Psalms 1 - 50by Mike Raiter
For many people, Psalm 23 is their favourite. It is the song of a man characterising himself as a sheep under the watchful, loving eye of his divine shepherd. This shepherd is with him in all circumstances. This is the kind of God we all need and long for.
The poet takes us to three places. The first is beside still waters and in green pastures (v. 2); a picture of serenity and prosperity. While this might seem an idealistic view of life, in the next verse David reminds us that the Lord restores his weary soul (v. 3). This implies there were times when his soul was weighed down and needed restoring. Yet, as David looks back on his life, his overwhelming testimony is that God has been good to him.
At the end of the stanza David moves from the world of metaphors-green pastures and still waters-to the world of everyday moral choices. He is aware that God has kept him on the path of righteousness, causing him to love and obey His commands (v. 3).
David then remembers the hard times, and he takes us to the second place, ″the darkest valley″ of the shadow of death (v. 4). Notice he does not say that in this valley he was never hurt, attacked, or insulted. The one thing he affirms is that he doesn't fear any evil. David knew fear (e.g. 18:6; 56:3), but he does not fear that his shepherd has abandoned him in this valley.
In the final stanza, David is a guest at his Lord's table. This picture of sharing a meal with God is a lovely portrait of kindness and intimacy. Finally, David expresses confidence in God's longing to continually bless him with goodness and mercy, knowing that he will dwell in the presence of his loving Lord forever.
This is a marvellous picture of God's relationship, not just with David, but also with you and me. We all can have a deeply personal relationship with Jesus, the Good Shepherd (John 10:2-16). One day, Jesus saw the crowds, harassed and helpless, sat them down on a green pasture, and fed them (Mark 6:34-44). This Good Shepherd calmed a terrifying storm and it became still waters (Matthew 8:23-27). Our shepherd laid down His life for His sheep, so that in Paradise we might dwell in His house forever.
Why does the Bible regularly choose the picture of a shepherd and sheep to describe God's relationship with His people? The Lord Jesus regularly had meals with sinners (e.g. Mark 2:15). What does sharing a meal with others say about our relationship with them? When God prepares a table for us (Psalm 23:5), what does it say about His relationship with us?