The LORD is my shepherd (Yahweh-Rohi)
The use of God’s proper name (Yahweh) here is significant. Even though the name brings to our mind the fact that God is self-existent, more importantly the name stands for God’s covenant relationship with His people.
Above all, we should appreciate the context in which the name was revealed to Moses. In that context we understand that Yahweh is our God who is ever present with His people especially in their sufferings (Exodus 3:14). So God became concerned about the misery of His people in Egypt and rescued them. This God is our Shepherd.
Several thoughts race through our mind when we think on this verse. It speaks of a relationship. It is not a relationship of fear like that exists between a king and his subject. More than that it is a relationship based on love, trust and intimacy.
The sheep is closely related to the Shepherd. Many Shepherds mark their sheep’s ear with a sharp knife so that the distinct mark on the sheep enables everyone to recognize to whom the sheep belongs.
That brings to our next thought. We belong to our Shepherd. He has ownership of us. But unlike human ownership, God does not impose His authority on us. Instead, He waits for us to acknowledge His ownership of us.
The New Testament focuses on this aspect known as the Lordship of Jesus Christ. It is not just saying, “Lord, Lord,” but more than that it is yielding our lives absolutely to His control.
A Christian cannot have his own agenda in life. Instead he is called by God to ask God’s wisdom and counsel. Then God will show what is His plan for our lives. That we can obey. Only for such people can God be truly Shepherd.
Martin Luther once said, “Christianity is a religion of personal pronouns.” (or, The heart of religion lies in its personal pronouns). Looking at the verse from this angle, we can assuredly say that no one else than a true believer can say about God, He is MY Shepherd.
Phillip Keller says, there is a note of boasting in it: “He [David] spoke with a strong sense of pride and devotion and admiration. It was as thought he literally boasted aloud, `Look at who my shepherd is—my owner—my manager!’ ”
Life Lesson: Dear child of God, do you understand now why Christianity is not a religion about rules. Instead it is simply about life and relationship. Do you know how to start this relationship. It is not by attending Church even though that is something good. It is not by helping the poor even though that is good.
Instead it is by coming to Jesus Christ and telling Him, “Lord Jesus, I love you. Thank you for shedding your precious blood on the cross for me. Forgive my sins. And make me God’s child according to the promise in John 1:12. Thank you Lord for the gift of eternal life. I am yours and you are mine, now and forever. Amen.”
Now you’re someone with a special status before God. Any time you walk into God’s Presence in the name of Jesus you’re welcome there. So walk in with freedom and confidence (Ephesians 3:12).
I shall not be in want
This does not mean that we will never know poverty or lack of things. For the author of this Psalm, David went through some difficult times in his life after being anointed by Samuel as the future king of Israel. He was hunted down by Saul and David was constantly on the run for his life.
So this verse is speaking about something else. It is talking about contentment. This is what Paul referred to: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12).
Christians are people who understand that their lot in life is what God has given. At any given instance whatever be the circumstance, we will not lack what we need. The reason of course is the LORD being our Shepherd. He cares. He knows. He gives what we need.
Our response is to be one of contentment. Being satisfied with God has given.
He makes me lie down in green pastures
Many people think of this verse in terms of the shepherd providing the sheep with good food. Though the shepherd provides the sheep with good food, that is not the primary thought here.
Sheep do not normally lie down when they are hungry. They lie down only when they have had enough to eat. So here the thought is about rest that the shepherd gives his sheep.
There is a sense of compelling in this verse. Often Christians become too busy even in their work for God. They become burnouts even without their knowing it. So, the good shepherd comes and compells them to take rest.
Even Jesus, who was busy ministering to people, once said to His disciples, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31).
How many of us find it difficult to spend some time in God’s presence? We find it not exciting, so to say. Instead we long for the limelight. We want to be on centre stage doing something for God.
Yet most often we don’t realize how much God desires our company. Jesus desired some sympathetic listening when He was just nearing Calvary’s cross, and at Bethany. Martha thought that what Jesus needed was some good food.
But it was Mary who gave Jesus that listening ear. So also God desires your listening ear. But you like to run ahead. Sometimes God has to compell you to lie down. Maybe some illness, some loss, some broken relationship all compell you to lie down It is then that you’ll know the Shepherd’s care.
So this verse speaks of rest. More correctly we are pushed down to rest. Otherwise we are not willing. Now God will have our listening ear.
He leads me beside quiet waters
The primary thought is that the Shepherd searches out for the sheep places where it can get water. But sheep can go without actually drinking water for days without end if they feed from grass that is drenched in dew.
So the thought here is that “quiet waters” is an image used to supplement the thought of rest supplied by the shepherd. This rest is complete and adequate in every sense.
Remember how God met the need of Elijah. After a great spiritual experience of calling down fire from heaven, this man became afraid when he heard queen Jezebel’s threat. So he ran for his life a long way and prayed that he might die. And then he fell asleep under a broom tree.
But then an angel touched him and gave him food and water. This happened twice and he was strengthened for the journey ahead (1 Kings 19:1—8). So also God meets your need to take rest.
He restores my soul
One of the important things to note in this Psalm is that David is speaking honestly and truthfully about his life experiences. He is not trying to project the image that everyday of his life he was walking in heaven singing hallelujah.
No. He had his days of trouble in plenty. He felt forsaken by God (Psalm 22:1), was surrounded by enemies (Psalm 22:16) and also fell into great sin (Psalm 40:12).
During such times joy that is so much a mark of a Christian is lost. So David prayed, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation” (Psalm 51:12). Then there are people who have suffered serious setbacks in life, faced many failures and losses due to failure to follow God and obey Him.
For such people, when they return to God with all their hearts with repentance, humbling themselves before God and with much tears, God promises to repay them for the year the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25).
A true picture of the restoring nature of the Shepherd-God is also drawn for us by Isaiah: “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart: he gently leads those that have young” (Isaiah 40:11).
Yes, your God cares for you; cares enough to restore you. [Contrast this with the shepherds who only took care of themselves as described in Ezekiel 34:1—6).
Life Lesson: Have you been overtaken in some sin? Have you thought that life is all over for you? If so, don’t give up hope. Because there is a Shepherd who will restore you. Come to Him as you are. Do not try to give excuses.
Instead tell Him that you sinned against Him. Then He will wash you in the precious blood of Jesus and restore you. You might have strayed like a sheep away from God, and gone away from Him like the younger son in the parable that Jesus told in Luke 15. But when the younger son came back, O there was joy in that family! And the son was restored to his status.
So also God will do to you. Remember how the father in that parable saw the son coming even when he was a long way off, and how, filled with compassion he ran, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Oh yes, the father was waiting and watching for the son to come home. Your Shepherd-God is waiting; waiting for you to come home. He’ll certainly restore you.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
God does not lead us anywhere where He has not gone before. So He is like a true shepherd who goes ahead of his sheep guiding them. He always leads them in right paths. We are like sheep who need to be guided.
Sheep are not at all intelligent. They just blindly follow. But the important thing is that God does not ask us to travel alone. He leads. He guides. Oh, how much heartaches shall be less if only we constantly followed His leading.
It is pointed out that sheep are notorious creatures of habit. They’ll repeat everything. They will walk through the same pathways, they will feed in the same grounds and pollute the same. It is also pointed out by experts that many of the world’s finest sheep ranges have been ruined beyond repair by overgrazing.
The point of all this is that sheep require direction. It has to be managed. They don’t have any ability to take care of themselves. If sheep are left to themselves they will even gnaw grass to the very ground until roots are damaged. This results in loss of fertile land.
The greatest thing that a shepherd can do for the sheep in this circumstance is to lead the sheep on to new ground. That is, keep them on the move. This requires careful planning and also intimate knowledge of green pastures and where they are available.
The important thing is to note that the shepherd would have gone there before the sheep. He has been there before. So we need not be afraid when we are asked by God to move.
Like Abraham, let us also move out when God asks to move out (Hebrews 11:8). He is like a mother eagle who disturbs her nest and pushes the eaglets out so that they’ll learn to fly. Even if we fail in our first few attempts He will catch us without falling for underneath are his everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 32:11; 33:27).
For his name’s sake
We need to remember that we carry a badge of honour. We are His children. And God’s honour is closely tied up to how we live on earth (We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors—2 Corinthians 5:20). If the sheep are left to themselves they’ll become unhealthy and die. To avoid that the Shepherd keeps them moving. He has his reputation in mind.
We need to remember that in the Old Testament, a name stood for that person’s character. For example, Jacob (deceiver), and that is what his character was until God’s dramatic encounter with him by the ford of Jabbok (Genesis 32:22—32). Now, God leads us in right paths for His name’s sake means that He does so in keeping with His character.
Another example by which this verse can be understood is by Jesus’ words on prayer. He said, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:14). Does that mean He gives us everything we ask?
No. Not at all. Instead, prayer is a process by which our desires are fine-tuned by the Spirit of God to be in tune with the character of Jesus. Then those prayers are answered. (See also Romans 8:26, 27 as to how this happens).
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
Many commentators believe that this could be better translated as “through the darkest valley.” (see NIV footnote). The Malayalam Bible translation uses this sense (koorirul thazhvarayil koodi nadannalum). The darkest valley refers to all dark and bitter experiences. And it also includes the experience of death.
As we look at the context in which this verse comes, it comes from the experience of the sheep being led by the shepherd to higher ground. Almost often the shepherd led the sheep through the valleys. That often is the best route. There is no stopping here. It is instead a walk through the valley.
Dear child of God, darkest moments in life is not a stopping for you. Instead you walk through it (see also Isaiah 43:2). You also need to be encouraged by the fact that shadows are not real. They don’t bite neither can they sting. (See 1 Corinthians 15:55).
There are a few practical reasons why the shepherd chooses the way of the valley:
One is that it will have a slow gradient (slope). So it is easy for the sheep to climb up.
Secondly, these are the places where the best watering spots like streams, springs and rivers are found.
Finally, it is also the place where the best food is found on the way.
But it is also the place where danger can be found since there may be cliffs on both sides and the valley floor itself may be like a dark shadow. But the shepherd knows the path and he also knows that predators (animals like lion, leopard or wolf) will be hiding in the heights.
I will fear no evil, for you are with me
We’ve come to the middle of the Psalm. So far, the sheep was boasting about its owner. Now seasons have changed. The sheep is being led to distant ranges during summer. They’ll be alone with the shepherd during this time till Autumn. They’ll return with him to their home ranch only as the early snow of winter comes.
While they are alone with the shepherd, there is intimate contact between the shepherd and the sheep. It is during this time the sheep enjoys great personal attention from the Shepherd. That is why at this place in the Psalm we find the sheep directly addressing the shepherd. We find “I” and “You” punctuating the thought.
During this journey, the sheep fears no evil. Simply because of the presence of the shepherd. Oh, what a great difference it makes. Most of our worries in life come because we are not conscious of the presence of God with us.
A Psalmist describes his consciousness of God like this: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). The Shepherd’s presence makes us fear no evil, because He is in every experience with us. We are not left alone.
That is why Jesus contrasted himself with a hired hand who cares nothing for the sheep for when that man sees a wolf coming he will abandon the sheep and run away. And then wolf attacks the sheep and scatters it. But Jesus, the good shepherd, is not like that. He lays down his life for the sheep (see John 10:11—14).
Evil has to pass through Him before it reaches us. That is the sense in which Jesus said, “I am the gate for the sheep” (John 10:7). In those days when sheep were camping in open country, there would be a fence. But there won’t be any gate; only a narrow opening in the fence. Here the shepherd himself lies down. Thus he himself becomes the gate. No one can get to the sheep without the shepherd’s knowledge.
When you fear life’s journey, ask for God’s Presence to go with you like how Moses asked. Then God will answer you and say, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14).
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me
The rod and the staff are two implements carried by shepherds. We need to remember that the shepherds in their journeys with the sheep carried minimum equipment. In that sense, the rod and the staff become more prominent and important.
The rod is a small club like thing with a smooth rounded end. The other end is shaped to fit the owner’s hand. It is usually made of strong wood. Shepherds usually practice with this rod so that they learn to throw it with amazing speed and accuracy. Thus the rod becomes the main line of defence for the shepherd as well as the sheep.
It is important to note that the shepherd usually does not allow the rod to leave his hand even when he is busy with other matters. He is ever alert to the possibility of danger.
Another use of the rod was to discipline misbehaving sheep. If the shepherd saw a sheep misbehaving in the flock he will send his rod whistling through the air so that it lands nearby that sheep. That itself sends a strong message and the misbehaving sheep would soon join the ranks meekly.
The rod therefore was seen as an extension of the shepherd’s hand. The very sight of it in his hand was often enough to keep the flock under control.
Another use of the rod was to count the sheep. When the sheep would be taken back to its pen, the shepherd would allow only one sheep to pass under his rod at one time. In those moments, each sheep would get great attention.
The sheep would be examined with great care at that time to find out whether it had wounds or parasites on it. So a sheep that passed under the rod was one which had been counted and looked over with great care to make sure all was well with it. (Read Ezekiel 20:37 too. It reads, “I will take note of you as you pass under my rod”).
It is said that during sheep shows, sometimes an inferior animal would be brought to the show. Its wool would be clipped and shaped to appear perfect. But a skilled judge would come and part the wool of the sheep with the rod to see the condition of the skin and the fleece. So the sheep is examined and searched out thoroughly.
Life Lesson: In a personal sense, each one of us needs this personal examination done by our Shepherd from time to time. It is not something to be feared (like our school or college examination). Instead, it is an experience to be looked forward to.
Only such an examination can reveal our needs. And only then can our problems be brought to light and laid bare before the Shepherd. Sometimes it seems to be painful or shameful to us. But being honest before God has great rewards.
Isn’t that why David prayed at the end of the Psalm that celebrated God’s intimate knowledge of him thus, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See, if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23, 24). Will you make it your prayer today? Will you say to God, “Search me, O God!”
The rod is thus a powerful symbol of the Word of God. It is a weapon, the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). At the same time, it searches our hearts: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
So, to know the comfort of the Shepherd’s rod, you need to come under the constant influence of the Word of God.
The Staff is a long slender stick with a hooklike curve at one end. It identifies the shepherd as a shepherd (you must have seen the pictures of Bishops carrying this staff because they are called to take care of God’s flock), like how a doctor is identified by his stethoscope.
The staff is also unique to the sheep as it cannot be used for other animals like horses or dogs or cattle. It is designed also for the shepherd to lean on for support and strength.
How does the staff become a comfort to the sheep? In many ways.
First of all, the shepherd uses the staff to gently lift up a newborn lamb and bring it to its mother if they have become separated. He does not use his hands so as not to let the odour of his sweat become mixed with the lamb’s smell. If it happens the mother might reject the lamb.
Secondly, the shepherd uses the staff to bring sheep close to himself. This is very useful with shy sheep who try to keep a distance from the shepherd (Does it describe you dear child of God? Are you trying to stay away from your God because you have your doubts and fears? Oh, God will use the comfort of His staff to bring you near to Himself)! In this sense the staff is an invitation for us to draw near to God.
Thirdly, the staff can be used to guide the sheep because of its long reach. The tip of the staff is laid gently against the side of the sheep and pressure is applied (remember that the staff is not used to beat the sheep).
It is also pointed out that in long walks, a shepherd might hold a staff against a sheep’s side and go on walking like that for some time just to say, “We’re in touch!” Of course, the sheep is delighted by this special attention. Isn’t it lovely? Are you need of such attention today?
Finally, the staff is used to rescue sheep that has wandered and by its own stupidity has fallen into water or gets caught in thorny bushes. So many of our difficulties in life are of our own making; isn’t it?
But God sends His Spirit to help us. He is our Helper or Comforter or Counsellor (John 14:16). He comes to us and gives us the consciousness of our special relationship to our Shepherd. It is by Him that we cry out to God, “Abba, Father.”
Abba is an Aramaic term (the language Jesus spoke) which means dearest daddy. (See Romans 8:15, 16 and Galatians 4:6). It is by God’s Spirit we can say, “I am my lover’s and my lover is mine” (Song of Songs 6:3). That truth has been beautifully rendered in song like this: “I am His and He is mine, His banner over me is love” (see also SOS 2:4).
So the staff of God is symbolic of the Spirit of God. And He comforts us. (Remember comfort has as one of its root words “fort” which means strength. So the Spirit of God gifts us with strength).
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies
David had a lot of enemies. But his life was miraculously preserved by God. Definitely David might have had lots of such experiences in mind when he wrote this Psalm.
Now let us focus on the word “prepare.” The shepherd leads the sheep to high plateaus where pasture can be found. They are described as tables. (Some high sheep pastures like this are described by the Spanish word “mesas” which means tables)!
Before the sheep are taken there the shepherd visits these places. He takes salt and minerals and scatters them at strategic points in the pastures. This is for the benefit of the sheep during summer.
He also takes a long time and effort to remove all the poisonous weeds that are found in those pastures. It is a tiring effort. But if the weeds are not removed it can spell death to the sheep. Once they eat it, they become stiff like blocks of wood and get paralysed and fall down dead. This is because the sheep sample every kind of food that comes along their way.
No wonder God describes us as sheep. Don’t we also feel like sampling every colourful thing that is held across our path? Also the shepherd clears the water holes where debris like dead leaves have accumulated. It is thus that he prepares the table for his sheep.
As for enemies, they could be physical or spiritual. Whatever it be, God can spread a table for you in spite of their presence. Yes, He can! And He will! “Most commentators find two pictures of Yahweh here: the Shepherd looking after His sheep (vv 14) and the Host providing for His guest (vv 5, 6).” — New International Bible Commentary.
The Shepherd is also the King, who protects from enemies, hosts me at his table, and lets me stay in his precincts all my days. “The `enemies’ are introduced for the moment as looking on helplessly while the guest enjoys the sanctity of the home of the host even as at an Oriental banquet onlookers were often to observe everything from without” — Exposition of Psalms, H. C. Leupold.
You anoint my head with oil
Scholars point out that David is describing a full year with the sheep in this Psalm. Here he is especially speaking of summer when flies trouble the sheep.
For example, there is the nose fly. These little flies buzz about the sheep’s head. It is their attempt to deposit their eggs on the damp, mucous membrane of the sheep’s nose. If successful, the eggs will hatch and small, slender wormlike larvae will come out. They will work up the nasal passage into the sheep’s head. They burrow into the flesh and there set up an intense irritation accompanied by severe inflammation.
For relief, the sheep will rub its head against trees, rocks and posts along the way. Sometimes it will beat its head so hard that it can even kill itself in the process. At other times, advanced infection can lead to blindness, weight loss and stoppage of feeding milk etc.
It is to avoid this, that the shepherd applies oil to the head of the sheep. In Palestine, usually olive oil mixed with sulphur and spices would be used. Once this oil is applied there is immediate change in the sheep’s behaviour. Instead of being irritated they will grow calm and restful. Nor was this application of oil a one-time event. Instead it was a process that was repeated often during summer time.
Two thoughts emerge here: One, there are constant irritations in our life which like worms can cause us tremendous discomfort. We need to be on our guard against this. Otherwise, like those flies depositing eggs which grows into worms on the inside, we too will be boiling over on the inside.
And then our behaviour will be like the sheep hitting its head against trees and rocks. We’re definitely going to hurt ourselves in this process.
Secondly, we need the application of oil in our lives. It is not just a one-time event but a continual process. No need to think twice about it; oil stands as a symbol of the Holy Spirit throughout the Bible. And Paul asks us to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).
Some scholars like to see the picture of the LORD as host here too. “The Lord is the host at a banquet “table” laden with food and drink. Before entering the banquet hall, an ancient host would anoint his honoured guests with oil made by adding perfumes to olive oil.” — (Expositor’s Bible Commentary)
After providing water to wash the feet, giving oil to put on the head was the next act of hospitality (Mary of Bethany, combining both acts in grateful extravagance broke the whole jar and poured it on the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair – John 12).
My cup overflows
As Summer turns to Autumn, and the first signs of snow come at the mountaintops, the sheep are slowly driven back to their home ranch. At no other season is sheep found to be so fit and strong. Flies do not trouble any more at this time of the year. So David was able to write of this experience, “my cup overflows.” Here is a picture of sheep perfectly contented under their Master’s care. Are we?
There is however the possibility of sudden and chilling storms and rain on their way back. If sheep get caught in it and are soaked they might get killed because of the chill. It is at this time that the shepherd rushes to the aid of the sheep with a mixture of brandy and water so that it could take a few spoonfuls of it. (In Palestine, wine might also have been used). It will give sudden warmth to the body of the sheep.
The point to note is the Shepherd’s care for us. He is there with us. And in times of unexpected storms too, He has His remedies ready. That is the experience of “my cup overflows.”
Many godly men and women have testified as to how when God has answered prayers in the midst of their most difficult times, He has done so with unexpected benefits attached.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life
(Some translations use “mercy” instead of “love”). Sheep need constant care. There is no time when they can survive alone. They need the constant and watchful care of the shepherd at all times. Even then, often the sheep run away on its own. Sometimes it happens due to sheer stupidity; at other times due to panic.
Whatever it be, know that when He finds you missing from the flock; He will come in search of you. He will not give up on you. No one can snatch you out of His strong and loving hands (see John 10:28, 29). Also, when you get lost, He will come after you, searching and seeking till He finds you. And then He’ll joyfully carry you home on His shoulders and rejoice over you (see Luke 15:4—6, Zephaniah 3:17).
Remember, you relationship with your Shepherd is a lasting one. So His goodness and love will follow you all the days of your life. No day is your relationship with Him cut off. Under darkening skies and in fair weather, He remains true and faithful to you. All the days! Yes, all the days of your life He’ll be there for you.
The “love” described here is God’s covenant love (the specific word hesed, which NIV usually translates “unfailing love” to convey something of the meaning). “The “love” of God is his covenantal commitment to bless his people with his promises. Instead of being pursued by enemies who seek his destruction, God’s “goodness and love” follow the psalmist.” — Expositor’s Bible Commentary.
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever
The idea David had here was not of dwelling in the tabernacle or the temple of God (even though he yearned and longed for it). Here the picture is of the sheep coming home to be there for the winter months. It is a homecoming. They are satisfied. They are content to be with their shepherd. Not even for one moment would the sheep think of running away for it is well provided for and taken care of here.
It is this satisfaction in life that we need. Only then will other sheep ever think of our Shepherd. And come over to be under His care.
Of course, for us who have known Jesus as our Good Shepherd and our Lord and Saviour, “dwell in the house of the LORD forever” literally means that itself. We will be with God in the rooms He has prepared for us in heaven (John 14:1—3). So do not let your hearts be troubled.
Shepherd—used metaphorically in Israel and in other Near Eastern nations as a title for a king or leader (Compare Jer 23:1 ff.; Ezek. 34:11 ff.), it contains the ideas of authority and care.— New International Bible Commentary.
“Sheep depend totally on their shepherd for food, water and protection from wild animals. In the ancient Near East and in Israel, kings were often seen to fulfill similar roles for people, and were thus often referred to as shepherds. David, the shepherd turned king, saw God as his own King and Shepherd (vv. 14), the One who cared for him at all times.” — Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible.
Also, if you look between the lines, many Names of God are latent (hidden) in this psalm: Yahweh-yireh (Gen 22:14, the LORD will provide) I shall not be in want Yahweh-shalom (Jud. 6:24, the LORD is peace) He makes me lie down Yahweh-nahah (Is. 58:11, the LORD will guide) He leads me beside quiet waters Yahweh-rophe (Ex. 15:26, the LORD who heals) He restores my soul Yahweh-tsidkenu (Jer. 23:6, the LORD our righteousness) He guides me in paths of righteousness Yahweh-shammah (Ez. 48:35, the LORD is there) I will fear no evil, for you are with me Yahweh-nissi (Ex. 17:15, the LORD is my banner) you prepare a table . . . in the presence of my enemies Yahweh -gemulah (Jer. 51:56, the LORD who repays) Surely goodness and love will follow me (Abba, Father) I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Except the 7th and 9th, these are from the World’s Bible Handbook)
Comment: “We’re all familiar with the 23rd Psalm. Its comforting message is well-known even among non-believers. This renowned Psalm was written by King David, and its most famous passage is contained in the opening verse: `The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.’
The Hebrew word David uses for want in this verse indicates a meaning of lack. David is saying, in other words, `I shall not lack anything.’ When we combine this meaning with the first part of the verse, David is saying, `The Lord leads, guides and nourishes me. And because of that, I have no lack.’
In this brief verse, David gives us yet another reflection of the Lord’s character and nature. The literal Hebrew translation of the first part of this verse is Jehovah [Yahweh] Rohi. It means `the Lord, my shepherd.’
David continues to develop ths idea of the Lord as shepherd throughout the rest of the Psalm. In the next verse, he writes, `He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters” (Psalm 23:2). What an idyliic [this word means `peaceful and beautiful; perfect, without problems’] picture . . . The whole scene seems so pleasant, peaceful and carefree . . .
I ask you, what’s wrong with this picture? Simply this: life is nothing like the image of the idyllic existence. It’s my sincere belief that this tranquil picture is not the image David intended to put forth in Psalm 23—not at all.
The truth is, even the saintliest of God’s people are a motley bunch. With that in mind, I want to paint for you another picture of the sheepfold David describes here. Yes, sheep are lying about in green grass besides still waters. But, according to Isaiah, this flock includes lambs that are frail, weak and unsteady. Some are barely able to walk. Others are in deep pain. A few are pregnant. Still others have to nurse their restless young.
Isaiah writes, `He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young’ (Isaiah 40:11). Of course, Isaiah is speaking here of Christ, our Jehovah [Yahweh] Rohi. Our Lord Jesus is our shepherd. And he came not to tend just healthy, strong sheep, but also those who are sick, broken, diseased and weak.” – Taken from Hallowed Be Thy Names, by David Wilkerson [also the author of The Cross and the Switchblade].
Books of Study used:
1. The NIV Matthew Henry Commentary (Zondervan Publishing House).
2. A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller (Zondervan Publishing House).
3. Exposition of Psalms by H. C. Leupold (O M Books)
4. Hallowed Be Thy Names by Rev. David Wilkerson (Rickfords Hill Publishing Ltd.)
5. Prayer, Praise & Promises—A Daily Walk Through the Psalms by Warren W. Wiersbe