Reflection Upon Psalm 23
Psalm 23 is perhaps the favorite and most quoted Scripture in the Bible. It is often quoted in times of distress and crisis. The Jewish people quote it at every Sabbath meal. I personally pray the Psalm every night as I go to bed.
It is believed that David composed this psalm while on the run from King Saul, who was intent on murdering him. Hiding in the dry Judean forest and on the brink of death without food or drink, he was miraculously saved by God. David gratefully burst out in song, describing the magnitude of his trust in God. David alludes to how God provided for the Jews’ every need throughout their 40-year sojourn in the desert, and to how they will sing when God returns them to our Holy Land; David sings, not just for himself, but for every Jew.
Throughout the ages, in times of both sorrow and joy, millions of Jews gathered strength from these heartfelt words — words that comforted and uplifted them, and strengthened their trust in the Almighty — trust that God, our faithful Shepherd, will never forsake His precious flock, and ultimately will uplift and exalt them eternally in His holy house.
For Christians this Psalm has also become a source of comfort and strength especially in difficult times like we are facing today. In this Psalm we are reminded that God is our Lord and that He will provide all that we need, that we “shall not want” for He is our Shepherd. This Good Shepherd “leads us beside green pastures and still waters” where He gives us comfort and rest and “restores our soul.” Our faith in our heavenly Shepherd is such that, “Even as I walk in the valley of the shadow of death,” or a better translation “the dark valley or valley of darkness, I will fear no evil for You are with me.” Even in times of terrible upheaval and pain, we are not afraid, because we know that God is with us.
God even prepares a table for us not with our friends but in front of our enemies but we need not fear for the Good Shepherd protects us from any harm. The Good Shepherd “anoints our heads with oil” to protect us. Like a shepherd who anoints their sheep with oil to protect them from flies and insects that can cause them sickness and even death. God anoints us to protect us.
David then says that no matter what happens “goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” What good news is that! In light of all that is happening in our world and in our life God’s goodness and mercy are with us all our life.
The Psalm closes with a joyous statement that “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Why? Because the sheep are so deeply loved and cared for that there is no desire to leave. What a hope this Psalm gives us that we shall dwell in the presence, the care of the Good Shepherd, our Lord forever. Go read this Psalm again in different translations and find the comfort, the goodness and mercy the Good Shepherd offers His people.
Offered by Rev. Dr. Michael Elmore
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