Psalm 23

Psalm 23
The Individual Shepherding Care of Jehovah for the Saints
Psalm 23. This is another Psalm of David, and is admirably suited to David’s occupation as a shepherd. As he cared for his sheep, no doubt David’s mind went to the Lord’s care for him, and the Spirit produced this inspired poetry that has been a comfort to millions through the millennia! I do not think this is an official Messianic psalm, but we can certainly see in the Lord prototype of many of these things (more to follow). It is a path of dependence on God that Christ Himself patterned, and in which the Remnant will follow in by faith.12 This Psalm is really prophetic of the faithful remnant, who will come to trust in Jehovah to the point where they can find peace, joy, and confidence in Him as their Shepherd even in the presence of their enemies. Bruce Anstey suggests that the placement of the Psalm is after Christ appears but before the attack of Gog and Magog against Israel. It is a Psalm of finding comfort in God, which makes it a very practical help for believers of all dispensations. There are three parts to the Psalm. In vv.1-3 the psalmist speaks about the Shepherd, in vv.4-5 he speaks to the Shepherd, and in v.6 he speaks about his portion with the Shepherd!
The Good, Great, Chief Shepherd. It has been remarked that Psalm 22 presents Christ as the "Good Shepherd" giving His life for the sheep (John 10:11), Psalm 23 presents Him as the "Great Shepherd of the sheep" raised from the dead by "the God of peace" and comforting His saints (Heb. 13:20), and Psalm 24 presents Christ as the "Chief Shepherd" who shall appear in His kingdom glory, giving crowns to the faithful (1 Peter 5:4).
A Psalm of David.
1 Jehovah is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
vv.1-3 Peace and Contentment. We find in the first verse that the faithful find their resource in Jehovah. Notice, it isn’t in what Jehovah provides for them, but in Himself. If Jehovah is my shepherd, what more could I want? It is very personal; “my Shepherd”. He is sufficient for every need. Israel will come to know Jehovah in this way (see Isaiah 40:10-11). In v.2, food and refreshment are His provisions, but coupled with it is a tranquil state. As an application, the green pastures might represent the enjoyment of Christ, and the still waters might represent the Word of God. In v.3, there is another need met by Jehovah; i.e. restoring grace in the pathway. This is similar to the work of advocacy, in which Christ works to restore us individually when discouraged or after a fall. Restoration supposes weakness if not failure, but the second part of v.3 is the more positive side; “he leadeth me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake”. The Lord guides us, and directs us through His word, into those paths that lead to practical righteousness, “for His name’s sake”. God has a higher purpose in restoration even than our happiness. It brings glory to His name when we walk in Paths that are pleasing to Him! But Israel will need the restoring grace of God (Zech. 12). Connect this with Psalm 24, where only the righteous can ascend into the hill of Jehovah or stand in His holy place.
4 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.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou hast anointed my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
vv.4-5 Comfort and Joy in the Presence of Danger. The “valley of the shadow of death” refers to a time of great danger. But when trusting the Lord, the faithful can truthfully say “I will fear no evil: for thou art with me”. The “rod” speaks of correction, and the “staff” speaks of support. The strength and authority of God for the faithful is a comfort to them, even if it is used in discipline at times. The “table” speaks of fellowship as well as provision. The head anointed with oil is a sign of honor, and it was also used to appoint individuals to office in the Old Testament, such as kings and prophets. The result of all this is “my cup runneth over”. Wine speaks of joy. The joy of Christ will be full in the Millennium, and he will drink the cup new with the faithful remnant in the kingdom!
6 Surely, goodness and loving-kindness shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of Jehovah for the length of the days.
v.6 A Bright Future. In the Old Testament, “forever” means “as long as time shall run”. The first part of the verse refers to the rest of one’s natural life. We are to follow the leading of the Shepherd, but there are two things that follow us! Like two sheepdogs, “goodness” and “mercy” will follow us all of our days.3 But the second half of the verse refers to the end of time. Clearly, we cannot limit the scope of this verse to David. It is prophetic of the faithful remnant who will enjoy the presence of Jehovah for as long as time shall run. It presents to us a bright future at the end of the pathway. The greatest reward for the faithful is to enjoy the presence of the Lord.

Psalm 23 and the Supper at Bethany. We see a beautiful fulfillment of the 23rd Psalm in the experience of Jesus as He traveled toward Jerusalem. While Jesus was fully Divine, He was also fully man; with a human soul, feelings, and emotions. He rejoiced to count Jehovah as His shepherd, and cast all His care upon the Father. He had walked through parched desert for days, but the supper at Bethany was to His soul as "green pastures" and the fellowship of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus as "still waters". In this sense, His soul was restored and led forward in the "paths of righteousness". Times like this one gave our Lord courage, and that though He walked "through the valley of the shadow of death", he was not afraid, because His God was with Him. In Bethany, there were friends, but also enemies. The betrayer was there. The chief priests were taking counsel to put Him to death. Yet God was able to "prepare a table" before Him even in the presence of His enemies; i.e. the supper at Bethany. Finally, God brought along Mary, to anoint His head with oil. How this display of love would cause His cup (joy) to run over! In the refreshment of this scene, Jesus could go on to the cross, with confidence that goodness and mercy would follow Him, and after the work was accomplished, to enjoy of the presence of God forever!

  1. Psalm 23 I do not judge is Christ; only when He put forth His own sheep, He must go before them. It is the effect of Psalm 22, for the Remnant in faith. – Darby, J.N. The Psalms, part 1. Notes and Comments Vol. 3.
  2. Psalm 23 seems to me to be the Lord Jesus Christ as man, expressing His faith as man. – Darby, J.N. Heads of Psalms.
  3. Hyland, J. Readings on Psalm 23. Kentucky Camp 2015.
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