I want to go through one of the most popular and well known chapters in the entire Bible. It’s the 23rd Psalm, written by David when he was older. This was not written but the young shepherd boy or the newly crowned king of Israel, but many years after David had been sitting on the throne. This Psalm reflects the experiences of a man who had gone through many valleys and had constant shadows of death enveloping him, yet he knew in the end that he would dwell in the house of the Lord forever. I have read a lot of commentaries on this chapter but I thought I would add my own personal commentary to what the 23rd Psalm means to me. You may not agree with mine and your own personal commentary may differ, but this is my personal Bible commentary on the 23rd Psalm.
23:1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
The Lord is my Shepherd. For those who have not placed their trust in Christ, He is not their Shepherd. Unless He is your Savior, He is not your Shepherd. If He is not your Savior, then He will be your Judge someday (Rev 20).
When the Lord is my Shepherd, I will lack for nothing for only He can bring satisfaction and I find that my satisfaction is in Him not in things, so why should I want for anything when I have all things in Him?
23:2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
Sheep are stubborn. They don’t have enough sense to know when to lie down to rest so there are times that He makes me lie down but the good thing is that He makes me lie down where the green pastures are. That is where I can be fed on the Word of God. Sheep have been known to stay in one place and eat until they eat down to the dirt. A good shepherd moves them to green pastures.
He also leads me by still waters as sheep are afraid of moving water. Sheep are not brave at all. The least bit of movement and they will not approach something that is troubling, however sheep will drink from still waters. They won’t go near moving waters but only by the still waters. Again, good shepherds lead them beside the still waters. Not downstream, upstream or anywhere the waters are not still. When the sheep thirst, only the Shepherd gives the satisfying water…living waters (John 4).
23:3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
The word “restores” is more like a revival. I was dead in my sins but He restored my soul because the Shepherd willingly gave His life for His sheep.
My Shepherd leads me to restoration by leading me in the paths of righteousness. His righteousness was imputed to me (2 Cor 5:21) and unless He lead me down it, then I would have surely died in my sins. This He did for His name’s sake, not mine. It was for His glory since no one of us can boast (Eph 2:8-9, 1 Cor 1:29).
23:4 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.
Sheep are about the dumbest of all of God’s creatures and we are like sheep, every one of us (Isaiah 53:6). Consequently, we go through the valleys of, what appears to be, imminent death at times. God never promises to keep us out of these valleys of death or prevent us from going through them but He does say that He will go “through the valley” with us. And if there is a shadow, this must mean the Son is still shinning somewhere.
Sheep are also cowards. They can literally die from fear or panic but the Shepherds sheep have no evil to fear for He has conquered the evil one. Why? It is because the Psalmist said, “You are with me.” It’s easier to pass through evil, valleys of death when He is with you.
His rod corrects us when we need it. He corrects every son or daughter that He loves. When my children were young I corrected them, not only because they needed it but because I loved them. If I didn’t love them, I wouldn’t care enough to correct them. His rod also keeps predators away like the shepherds of old fought off the sheep’s enemies. Sheep are slow and so they can’t run away…they cannot defend themselves because they have no claws or vicious teeth.
His staff has a crook on it. It can pull me back like a shepherd’s staff pulls back a sheep by his or her neck. This keeps us from going the wrong way. Sheep have been known to run off a cliff and fall to their death before. The staff keeps us close to Him and the Shepherd knows that there is protection only when the sheep remain near the Him. If a sheep tries to run away and falls and lands on its back, it is helpless and defenseless against the ravening predators but the Shepherd can put us back on our feet again and so the staff comforts us.
23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.
When He prepares a table before my enemies, this means that He has had victory over him. It is safe to sit down to dine with the Shepherd when the enemies have ceased to be a threat. To sit down pictures a completed work. Today Christ sits at the right hand of the Father because He has finished His work. This work was accomplished and paid in full at Calvary.
Every believer has an anointing. If you are a Christian, then you have an anointing. The oil represents the Holy Spirit to me. It also reflects healing properties.
When the guests of the culture when this was written, a guest was welcome to stay as long as the cup was being overflowed. When the cup ceased from being filled, then it was time to go but in the Jewish culture, if they kept the cup full this indicated that the guest could stay as long as they wanted. When it was overflowing, then the stay was unlimited.
23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwellin the house of the Lord Forever.
Goodness and mercy will follow, even when I stray off the path. This “surely” means with certainty. This goodness and mercy stay with me even when I don’t deserve it. Mercy is where I don’t get what I do deserve and His goodness is what I do get but don’t deserve.
I will dwell with the Lord forever because I have eternal life. I was born from above (John 3:3) and so this means I won’t have to die but one more time. I’ve heard it said that if a person is born once, they’ll die twice, but if they’re born twice, they’ll die only once. That second birth is from above and since this second birth is promised to all who would believe in Him, they can dwell or live with Him forever and ever for time without end (John 3).
The Lord is My Shepherd. Is He yours? If He isn’t, then He’ll be your Judge. Decide today, if you haven’t already, to make Him your Shepherd. Then “goodness and mercy” will surely follow you in this life and in the life to come.
Jack Wellman is a pastor and Senior Writer at What Christians Want to Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible.