A Journey Through the 23rd Psalm
By Rev. Robert A. Crutchfield
During bible times most people could neither read or write. Knowledge of history and everything else was passed along by traveling minsters or musicians. King David who grew up as a shepard wrote the 23rd Psalm as just such a song. There are 150 psalms in the Old Testament. The 23rd has probably been read, recited, etc. more than the other 149 combined. But how many of us have ever taken a close look at it, or even put effort into truly understanding its message ?
Lets start with verse one,
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. “
Is scripture telling us that we will never go hungry, or homeless or experience want ? Certainly not. What it is saying is that God will fill the voids in our life, whether they be physical, spiritual, emotional , or whatever. What it is saying is that God is more than sufficient to see us through when some part of our world is lacking.
Now look at verse two,
“ He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. “
Here we are told that God will not lead us to struggle or hardship. However if we become distracted from him, and his word our broken world certainly will ! God constantly tries to lead us to a place of peace and happiness. But the question is are we listening to him, or to this world and the circumstances of our lives ?
And then verse three says,
“ He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
This can be thought of as a two part verse. The first part talks about God restoring our soul, of giving us strength to see us through what the world tosses our way. The second part in a way continues the message of verse two. It explains why God does what verse two promises he will do. God values each one of us more than we will ever comprehend. However part of what verse two promises is that he will use his action in our lives to bring glory to him through our example. We know he will deliver on his promise because by helping us he is actually accomplishing his own goals.
Verse four talks directly about God and how he comforts us though this world’s struggles,
“ 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.”
We cannot see God, so we cannot see his rod and his staff. However we as Christians gain much comfort from our knowledge of his presence in our lives. Much as a sheep gains comfort from the knowledge that the shepard is watching over them. Like many Christians my wife and I have crosses hung around our home. We do not do so because we worship the cross. That would be idolatry and sinful.
We do so because the crosses and other religious symbols remind us of God’s provision in our lives. Provision which even extends to the sacrifice of his own son ! Knowledge of God’s presence will chase fear out of our lives, and bring us much comfort. It can be helpful to have physical reminders of this around us.
Verse five talks about God’s desire to pamper us,
“ Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. “
Back in biblical times one of the most common ways to honor someone was to throw a feast in their honor. The bigger the feast the bigger the honor being rendered. Scripture tells us here that God honors those who follow him, more than those against them, and he doesn’t care who knows it. In fact it is saying that if you honor God in private, he will honor you in front of the whole world. Oil in biblical times was very expensive. Only the richest and most powerful could even posses it. What God is telling us through David in this part of verse five is no amount of luxury is enough for those that follow God.
In verse six David closes this chapter by expressing confidence in God’s will for us,
“ Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. “
When it comes to his people God doesn’t quit, and he doesn’t give up ! From our very first breath to our very last God holds out hope that we will continue to turn to him. No one is beyond his salvation, and all are worthy of his protection and guidance. It is our fallen world that distracts us from him and what he would do in our lives.