Have you read the 23rd Psalm lately? Okay, you may have looked at the words, but have you really thought about it? Have you ever become curious enough to dig into it to understand some of its life applications? Let’s read it (KJV), then look at it line-by-line.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
The LORD is my shepherd. The Shepherd is never in doubt as to who belongs to him. And nothing can take us from Him (Romans 8:35-39).
I shall not want. I will have no lack in my life. All my needs (not talking about desires) will be met.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. I will live in peace. I will not have strife in my life for I trust the Shepherd.
He leadeth me beside the still waters. Through the Shepherd’s guidance, I will stay out of trouble and be safe.
He restoreth my soul. If I go astray, disobey, or sin, the Shepherd restores our relationship when I repent.
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. The gentle Shepherd doesn’t push – He LEADS me in respectable and conscientious living which honors Him.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Even though I go through rough and dangerous times, even though I have severe trials and hardships, I will not fear because the Shepherd is by my side watching over me. The Shepherd allows hard times in my life for my benefit. If everything went peachy-smooth all the time, I would never learn to trust him.
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. The Shepherd uses the staff to rescue, guide, and correct me; the rod is used for my discipline and to beat off predators and enemies.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. In the middle of both earthly conflict and spiritual battles, the Shepherd provides everything I need for both this life and in the next life. He never leaves me and shows me how to gain the victory. But I have to watch and listen.
Thou anointest my head with oil. The Shepherd has chosen me for a specific purpose or function, and promised that He will enable me and empower me to fulfill that purpose.
My cup runneth over. My life is complete. I am filled with blessings, friends, joy, and with confidence in the Shepherd that He will do all that He said He would.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. I will live righteously, and will show mercy to all those around me so that they, too, can learn to live for the Lord.
I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. I will live for the Lord, worship Him, and praise Him my entire earthly life, then throughout eternity.
After some study, I identified something that seemed to be missing from the Psalm. There is an unspoken condition that is inferred after “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Many “sheep” who belong to the True Shepherd may not be enjoying all the benefits that this Psalm lists because they don’t understand or may not be aware of this unspoken condition. What is it?
Please read this next line several times: We must continually stay close to the shepherd and obey him. When sheep wander off, they can get hurt or killed because the shepherd can neither protect nor provide for them. The shepherd trains the sheep to follow him. He does not drive his sheep; he leads them. Therefore, the sheep must watch and stay close. As the sheep cooperate, all the shepherd’s love, care, and benefits are available to the sheep. But we must stay close to Him.
If we have truthfully accepted the leadership of the Shepherd, Jesus Christ, in our lives, this Psalm is applicable for us while we live! Then, if we have stayed close to the Shepherd, the Psalm is ever more comforting at the end of our earthly life. And the totality of its promises is guaranteed in heaven.