Psalm 23 and the Christian

The Lord is My Shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.

He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:1-6).

The twenty-third psalm is one of the most well-known and well-loved passages in the Bible. Though it was written during the time of the Old Law, there are certainly lessons contained in it that apply to us as Christians. Let us briefly consider these lessons.

The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1) – The psalmist did not say that the Lord is our shepherd, but that He is my shepherd. This ought to remind us that each one of us, as individuals, must make the choice to follow the Lord, as we will “all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). He will not force us to follow – we must choose to come to Him (Matthew 11:28; 23:37).

I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters” (Psalm 23:1-2) – The Lord provides us with what we need. Peter said that He has “granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). James reminded us: “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17). Recognizing that all we have are blessings from God, we must be content with whatever He provides. We need to have the attitude of Paul: “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity… I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” Philippians 4:11-13).

He restores my soul” (Psalm 23:3) – Through Christ, we can pass “out of death into life” (John 5:24) if we follow Him. Jesus said, “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:9-10). This abundant life is not primarily focused on our physical lives, as some seem to believe. Paul said, “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19). The abundant life offered through Christ is “eternal life” (Romans 6:23) with Him in heaven.

He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3) – In the gospel, “the righteousness of God is revealed” (Romans 1:16-17). The “paths of righteousness” we are to follow are found in His word (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16). We must strive to follow His sinless example (1 Peter 2:21-22) and practice righteousness (1 John 3:7) by living a life of obedience (1 Peter 1:2; Romans 6:16).

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me” (Psalm 23:4) – As Christians, we must recognize the reality of persecution. Sometimes, when it is not severe, we may ignore its threat and not prepare ourselves to suffer for our faith. But Paul warned, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). However, even though we face persecution for our faith, we must have the same recognition as the psalmist – God is with us; therefore, we have no reason to fear. Peter wrote, “Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled” (1 Peter 3:13-14). Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). We must fear God, not those who would wish to harm us for our faith.

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4) – We must seek comfort from God, especially in light of the troubles and persecutions we face in this life (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). Paul told the brethren in Philippi, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). We can also find comfort in God’s promises. After speaking of the return of Christ to reward the faithful (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17), Paul said, “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows” (Psalm 23:5) – The psalmist described how he was exalted and rewarded by the Lord. Peter said that the Lord will “exalt [His people] at the proper time” (1 Peter 5:6). Jesus said, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done” (Revelation 22:12). This being done “in the presence of [our] enemies” indicates that they will witness it. Just as “every knee will bow” before Christ in the end (Philippians 2:10), so also will we be “glorified with Him” (Romans 8:17) if we follow Him.

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6) – God has promised to be with us and bless us. Again, James wrote, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17). The Hebrew writer said, “He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,’ so that we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6) – Much more than the blessings from God we enjoy in this life, we have hope of eternal life (Titus 1:2; 1 Peter 1:3-4). Paul said, “The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Let us follow the Lord, our Shepherd, so that we can be with Him in heaven for eternity.


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Comments

  1. Larry DeVore says

    You are a good writer, Andy. Another excellent article.

  2. Thanks, Larry. You’re too kind.