Scripture reading – Psalm 23
Today’s second devotion is an overview of Psalm 23, perhaps the Bible’s most familiar and beloved chapter. The beauty and pastoral theme of Psalm 23 has inspired the saints of God through the ages. It has been the hope of believers who have passed through the “shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4). (Reminder – The words in brackets are the author’s amplification of word definitions and meanings.)
The LORD my Pastor (Psalm 23:1; John 10:1-7, 14-15)
Psalm 23:1 – “The LORD [Jehovah; Eternal God] is my shepherd [herdman; pastor]; I shall not want [lack].”
David identified the LORD as “my Shepherd.” The king, a shepherd in his youth, understood the nature and work of the shepherd and acknowledged the LORD’s pastoral care of His people. You will notice in Psalm 23 the qualities of Christ, the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-7, 14-15).
The LORD my Provider (Psalm 23:1b-2)
Psalm 23:1b-2 – “I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down [repose] in green [young, tender grass]pastures [meadows]: he leadeth [guides] me beside the still [peaceful; quiet; comfort] waters.”
David not only identified the LORD as His Pastor but also his Provider. The king assured the saints that those who follow the LORD “shall not want” (Psalm 23:1b). A good shepherd was attentive to his sheep, and when it was time, he guided them to new pastures. The flock would graze, eat its fill, and then repose surrounded by fresh, tender grasses (Psalm 23:2a).
The shepherd leads His sheep to “still waters” (Psalm 23:2b). A good shepherd would not lead his sheep to streams and risk the sheep being carried away by the waters to their death. So, the LORD guides His people to “still waters” where they are refreshed, comforted, and at peace.
The LORD my Pilot (Psalm 23:3)
Psalm 23:3 – “He restoreth [returns] my soul [life; person; heart; mind]: he leadeth [guide; transport] me in the paths [way; course] of righteousness [justice; prosperity] for his name’s [honor; character; fame; reputation] sake.”
A maritime pilot knows local rivers and channels. He takes over as a ship’s captain and guides it to a safe harbor. So, the Good Shepherd of Psalm 23 is the guardian of men’s souls. Like a shepherd that guides his sheep, the LORD is ready, with a strong, compassionate hand, to turn a straying sheep from its wandering ways to the path He has chosen (Matthew 18:12-13).
Solomon observed, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death”(Proverbs 14:12). The Good Shepherd loves and knows his sheep (John 10) and is not content with even the loss of one. He desires the best for his sheep and will do all he can to “restore” (Psalm 23:3a) a wandering sheep into the right way, the “paths of righteousness” (Psalm 23:3b).
The LORD my Protector (Psalm 23:4)
Psalm 23:4 – “Yea, though I walk through the valley [gorge; gully] of the shadow of death [shade; darkness; gloom], I will fear no evil [wickedness; distress]: for thou [the LORD] art with me; thy rod [scepter; a symbol of authority] and thy staff [walking stick; support] they comfort [console; ease] me.”
David directed his conversation to the LORD in verse 4 and asserted his faith, declaring, “I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4b). He was confident the LORD, like a loving shepherd, would guard his sheep in life’s darkest hour. The king remembered the tools of the shepherd’s trade and took comfort that the LORD would, with His rod, come to his defense. David believed the LORD would take His staff (i.e., the shepherd’s crook) and lead him through the shadows of the valley and into safe pastures.
The LORD my Physician (Psalm 23:5)
Psalm 23:5 – “Thou preparest [order; array; furnish] a table [meal] before me in the presence of mine enemies [i.e., distress; affliction]: thou anointest [i.e., satisfy; make fat] my head with oil [i.e., olive oil; figuratively richness]; my cup [figuratively my lot or portion] runneth over [is satisfied].”
The metaphor for the shepherd’s loving care of his sheep continued in verse 5 as David described God’s loving care of His people. Though lions roar and wolves howl, it was the presence of the shepherd that stilled the flock. David had experienced the same comfort. Though there were enemies who meant him harm, the king was comforted by the perpetual presence of the LORD.
He also remembered the shepherd’s horn of oil used for medicinal purposes. A good shepherd would inspect his sheep each evening as they passed through the gate into the sheepfold. Should he find a scratch or sore, the shepherd poured oil onto the wound to cleanse and heal it. David reminded the people that the LORD, like a loving shepherd, would never spare in His loving care.
The LORD my Promise and Prospect [Hope] (23:6)
Psalm 23:6 – “Surely goodness [better; best; favor] and mercy [loving-kindness; grace] shall follow [run after; pursue] me all the days of my life: and I will dwell [inhabit; sit; abide] in the house [family; household] of the LORD [Yahweh; Jehovah; Eternal God] for ever.”
Psalm 23:6 was a crescendo of hope and a prospect of eternal life! Here is David’s affirmation that has been the saints’ hope through the centuries.
The LORD has reserved His best for those who place faith in Him! His goodness and loving mercies are inexhaustible! Believer, be confident that the LORD has a place for you when your earthly sojourn is near its end and your veil of flesh is worn and ready for rest. There, you will dwell with Him and the saints for eternity!
Closing thoughts –
I close today’s devotion with an invitation and exhortation Christ gave His disciples the night He was betrayed.
John 14:1-3 – “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
If Christ is not your Shepherd, call upon Him and believe He died for your sins according to the Scriptures (Psalm 22). He was buried, the tomb was sealed, and on the third day, He rose victorious from the dead (Matthew 27:63; 1 Corinthians 15:4). He ascended to heaven with the promise He would come again for His people (John 14:3; Acts 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).
Are you ready? Is the LORD your Shepherd?
Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith
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