Psalm 23 is intricately tied to death. I’m sure many of you have heard it read or recited at a funeral. I read Psalm 23 at graveside services myself (and I will continue to do so). Yet, when you carefully read Psalm 23 you find that is more about life. I want to pull Psalm 23 from the funeral context and place it in your living room.
When you carefully read Psalm 23 you find that is more about life. “The Lord is my shepherd” here and now.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will 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 anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Psalm 23 begins with a simple line but it’s an important one: The LORD is my shepherd. The Lord is not merely a shepherd or merely the shepherd. Rather the Lord is my shepherd. The psalm begins on a relational note. Psalm 23 can be respected as a work of poetry or as religious expression. But for those with a relationship with the Lord – it is so much more.
Is the Lord your shepherd? Can you honestly voice the first line?
It is interesting that David, a shepherd in his own right, speaks here not as shepherd but as one of the flock. He speaks as a sheep that lives as one led by the Lord Shepherd. He speaks out of his devotion.
In the humble opinion of this preacher, Psalm 23 hinges on the latter half of verse 4. The rod and the staff comfort the sheep. The sheep are led to not want for anything, led to lie down in green pastures, led to quiet waters, led through the valley of the shadow of death all by the shepherd’s rod and staff.
Let’s take a deeper look at the latter half of verse 4: Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. I don’t want to stretch the image too far but I want to use the rod and staff to discuss God’s discipline and guidance.
The Lord is your shepherd when you submit to his discipline and guidance.
Let’s talk about the rod. The shepherd uses the rod to discipline the sheep when:
- Sheep wander away off on their own
- Sheep approach poisonous weeds
- Sheep near danger or enemy
The Lord Shepherd does the same for us. He breaks us of our independence. He snaps our pride, idolatry, greed, etc. He shows his faithfulness and ability to protect us. Discipline brings comfort. It brings comfort because it brings us close to the Shepherd.
Let’s talk about the staff. The shepherd uses the staff to guide when:
- He draws sheep together for counting or inspection
- He guides sheep through a gate or to a fresh piece of grass
The Lord Shepherd does the same for us. He keeps us in line with his will. He keeps us dependent on him. Guidance provides comfort. It brings comfort because it brings us close to the shepherd.
In verses 1-3 David is addressing the reader. Yet, in verses 4-6 David is addressing the Lord Shepherd.
Following the Lord Shepherd’s discipline and guidance leads us to worship. My prayer for you: Experience the Lord as Shepherd on a personal level. Respond to his discipline and guidance through worship.