Psalm 23 – Phrase by Phrase

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

Since God is my shepherd, I am His sheep. God guides, protects, nourishes, owns me. My job is to submit, to allow Him to do all that. Because God is my shepherd, I lack nothing. Everything I need is already provided for me. If there is something I pine for, it’s because I’m not listening to and/or trusting in the Shepherd.

The Lord is “the I am”. God is, was and always will be. God is unchangeable. He’s with me all the time.

The Lord is my Shepherd. If I stray from the flock, He will leave the ninety and nine to come and look for me and He will keep looking until He finds me. When He does find me, He will rejoice.

That’s quite a commitment – to agree to be a shepherd. I sure wouldn’t want to look after a bunch of dumb sheep who spend their time not listening and doing their own thing. It takes a lot of patience to be a shepherd. It takes a lot of love.

I am called to follow Jesus’ example. That means I should be like a shepherd to those I come in contact with. I should serve pothers as God serves me. I should provide my best. I should be patient and loving. I need to make a commitment. I get no reward from the sheep, but I will want for nothing because will provide for me.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

I shall not want for rest or provision.

When a sheep is startled, it will run away wildly and start the whole flock to stampeding. The shepherd has to grab a sheep and literally force it to lie down and start feeding. Too bad God doesn’t do that with us more often. We frequently need to stop and rest, meditate and feed on His Word.

He leads me beside still waters.

I shall not want for peace.

Sheep are afraid of running water. They will look at it, but not drink. Fear keeps them from refreshment. The shepherd will dam up a place, still the waters, and then the sheep will drink.

I’m afraid of many things. Afraid of running a home. Afraid of running a business. I look at all these things I could do, but I don’t try. Fear keeps me from the rewards of trusting God and doing something well.

My Shepherd is here. Dam up my fears. Help me to reach out and trust. Help me to step into the waters.

He restores my soul.

I shall not want for restoration or encouragement.

When I wander away from the flock, my Shepherd “restores” me to the flock. If a sheep gets into a habit of wandering, sometimes the shepherd will break its leg, then keep the sheep close by while it heals. During the healing process, the sheep learns to be utterly dependent.

So that’s the meaning of trials.

He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

I shall not want for guidance or fellowship.

The shepherd guides the sheep on the right path to the green pastures and still waters. There are many paths to follow, lined with dangers and pitfalls. The shepherd guides the sheep on the right path for his name’s sake – his reputation is on the line – he is responsible for his sheep – carelessness could cost him his flock.

It is easy to be lead astray from the paths of righteousness, from the fellowship of the flock.

I can be confident that whatever path God is leading me to or on, it is the right one for me. All I need to do is learn to recognize the Shepherd’s voice.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil.

I shall not want for courage.

The believer grows the most through suffering and trials and tribulations. I don’t have to fear these times. No evil will come to me without God’s permission.

For Thou art with me.

I shall not want for companionship.

I don’t have to worry about harm coming to me because God is with me. He is my constant companion. I never have to travel alone.

Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.

I shall not want for comfort.

The shepherd’s rod was a two foot club used to defend the flock against wild beasts. The head of the club had sharp bits of metal in it. The shepherd used the club to fight up close and would send it flying to keep the wolves away.
The shepherd’s staff was hooked at one end to pry sheep loose, move rocks and beat the grass for snakes.

The rod and staff are symbols of power and strength. God is well armed to protect me. All I have to do is follow Him.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

I shall not want for protection or honor.

When a shepherd comes to a new pasture, before he lets the sheep graze, he first inspects the field for vipers. So the shepherd prepares a table (by oiling the viper holes) in the presence of the sheep’s enemies (the vipers).

God doesn’t remove us from our enemies. He sets us down in the middle of them. “He doesn’t plan for us for be isolated, but insulated.” He protects us from our enemies.
God honors us before our enemies by the table He prepares. That honor converts some enemies, and makes others even more jealous.

Thou hast anointed my head with oil.

I shall not want for power.

The sheep are anointed with oil so that when the vipers and insects smell the scent, they are repelled.

God anoints us with His Spirit and His Word. Both repel Satan. However, as the oil evaporates, we need to go to God and the Word regularly for fresh applications.

My cup overflows.

I shall not want for abundance.

The sheep’s cup overflowed with water drawn from a well. There were no pumps, no motors. Just a rope, a bucket, a 100 foot well and a lot of thirsty sheep. It took a lot of time and labor to water the flock. Sheep do not like to get wet, so it was a special treat to have a full cup that was easy to drink from.

God wants us to have abundant life (John 10:10). God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). God just doesn’t supply what we need. He supplies much more. All we have to do is accept it. “With God the calf is always the fatted calf; the robe is always the best robe; the joy is unspeakable; the peace surpasses understanding” (Haddon Robinson). Only the best and the most for us.

Surely goodness and mercy and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life.

I shall not want for God’s perpetual presence.

Goodness. Good things. Peace. Positive things. Mercy. Patience. Forgiveness. Tolerance. Lovingkindness. Good and kinds deeds. Treasures.

God’s abundance will be tangible. God’s abundance will follow me (as in chase me down) all the days of my life. I will always be able to see it if I try. I will always be able to find it if I truly search for it with all my heart.

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

I shall not want for security.

I will always swell in God’s house. I will live there permanently. Not as a guest, but as a member of the family. I will dwell in God’s house here on earth even now. That means I should take care of this earthly house for it belongs to God. His Spirit within me makes wherever I am God’s house. I will dwell in God’s house for eternity because Jesus has gone to prepare a place for me.

(Sheep and shepherd facts from Living Beyond the Daily Grind)


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