Psalm 23

A Psalm of David

Psalm 23 is one of the most well-known and favourite of the psalms, not only for Christians but among people of other faiths as well. This psalm is a litany of positive affirmations, spoken in a deep confidence in God as Divine Providence and is a way of life we can all build and be blessed. Down through the centuries, Psalm 23's theme of trusting God’s love has blessed thousands of believers with peace of mind and comfort.

1. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. Here is a calm, quiet realization of God’s providence by one who knows his position in God. And this confidence can only be expressed out of a covenant-relationship with Him. In this prayer there is no appeal to God to vanquish enemies, no petition for worldly gain, but just a calm, positive realization about the identity of Divine Shepherd and sheep.

When, like David, we recognize the providence of God, we will say: “I shall not want,” meaning “with the Lord as my Shepherd, I have access to the storehouse of heaven and there is nothing I need that does not exist in God's storehouse for me, whether in the spiritual or natural realm—therefore, I shall not be “in want!”

2. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. Here is another affirmation of David. Here he is staking a claim on his divine heritage of peace and calm—and so can you and I. By our relationship with the Lord, we are made to lie down in green pastures. It is our heritage to be comfortable in peace and prosperity, and to be blessed, in Christ.

God guides His faithful ones into pleasant feeding and resting places. "Green pastures” and “still waters” speak of contentment, prosperity, well-being, healing, peace of mind, and every good thing. Even in the midst of turmoil in family, marriage, disruption in the workplace and other distresses, there is a peace that “passeth all understanding” and we can find it. And to be in such a position is to be in a state of divine rest. It is a sign of spiritual maturity.

3. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. When we seek the Lord’s presence, He restores and renews us and leads us in paths of right living—all for His glory and honour. This brings to mind another psalm that says: “the Lord knoweth the paths of the righteous...” The word “knoweth” here signifies covenant-relationship, for whom the Lord “knows” also “knows” Him.

4. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. David gives two reasons he will not fear and those two reasons are the same that you and I should not fear, for our God has not given us a spirit of fear. David’s reasons are: (1) for thou art with me, and (2) thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.

Here are words from another psalm of David that can also be of comfort to you and me in times of distress: “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me...thy right hand shall save me.” In times of fear and distress, these words of truth are heavenly manna to feast upon.

The “valley of the shadow of death” can be trials, tribulations, sickness or despair—anything that hurts, but with God on our side, we can walk through it all without fear of failure. In actuality, the shepherd's rod was to goad the sheep along, while his staff was a symbol of his calling. Here David tells of the shepherd's rod and staff in a spiritual manner, depicting authority and support.

5. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Again, David is recognizing God as Divine Providence and it is your privilege and mine to do the same. The enemies referred to are not necessarily people who are mean to us, but are our faulty thoughts and feelings, and the world-system.

6. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. David’s head anointed with oil and his overflowing cup tell that in spite of his seeming failures, he was well cared for and his life was filled with blessings. And so it is when a life is hidden in Christ; it spells the difference between everlasting annihilation and dwelling in the Lord’s favour forever. Out of God’s boundless love for each of us, this is His plan.