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Psalm 23

One of the most well known scriptures is Psalm 23. We see it written out on pictures of Jesus portrayed as the shepherd, often hung in children’s rooms. We hear it read at funerals. Why? Because we find it comforting; however, sometimes when something is so common, we can overlook the deep meaning of it.

Recently, I have been not just reading the Psalms but praying them. This has been a practice for centuries but seems to have been forgotten in modern times. Starting with my favorite, Psalm 23, I began praying and mediating on each verse. During these times of prayer, the Psalms have opened up fresh meaning for me, which I would like to share with you.

1 The Lord is my shepherd;

I shall not want.

First, what is a shepherd? A shepherd is the caretaker and protector of his flock. Verse 1 states, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” The images we see of Jesus in pictures with this verse show Him as gentle and meek, which is true but He is also powerful. Psalm 24 describes the Lord as the Lord mighty and strong in battle, the Lord of hosts, the King of Glory. Remember, David who wrote this psalm was also a warrior. Even when he was young and tending his father’s flock, he killed the lion and the bear to protect them. So, instead of seeing Jesus as the meek Shepherd, think warrior! There are places in the Bible where we are shown pictures of Jesus as He is known in heaven. Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4 describe Him with eyes of fire and shining like the sun with thunders and lightning around Him, and His voice that sounds like many waters. This is the picture we need to see when reading that the LORD is our shepherd. The one who holds all power is the one guarding over you.

In Him is everything we could ever need or want. He is peace. He is hope. He is love. Therefore, as the psalmist declares, “I shall not want.” In Luke 10, we read the story where Martha is complaining to Jesus about her sister Mary who is not working but sitting at His feet learning from Him. In verse 42, Jesus explains that Mary has found the only thing that is needed. Mary found that she did not have to strive for His affection or blessing, but sitting at His feet fulfilled all that she could ever desire. We also, can be completely fulfilled when we learn to take the time, not to strive, but to rest and listen to His voice. We can easily become distracted and anxious, especially if we have a lot going on in our life, but when we let Him be our shepherd, we enter His comfort.

2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside the still waters.

3 He restores my soul;

He leads me in the paths of righteousness

For His name’s sake.

He gives us rest. In Matthew 11:28 we see Jesus’ invitation, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” The next verse, verse 29, specifically says, “ . . . and you will find rest for your souls.” I believe that green pastures represent abundance. Thinking of the analogy of sheep, green pastures would provide them not just sustenance, but the best there is. “Still waters” to me speaks of peace. In Mark 4:35-41, we read about how the disciples were caught in a storm and were afraid for theirs lives. Then Jesus commands the waters to be still. He is the Prince of Peace. When He walks into our situation—the atmosphere changes. We can be in the midst of the storm of our lives and still be at perfect peace because Jesus is our Shepherd, and whatever problem is presented, He already has a promise provided for us.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil;

For You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Remember, you are never alone. When Jesus lives in your heart, He is always with you. Deuteronomy 31:8 states, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid.” Jesus knows our tendency to panic. That is why there are 365 verses in the Bible telling us, “Do not fear!” Even when things have seemed to have fallen apart, the Lord makes beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3). This is a complex topic, which I will be writing about more. So please do not think if you have suffered a loss that I am saying it is easy to overcome, but that there is hope.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

My cup runs over.

Stress is an indicator that we have gotten our eyes off of Jesus and on our circumstances. We are looking at our situation from our viewpoint. Scripture tells us to look to Him, lift our heads (Ps 24:7), because we need to see our situation from His perspective. When we fix our eyes on Him we can then see our situation relative to His majesty. There is nothing too difficult for Him. Moreover, the bigger the problem is, the bigger the promise. Thus, the table of blessing we see here in verse 5 in the midst of enemies/problems.

In Biblical times, as custom to refresh a traveler or to welcome a guest, the host would anoint their head with oil. It represents not just refreshing but honor. Remember, you are the beloved of the Lord. Oil is also symbolic of joy, gladness. You can have joy even in the midst of your problems because the Lord is your Shepherd. Additionally, your cup can be beyond full, so full of joy and peace it is overflowing.

In John 7:37-38, Jesus declares, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

All the days of my life;

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord


The faithfulness, compassion, and loving-kindness of the Lord are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). He is faithful every day to provide us with His grace so that every day we start new. Jesus is our Shepherd, our greatest champion and provider.

Image by azboomer from Pixabay

Published inHope