Many Christians lean on Psalm 23, and for good reason. One of the most popular passages of Scripture in the Bible, it shows God’s leadership, His protection, His provisions, and His blessings. While we often recite this Psalm, many fail to see the depth of it. Let’s examine it verse by verse and witness just how beautiful and encouraging this passage of Scripture is.
Psalms 23:1 – “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want”
Immediately, we see that God is a provider. However, this verse doesn’t tell us that we won’t or shouldn’t have any desires. God has promised to give us the desires of our heart, as long as they don’t collide with His will. Instead, this verse reminds us that when God is our guide, we will have all that we need. Not only does a good shepherd care for and provide for his sheep, he’s even willing to risk his life. When we consider the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, we see just how much God loves us (His sheep).
Psalms 23:2 – “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters”
Look at where God leads us to rest (lie down): green pastures and still waters. Consider those green pastures, as opposed to desert places or a wasteland. Green pastures is representative of fertility. It is representative of life! If the place where God led you wasn’t healthy, the grass would be dying. We often focus too much on our wilderness experiences without considering the places that God wants to lead us to.
And what do we think of when we sit down by still waters? We think calm. We think peace. When we consider the fertile ground and the still waters, we see that God wants to calm all of the raging waters of our life and bring us to a place of peace and growth!
Psalms 23:3 – “He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the path of righteousness for His name’s sake”
The restoration of the soul is key. Consider what it’s like for us when it seems as if everything is weighing us down. Consider what it’s like when we feel like giving up. It is God that comes to our rescue and uplifts us. When the world is beating us down, only God can restore us.
Like the good shepherd that He is, God will only lead us in the right way, to the right destination. As we toil in life looking for the right path on our own, God is willing to lead us there as long as we’re willing to follow Him. We must remember that sheep aren’t the most intelligent animals, and they often wander off on their own, getting into dangerous situations. Following our Shepherd will help to avoid such things. When we’re going through struggles in life and every path seems to lead to hurt and disappointment, we must remember that such things are not of God and are not His plan for our lives. He wants greater for us. We must follow the Shepherd.
“For His name’s sake” reminds us of the promises of God. He makes good on what He said because He has a reputation to uphold as a loving and kind God that takes care of His children. God has repeatedly said in His Word that He would never leave nor forsake us. He keeps His word, but not just to impress us, but to show exactly who He is.
Psalms 23:4 – “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”
God takes no days off. He’s always there in times of trouble. When we consider “the shadow of death”, we must understand that death is ever present. In the flesh, we have a fear of the unknown, and death is in fact something we know nothing about in the physical. But when we’re spiritually born again, we have victory over the grave. In those moments of weakness, when we find ourselves fearing death, we see that God is present to comfort us.
Even in times of evil, when death is all around us, we should never be afraid. In the times when loved ones are leaving us more often than we’d like, we should be looking to God as a comforter. We should never allow ourselves to believe that God has made a mistake or that the devil has done something outside of God’s control. The moment God loses control of any situation, He ceases to be God, and that hasn’t happened. Instead, we are to trust God when we don’t understand His will, and look to the comfort He provides to make things easier.
Psalms 23:5 – “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over”
Here is why we should never concern ourselves with those that are against us or speak ill of us. God will exalt you in due time, and He will do so in a way in which your enemies will see it. “A table in the presence of mine enemies” tells us that we’re at a feast where our enemies are in attendance. Don’t be surprised when you’re in the same room with them. God wants them to be a witness to your elevation and celebration.
But we mustn’t be arrogant. It’s not so that we can gloat or boast, but so that God may be glorified. Revenge is God’s business. When we seek it on our own, we’re out of order. God has a way of showing those that mistreated us that He has in fact favored us.
He shall also anoint us and bless us in a way that will leave no doubt that we are chosen, blessed, honored and protected by Him. God’s anointing us in front of others is a verification. Again, we are blessed for all to see! Our blessing are so great, that they run over! They will be so abundant that we won’t be able to contain them. Such blessing are not given for selfish reasons, however. An overflow of blessings is given so that we can bless others.
Psalms 23:6 – “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever”
This brings us full circle in this Psalm. Goodness and mercy will follow us as long as we follow the directions of our Good Shepherd. Consider the fact that mercy is God not giving us what we deserve, because at times, we’re outside of His will. When we as sheep go astray, God isn’t always looking to punish us, but rather show us mercy and lead us back into the fold. Man holds a grudge, but God holds us close to His heart. Staying with the Good Shepherd ensures that we will be under God’s goodness and mercy. And we should all have the desire to dwell in the house of the Lord (in His presence) forever. There is no place safer than that!