Very few passages of scripture offer more words of comfort and has touched more lives than this little psalm referred to as the “Nightingale Psalm,” Psalm 23. It has gone into more homes, hospital rooms, churches, funeral parlors, nursing homes and counseling centers than any other single passage. It is the first words of the Bible many memorize and the last words many recite as they expire. It is astonishing to consider the many ways this text has accomplished so much for so many.
Many passages are easy for us to ignore and overlook because they become so familiar to us. Nevertheless, I want us to delve into this rich psalm in this issue and glean some truths to help us through our difficult lives. Thus, we need not to commit this psalm simply to memory, but we need to commit this psalm to life!
- Psalm 23 appears in a trio of Messianic psalms—Psalms 22, 23 and 24.
- Psalm 22 discusses the Savior, who suffered on the cross of Calvary. This is our Lord of the past, pictured with a cross.
- Psalm 23 discusses the Shepherd, who because of such is able to meet the needs of His beloved. This is our Lord of the present, pictured with a crook.
- Psalm 24 discusses the Sovereign, who returns triumphantly and victoriously over sin and death. This is our Lord of the future, pictured with a crown.
As we continue, notice the first line and see the presence of our shepherd: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Undoubtedly, we have studied the unique role and relationship between a shepherd and his sheep. We know the impact this has due to the involvement of David as a shepherd boy of his youth trying to provide for his flock, protect and guide his flock and lead his flock. Of all the animals in the world, none is more dependent upon others than helpless sheep. They are extremely helpful, but they are also extremely helpless.
Therefore, as David ponders these things, he thinks about the relationship that he has with his God. To breathe is to think about God. To live from day to day is to think about the goodness, greatness and graciousness of God.
As we consider the presence of our shepherd, notice the personal connotation. He is not simply “a shepherd,” or even “the shepherd,” but David wrote that He was “my shepherd.” In fact, this small psalm of just six verses contains no less than seventeen personal references. Yet, not everyone can make this acclamation. Nevertheless, based upon our own relationship with the Lord through faith, repentance, confession and baptism into the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can understand this personal relationship (cf. John 10:11-15). Therefore, He possesses me, and I possess Him. How wonderful it is to awaken each day, to live each day, to look forward to each day, to enjoy each day and to close each day with these words on our lips and in our hearts! This makes all the difference in the world! Thus, this statement is a statement of hope and trust (cf. 2 Tim. 1:11-12).
Once the relationship of the sheep and the shepherd is established, then the basis of that relationship opens the door to the significance of the psalm: “I shall not want.” In essence, this forms the leading thought of the rest of the psalm. In detail, David discusses the fact that he shall not want for provisions, protection and promises. May this issue that is dedicated entirely to this beloved psalm bring you closer to the Shepherd!
By Sam Willcut