Psalms To See Me Through: Psalm 23 ~ The Lord, the Psalmist’s Shepherd

A Psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
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.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
~ Psalm 23

This Psalm is a favorite for many because it illustrates the intimate relationship David has with the Lord; this same intimacy is available to you and me.  God provides protection and providence.  This is a psalm of trust.

David was most likely singing about the pilgrimage to celebrate the festivals of the Lord.  There were three main Feasts of the Lord that were required for the Jews to go up and worship: the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Pesach/Passover) found in Exodus 12-15, the Feast of Weeks Shavout/Pentecost) or also known as the Feast of Ingathering
(Ex. 34:22), the Feast of Booths (Sukkoth) or also known as the The Day of Assembly (Azaret) found in Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy 16.  Though the Temple was not built
until years later by his son Solomon, this Psalm was definitely among the liturgy as pilgrims ascended up to Jerusalem to celebrate.  Many scholars agree that this Psalm also suggests that David is pining for the eternal rest promised by God.  For we are pilgrims traveling through this world and we, along with David, will enter the final Rest of God.  Traveling to the temple carried the idea of Yahweh gathering His sheep.  This is a common theme in other Psalms in which the shepherd-sheep motif is yoked to that of the temple. (Ps. 28; 74; 79; 95; 100)  The Lord as our Shepherd is found in later prophecy announcing the visible appearing of this Shepherd. (Isaiah 40:11 and Ezekiel 34, 37) Remember that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and He is our Shepherd ~
the Shepherd of our soul.

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.”
 (vv. 1-3)

Let’s lay aside seeking after things ~ riches and possessions (not that these are bad in and of themselves), but the Lord warned that moth and rust destroy these things; let’s desire the rest of God.  Let us long for Him alone and we will not want for anything.

I am breathless when I learn that David is declaring the goodness of God while being chased down and hunted by his own son, Absalom.  David was not lying around the palace to experience the rest of God, but was entrenched in tribulation.  This is a weighty lesson for us; in dark times, declare the goodness of God, and it will bring us rest.  When we spend our time abiding in Him ~in silent noise, He will restore and fill our souls and spirits; He will fill us up to overflow to walk through the tribulations that we will face.

Fresh green pastures are promised, a place where one lies at ease, and rest and enjoyment.  The beauty of the original Hebrew language here indicates an oasis.
David was not meditating on returning to the Temple after the threat to his life and throne ceased, but a resting place, an oasis that only God can provide.  It will be like nothing we have never experienced before.

Though this Psalm promises peace, it promises something else as well; tribulation.  This beautiful worship song of David praises God for His protection and provision, but it is through hard roads and deep, dark valleys that the Shepherd of Israel walked with him, and He will walk with us as well.

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. (
v.4)

Words of trust pour from the mouth of a hunted man, a throne compromised, to a God of faithfulness and victory.  The rod and staff is not that of a pilgrim, but that of the Shepherd.  The rod and staff of protection of Yahweh is what brings this weary king comfort.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (
vv.5-6)

God has a glorious celebration meal prepared for us.  It is not to enjoy when we come out of the dark valley, but right in the middle of the darkness, while our enemies watch with disdain and disgust.  He is calling us to rejoice in the middle of our tribulation and not wait till the end.  If we wait until we come out of the darkness, have we really trusted Him as David did?  Praising Him in the midst of our dark valley, shows that we have put our trust fully in Him.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd who understands our pain (Hebrews 4:15) and will walk with us every step of the dark place; He trudged that lonely, painful path before us.

There is a shift here from the Shepherd to the Lord of Hosts, literally the Lord of Angel Armies, who fights for us, protects us, and gives us the victory.

But Moses said to the people, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today”. (Ex. 14:13)

God is not only the Good Shepherd who looks after us in both good and bad times, and the Lord who fights on our behalf, but He also invites us to live in His house, which is both beautiful and a refuge.

The Lord of Hosts is the Host who feeds us while our enemies watch and keep silent.  He provides bountifully for us His guests.  He anoints our head with oil ~ fragrant perfume of joy.  He serves us a magnificent banquet and fills our cups to overflow.  David trusts that the Lord will give Him these things, while his enemies watch, in the midst of his trial.  When we worship and abide in Him, we will find peace from our enemies. He also has a future banquet planned for us, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, and we will feast with Him in eternal rest.

 

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