Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will 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 anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord


Psalm 23 is probably the best known Psalm, and one of the best known of all the scriptures. It is certainly one of my favorites. Why is it so popular? Why is it written on cards, painted on wall-hangings, and quoted so often? I think it is because the Psalmist speaks a truth we all know, but we need to be reminded of frequently. The language used is personal and relatable. Referring to the Lord as “shepherd” brings imagery to mind that was relevant in biblical times and today. We know the shepherd is the caretaker of a flock of sheep or other animals. We understand that animals or people in the care of a shepherd do not need to worry about anything. The shepherd will guide, direct, and protect. 


The writer of this Psalm went further to call the shepherd “my” shepherd. It evokes a close relationship, a trust that is inherent. And the object of that trust is the Lord, not the Psalmist’s abilities or strength. If God is truly my shepherd, I need nothing. Though I may lack the ability required in a particular circumstance, the Lord will provide. I may be blind to my surroundings, but the great Shepherd will guide and protect me. And the Psalmist takes it further by assuring us that the shepherd will provide not just enough, but an abundance. “My cup overflows.” 


Notice in verse 4 that the writer shifts from third-person language about God to second-person language to God. I can imagine the Psalmist praying earnestly, praising God and being moved to shift to praying directly to God. The Psalmist probably felt the power of the Holy Spirit, God’s presence there with him as he prayed. It is one of the reasons this Psalm is so powerful. It serves as a personal reminder of God’s abundance and provision. We can faithfully walk along the path, trusting the shepherd to guide and protect us. Furthermore, this trust can take us beyond our current circumstances and into eternity. No matter what happens, the goodness and love of God will follow us all the days of our lives. 


Does thinking of God as your shepherd change how you live your life?


Dear Lord, teach me to hear, lead me to see and guide me to heed your words. Let these words from the Psalms infuse my soul. I trust you, Oh Holy One. I submit fully to your will for my life. Lead me on the path of righteousness and forgive me for the ways may I fail. May your grace be born anew for me each day. Amen.