The Meaning of Psalm 23: God is with You Throughout Your Life

By Binmin
Published 1 year ago

To understand the meaning of Psalm 23, let’s look at David’s short, memorable, and profound song.

 

PSALM 23 1. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. i 4. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your hod and you, staff they comfort me. 5. You preplare a table before me in he presence ofeny enemies; you anoint my head with oil, my cup. overflows. 6. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 

The meaning of Psalm 23 pictures God as a Shepherd who:

  • Firstly, leads humans every step on their journey, providing for their every need (Psa. 23:1)
  • Secondly, refreshes and strengthens his sheep (Psa. 23:2)
  • Thirdly, renews life with spiritual energy and leads us in righteous pathways (Psa. 23:3)
  • Fourthly, gives us courage in times of danger (Psa. 23:4)
  • Fifthly, provides care and safety from enemies because he is with us (Psa. 23:5)
  • Sixthly, gives his children victory over death (Psa. 23:6).

 

PSALM 23 OVERVIEW GOD AS A SHEPHERD 23:1 Leads & provides 23:2 Refreshes & strengthens 23:3 Renews & leads in right paths 23:4 Gives us courage 23:5 Keeps us safe 23:6 Victory over death

 

I.   Introduction

Psalm 23 is known as the “Psalm of Faith.” Indeed, the entire psalm:

  • Breathes serenity and happy confidence undisturbed by a single doubt
  • Speaks of God’s love and faithfulness in every circumstance of life, now and in the future.

 

David wrote Psalm 23 later in his life, possibly during the rebellion of Absalom (2 Sam. 13–19). Consequently, as a mature man, David looked back on his life. And he affirmed that contentment:

  • Does not depend upon the absence of life’s burdens
  • Depends solely upon God’s shepherding and our trust in him

 

Moreover, despite David’s sins, God had guided, protected, and given him abundance (Rom. 8:28).

 

II.   David the Shepherd

Psalm 23 A Psalm of David”

The meaning of Psalm 23 begins with understanding the metaphor of rural life. This imagery was undoubtedly a natural one for David, the shepherd-king.

  • Earlier in life, David had shepherded his father’s sheep in the mountains near Bethlehem
  • He realized God’s character was similarly reflected in how he cared for his sheep

 

To illustrate, while a shepherd, David:

  • Firstly, led and protected his flock.
  • Secondly, knew every animal by name, valuing each one of them
  • Thirdly, each night protected his sheep with his life
  • Finally, looked back over the day and gave thanks that the Lord had blessed them with goodness and mercy

 

III.   Verse 1 The Lord (Jehovah) is My Shepherd

Psalm 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

 

1.   The Lord

The meaning of Psalm 23 rests on God being David’s overriding consideration. The Lord:

 

Dr. Warren Wiersbe lists some compound names of Jehovah in the Old Testament. These names reflect the contents of this psalm.

  • Firstly, Psalm 23:1, “I shall not want”—Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord will provide” (Gen. 22:14)
  • Secondly, Psalm 23:2. “still waters”- Jehovah-Shalom, “the Lord our peace” (Judg. 6:24)
  • Thirdly, Psalm 23:3. “He restores my soul”—Jehovah-Rophe, “the Lord who heals” (Ex. 15:26)
  • Fourthly, Psalm 23:3 “leads me in paths of righteousness”—Jehovah-Tsidkenu, “the Lord our righteousness” (Jer. 33:16)
  • Fifthly, Psalm 23:4 “you are with me”—Jehovah-Shammah, “the Lord is there” (Ezek. 48:35)
  • Sixthly, Psalm 23:5 “presence of my enemies”—“Jehovah-Nissi, “the Lord our banner” (Ex. 17:15)
  • Seventhly, Psalm 23:5 “anoint my head”—Jehovah-M’Kaddesh, “the Lord who sanctifies” (Lev. 20:8) (Wiersbe, 2004, 94-95, emphasis mine)

 

2.   Is My Shepherd

 In the Old Testament:

  • God is called “shepherd” (Gen. 48:15; Psa. 80:1; 95:7; Isa. 40:11; Ezek. 34:11–15)
  • The Messiah is called “Shepherd” (Mic. 5:4; Zech. 13:7)
  • God’s people are called his flock or the sheep of His pasture (Psa. 79:13; 95:7)
  • And like sheep that depend on shepherds, humans must rely on God

 

3.   Jesus as Shepherd

Do you ever feel like you are all alone in the world? Even though people surround you, you may think no one “knows you” or cares about you.

I have good news. The meaning of Psalm 23 could not be more straightforward! As a Christian, you are:

  • Not alone
  • Loved and cared for despite circumstances.

 

Jesus is also called “Shepherd,” emphasizing his pastoral heart (Matt. 15:24; Mark 14:27; John 10:1–16; 1 Peter 2:25). These are not empty words.

Jesus proved his love for you!

How?

Jesus is:

  • Firstly, the Good Shepherd because of his love for you in his sacrificial death (John 10:11)
  • Secondly, the Great Shepherd because of the power of his resurrection (Heb. 13:20)
  • Thirdly, the Chief Shepherd because of his glory in his Second Coming (1 Pet. 5:4)

 

 

JESUS IS MY SHEPHERD Good Shepherd because of his sacrifice Great Shepherd through his resurrection Chief Shepherd because of his 2nd Coming

 

Furthermore, Christians are called his sheep because

  • God the Father gave us to Jesus (John 17:12)
  • We should listen to Christ and obey His Word (John 10:27; 21:22)
  • When we stray, he seeks us out (Matt. 18:12–14) and brings us home (John 10:28)
  • We can rest under His protection (Psa. 23:1-2)
  • Jesus died for us (1 Pet. 1:18–19)

 

There is an astounding insight when you consider the meaning of Psalm 23. As a Christian, you can say, “O God, you are my Shepherd and personal God.”

Think about that for a moment and let that sink in.

The meaning of Psalm 23 should be a source of unshakable comfort that:

  • Above all, the God who controls the universe knows, hears, and cares for you!
  • What’s more, you can have a personal relationship with Jesus
  • Finally, the Lord loves you an infinite amount (Jer. 31:3; Ti 3:4)

 

IV.   Verse 1b Satisfied

Psalm 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Many people (maybe even you, in fact) struggle with the sin of the “fear of want.” In other words, constantly worrying about lacking something vital to your happiness. For instance, you may crave an intellectual, social, or emotional idol.

 

 

"I SHALL NOT WANT* "Fear of Want" is the constant worry of lacking an intellectual, social, or emotional idol

 

The meaning of Psalm 23 clearly shows David’s contentment came from walking by faith, not sight. Therefore, if you want to expel the “fear of want” from your heart, start with belief. In other words, utterly believe that Jesus is adequate for your every need (Psa. 37:25; Matt. 6:33; Phil. 4:19).

In particular, you should believe that Christ:

  • Loves you with an unfailing love (Psa. 33:5; Neh. 9:17; Jer. 32:18)
  • Provides and protects you (Psa. 23:1–3; Jer 31:10; John 10:3, 4, 9, 28)
  • Guides and feeds you (Psa. 23:1–3; John 10:3, 4, 9)
  • Gathers and heals you (Isa. 40:11; Ezek. 34:4)
  • Knows you by name (John 10:27)
  • Through his crucifixion proved he loves you more than his own life (Zech. 13:7; Matt. 26:31; John 10:11, 15, 28)
  • Will never leave or forsake you (Heb. 13:5)
  • Can banish your fear and anxiety now and in eternity (John 14:2)
  • Will comfort you in your old age and as you face death (1 Cor. 15.55)

 

V.   Verse 2 Jesus Refreshes and Strengthens Us

Psalm 23:2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.

 

PSALM 23:2 JESUS REFRESHES & STRENGTHENS US He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. God provides rest & joy through the Bible & Holy Spirit

 

Do you ever feel there are not enough hours in a day? Moreover, is your world always going so fast that you think you can’t keep up? In brief, many people’s world is filled with unimportant activity and impatience.

In contrast to that reality, our body, mind, and spirit need rest and refreshment. And compared to the exhausting time management challenges, Christians can be rejuvenated by God.

That may seem an exceptionally naive statement. But according to the meaning of Psalm 23, it’s certainly true!

God’s word can unquestionably give you all you need for this life (2 Pet. 1:3). God provides rest and pure joy through the Bible and the Holy Spirit (John 7:38).

However, you have to make the conscious decision to choose the pleasures of the Lord.

Let me explain.

 

1.   Pleasures of the Lord vs. Satan

By comparison, there are vast differences between the pleasures of the devil and the Lord. In particular:

  • Satan’s pleasures are intoxicating but ultimately unfulfilling and exhausting
  • In contrast, Jesus’ pleasures fulfill our deepest needs and exhilarate us

 

PLEASURES OF GOD VS. SATAN Jesus' pleasures fulfill our deepest needs & exhilarate us VS. Satan's pleasures intoxicate but are ultimately unfulfilling & exhausting

 

How do you choose the pleasures of the Lord? Just like a sheep following its Shepherd’s voice. That is to say, you obey the inspired word of God and follow the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 10:3–5, 16, 27).

For Christians who see God as good (Psa. 34:8), this life is like a nourishing green pasture (Psa. 37:16; Prov. 15:16, 17). Consequently, don’t rush through this life distracted by unimportant issues.

Instead, let the Lord:

  • Allay your anxieties with his overwhelming love
  • Give you a contented mind regardless of life situations
  • Put your soul at ease even during suffering or trials
  • Reinvigorate and lead your weary soul into sweet communion with the Holy Spirit
  • Give you the moral heroism to withstand assaults on this side of eternity without fear

 

VI.   Verse 3 The Lord Renews and Leads Us in Right Paths

Psalm 23:3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

 

PSALM 23:3 RENEWS & LEADS US IN •RIGHTPATHS He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 1.Obey Seripture & follow Holy Spirit 2. Choose God's quidance, care, & training 3. Remain humble, obedient, & trusting God

 

A medical student asked a talented surgeon, “Why do you always make the right decisions in surgery?” His answer was, “My ability to make good decisions in surgery comes from experience. Unfortunately, experience comes from having made bad decisions.”

David had fallen into sin and, as a result, passed under God’s discipline.

  • But David had learned to know himself through his sin
  • He also learned that God forgave and delivered him from sin
  • David had tested God and found him ever faithful

 

Similarly, the meaning of Psalm 23 teaches that Christian maturity takes time and challenges.

Just like David, even mature believers can wander from the truth (Ps. 119:176; Heb. 13:9). However, when you are faithless towards God, he is always faithful.

In fact, when you wander away, he comes looking for you (Matt. 18:12). And after finding you, he forgives, heals, and restores you.

But afterward, Jesus expects you:

 

 

VII.   Verse 4 The Lord Gives Us Courage

Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

 

PSAUM 23:4 THE LORD GIVES US COURAGE Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod & your staff, they comfort me.

 

It’s important to realize God does not promise a problem-free life. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t matter whether:

 

The meaning of Psalm 23 claims that when you go through life’s “valley of the shadow,” you need not despair.

1.   Valley of the Shadow

In this case, the “valley of the shadow” is a challenging life experience. This includes death.

Most importantly, if you feel overcome by life’s trials or paralyzed with fear, you can rely on Jesus.

Why?

Chiefly because Jesus is “Immanuel” (“God with us”) (Matt. 1:23). He can guide and guard you through life’s trials.

Also, it’s equally important to realize that none of your trials take the Lord by surprise.

In Romans 8:35-39 Paul explicitly tells Christians that we can be “more than conquerors.” In effect, we can have peace during challenges. Especially because while you are suffering, Jesus can calm your fears.

  • Firstly, through prayer, obeying Scripture, and following the Holy Spirit
  • Secondly, by taking an “eternal perspective.” In other words, realize the brevity of any trial compared to the eternal security in Jesus
  • Finally, there is a point that is often overlooked. When you are suffering, God uses that challenge and hardship to mature your faith (2 Cor. 4:17).

 

JESUS CAN CALM FEARS • Through Prayer • Obeying Scripture Relying on the Holy Spirit • Having an " Eternal perspective" • Knowing God Uses Trials to Mature Faith

 

 

2.   Christians Don’t Need to Fear Death

Part of the meaning of Psalm 23 addresses one of human’s worst fears, death. But it doesn’t have to be that way if you are a Christian.

To enumerate the Christian death:

  • Is only a shadow that has lost its “sting” or fear (1 Cor. 15:55).
  • Cannot separate you from God’s love (Rom. 8:39).
  • Only kills your body but not your soul (Matt. 10:28).

 

CHRISTIANS DON'T NEED TO FEAR DEATH A Christian's death: • Has lost its "sting" or fear • Cannot separate you from God's love • Only kills the body but not the soul

 

 

And at the end of your life, Jesus can comfort you and finally shepherd you to your eternal home with him (John 14:2)

To summarize, “There can be nothing dreadful in death when there is nothing hurtful.”

 

 

"There can be nothing dreadful in death when there is nothing hurtful."

 

 

3.   Rod and Staff

Scripture is the rod of Christ’s strength (Ps. 110:2), setting forth weighty themes including:

  • Jesus is a faithful Shepherd who laid down his life for you (John 10:11–15)
  • His word protects and comforts you throughout your life (2 Cor. 1:5)
  • You can have a personal relationship with God (John 14:4-5)
  • Casting all your anxiety upon Jesus because he cares for you (Col. 1:19-20)
  • The closer you are to your Shepherd, the safer you are, and the more His peace will fill your hearts. (Isa. 40:9–11; 43:1–3; Rev. 1:17–18.)
  • You can experience “peace with God” (Rom. 5:1) and “the peace of God” (Phil. 4:4–7)

 

Above all, cling to believing God can and will help and sustain you. How?

In particular, rely on Scripture and the indwelling Holy Spirit (Eph. 3:16) to:

  • Bring God near during trials
  • Help you experience God’s love, power, and faithfulness

 

VIII.   Verse 5 Jesus Keeps Us Safe

Psalm 23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

 

 

PSALM 2335 JESUS KEEPS US SAFE You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows

 

 

David sings to God in absolute trust in his goodness and strength. David’s soul is unshaken and perfectly serene.

Most importantly, the meaning of Psalm 23 is that you can find all you need in God alone. In particular:

  • Those who follow the Lord are blessed regardless of life’s burdens or trials (1 Chron. 29:11-12)
  • God has provided you with an abundance of all things for your life and godliness (John 10:10)

 

IX.   Verse 6 Jesus Gives Us Victory Over Death

Psalm 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 

PSALM 23:6 VICTORY OVER DEATH Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 

 

Psalm 23 reminds you that God’s mercy will pardon, protect, and sustain you all your life. And as David looked ahead, he knew he would be in heaven forever (John 14:1–6).

Just think about this! After this life, you will fall into everlasting arms of Jesus (Deut. 33:27). And when you do:

  • The things that perplex and disturb you today will all be clear when you get to heaven (Rev. 21:4)
  • You will look back and see “only goodness and mercy.”

 

In brief, under the old covenant, the sheep died for the shepherd. But under the new covenant, the Shepherd died for the sheep! And we shall meet our Shepherd in heaven! (Rev. 7:17).

 

 

Under the old covenant, the sheep died for the shepherd But under the new covenant, the Shepherd died for the sheep! And we shall meet our Shepherd in heaven! (Rev. 7:17).

 

 

X.   What’s Your Next Step?

Psalm 23 reminds you that God is with you throughout your lives. Because Jesus is all-sufficient, you can experience:

  • Firstly, thankfulness for the past
  • Secondly, confidence in God’s wisdom in the present, regardless of your situation
  • Finally, trust that the future is in the Shepherd’s keeping, and you may leave it there

 

Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus? If not, you can have the reassurances found in Psalm 23. For this purpose, read here about how to place your faith in Jesus.

Recommended Reading

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller

Binmin Resources

Binmin Podcast Ep. 12: End: What Questions Should I Ask About My Faith?

Binmin Podcast Ep. 26 Envy & Jealousy | When Life is Tough

Binmin Podcast Ep. 40 Bible Reading | Spiritual Disciplines 101

Binmin Podcast Ep. 42 Prayer | Spiritual Disciplines 101

References

Bratcher, Robert G., and William D. Reyburn. A Translator’s Handbook on the Book of Psalms. New York, NY: United Bible Societies, 1991.

Dilday, Russel H., Jr., and J. Hardee Kennedy. (1972). “Psalms.” In The Teacher’s Bible commentary. Edited by H. F. Paschall and H. H. Hobbs. Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1972

Exell, Joseph S. The Biblical Illustrator: The Psalms. Volume 1. New York, NY: Fleming H. Revell Company; Francis Griffiths, 1909

Henry, Matthew (1994). Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete And Unabridged In One Volume. Peabody MA: Hendrickson, 1994

Jamieson, Robert, A.R. Fausset, and David Brown. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Volume 1. Logos Research Systems, Inc, 1997

Knowles, Andrew. The Bible Guide. Minneapolis: MN: Augsburg, 2001

Lange, John Peter, et al. A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Psalms. Logos Bible Software, 2008.

Ross, Allen P. (1985). “Psalms.” In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Volume 1. Edited by John F. Walvoord & Roy B. Zuck. Wheaton IL: Victor Books, 1985

White, R. E. O. “Psalms.” In Evangelical Commentary on the Bible. Volume 3. Edited by Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995.

Wiersbe, Warren W. (2004). Be Worshipful. Colorado Springs, CO: Cook Communications Ministries, 2004

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