Psalm 23 is one of the most inspired and moving psalms in the Bible. Anyone who has ever read it has immediately identified with the Psalmist. Here is a complete commentary and exposition of the journey of the elect.
Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want
1) The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
What a contrast this is from the opening verse of Psalm 22 when the Psalmist said, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me”. It should also help to illustrate what the want and the need of the Psalmist was, which is the Lord and nothing else!
We should carefully consider our own personal wants and needs in regards to the Lord. Is the Lord your portion, your trust, your guide? Or is he your Santa Clause, Fixer and physician? In other words, is God your God, your want, need and passion or is it what He can do for you the driving force for your relationship with Him?
It is truly a lost soul who goes to God only to be healed and not for His sake. For if God elects to heal them what do they have left? They have no God and no reason to seek Him.
The word “Lord” is a transliteration of His name “Jehovah”. The Psalmist is calling Him by name, Jehovah is my shepherd. The “is” was interjected into the sentence by the translator. With that in mind the original makes a much more powerful statement. “Jehovah, my shepherd”. This accentuates the individual by calling Him by name and highlights who He is rather than what He does.
The “shepherd” has with it the idea of a herdsman or the keeper of a flock. It is His flock, picked, chosen and cared for. The word for shepherd is, “ra`ah“, with a more literal translation to mean guard, care for, to govern or rule, a teacher of virtue.
But what is more telling of the spirit and intent of the word ra`ah is its application and usage by the Old Testament prophets. It was primarily used to describe a shepherd that fed and kept His flock. This certainly describes Jesus Christ who helps to keep us from sin and feeds us daily as the bread of life. But “shepherd” was also used to describe shearing, herdsmen, to wander, a friend, to devour, friendship, companion, pastors (almost always used in a negative sense), eat up, to eat and waste. All of these descriptives have a place in regards to Jesus. Christ is our friend and companion. He prevents us from being eaten up and devoured by the world, false prophets and pastors who are intent on our destruction. We get sheared and chastised when need be and Jesus will always show us the way back if we wander.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Jehovah is my shepherd, this is in the present tense. The Lord is my keeper, guide, teacher and protector here and now. I shall not want or be devoid of anything pertaining to the essentials of the Divine. This is in the future tense. God is nothing but a forward motion guiding us to Him and heaven.
The Lord is my shepherd but who are the sheep? Not all that call upon the Lord will be or even could be His. What qualifies us to be part of the flock? Do we become His through supplication, by deed, what?
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:21-23).
How can we be known of God? How can we become part of the Shepherds flock?
Jesus said, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you…” (John 15:16)
“…God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).
“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins….For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” Ephesians 2:1,8-10)
We are the, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 1:2).
We are the chosen, “and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God”. We have been bought for a price. Our election is purely through God’s grace and not our efforts, status or stature.
“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light; Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10).
Being quicken by the Holy Spirit we now have eyes to see, a heart to love with for God is loe, a mind to discern truth with and ears open to receive the word of God.
Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28).
“The sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers” (John 10:3-5).
We are His and desire nothing else than to hear, to obey and follow the Shepherd.
2) He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
“What are these “green pastures” but the Scriptures of truth—always fresh, always rich, and never exhausted?” (Charles Spurgeon).
“By these “green pastures” may be meant the covenant of grace, its blessings and promises” (John Gill).
“God’s ordinances are the green pastures in which food is provided for all believers; the word of life is the nourishment of the new man. It is milk for babes, pasture for sheep, never barren, never eaten bare, never parched, but always a green pasture for faith to feed in…Are we blessed with the green pastures of the ordinances? Let us not think it enough to pass through them, but let us lie down in them, abide in them; this is my rest for ever” (Matthew Henry).
We being spirit filled, quickened by the Holy Ghost and now tuned into God will follow Jesus and His commands. We are motivated from our inner most seat of emotion, intellect, spirit and soul; from our very being! It is our spirit mingled with His, existing together and moving in one accord. Jesus leads and we surly follow!
“Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (Psalm 100:3).
Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). We do love Him for He is our shepherd. And we will stay and feast in the green pastures of truth.
“I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God” (Ezekiel 34:14-15).
3) He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
He restoreth my soul or more accurately translated, “He returned or brought back my soul”. The refreshing and regeneration of our spirit and soul is repentance unto salvation. Often times we forget that first we were living in righteousness before the devil entered the skin. God and salvation are nothing more than returning to God as he first made man, before the devil and sin were introduced.
Jesus leads, he has always led and He has always led by example. He is the good shepherd that always shows His flock the way.
“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls” (1 Peter 2:21-25)
Left to our devices and without the shepherd the sheep will certainly die. For it is only by the Lord’s mercies and his undying love for us that prohibits total consumption of the flock. The devil as a roaring lion is constantly looking for someone to consume. But the compassion of Jesus for us never fails. For they are, “new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him” (Lamentations 3:21-24).
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.
“Shadow of Death” this can be one of two things. First off, a shadow is created when an object interferes with the flow of light. In this case death would be the object and the light is of God.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)
“Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness” (1 Thessalonians 5:5).
“For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8).
Because we are children of God, children of light we are able to walk through the shadow of death. We don’t stop and we don’t panic for we walk steadfastly and assuredly. As children of light, the word within us illuminates our way.
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).
“But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble” (Proverbs 4:18-19)
How can we fear when we have God within? How can we fret when being lead by the way, the truth and the light?
The other possibility of the shadow is not light blocked but rather an area minus light. In reality there is no such thing as dark only something without light. For example when you dim the lights you do not add darkness you take away light. Absolute darkness would something with absolutely no light.
Wouldn’t that be Hell? An area minus light, minus God!
But isn’t this all about passing through death and not stopping and staying in death? Do not the elect journey from earth, past death and on to heaven while those of the world are never able to escape past the darkness?
And the Lord is our shepherd that we hear and see and know, who leads us with His staff of righteousness and rod of salvation. These are our comforts for they are truth, love, peace, joy, happiness; they are life!
5) Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Proximity doesn’t matter with the Lord. Jesus healed the servant of the Centurion without ever going to him. And here we have a table prepared for us in the presence of enemies. Up close or far away, the devil can do nothing to the Lord or the light.
This is a magnificent table and affair for only in such occasions are fragrant oils applied to the honored guest.
6) 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.
Goodness and God’s mercy will follow us, lead us and completely surround us all of the time.
The words for “for ever” are transliterated frome “’orek” and “yowm”. Orek means length and yowm means day. Some interpreters believe that “for ever” means “length of days”. But it would seem more scripturally correct to think perpetual day or forever light.
“The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory. Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended” (Isaiah 60:19-20).
“And the twelve gates were twelve pearls: every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:21-27).
The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. Forever has already started. We have already been Illuminated and our path lit. Follow the shepherd and move forward in God.