Psalm 23 is probably the most famous psalm today, known by people of different religions and beliefs. It is quoted on countless greeting cards and has been a source of comfort and hope, especially for those in affliction. The entire psalm is so rich with truth, but most people probably only know the first verse by heart without expending any effort at memorizing it. My husband has been teaching this psalm at our home bible study, and it has truly been refreshing to our souls. I have found myself repeating to myself throughout the day the things we have learned, and meditating on just the first few verses of this psalm has helped me to fight my daily spiritual battles. I had asked him if I could post what he has taught so far, so that you, too, may be encouraged. (His teaching notes are in an outline format, so here is my attempt at transferring those notes into a more readable blog post. I guess you could say this is a collaborative effort, but he certainly did the sweat work.)
Psalm 23 is a song of trust and confidence in God, directing us to His faithfulness so that we might experience the joy of trusting Him, even in times of dark despair. Charles Spurgeon called it “the pearl of psalms.” And what a precious find it is for those digging for the treasure of God’s Word!
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” (v.1)
This one verse can stand alone as a source of comfort. This is actually the main idea of the whole psalm. After a closer look at this beloved psalm, we can better understand how David could confidently sing this out. David has a clear understanding of who God is, “the Lord”. Most would overlook these very important first two words, but The Lord is the reason why David has penned this psalm in the first place. The word “Lord” is the English translation of the great Old Testament name for God, “YHWH”; it is God’s personal name. This name reveals that God is the eternally existent One, who always was, is, and shall be the same throughout eternity. Therefore, it speaks of God’s attributes, namely, His self-existence and His independence.
Let us not forget or think lightly of the fact that The Lord is the Creator of all that exists, and He, Himself, has no beginning or end. He is the only uncreated being. Rightly do we call him the eternal One. Furthermore, He does not need anything nor depend on anyone. He does not need wisdom, power, help, or even worship. And, he certainly does not need us. He is self-sufficient. You could spend a lifetime thinking about who God is and meditating on each of His attributes. This would be a beneficial task for us to undertake because how you view God and experience Him will affect how your heart responds to everything in life, including your trials. [My personal response: This hit me like a lightning bolt. I realized that my knowing God will have a direct effect on my living for Him. Take parenting, for example. Oh how I desire to be a better mother to my children! I am well aware of my many failures in this. If I meditated more on who God is, I will see the perfect example of a loving and gracious Father, even during times when He disciplines His children who have disobeyed. This will happen in all other areas of my life. If I see more of God, I will see more of God in my life.]
This Self-existent, Self-sufficient, amazing Lord is the one who David calls “my shepherd.” There are countless numbers who have found comfort and calm in the midst of their storms through this psalm, but how many of them truly know The Lord as their Shepherd? For David, this was a deeply personal relationship, not merely a religion: “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Even Jesus Christ warned that not everyone, even those who call Him “Lord”, is truly of His fold. In fact, He said, “You do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:26-27)
Having realized this amazing truth, David comes to a very simple and profound conclusion about his life: “I shall not want.” In this case, the better translation for this phrase is in the NIV, “I shall lack nothing.” In other words, I am content. I am satisfied. Psalm 73:25 conveys this same thought, “There is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.”
The God, who created all things and has always existed, who has no need for man at all, is also David’s personal Shepherd. It is obvious from the first verse alone that David is completely and perfectly satisfied in The Lord. Are you?
(Photo credit 1: blathlean)
(Photo credit 2: Wikimedia Commons)