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.
The twenty-third psalm is probably the most well-known of all the psalms. It is memorized and said during times of fear, despair and grief. Like the Lord's Prayer, the twenty-third psalm was something I memorized when I was very young. And also like the Lord's Prayer it was something that was recited at almost every funeral I attended. Why? Because Psalm 23 offers comfort and hope to a weary soul. But it also shows us the attributes of God and what our relationship with Him should be like.
The Lord is My Shepherd
The word "shepherd" comes from the Hebrew word ra'ah which has many meanings depending on the way it is used (ruler, pastor, friend, companion and shepherd). When David referred to God as his shepherd he was indicating the similarities between shepherds (who guard and look after their sheep) to God. Like a shepherd, God watches over us (His flock). We are the sheep of His pasture (Psalm 100:3). Shepherds protect their sheep from wolves or other predators. God also protects us from wolves (Matthew 7:15, 10:16). And like a shepherd who finds a lost sheep, God rejoices when He can restore one of us to the "fold." (Matthew 18:12-13). Shepherds do everything to protect their sheep and keep them safe. Shepherds also know that sheep are notorious for straying (just like humans). If one of them jumps off a cliff all the rest will follow. Which is why they need a shepherd to guide, feed and care for them.
I Shall Not Want
Since the Lord is our shepherd we will not lack for anything. He will provide for our needs (Philippian 4:19; Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 4:6; Matthew 7:7-11).
He Makes Me to Lie Down in Green Pastures
He gives us rest. The imagery David uses here makes me think of a warm summer day. The sky is blue and I am resting in a lush, green meadow. It conjures up (for me at least) images of peace and quiet. The Hebrew word used is rabats and literally means to stretch out and lie down.
He Leads me Beside the Still Waters
This psalm speaks clearly of God's tender care for His people. A shepherd will guide his sheep to pastures where they can rest and graze. But his sheep also need to drink, so he guides them to the best watering holes. Likewise, our Heavenly Shepherd leads us to those places where we can be revived spiritually through His Word and be renewed inwardly through His Spirit as He fills us with living waters (John 4:14; John 7:38),
He Restores my Soul
How do you feel after you have taken a break from a busy day? Maybe you have had a cat nap, or filled your stomach, or quenched your thirst. Maybe you've done all three. How do you feel after pampering yourself that way? Revived perhaps? This is how the shepherd kept his sheep from wandering. He provided for their needs by feeding and watering them. He allowed them time to rest before moving them on to someplace else. This resulted in the sheep trusting the shepherd and following him.
When God restores our souls, He does it in much the same way. It is a time for us to heal, renew and revive our spirits. Are you listening to His cues or are you too bogged down with work and life - too busy - to hear the Lord calling you into a "time out"? Take those minutes during the day to rest before the Lord, and your soul will be restored, just as David claims in this psalm.
He Leads Me in the Paths of Righteousness
No loving and dedicated shepherd would lead his sheep astray. God works the same way with us. Our path to God is directly through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (John 14:6) and through His Holy Word (Hebrews 4:12). If we walk closely with Him, we will never stray off that path.
For His Name’s Sake
Why does God lead us in paths of righteousness? For His name's sake. In other words, because it brings glory and honour to His name when we follow the path of righteousness He sets before us.
Yea, Though I Walk Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death,