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Psalm 23

Psalm 23 Summary, Our LORD Shepherd

Tod Kennedy, January 28 May 11, 2015

Psalm 23 Theme

David reflects on Yahweh and knows that Yahweh is his spiritual shepherd and will provide for him and bless him throughout his life, even when deathly darkness surrounds him, and when his enemies are very near. He concludes by confidently saying that Yahweh’s goodness and lovingkindness will pursue him, and he will meditate on Yahweh, follow Yahweh, and fellowship with Yahweh through the tabernacle for the rest of his life.

Psalm 23 Summary

This Psalm emphasizes the spiritual life, so as the Psalm develops David is assured that the LORD will provide David with all spiritual necessities along with a hint of physical needs.  These include God's word, spiritual cleansing and refreshment, restoration of attitude and of fellowship, guidance onto right paths, lack of fear even in the most deathly circumstances, comfort, protection, much blessing even though enemies press him, and God's goodness and loyal love.  David concluded that he wanted to spend the rest of his life in fellowship with the LORD which begins in the tabernacle and continues wherever David might be.

Psalm 23 Trace the theme

David reflects on Yahweh his shepherd who watches over him and provides for him so that he will not lack (Psalm 23.1). Specifically, Yahweh provides spiritual food (Psalm 23.2a), spiritual restoration and refreshment (Psalm 23.2b), and guidance in righteous ways because of Yahweh’s reputation (Ps 23.3). David does not fear because Yahweh protects, guides, and encourages him during times of dark and threatening trouble (Psalm 23.4). Yahweh provides David abundant fellowship, much blessing, provision, and enjoyment  while right in the presence of his enemies (Psalm 23.5). David then emphatically says that Yahweh’s goodness and lovingkindness will pursue him throughout his life and he will return and dwell in fellowship with Yahweh through the tabernacle for the rest of his life (Psalm 23.6).

Psalm 23 Outline

  1. Psalm 23.1-3. The LORD shepherd gives spiritual and physical provision.
  2. Psalm 23.4-5. The LORD shepherd protects and comforts during dark and deadly times and blesses in front of his enemies.
  3. Psalm 23.6. David knows that the LORD Shepherd's goodness and lovingkindness will always follow him and David wants to fellowship with him all his life.

Psalm 23 Verse Explanation

  1. Psalm 23.1-3. The LORD shepherd gives spiritual and physical provision.
    • Psalm 23.1. The LORD (Yahweh) is David's personal shepherd. In this Psalm David is the sheep, and by extension all who follow the shepherd are God's sheep.  The shepherd is responsible for the welfare of the sheep. He cares for his sheep. This responsibility and care means that David will not lack anything that he needs.
    • Psalm 23.2. The shepherd leads to lush food and cool refreshing and healing water. Verse 2 is a metaphor for what is necessary for David to have a healthy and productive life in fellowship with God—spiritual food which is God's word and God's spiritual refreshment, healing, and cleansing.
    • Psalm 23.3. The LORD shepherd restores and revives David's soul (inner life), probably after a long and difficult day in which David experienced some failure. As a part of this spiritual restoration the shepherd directs  David onto righteous tracks. After a hard day, we often need our purpose and focus redirected. The LORD shepherd did this for David. Where David goes and what he does either honors or dishonors God's reputation. God wants his reputation honored by those who name him as God.
  2. Psalm 23.4-5. The LORD shepherd protects and comforts during dark and deadly times and blesses in front of his enemies.
    • Psalm 23.4. We know that David went through many harrowing and life threatening experiences. The LORD shepherd is always with David, no matter the time, the place, or the circumstances. Because of this, even though David goes through deathly darkness (a description of overwhelming danger or death, whether understood or not) he will not be afraid. Furthermore, David is comforted by God's rod and staff (figures for God's power, love, and knowledge). Notice that it does not say that there will not be evil. David, and we will face evil. Because the LORD is our shepherd, the evil does not have to overwhelm or control us.
    • Psalm 23.5. David's enemies might think that God ignores David, but the opposite is true. The LORD shepherd superabundantly blesses David (the banquet table) and his enemies clearly see this. The LORD favors David and treats him as an honored guest (the anointing with oil), and David knows this (my cup runs over). This is visible testimony to David and to David's enemies that God favors David.
  3. Psalm 23.6. David knows that the LORD Shepherd's goodness and lovingkindness will always follow him and David wants to fellowship with him all his life.
    • Psalm 23.6. David responds with great confidence that the LORD shepherd's goodness and loyal love will pursue him through his entire lifetime. The LORD will not forget David or give up on him. He has his plan for David. We can conclude that God does not give up on us. He wants to pursue us with his goodness and loyal love. David closes out this shepherd psalm by stating that he will return to the house of the LORD for the length of his days—his entire life. The word translated dwell is the same word translated restore in verse 3 (the basic meaning is return, turn, restore). Maybe David sensed that his fellowship with God was faltering or that it needed continual refreshment. Regardless, David realized that the tabernacle or any place of worship of the LORD was the source for fellowship, meditation, and service of the LORD shepherd. The same is true for us. We need to return and remain where our fellowship, meditation, and service are maintained.

So what for us to do?

  1. Believers who trust, follow, and obey our shepherd, Jesus Christ, will not lack for what is needed to fellowship with God and to serve God.
  2. Very important to all of us is that, because God is with us, we never need to be afraid no matter what deathly darkness is threatening us. It need not overwhelm or control us.
  3. These blessings that David experienced include material and spiritual nourishment, spiritual restoration, guidance to a righteous life, protection from danger and fear, blessings even though the enemy is very near, God’s goodness and lovingkindness throughout life, and fellowship with God.
  4. As with David, we want to renew and strengthen our faith in God, our meditation on God, our fellowship with God, and our obedience to him.
  5. We ought to thank and praise God for his blessings to us.