The Book of Psalms Chapter Twenty-Three Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Verse 1: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." Many have thought of this as a Psalm for funeral services, and it can have that use after death or the rapture for the faithful. Heaven is indeed a place of utter safety in the Presence of our Great Shepherd—forever. Yet this Psalm is even more. It's right now, today, for you and me. Ephesians 2:5-6 is clear that God "made us alive together with Christ... raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Yes, heaven is a place where the faithful are going, but it's also a place where we already are. This is a Psalm of David, and as we read the words, "The Lord is my shepherd," we can wonder, did these words first come to David as a boy while he was propped against a rock in the evening near a campfire, surrounded by the sheep who looked to him and trusted in him as their shepherd? And like the events of OUR lives, did his youthful occupation prepare him to trust the Lord, HIS Shepherd? Psalm 23's expression of David's heart reveals true faith in the Lord, and there was even more, as he continued, "I shall not want." Provision has been made for us. God designed this man's life, for David's good, for the good of those around him and for those in the centuries that followed, just as God is carefully designing your life and mine. Our Shepherd loves us, provides for us and is preparing each of us for something—wonderful.
Verse 2: "He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters." The essential needs of the shepherd boy's sheep included a few key requirements, such as good, nourishing, healthy food, and clean, abundant water—gentle waters that would not sweep them away. Humanity's true needs are not very complicated, either. We, too, need food, water, and safety, found in the gentle protection and effective leadership that stems from our Savior, Protector and Provider, the Lord Jesus Christ. If He was not protecting us, you and I would have been swept away long ago by the events of this precarious life. Just like the sheep were important to David, you are important to Almighty God, who is tenderly leading each one of us in and through the troubles of this world.
Verse 3: "He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake." At some level, and this is something you likely don't share with others—Are you afraid? Does depression hide behind your smile? Do you partake in thoughts or activities that are not righteous? Whatever was wrong in David's life and is wrong in our lives, provision for our forgiveness was granted to us on the cross of Jesus Christ. The healing offered through the cross reaches back in time to David, and forward to encompass you and me. Just as those sheep trusted David, our role is to have faith in the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ, and trust in Him. He has restored you at the level of what you really are—a wandering sheep who needs his or her Shepherd. He intends a return to righteousness for you and me; once again as tender infants who reach up and are held safely by our Loving Parent. He restores us and leads in "righteousness," HIS righteousness in us. He died on the cross, "for HIS NAME's sake"—revealing that you accept and honor God's Innocent, Strong, Loving, Clean and Wholesome REPUTATION, when you place your faith in in the Lord.
Verse 4: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." David was close to death many times—there is always somebody who wants to kill the leader. But he placed his faith in the Lord, who calmed the man and his fear, called here "the shadow of death." When we trust in our God, the Lord removes the "For Sale" sign from our lives, and writes "Sold" over us; written in the Blood of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit moves right into the center of our being; Almighty God Himself fills us, healing our fear, for He Himself is with us. The sheep saw the staff of young David and were comforted throughout their lives. We see the cross of Christ and His empty tomb, feel the touch of the Holy Spirit within our hearts, and we are comforted—now and forever.
Verse 5: "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows." You have enemies, whether you know it or not. If the ones who hate you were to look through the expensive restaurant's windows and see you eating the best food and laughing with dear friends, how would that make your enemies feel? And that's exactly how they feel when they see you experience the joy of "Christ IN you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). Those who do not know Him are secretly or overtly jealous and envious because you do. You and I have a very strong enemy. He is called Satan, the adversary. The Lord defeated him on the cross and defeats him by our faith in the Son of God and our trust in what He has done. God welcomes us to His table and anoints us in the center of our being with the "oil" of the Holy Spirit. Comparing us to a "cup" that holds the good things of God, we are filled with His "living water" (John 4:13-14) and we overflow with delight in our Lord.
Verse 6: "Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Shhh—I'll share a secret with you: There are twin promises in this verse that are especially for you... 1) God's goodness, His love is like your shadow, following you wherever you go, but not a dark one—His shadow is bright and beautiful, reflecting Himself into the heart, the center of your being, "all the days of (your) life"—and 2) You "will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." That's right—at the present time, you may live in an apartment, a room, a house made of bricks or sticks, or a tent you have devised behind a tree or a store, but that's only for now. God's house is safe, beautiful, and just the right temperature. It's always filled with ample provisions, and He made a place for you there before the beginning of time. It's clean, only for you, and He is there with open arms of love, waiting for you to be with Him—forever. Our Shepherd, your Shepherd who loves you, is waiting for you.
My Shepherd, my God and my King, I love You. Thank You for providing the Way for me to be with You. I am forgiven and healed because of what You have done for me. I trust in You, Lord. I am Yours. Thank You. In Jesus Name. Amen.