When you hear the 23rd Psalm, what immediately comes to your mind? For me, funerals. So much so that there have been times I did not find comfort from this very familiar Psalm. Instead of leaning into the comfort it offers, I’d find myself leaning away to try to avoid the thoughts and feelings that accompany death. So when this was the next Psalm in the Bible study I’m working through, I paused. I considered skipping it. Now, after spending a couple weeks with Psalm 23, I’m so glad I didn’t skip over it.
This particular Psalm is a song of confidence…it proclaims absolute confidence in the Lord’s character. Because of that, it is a Psalm that is good to memorize so that anytime we need a reminder of how much God loves and cares for us, it is stored in our hearts and minds. I memorized this Psalm in my childhood. I polished up that memory when I taught intermediate elementary Sunday School. These past two weeks,, I’ve refreshed my memory of it.
David, (the human author of this Psalm) starts off with the pronoun HE describing the Lord. He views the Lord as his Shepherd…a guide, a provider, a restorer, a leader. This is the perfect parallel to John 10:1-16 where Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd and goes on to describe what makes a Shepherd good. He lays down His life for His sheep. He KNOWS His sheep, and His sheep KNOW Him. He calls them by name. The sheep follow because they know His voice.
Did you know that sheep won’t lie down if they are hungry, if they are afraid, if they’re not content with the other sheep of the herd, or if any insects or such are bothering them? I did not know that! But wow! The first three verses of this Psalm makes so much more sense to me now that I do. The sheep wouldn’t be able to eat in peace, drink contentedly, and follow the shepherd if they were distracted by any of those problems. The shepherd takes care of the sheep so completely that they don’t have to be concerned about those problems.
Similarly, we can’t feed fully from God’s word when we let distractions or anxieties rule our minds. We also can’t drink from the still, clear water God offers if we stray to check out the dirty pools of the world offers.
Another new fact about sheep for me…they don’t naturally choose the best path, which is one of the reasons they NEED a shepherd to guide them to the best green pastures and the best still waters. Guess what? We also don’t naturally choose the right path. Isaiah 53:6 tells us, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” That’s not new info!
What stuck out to me in verse three that I have NEVER thought about before…”He leads me in the paths of righteousness FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE.” (added emphasis) Friends, the Lord leads us FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE…our lives speak to the faithfulness of our Lord.
Guess what else?
The world is watching us! They watch to see if God is who we say He is. They watch to see if we are who we say we are because of God. They are watching!
If you haven’t studies Psalm 23, it’s a wonderfully vivid Psalm to take in. If you have studied it, but haven’t memorized it, I’d recommend starting by memorizing this first chunk: Psalm 23:1-3.
The Lord is my shepherd,Psalm 23:1-3
I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.