Online Bible Commentary
The Lord is My Shepherd
Psalm 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 4 Even 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. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (NIV)
As a shepherd, David knew a great deal about the provision of shepherds. He writes this Psalm about the God of the Bible, the greatest of all shepherds. But this Psalm of David is not intended for everyone. It is only intended for those of whom “The Lord is my shepherd” (v. 1a). These would be those who are believers, those who have put their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Jewish Messiah, as well as the Christian Lord and Savior. He is the shepherd, and so this Psalm is for His “sheep”, His believers. He is the shepherd of Christians and Messianic Jews.
The Lord provides our every need in life. “He makes me lie down in green pastures” (v. 2a). This is a picture of God’s rest, the peace he gives to every believer. Everyone seeks peace throughout their lives, whether they know it or not. They seek peace through trying to find security, in wealth, power or fame. They seek peace through the “perfect” relationship with another person, which will never happen. They seek peace through withdrawing temporarily from their problems by the use of drugs or alcohol. And they seek peace in a number of other ways. But the only peace comes from God, through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
“He leads me beside quiet waters” (v. 2b). This is a picture of God’s provision of our physical needs. He provides food, water, and shelter. Settlers always look for a source of water when looking for a place to call home. The water provides for their crops, and the nearby trees, fed by the water, which provide a building for shelter.
“He restores my soul” (v.3a). Our soul is restored when our relationship with God is restored. We are born in right relationship with God. But when we sin our relationship with God is broken, because of our sin. This relationship is restored when we become a Christian.
“He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake” (v. 3b). This is a picture of God’s moral direction for life. When we follow Jesus Christ we are following the path of righteousness.
“Even 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” (v. 4). In my twelve years service as a hospice chaplain I have found that Christians do not fear death by the time they get to death’s doorstep. The Lord gives them peace. If they have a fear, it is only a fear of pain or perhaps apprehension of the inexperienced. They haven’t “been there, done that”. Those who have had near death experiences do not even have this apprehension, because of their experience.
So, as we “walk through this valley”, this time of moving towards death, we will fear nothing because death is nothing more than a shadow. Like a shadow, it can not hurt us. Like a shadow, it is an illusion. Death is an illusion because we do not die. Our body dies, but our soul, our base of emotions, our personality, everything that we are, continues on in Heaven. The Lord is with us throughout this whole process as we are comforted by His rod and staff.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (v.5a). This is a picture of God’s spiritual blessings purchased with the blood of Christ. Though surrounded by the enemy, Satan, we enjoy the securities of God’s blessings as we walk through this valley.
“You anoint my head with oil” (v. 5b). The anointing with oil is a picture of God’s healing. God is the great physician, the great healer. Sometimes He heals our body. Other times He takes us to Heaven and gives us a brand new body. Either way, He heals us.
“My cup overflows” (v. 5c). This is a picture of God’s blessings. Even in death, especially in death, our blessings overflow. We are given a renewed grace, strength, and peace to enable us to pass peacefully from this world to the next.
“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (v. 6). This final verse sums up David’s Psalm. The Lord’s goodness and love is with us throughout “all the days of our life.” “Our life” consists of our time on earth and our time in Heaven. On the day we become a Christian we begin our eternal life. So, we move from our life here to our eternal life in a seamless manner. There is no cessation of consciousness. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. As soon as our spirit leaves our body, at physical death, we are with the Lord in Heaven.