PSALM 23 STUDY
A Psalm is a praise song and is also a poetic work of art. Today, we are focusing on one of the most widely recognized and beloved—the Psalm often called the “Shepherd’s Psalm”.
The Psalm, which was written by David about 3,000 years ago, still has some things to teach us today.
Let’s first look at the setting of the Psalm. King David, who wrote the Psalm, grew up and worked as a shepherd, so he knew a lot about sheep and shepherding. He loved the metaphor of seeing God, or the Lord, as a shepherd. The shepherd’s job is to care for his flock, making sure they are safe, nourished, calm, and happy at all times.
Sheep are very vulnerable to danger from wolves and other predators because they cannot run very fast, and they are not always smart enough to avoid danger. 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, and to keep them together so they don’t stray from the group. They have no camouflage and no weapons for defense such as claws, sharp hooves, or powerful jaws. They have poor eyesight and can only see five yards at most. So, this is the job of the shepherd: to protect them.
One can extend this idea and say that God does this for us, if we submit to His will.
Even throughout the New Testament, we know that Jesus is our shepherd, and as the Good Shepherd He laid down His life for us on the cross. “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.” In using the phrase, “The Good Shepherd”, Jesus is referencing His inherent goodness, His righteousness, and His beauty. As shepherd of the sheep, He is the one who protects, guides, and nurtures His flock. Through His willing sacrifice, the Lord made salvation possible for all who come to Him in faith. In proclaiming that He is the Good Shepherd, Jesus speaks of “Laying down” His life for His sheep 10:15, Jesus makes it clear that it wasn’t just for the Jews that He laid down His life, but also for the “other sheep I have, which are not of this fold… .”. “The other sheep” clearly refers to the Gentiles; all who come to believe upon Him
Now, let us explore Psalms 23 line by line:
I. THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD, I SHALL NOT
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. says, “But my God shall supply all our needs… .”. He will provide for His own for every need we will ever have. It does not mean that He will provide for everything we but for everything that we We can enjoy utter peace and contentment in His care.
II. HE MAKETH ME TO LIE DOWN IN GREEN PASTURES: HE LEADETH ME BESIDE THE STILL
The strange thing about sheep is that because of their very make-up, it is almost impossible for them to be made to lie down and rest unless four requirements are met.
(1) Owing to their timidity, they refuse to lie down unless they are free from fear. (2) Because of the social behavior with a flock, sheep will not lie down unless they are free from friction with others of their kind. (3) If tormented by flies or parasites, sheep will not lie down. Only free from these pests, can they relax. (4) Lastly, sheep will not lie down as long as they feel in need of finding food. They must be free from hunger.
When we study sheep, we find that they are dumb, defenseless, and directionless. The distance between the shepherd and the sheep determines the potential for danger. The greater the distance, the greater the danger. Christians are often so busy in their lives, that they don’t have the sense to take rest in Him, so He makes us “To lie down”. Like sheep, we have to be forced to rest. 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
No Christian deliberately determines to get away from God, but how like sheep we are. He leads us, you might notice, because says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned every one to his own way.” We can’t always find the still water. More often we end up in troubled waters, well over our heads.
III. HE RESTORETH MY SOUL: HE LEADETH ME IN THE PATHS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE.
As we said before, sheep are not very smart. They have a predictable inclination to lose their way. They can be in a pasture with plenty of grass and adequate water and still wander aimlessly until they have nothing to eat or drink. Once lost, they cannot find their way back.
Many animals seem to have inborn compasses—not so with sheep.
Once lost, the shepherd must go and find them. Spiritually, people are like sheep, and sheep are like people. Both are easily lost. 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 namesake.” God will not share His glory with another. He is worthy of all glory. When we grow weary and fainthearted from trouble in life, He restores and refreshes us. We are saved by grace, restored by grace and kept by grace.
IV. YEA, 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.
There is a valley called “the valley of the shadow of death” in Palestine, towards the Dead Sea. Today, it is called the “Wadi Kelt” on maps. It’s like a little grand canyon, about 1500 feet deep in some places. In Biblical times, bears, lions, leopards and hyenas, as well as robbers waited in the shadows and caves to spring upon the flocks and the shepherds. It was a treacherous valley of perpetual shadows and dangers. They named it “shadow of death” because the possibility of danger and death was always present. When the spring rains came, this was where the hills would break forth with flowers and green grass. David wrote: “I will fear no evil for thou art with me.” Our daily walk with God is fraught with trials, troubles, and risk, but He is with us throughout our life. That is why we don’t have to fear evil.
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 rod was not only useful for a weapon but symbolizes authority over the sheep. The rod was also used to examine and count the sheep. “One does not pull the wool over His eyes.”
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. If sheep end up on their backs, they could not right themselves and would die of starvation on their backs. That is why it was comforting to the sheep to have the shepherd near them. The staff kept them in the fold, kept them on their feet, kept them free from harm and kept them free from fear.
V. THOU PREPAREST A TABLE BEFORE ME IN THE PRESENCE OF MINE ENEMIES: THOU ANOINTEST MY HEAD WITH OIL; MY CUP RUNNETH OVER.
With this verse, the image of the Psalm suddenly changes. is about life on Earth. is about life in Heaven. God is preparing a place at His table for us. Jesus said to His disciples before He left that, “I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” 14:3) The anointing of oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit and it also pictured the anointing of believers who go to Heaven. When a king made a covenant with a vassal, he often sealed it by holding a banquet. During the banquet, it was customary to anoint the head of the guests with oil as a sign of friendship and protection.
Finally, the cup that runs over is symbolic of eastern hospitality, when a guest was welcome to stay. They intentionally overflowed the cup so that the guest realized they were welcome.
VI. 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 understood that mercy and goodness would follow him, not just while he was king, but all the days of his life. He knew he would dwell in the house of the Lord forever. It is a prophecy that will be fullfilled by Christ at the physical death of all believers. That is nothing less than Eternal Life
Like sheep, we, too, need a shepherd. Men are spiritually blind and lost in their sin. This is why Jesus spoke of the parable of the Lost Sheep in (Luke 15:4-6). He is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for us. He searches for us when we are lost, to save us and show us the way to eternal life. We tend to be like sheep.