be always passed sitting by a mountain stream in solitude and rest.

With the rod and staff the Shepherd both prods and guides. The goal is not abuse but protection. Because sheep are not very bright, the can easily walk into danger unknowingly. Without God’s use of correction and discipline, we may find ourselves in the enemy’s snares.

The last few verses bring a chuckle if we keep with the sheep metaphor, since David writes about the table being prepared for the sheep. Can you see a flock of sheep seated around a large banquet table, with plates piled high and cups overflowing?

So the last two verses of Psalm 23 are a departure from the pastoral picture of verses 1-4, but they provide their own vision for us of how God cares for and honors his children. With the Enemy at the door, he sits us down for a celebratory meal. He knows our favorite foods, and our plates are filled with everything we enjoy.

We don’t do much anointing of heads with oil these days, but in the ancient world this was assign of respect and honor, and a way to bless. Imagine that Godnhas done all of this for us. He loves us, protects us, guides us, then ushers us into a banquet in our honor.

Even if you are experiencing what seems like a valley of the shadow of death – trying times of discouragement, unmet needs, and reaping the consequences of wandering from his guidance, know that he is there. In the unseen world he is providing protection in ways we cannot know. And in the end the banquet awaits and we will dine with him forever.



One Response to “Beyond the Familiarity With Psalm 23”


  1. FEAR NO EVIL! « "Working for Christ" - November 5, 2012

    […] Beyond the Familiarity With Psalm 23 ( […]

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