The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
In the opening line of Psalm 23, David lays the groundwork for his case regarding how great the LORD is: “The LORD is my shepherd. I shall not want.” Paraphrased, it might say, “The LORD is my shepherd. He gives me everything I need!” Right from the start, David depicts the faithfulness of the LORD in a beautifully symmetrical and alliterative pattern for us to observe, as he unfolds eight beautiful ways the LORD gives us the abundant life He has promised:
“He makes me lie down in green pastures” is the directive from Him for us to REST.
“He leads me beside still waters”, brings hope that He desires to REFRESH us.
“He restores my soul”, tells of His plan to RESTORE us.
Finally, in the end of the first section of the Psalm, “He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake”, reveals the purpose for His loving guidance over our conduct, in that it is so that He is glorified in a life that is RIGHTEOUS!
All those verses refer to God in the 3rd person, He. It’s as if David is proclaiming God’s marvelous faithfulness, to anyone listening! But then, it gets more personal. David switches to the pronoun “You” in the 2nd part of the Psalm.
David is compelled to turn to God directly being so overwhelmed with gratitude, as he recounts all that He does. He begins this second phase of the Psalm by saying:
“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.” Such a demonstration of how God PROTECTS us from all evil and harm. David reveals his confidence in God’s ability to PROVIDE when he says, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” I picture a lavish banquet where we, God’s people, are not simply given basic nourishment, but are in fact feasting at His overflowing table.
Then interestingly, David goes on to say, “You anoint my head with oil.” I believe it’s an illustration that the LORD will PURIFY us for His will and purpose, as well.
The crescendo of this lovely song of praise comes when he declares “My cup overflows.” This image tells of the LORD’s desire for us to PROSPER according to His will; to have a joy-filled, abundant life in Christ, as in John 10:10.
Finally, David declares the punchline of the entire praise-filled Psalm, when he says: “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the House of the LORD forever.” This verse refers to all the LORD gives us while we are in this temporary dwelling place on Earth, and at the same time points us to the PROMISE of Heaven. He surely gives us everything we need: rest, refreshment, restoration, righteousness, protection, provision, purification and the promise of eternal life with Him.
Oh God, our cup overflows, for the richest blessing is You alone. Thank you for being our all in all: our Rest, Refreshment, Restoration, Righteousness, Protection, Provision, Purification, and the Promise of eternity. You have been good and will always be good. We rest secure as we await the day when we shall feast at your table. You are our Good Shepherd. You are our Great Savior!
– Kinney Dehamel