Psalm 23

Psalm 23:1. “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

You will notice that that every letter of the word “LORD” is capitalized. In Hebrew, this is the word, yahweh, which has dozens of connotations based on each context (after all, it is difficult to define God in one term). Using all caps ensures we English readers will differentiate this among the other words for “God” in the Old Testament. For example, if the word was in small letters (“Lord,” adonai), it would mean something like “master, owner.” But here, the term in all capitalizations is used to denote that God is the all-sufficient One to save and to rescue; it is only Yahweh God who has any-and-all-ability to do this. He is the unchangeable LORD who has the all-powerful purpose in His being to rescue you out of sin and death over to life everlasting. He saves! This word, LORD, alone should warrant an astounding “Amen” for us today!

Yes, the wonderful declaration of the eternal, unchanging, all-powerful God saving us from the power of sin! But David doesn’t stop there; he moves on to say that this LORD is also our shepherd! Not only does God promise to save, but He also promises to pastorally shepherd you through life, through trials, through difficult circumstances. Caring. Nurturing. Protecting. Guiding. You see, God won’t keep you FROM trials; rather, He promises to pastor and shepherd you THROUGH the trials. Take David’s life as an example; did he not suffer through many trials and difficult circumstances in his life? I mean, this was written sometime between 2 Samuel 15—17, where David was literally running for his life, away from his own son (Absalom), his closest friend (Ahithophel) who turned on him, and former King Saul’s relative (Shimei) who wanted him killed. Please take a few minutes and read 2 Samuel 15—17 as a wonderful (and dreadful) backdrop to this psalm.

Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t exclude you from hardships! But bank on the promise that the One who saved you will never leave you or forsake you, shepherding you through life’s difficulties.

This first verse concludes with this wonderful promise, “I shall not want.” The word “want” is challenging in the English language. It clearly doesn’t mean that we won’t want anything. Many have translated this as “lack” (NIV, for example), which isn’t bad. But in careful study and reflection of this word throughout the OT and in this particular context, possibly the best translation would be “I will not be deprived, made lower, or fail.” David makes an astounding application to the LORD being our Shepherd. Since He is one who saves, rescues and delivers, and since He indeed shepherds us through trials and tribulations, then we will not be devalued or diminished! No, we’re not promised prosperity, but we’re promised a perspective of His saving care throughout our lives. With Him, we have value! With Him, we have significance! No setback, trial, sickness, disease, virus or tribulation can ever diminish or devalue us! What a blessing it is to have this promise as we go through life’s journey, trials and all. While on earth there may be lack (lack of finances, deep friendships, even to the point of hardships in life), but the LORD our Shepherd promises to give us value, significance, wisdom, and perspective, always caring and nurturing us through this life!

Yes, God is the unchangeable One who saves and rescues us from sin and death. But not only does He save, He also shepherds, equips, nurtures us through life; He never abandons us. Therefore, nothing—no one—can defame, devalue, dissuade or diminish your worth or value!

What incredible promises to start this amazing Psalm 23.

And now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought our Lord Jesus back from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep.May He quip you with everything good for doing His will.And may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Psalm 23:2a. “He makes me to lie down in green pastures.”

When I was quite young as I contemplated this phrase, I envisioned a huge green field of waist-high grass where sheep would eat until their hearts were content and sleep in wonderfully lush comfort. I wondered if following God would mean that life would be easy, or at the least, comfortable, with the promise of giving me pretty-much whatever made me happy and content.

But as life moved on, the reality of trials, hurts and pains, and financial stress set in. “So what does this phrase really mean?” The land of Israel at the time David writes this really didn’t have these kinds of lush, abundant green fields. Afterall, most of Israel is hot, dry, rocky, arid, and mountainous. The terrain wasn’t conducive for huge green fields. Not a lot would grow on a typical Judean hillside. There was not a lot of greenery, let alone pastures as we think of them.

In the Old Testament times, the shepherd rose early in the morning, and after a night’s-long dew he would scout out the various hillsides and lead the sheep to little tufts of grass that sprouted up overnight. Little patches of grass, here-and-there, is all that would be found. The shepherd would gather the sheep to a “grassy” spot, the sheep would eat, then it would be gone quickly. Then, the shepherd would guide the sheep to another location where there were just enough tufts for them. Getting up early was important so that they would beat the late afternoon sun that scorched any tufts that sprung up (note, now the “Parable of the Sower” in Matthew 13 makes a bit more sense already!).

So, green pastures are relative, as they were determined by the shepherd, not the sheep. Not only does the shepherd know and understand where the green tufts of grass are, he stakes his livelihood on ensuring the sheep get just exactly enough that they need each day, traveling from hillside to hillside getting enough for that day.

So, what you might see as dry, brown dirt or desert in your life, God our Shepherd sees the green grass. What you may see as a lack, God sees exactly what you need for today. Don’t be like those Israelites in Exodus, where they just grumbled at God’s every provision. Trust His guiding work for your daily needs—spiritual, physical, and emotional. He promises to give you just enough that is needed for today.

To “lie down” in these pastures means that the sheep were fully content with what they received. Oh, may that be our stance as well. May we be fully content and at peace with where He has brought us each day. Similar to a king who sits down on his throne, indicating that his work was completed and accomplished (e.g., Revelation 3:21), or in modern-day culture, when we come home from a hard day’s work and sit down on the sofa, recliner, or your chair of refuge. Your work is done, and it feels so good to lie down! So too, our Shepherd brings us to a place where we can enjoy peace and contentment. Learn—daily—to rest in His provisions.

But there’s one last phrase to highlight: “He makes me to lie down…” In English, it may lead the reader to think that God is forcing you against your will to lie down (for example, “mom made me eat my spinach!”). But the hifil verb stem in Hebrew indicates that He is the one who is causing you to lie down, causing you to see that lying down is the best thing you can do. It’s not forced! It’s what is best, and He makes efforts to not only take you to the daily tufts of grass, but He helps you see that being in His care is the perfect best for your life. Trust Him! May we simply submit our wills to His ways. May we learn daily to trust Him. While we may not see or understand His green pastures in our lives today, may we submit and humbly see from His heavenly perspective that He gives us the needed things to bring peace and contentment. He wants us to lie down—to be content and at peace. He is causing this reality to bring us peace, so stop trying to manufacture it on your own. Trust His working power and wisdom for your life. Trust Him to provide and bring about contentment, and learn to enjoy His process.

So, to summarize: (1) The great Shepherd promises to provide just what He knows is needed for you today. Each day God will lead you to those places, just enough for today! Then, tomorrow, He promises to lead you to a place that is sufficient for that day as well. And the next day, and the next day. (2) We can fully trust Him for our daily needs. He is causing this to take place amidst our struggles, trials, and everyday life, so trust and submit to His gracious care. (3) We can rest—be at peace and fully content—in His daily provisions: physical, emotional, spiritual.

Lord, I need You, Oh I need You
Every hour I need You.
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need you!

Psalm 23:2b. “He leads me beside still waters.”

Our great God and Savior promises to lead us. Oh, may we thank Him daily for His constant leading in our lives. To “lead” in the Hebrew (nachal) entails four nuances, all of which are important concepts to ponder: (1) To lead means to guide, not force. He is not a cattle rancher. He comes alongside and guides our steps. (2) To lead means that He has wisdom and know-how to do what is best and when to do it. (3) To lead means He will carry you when necessary. When we are weak, He is strong. (4) To lead is to have a heart that is caring and kind. I am so glad that our God is this amazing kind of leader.

David goes on to let us know where our great God is leading us! “Beside still waters.” Literally, “He guides me beside waters of every kind of rest.” Every sort of restful waters is what the Lord’s guidance brings for you! He promises to bring you—carry you if necessary—to all of the amazing kinds of waters that has such benefit for you.

Not Stagnant Waters Israel was prevalent with small patches of overflow water (wadis) that had no outlet, thus becoming stagnant and smelly. Overall, these provided no real value to humans or animals. Thankfully, the shepherd wouldn’t lead the sheep to these places, and neither does our Lord! He guides us to waters that provide freshness and nourishment to our souls. If your soul feels stagnant today, trust that He is leading you out of that with His fresh presence.

Not Rushing Waters Certain times of the year, the Jordan River would be a torrent as it rushed southward towards the Dead Sea. Sheep don’t like fast-moving currents. You might recall in the book of Joshua when the Israelites crossed over and the waters split (like a mini Red Sea experience); that was yet another miracle God provided for Israel; safe passage into the Land when the obstacles looked bleak. And so here, David knows full well that the same God who provided a safe, peaceful passage across rushing waters will do the same for us in our times of need. If you feel rushed, impatient, or anxious today, trust that He is guiding your heart and soul to a place full of peace.

Not Deep Waters Sheep are skittish and are quite nervous about drowning in anything they perceive as “deep waters.” The shepherd knows their fears and ensures that the waters are safe. So our Lord will do the same for you. Fear of what’s ahead, fear of the unknown, and fear of current circumstances you face can all be alleviated by our Good Shepherd who will carry you to safe places. If you feel like everything is just too overwhelming and you’re starting to lose it, trust God’s care in your life today, that He is supplying just the right amount of His perspective to show you that you will make it through any crisis. Not necessarily removing crises but seeing you through it. Life may feel like “deep waters”, but God’s got you!

Have you experienced various kinds of rest with the Lord? Rest from worry or doubt. Rest from anxiety or fear. Rest from overwhelming experiences of life. The New Testament also picks up on this analogy of the streams of water. Let’s look at a few New Testament passages that talk about the spiritual waters that God provides His children.

John 4:13-14 – The Waters of Salvation
In John 4, Jesus meets a woman at her most vulnerable moment. As Jesus talks with the woman at a well, He assures her that there is a “better water” than what this earth provides. It is the living and vibrant water of Jesus Christ! These are the nourishing and refreshing waters of salvation for her dry and needy soul. Jesus, the True Living Water, provides salvation to all who simply ask! We praise the Lord for His salvific work in our lives, to cleanse us of our sin.
“And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.’”

John 7:37-39 – The Waters of Holy Spirit Empowered Living
On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”

Not only does God provide us with the waters of salvation through Jesus Christ, He also provides us with the overflowing presence of the Holy Spirit. It is this Holy Spirit that allows us to “flow out rivers of living waters” to those around us! The Living Water saved us, and the Living Water flows out from us to others around us! Those Living Waters are meant to be submitted to, to be lived out, and to be a sweet benefit to those around us! What an amazing honor to live out and share Jesus and His love to the world around us. Oh, that we would feel empowered to be that overflow of Living Waters to those in need today!

Revelation 21:6 – The Waters of Eternal Life
“And He said to me, “’It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts.’”

He promises the fountain of eternal life! The One who leads us to every kind of rest in this life promises a future rest for eternity! The God who provides peace and contentment on this earth will provide an eternity’s worth of perfect peace and rest. Let us keep an eternal perspective as we go through life, knowing that a future with Him for eternity is just around the corner!

Do you struggle at times with a stagnant faith? Let Jesus, our Living Water, give your life fresh meaning as you look to Him for spiritual health and advice.

Do you struggle at times with worry or anxiety over the issues and struggles you face? Let the Great Shepherd give you His peace during life’s storms.

Do you struggle at times with life that seems simply overwhelming? Go to our wonderful God who promises to be there for you, to give you His heavenly perspective, to calm your heaviness, and to take your burdens from you.

Now this is the kind of water we all desire! The Lord our Great Shepherd gives us the waters of every kind of rest. A rest that is fresh and nourishing. It is full of His peace amidst the chaos around us. A rest that keeps us calm. It is cleansing. It is saving. It is empowering. It is a rest that is for eternity!

There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.
For he who has entered His rest has himself
also ceased from his works as God did from His.
Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest
Hebrews 4:9-11

Psalm 23:3. “He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”

Notice the progression thus far in Psalm 23. The LORD our shepherd promises to lead us to “green pastures” and “still waters,” both indicating God’s daily provisions—physical, emotional, and spiritual (vss. 1-2). And now in verse 3, we move from the daily provisions to the long journey of life and the paths that we take.

“Restore” is a solid translation of the Hebrew word. It conveys the idea of bringing back to a better condition, to repair, to refresh or make alive. Yes, your very soul is refreshed and renewed with God. Like hitting “refresh” or “restart” on your computer, every day can be a “restart button” with God! God promises to give your life vitality!

So, how does God restore your soul? The next phrase tells us the “how.” God will give your life vitality by guiding your life and life’s decisions that are righteous. Yes, righteous paths = vitality to your soul.

The concept of “paths” in the Old Testament indicates a way of life, a lifestyle. Jesus talks about this in Matthew 7:13-14 where He describes a wide path versus the narrow path. The road, or path, is a symbol of one’s course of life—lifestyle decisions. The New Testament writers pick up on this theme and refer to one’s lifestyle as a “walk” (Paul uses this term 8 times in Ephesians alone!). How does the Lord refresh our soul? By guiding and directing our lifestyle! Notice it does say that God directs everything to go perfectly good and prosperous; rather, it says that the Lord will guide our course of life in a direction that is righteous!

“Righteous” in the Old Testament comes from the word “that which is upright, standing tall.” Metaphorically speaking, then, it is a person with morals, values, and ethics that are outstanding and upright. So, what gives you vitality, energy, and refreshment in this life? God says here that it comes through walking along His paths that are righteous in nature. Making right decisions. Living in a way that demonstrates His righteous character.

And this is all done, “for His name’s sake.” Bank on Him leading you along the righteous paths, and bank on Him restoring your vitality because His reputation is involved; it is “for His name’s sake.” God’s “name” represents His character, His personality, His attributes. He cannot help but restore and lead you into righteousness because His name—His character—demands it. He really cannot do anything but lead you into righteousness because that is precisely who He is. Not only is it His nature, but it is His joy and honor to lead your life into places that are righteous. God’s nature demands that He gives your life meaning, vitality and refreshment. He will do this by guiding your life on paths that are full of His righteousness. You can either trust your own path or you can trust the Faithful One’s path for you. Follow Him. Trust Him. His paths are good and upright. His leading is out of love. And it will bring you so much vitality and joy!

He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful foll’wer I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me.

Psalm 23:4a. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me.”

Some have suggested that the “shadow of death” is but a mere shadow, something that really has no substance, therefore there’s nothing to fear. But that’s simply not true, on two accounts. First, death is real, it hurts, and it’s a painful reality. To brush off death as some sort of non-substantive, superficial thing is not at all a reality. Second, the Bible itself doesn’t diminish the concept of death, its reality, its pain, and its effects. Death is the single major effect due to sin in the world. This text isn’t implying a casual stance on death. David does not say that he doesn’t fear death, rather he states that he will fear no evil (more on that below). So let’s be sure to read the text as clearly and precisely as we can and let the words stand on their own.

The reality of death is real, its effects reach all of us, and it looms over all of us. The term “shadow of death” is used in eight main places in the Scriptures. The Old Testament concept of this is about how deep, dark, mysterious, scary, terrible, and unknown death is. In their culture, “shadow of death” represented the most frightening of circumstances. To be in the shadow of death meant that death was dark, painful, and it was close!

The Book of Job
Job uses the term “shadow of death” ten times in nine verses. We all are too familiar with Job’s terrible torments and how the looming possibility of death affected him physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually as he tried to fully understand his plight. Dozens of times in this book he laments over his near-death experiences and deep sorrow, calling this the “shadow of death.” Read and reflect on these verses: Job 3:5; 10:21; 10:22; 12:22; 16:16; 24:17 and 28:3; 34:22; and 38:17. It was real. It was painful. It was looming.

The Psalms
Psalm 44:19 This psalm, written by the sons of Korah, uses “shadow of death” as a statement for the lament they felt. They were deeply afraid that because of their grave sins God had abandoned them “to the place of the jackals where the shadow of death looms.”
Psalm 107:10 and 14 The writer exclaims how we as a people were sitting in darkness, bound in affliction and chains, in the shadow of death. But God who is rich in compassion will break our chains and will bring light to our darkness.

The Prophets
Isaiah 9:2 Here is a wonderful proclamation of the Lord delivering the Israelites out of the Babylonian enslavement—from the shadows of death to restoration back into the Land. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.” The prophet Jeremiah also picks up on this theme, and you can read the similarities in Jeremiah 13:16. 
Jeremiah 2:6 The prophet is equating the plight of the Israelites back when they were struggling in the wilderness as they were sojourning from Egypt to the Promised Land. This wilderness was “full of desert and pits, drought and shadow of death, a land that no one would dare cross through.”
Amos 5:8 Amos gives a rousing example of the nature and character of God, as he encourages Israel in their deep sorrow, that “God will turn the shadow of death into the morning…the LORD is His name!”

The New Testament
The New Testament uses the passage from Isaiah to show us that darkness and the shadow of death were engulfed and extinguished through the light of our Savior, Jesus Christ, on the cross and at the resurrection! Matthew 4:16 and Luke 1:79 both depict the horrific plight of humans without hope. But Jesus is our hope! God’s Son came into the darkness, He came into the shadow of death to bring us salvation! Once stuck in the shadow of death, we now can sit in heavenly places with the Most High God! We exclaim with Paul, “Oh grave you have no victory!” (1 Corinthians 15:55).

Please take the time to review each of these passages about the “shadow of death.” Thank God there is hope, as Psalm 23:4 so eloquently describes, moving through this verse. While David experienced many near-death experiences and horrific pain in his life (“shadow of death”), his only realization that gave him comfort was this: “You are with me!” Yes, God is with you. He is near. He is reaching out to you. He is speaking words of encouragement to you. It’s the first time David doesn’t address God as “He” and uses the more personal “You.” When you feel enveloped in those dark places, know that He is ever-present with you. We experience so much hurt, pain, and the reality of loss. But God’s empowering presence is with you!

Three statements of life are found in this verse. An outline would look something like this:
I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
B  I shall not fear the evil one
A’  God is with me

The two poignant bookends: the painful reality of death (A) but the glorious reality of God’s presence (A’). While the prospect of death is real and painful, God promises to be with you. Yes, death is certain, but all-the-more-certain is that God is at your side! And the luscious gooey center of this verse between these bookends (B) depicts the result: “I will fear no evil.” A better translation may read, “I will not fear the evil one!” There is “good fear” that keeps us safe, protected, and healthy (e.g., being extremely cautious when driving in treacherous conditions, or a healthy fear of a hot stovetop, etc.). A healthy dose of this kind of “fear” isn’t unbiblical; it’s natural and keeps us safe. But for the believer, we don’t have to fear the enemy of our souls any longer. There is complete trust in God our Savior, therefore the evil one has no power or control over you! We do not fear the power of the evil one any longer! Death may be real, but the evil one has no power or authority over you any longer! God is in control, His presence is real, and the evil has no power or authority over this new-found and growing relationship with Him. This evil world has nothing on us! Satan’s evil plans to bring us down will fail! Evil will have no power over us!

We trusted God to save us of our sins, transferring us out of the shadow of death into His marvelous light! In other words, we made it through the worst possible shadow of death! Praise God!

We trust God to deliver us through the trials, troubles, and terrifying experiences in this life. If He rescued us from our sin, then we can trust that He’ll rescue us from our current troubles.

We do not fear the evil one, nor his plans and schemes.

God won’t abandon us. He will not! He never will let you go.

I will fear no evil will fear no pain
Through the blood of Jesus my suffering’s not in vain
God will get the glory for all my soul endures
I will fear no evil
My victory is sure

Psalm 23:4b. “Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

The two key items that a shepherd carries are the rod and the staff. David gives us a stirring picture of the LORD’s support and protection of our lives.

The rod (shebet) is equivalent to the Billy club or night stick. It’s a smaller, hand-held club that helps ward off any prey harmful to the life of the sheep. It requires close proximity to the enemy, but the shepherd is skilled to defend and to keep any enemy at bay. As the shepherd of our soul, the LORD is in close proximity to us (remember, the previous phrase is, “For You are with me.”), and is right there in the battle against our enemy. When the enemy creeps into your life, know that our Shepherd is right there with you, ready to defend! At times it may feel that you are alone in the fight, that God may seem distant. But rest assured, He is there defending and keeping the enemy in check. He promises to protect and defend.

The staff (misheneh) is what we generally think about when we visualize a shepherd: a long, crook-necked shepherd’s staff. It can be used to lead and direct the sheep in the correct direction. It can ferry the sheep out of the waters. It can be used to push or pull the sheep to safety. It can provide stability and balance when the sheep are weary (oftentimes you will see sheep leaning on the staff). In essence, the shepherd is serving the sheep in any need that they may have. Our LORD is the ultimate example of a Servant Leader! He disciplines when we are walking in the wrong direction. He gets us out of the deep, stressful waters of life. He pushes us to safety when we are on some rocky ledges of life. And He allows us to lean on Him when we are weak and frail. He is there to tend to our weariness.

To Support and To Protect – A Universal Principle
The picture of the shepherd to protect and support in Psalm 23:4 is a universal principle found in nearly every Book of the Bible. As a side note, you might notice that nearly every local police in our country uses these two terms (or very close synonyms) as slogans for their department: “To Protect and To Serve” is ubiquitous. The very first mention of these two themes in the Bible is found in Genesis 2:15.

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.”

The Garden was a real, historical place where God’s presence was felt in an intimate and special way for Adam and Eve. It represented a place where His care and His love would be especially realized. It is a wonderful illustration—a metaphor, if you will—of God’s presence with His people. And there are numerous metaphors for God’s promised presence throughout the Old Testament illustrated by a pillar of rocks, altars, a pillar of fire by night and cloud by day, the tabernacle, the temple, a basket of fruit, just to name a few. These are all physical images designed by God to help us see that God dwells with us. We see the culmination of this “Garden of Eden” metaphor of God’s presence in the last book of the Bible (think of this as a huge inclusio for the entire Bible, as life begins and ends in the Garden—God’s presence). Read Revelation 22:1-5 (below) and reflect how similar the imagery of the Garden in Revelation is to the picture of the Garden in Genesis 2:1-15 (I’ve underlined the similarities).

“And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever.”

So it was here, from the beginning in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15), in this intimate setting where God gives Adam his first assignment: to tend and to keep. Some think that God gave Adam instructions to tend and keep the physical garden, but that would seem quite strange, since this was the very first command by God to Adam. While it is important to take care of our earth and be responsible, we certainly wouldn’t see God putting a priority of His very first command to Adam in this regard. God’s desire was for Adam to tend and keep God’s presence—to cultivate and to protect his relationship with God. That’s what God desires!

To tend (eved) is to serve, to support, to uphold, to cultivate. It’s actually a term used for “worship” throughout the Old Testament as well! To keep (samir) is to protect and to ward off any enemy. You see, the mandate to Adam was to ensure that he did all he could to tend and keep his relationship with God—this is the absolute most important thing we could ever do; thus the very first command of the Scriptures. And this is the universal mandate for us all, found in nearly every Book of the Bible. We are to tend and to cultivate our relationship with God, to serve Him, to support and uphold His holiness in our lives and for our family. We are to keep our relationship with God at all costs, to protect His reputation and to ensure that we and our family honors God in all that they do.

So as we see in Psalm 23, our Good Shepherd promises to protect and to serve His sheep. He will tend, support, and be an incredible loving servant leader for you. And He will keep, guard, and protect, warding off the enemy of your soul! You see, what God does for you is exactly what He desires you to do for yourself and your family. Protect God’s character at all costs! Serve Him all of your days! Just as our Good Shepherd tends and keeps, so we too can live out these characteristics to others.

And this is why David can say, “they comfort me!” An amazing promise that God Himself will protect you, support and uphold you on your journey of life until He calls you Home where we will enjoy His empowering presence for eternity. May this be an immense comfort for you today!

“I took for myself two staffs:
the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bonds.
And I fed the flock.”
Zechariah 11:7

Psalm 23:5a. “You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies.”

I think we all recognize that we have enemies. There are both seen and unseen enemies. The unseen enemies are Satan and his fallen angels: the demonic world. Their primary mission is to keep people from accepting Christ as their Savior. They are attempting to thwart people into eternal life with God. So, after you’ve given your life to the Lord, then the mission of the enemy becomes tactical: they are now doing anything in your life to make you miserable, depressed, fearful, and anything that would cause doubts about your salvation. They want to keep you from being salt and light to the world, thus taking away your mission—they are trying to thwart you from being a living proclamation of God’s love and salvation. They cannot take away your salvation, but they can take away your effectiveness and they can make life taxing for you. If having unseen enemies were not bad enough, we recognize that we also have seen enemies as well. We are all-too familiar with “bad people” in our lives who make it very difficult. These are people in your life that have no regard for Christ and make efforts to pull you away from your faith (intentionally or unintentionally). Whether they are bosses or employees we work with, neighbors, possibly family members who mock your Christianity, people we simply run into at a local store who have no regard for Jesus. It seems that enemies are everywhere! Having seen and unseen enemies are a real burden for us. David faced both the seen and unseen enemies as he was writing Psalm 23. Take some time and reflect on 2 Samuel 15—17 for the backdrop to this psalm.

So while we recognize that there are seen and unseen enemies in our life, let us reflect on the wonderful promise in this phrase, God prepares a table for me right in the middle of them.’

God doesn’t promise to remove the enemies (at least, not yet!). He promises to be there with you, and David describes it so colorfully here as God lavishing a buffet for you smack-dab in the middle of your enemies. It’s not like God is taunting; rather, it’s a beautiful description of the joy, peace, contentment, and satisfaction of being in God’s presence even when the world around us is spiritually attacking us. Don’t let the enemy rob you of joy. Don’t let your enemies kill your contentment. God encourages us to see Him in the midst of your pain, to recognize all of the blessings He showers on you every day. While the enemy desires to discourage, there is our Faithful God supplying you with hope and peace. See the good that God is doing in your life. Just as David literally experienced his friends setting a bountiful table of food and fellowship amidst his horrific trials, so we too can experience God’s blessings—big or small—each day. Read 2 Samuel 17:27-29 below:

“When David came to Mahanaim, Shobi and Makir and Barzillai brought bedding and bowls and articles of pottery. They also brought wheat and barley, flour and roasted grain, beans and lentils, honey and curds, sheep, and cheese from cows’ milk for David and his people to eat. For they said, ‘The people have become exhausted and hungry and thirsty in the wilderness.’”

Right in the middle of David’s pain (his family, former co-workers, and past associates all trying to hunt him down—literally fleeing for his life), there were God’s ambassadors there to supply a bed, a table and chairs, eating utensils, and a bounty of good food!

Yes, there are enemies all around you. And yet, there is a gracious God who prepares a feast for you to sit and eat with Him—daily! While enemies try to slander, hate, gossip, and fight you, God is there to shower you with His presence, preparing a beautiful table of peace and contentment amidst the enemies of life. Amidst the pain or hurt that you may be experiencing from others, let me encourage you to see the bounty of God’s goodness that He provides—He will never leave you or forsake you.

“Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid or terrified because of them.
For the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Deuteronomy 31:6

“Taste and see that the Lord is good.
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.”
Psalm 34:8

Psalm 23:5b. “You anoint my head with oil.”

David was anointed on three separate occasions. He was first anointed by Samuel when God called him to become king of Israel (1 Samuel 16:13). It was another 13+ years before David became king, but his anointing here was a physical sign to David that God’s hand was on him for a future work. David would have to learn a lot of life lessons before he became king. Put yourself in David’s shoes for a moment. I would imagine there must have been times where he felt impatient and a bit of “I-want-it-now” entitlement as he waited for God’s perfect timing to become the king he was anointed for. Knowing that he would be king and waiting for the God-ordained moment had to have been quite a tight-wire to walk. A good lesson for us as well. Know that God has a plan—an anointing—for your life, but continue to learn to wait on Him patiently for His perfect timing. Be content with God’s timing in all things and trust His anointing on your life.

David was then anointed as the king by each of the two regions of Israel (Judah of the south and Israel of the north). The land was divided, spiritually and politically. David’s anointing in both regions showed his commitment to reunite a broken system and a broken people under God’s ways. Being anointed by both regions also showed the people’s commitment to God and their heart to restore. 2 Samuel 2:4 describes David’s anointing in Judah and 2 Samuel 5:3 describes his anointing in Israel.

While David had been anointed three times in his life for kingly duty, he describes beautifully in Psalm 23:5 a more excellent anointing, another kind of anointing that he cherished far more than a kingly appointment. His description here wasn’t an anointing of position, authority or power, but one of relationship. An intimate relationship with God Almighty. David’s greatest joy was knowing that God’s presence was with him at all times. Sure, someone can “anoint” you as king, boss, employee of the week, etc., but nothing can compare to the anointing of being a child of the Most High God. You see, anointing, at its core, is all about a love relationship with God. There were specific anointings for positions that God intended to display His presence through, such as priests, kings, and spiritual leaders. But an anointing was never intended for only a select few. God’s anointing is for all who trust Him as their Lord and Savior. To trust in God with one’s whole heart means that we now have a true relationship with God and His presence promises to go with us always—we all have an anointing! Anointing simply means that God’s presence promises to be with you. David was thrilled to be anointed as king, but his real joy and satisfaction in life wasn’t his power or authority. He loved that he was God’s very own! To be anointed is to be recognized as a child of God, adopted into His holy family. That’s why in Psalm 92:10, David exclaims, “Oh that I may be anointed with fresh oil!” And that’s what David treasured more than anything: the fresh presence of God every day.

In the middle eastern culture, a sign of a good host was to ensure that all visitors and guests into your home were cleaned up upon arrival. With a climate that was extremely hot and dusty, guests would be cared for by the host with a foot washing (John 13:1-17) and/or head-to-toe anointing with water and fresh fragrant minerals, oils, or spices (John 12:1-8). Guests felt clean, but also loved and respected! God, our wonderful host, welcomes you into His home each day, promises to clean you up from a rough day, and cares for you as if you were His only priority. He loves you so much. He sees your weariness and your “dirt” and says, ‘Come on in, I’ll clean you up.’

Like David, oh that we may experience a fresh anointing by God. An anointing that recognizes that God is with you. An anointing that sees God’s wonderful plans for your life. An anointing that feels the very presence of God—the Holy Spirit—in your life. An anointing that cleanses and refreshes your soul. May you feel God’s presence today in fresh ways, bringing you joy and gladness of heart. His hand is upon your life. He welcomes you with open arms in gracious hospitality. Look for it. Sense it. Experience His fresh presence today.

“You have loved righteousness and hated sin.
Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness!”
Hebrews 1:9

Psalm 23:5c. “My cup runs over.”

It’s not a glass half-full or half-empty. It is a glass that is overflowing!

An “overflowing cup” simply describes a life fully-lived in abundance. Despite the hardships of life, David describes his life (“cup”) as one that is spilling over. This context clearly does not mean money or financial wealth.

David is running for his very life, fleeing from impending murder, and has taken on the ridicule of thousands of people. Through these difficult times, David keeps his eyes on his Lord, and when that happens, he cries out, “My life is overflowing!”

Let us never base our value on our present circumstances. Circumstances can have a way of changing your heart. When good circumstances come your way, you may be prone to neglect God. And when you find yourself into some terrible circumstances, you can be prone to blame God. Don’t base your relationship with God based on the circumstances of life. Remember His promises to you that He is there for you, He is working with you. Despite any circumstances we are facing, look at the wonderful personal blessings He has been in your life.
Let us never be consumed to find our worth in material possessions. Money comes and goes. It’s fleeting and doesn’t bring any long-lasting contentment. But God promises to give your life so much more meaning than any paycheck or payout could ever bring. He gives your life true joy. He gives you contentment. He fills your life with the knowledge that He’s got this under control!

In the space below, reflect on three things that cause you to feel that your cup—your life—is overflowing with overwhelming joy, satisfaction, peace, and love. What are the things that you can honestly state, “My life has so much joy because…”



A great set of verses that give us so much comfort are found in Romans 8. Despite any circumstances that come your way, Paul says that nothing (and nobody) can separate you from the immense love that God bestows to you! It is overflowing!

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35, 37-39).

You may be dealing with so much hurt in your life, yet your life overflows with the presence of God

You may have lost many good relationships in your life, yet your love overflows

You may have experienced the death of too many close people, yet your peace overflows

You may have so much physical pain, and yet your joy overflows

Despite any circumstances, see God’s powerful work and presence in your life, where you can exclaim as David did, “My life is overflowing with the goodness of God!”

“Blessed be His glorious name forever;
and may the whole earth be filled with His glory.
Amen, and Amen.”
Psalm 72:19

“He loves righteousness and justice;
The earth is full of the lovingkindness of the Lord.”
Psalm 33:5

Psalm 23:6a. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”

David ends this psalm in the best possible way that culminates and summarizes the previous five verses. Here’s a quick summary of the first five verses:

He pastors us through life
He provides just enough for each day
He gives your life peace
He gives your life vitality
He directs your life towards what is righteous
He dispels our fears
He is with us
He protects us
He guides our steps
He lavishes us with joy

And with that, David concludes with the first of two grand statements, “Most assuredly God’s goodness and mercy will follow me every day.” Simply put, we are promised God’s presence now in the present.

God’s Grand Promise for Each Day
The entire Psalm 23 is jam-packed with these many encouraging promises, and they all culminate here in verse 6 with two of the most significant characteristics of God, namely God’s goodness and His mercy.

The Hebrew word for the goodness of God is mentioned in 14 Old Testament passages specifically, but there are hundreds of references to God being good. Because it is His innate character, it means that it is His prominent function. He is good by nature; therefore, He can only do good things! This word itself is straight-forward, meaning “full of what is good.” God is simply…good! He acts good, He thinks good. He reacts good. He creates good. He is in His very self, good! And what does He do? Bestows this goodness onto us. He lavishes His goodness to you. Take some time to read the following verses slowly, out loud, and reflect on the goodness of God in your life. Thank Him for His constant goodness.

“The Lord God, is merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abounding in goodness and truth” (Exodus 34:6)

“Oh Lord, You are God, and you have promised goodness to your servant” (2 Samuel 7:28; 1 Chronicles 17:26)

“We delight ourselves in Your great goodness” (Nehemiah 9:25)

“For You meet me with blessings of goodness; You set a crown of pure gold upon my head” (Psalm 21:3)

“I would have lost heart unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13)

“Oh how great is Your goodness which You have laid up for those who fear you” (Psalm 31:19)

“He loves righteousness and justice. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord” (Psalm 33:5)

“The goodness of the Lord endures continually” (Psalm 52:1)

“We will dwell in Your courts and we shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house” (Psalm 65:4)

“You crown each year with Your goodness. And Your paths drip with abundance” (Psalm 65:11)

“Your congregation dwelt in Your house to worship and You provided Your goodness for the poor” (Psalm 68:10)

“Oh, that people would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness and for His wonderful works. For His satisfies the longing soul and fills the hungry soul with goodness” (Psalm 107:8-9)

“I will mention the lovingkindness of the Lord…and the great goodness He has bestowed to us” (Isaiah 63:7)

“‘I shall satiate your soul with abundance and My people will be satisfied with My goodness,’ says the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:14)

The goodness of God is at the core of our Christianity. It begins right away in Genesis when He called His creation, “good.” We see His pursuit of doing good throughout all the Scriptures. From James 1:17, “every good and perfect gift comes from above” to Romans 8:28, “that all things are working for the “good.” Oh may we recognize the goodness of God in our lives. Despite the difficulties, hurts and trials, let us be a thankful people that see the good hand of the Lord on us.

The second attribute David highlights here is the word “mercy.” This is maybe not the most accurate translation of this Hebrew word, hesed, but it is certainly one option. Hesed is used nearly 300 times in the Old Testament, and is one of the most important words in the Scriptures. It is translated in over 40 different ways in the English Bible, showcasing its intricate detail. It is so rich in layers of meaning: grace, loyal love, committed trustworthiness, compassion, lovingkindness, tenderness, sacrificial love, kindness, steadfast love, just to name a few. The importance of God’s grace, love, care, concern, mercy, loyalty, and faithfulness are all concepts that this one little word conveys. Indeed, we praise God with David because He promises to lavish this kind of lovingkindness and grace on you!

God’s goodness and grace is with you! These two words fully encapsulate the very essence of the holy, righteous, and perfect character of God. He is good and He is loving! And David emphasizes this all-the-more by stating that these awesome attributes will “follow you all the days of your life!” The Hebrew word for “follow” is best translated as “pursue.” Think about that! God’s goodness is pursuing you every day! David may be experiencing enemies pursuing him (and so may you), but that’s nothing compared to the tireless pursuit of God’s good-and-loving actions towards you. He is relentlessly running after you no matter where you are in life, showing you in tangible ways just how much He loves you! And think about this: it’s “all the days of your life.” Literally, from the day you were born, God Himself has been pursuing you every day of your life. His goodness and His loving mercy have been extended to you in thousands of ways we would never imagine. We may be able to list dozens of memorable moments in life where we’ve felt and experienced His goodness and merciful love, but think about the tens of thousands of others that we never knew or simply never recalled. It’s His nature to daily show us goodness and mercy! Lamentations 3:23 says that “God’s mercies are new every morning.” The word “mercies” is plural, which in the Hebrew language means more than two! This means every single day God bestows on you at least three mercies! So, if you are 40 years old, you have lived a total of 14,600 days. The Hebrew plural means that His mercy is new to you in no less than three ways in one day, which translates to a total of—at the very least—43,800 loving mercies of God in your life!! (feel free to calculate this for your current age!) There are no fleeting moments with God. He stays with you through thick and thin, through better or worse, through rich or poor, and through sickness or in health. The continual pursuing presence of God clings to you every single day!

And notice that this verse begins with the English word, “Surely.” Translated numerous ways in the Old Testament, this small word packs a punch in this context, emphasizing the absolute, unequivocal, sure reality of these circumstances in your life. It is an affirming, emphatic promise: yes!, most certainly, most assuredly, bank on this fact that God’s goodness and His unending, tireless, faithful, loyal love will be with you for all of your days!

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.
His mercies never come to an end.
They are new every morning.
Great is your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22-23

Psalm 23:6b. “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.”

The Grand Finale of Psalm 23: God’s Promise for the Future
This entire psalm is full of God’s promised presence amidst some tragic and terrifying circumstances that David is facing. Running for his life, being abandoned by most of his family, being attacked by the former king’s henchmen. His paths seem bleak, he feels he is in the valley (vs. 4), and evil is surrounding him (vs. 4-5). But David is assured that God is with Him every step of the way—He never abandons us. And as awesome as that is, there is still nothing—nothing(!)—that can compare to Heaven! David knows full well and is absolutely, unequivocally assured that he will return Home one day! Yes, God’s presence is with us every day of our lives, but what an amazing hope we have, that this earthly life isn’t the end. It is very-much actually just the beginning.
There may be a play on words here in this final phrase, as David thinks about how incredible it would be to stop running for his life and return to the “house of the Lord,” that is, the tabernacle in Jerusalem (keep in mind that the Temple hasn’t yet been built). David felt a longing back to Jerusalem to worship God, but he also knew (as we all do) that we don’t need a physical building in order to experience the presence of God. He knew that goodness and mercy will pursue him no matter where he was. So while this final phrase may include a “worship now” perspective, it’s clear that David has a greater experience in mind, as he concludes this final phrase with the word, “forever!” Yes, we truly long to be in Heaven with the Lord for eternity! This is our Hope, that, as the apostle John said, “when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as His is” (1 John 3:2). Do you long to see Jesus face to face? Do you catch yourself daydreaming about that point in time when you are physically and literally in God’s presence?

The old phrase many of us have heard, “he is so heavenly minded that he’s no earthly good” is totally and completely false! It’s actually the opposite! The more heavenly minded we are, the more earthly good we become! Colossians 3:1-2 says, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” And directly following these verses, Paul lists a bunch of sins to put off. It is when we have a heavenly perspective that our lack becomes more clear and real repentance can take place. Paul says in Romans 2:4 that it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. Envisioning our future in Heaven gives us proper perspective of our present. Not only that, but knowing there’s a Heaven awaiting us should cause us to share Christ with others more passionately, that they too would experience eternity with God. Oh that we as a church would have more of a Heaven-centered perspective!

There are a total of 55 Hebrew words in Psalm 23. Interesting that the exact center words are (3 words in Hebrew), “For You are with me.” There are 26 words before this and 26 words after this with these right smack-dab in the middle, showing the emphasis. Even in the English text, out of the 116 English words used, this phrase remains in the perfect center of this psalm. The heart of Psalm 23 is precisely this: God is with you! He is with you in this present lifetime, trials and struggles and all. And He promises to be with you for eternity in Heaven!

May our hearts yearn for, long for, the eternal presence with God. People have a lot of pictures about Heaven. Some envision the “streets of gold,” while others picture a renewal of the Garden of Eden. Some see all white and radiant lights, others see a beautiful earth in all its perfection. All of these metaphors in the Scriptures are beautiful.

Whatever it looks like, here’s what we know for certain: God will be there! And we will be in His perfect and holy presence, with no sin, no pain, no suffering, no persecutions or politics, no hate or fights or wars or protests or lootings. Just a perfect place with a Perfect God surrounded with all of those who have given their lives to Him. A perfect fellowship! Oh, I cannot wait for that day! As each day unfolds, it burns in my heart all of the more. To be with Him, that’s what I long for.

I will conclude this Psalm devotional study with the wonderfully encouraging verses about Heaven. May the Lord bless you in your life’s journey, may the Holy Spirit fill you with the encouragement and strength for each day, and may your passion for Eternity never dim!

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4)

“As it is written, ‘No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

“No longer will there be any curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and we will worship Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 22:3-5)

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:20-21)

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-4)

“For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:3).

“Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8)

“In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:2-3)