Psalms 23 is probably the most recited and seems to be the most popular scripture in the Bible. I began reciting this Psalm of David as long as I can remember my name and this applies to most Christians I know, but do we really know how potent and powerful this Psalm is?
For those that don’t remember the Psalms (of which I doubt) or for the non-Christian readers of this post, this is Psalms 23;
- The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
- He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me besides clear waters.
- He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for his namesake.
- Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
- Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Thou anointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over.
- 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 Great Shepherd
Today we know that Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd. He watches over His little flock, the church. He is the Head of the Church and its provider and protector, just as a real shepherd was to his sheepfold. David who wrote the psalm, grew up and worked as a shepherd, so he knew a lot about sheep and shepherding. The shepherd’s job is to care for his flock, protect them from wolves and other predators. To care for them correctly and safely, sheep require a shepherd to take them to the fertile areas to graze, protect them from predators and other hazards, was a shepherd before he was a king and so he could see the symbolism of God’s shepherding His people when he wrote Psalm 23. Let us now explore Psalm 23 line by line and phrase by phrase:
The Lord is my shepherd.
This proclaims the metaphor of the psalm, that God is like our shepherd. That is, he helps us to find food, water, work, love, friends and all that we need. He also protects us from evil. He also gently or firmly prods us when we step out of line and deviate from the way of living set down in the Bible as being correct.
I shall not want.
This is a very powerful statement, although it is not explained in detail in the psalm until later. I interpret it to mean that I will have everything I need if I allow God to be my shepherd. I may not have everything the ego wants, but I will be cared for, loved, and provided for very well, indeed.
This line is one of the most powerful in the prayer. It is a blunt and frank statement or affirmation. I shall not want means I will be okay. I will have health, money, friends, family, respect, love and all else. That is how I interpret it. The line sort of wakes one up from the dead and says you can have it all, at least what you need, when you elect to have God run your life. Later in the prayer this idea is explored more.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the still waters.
Sheep require plenty of green pasture on which to graze or to eat. So at one level, this line means that God will provide all of my food and other needs. It deepens and repeats the idea that I shall not want for anything, and that God takes care of me. At a deeper level, it means that God provides nourishment for the body, the mind and the soul that is wholesome, healthful, and appetizing for me. It does not say I must struggle to make ends meet. It says God will lead me to the green pastures, which means all things go.
Sheep are also afraid of moving water and even if they are dying of thirst, they will not go near a running brook or creek…but they love the still waters. They can drink freely from Him Who is the Living Water. He leads us, you might notice, because we are all like sheep and we go astray, and we can’t always find the still waters. More often we end up in troubled waters, well over our heads.
He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
When we grow weary and fainthearted with the troubles of life, He restores and refreshes us. This “restoring” is also a restoration from eternal death to eternal life. Sheep are not always aware of where they are going. In fact, sheep have been known to walk right off a cliff and so the Good Shepherd leads us in the paths and His path leads to His righteousness. Not for our sake but for His glory and for His name’s sake. One of the chief purposes of mankind is to glorify God and to glorify God for His name’s sake. God will not share His glory with another. Why should He? He is worthy of all glory.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me.
Sheep are susceptible to predators. Satan is said to be like a roaring lion who roams around seeking whom he might devour but He is walking in the shadows with us. Satan stalks and crouches down low so as to spring on unsuspecting prey. Our daily walk with God is fraught with trials, troubles, and risks, but He is with us throughout our life. That is why we don’t have to fear evil. It is because He is with us that we should not fear.
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
Why could a rod help the shepherd? It was because the rod was used to protect against predators, to defend the sheep in case of attack, to guide the sheep, and to keep them in the right path and not wander from it. The staff on the other hand had a bend in it. This bend was fitted perfectly for bringing in the stray sheep by their necks. It was so perfectly shaped that it would never choke the sheep but it was narrow enough to be able to bring the sheep back into the fold in a gentle, loving, yet firm way.Therefore we understand that, the rod and the staff are there to comfort you and know that you are cared for and loved.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.
This line for me resonates the most with my inner metabolism..lol. I am fond of hearing people pray “my enemies must die prayers” and I bring their attention to this line of the Psalms. It implies that you will encounter “enemies”, or forces that do not want you to prosper, progress in life, be who you are destined to be, but God will shock them in their presence. In their “korokoro eyes”, they will watch you prosper, they will watch you make it in life. Those so called enemies will come beg you for favours. I Love this line mehn.
Thou anointest my head with oil.
Anointing the head with oil was a practice in biblical days that was used to honor a person and to dignify a person. It means that not only will you be fed or cared for in the presence of your enemies or ‘beefers’, but you will be honored and dignified or deeply respected, as well.
My cup runneth over.
The cup that runs over is symbolic of some traditions when a guest was welcome to stay, they intentionally overflowed the cup so that the guest realized that they were welcome to all that the hosts had and could stay as long as they wanted. This phrase means that I am given even more than I need or can use. It means I am truly abundant, abundantly loved and cared for beyond even my needs or wants
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me, all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
This can be interpreted many ways. What is meant by goodness and mercy shall follow me? To me it means that goodness and mercy shall go with me wherever I go, and whatever I do, even if I am in unfamiliar areas or places. It is a statement of future protection. The use of the word mercy is interesting. It implies that at times I will sin, or I will not think, act or speak correctly. So this prayer or psalm does not say we will be perfect. Quite the opposite. However, it means that if we allow the Lord to be our shepherd, or guide and overseer, we will be treated mercifully or leniently. We will dwell in the house of the Lord, which is the Kingdom of God, forever and without end. That is nothing less than eternal life (John 3:16).
In conclusion, the power of this prayer cannot be overemphasized, when next you say this prayer, don’t just rush throught it. Say it with understanding and God will make its contents manifest in your life in Jesus Name. AMEN
Lawrence Wilson (2013) “THE TWENTY-THIRD PSALM EXPLAINED” http://tinyurl.com/oq99nbe
Jack Wellman (2013) “Psalm 23 – A Bible Study” http://tinyurl.com/or5fjce