SHORT BIBLE STUDY: What does the 23rd Psalm mean?
What does the 23rd Psalm mean? The book of Psalms is composed of 150 psalms, the 23rd Psalm being one of them. Found in the Old Testament, the book of Psalms are statements about faith in God and the reality of life.
There are six verses in the 23rd Psalm which read this way, each one of them an affirmation of faith and the presence of God.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul:l he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.”
Attributed to David, the shepherd who became a king, Psalm 23 is an affirmation of faith that just as a faithful shepherd watches over the sheep, God watches over God’s people. The first verse of the 23rd Psalm lays the foundation for the remaining verses as the psalmist affirms that the Lord is my shepherd I shall not want, or to put it another way, the Lord is my shepherd I shall not lack anything. Verses two and three are about the assurance of God’s presence, about how God’s care is seen as a shepherd would lead the sheep to green pastures, to still waters, and to safe paths. Just as a shepherd is faithful, so the psalmist states God is faithful.
It’s in the fourth verse of the 23rd Psalm that the meaning of the 23rd Psalm is found. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Often recited at funerals, the 23rd Psalm and in particular, the fourth verse of the 23rd Psalm are statements about God’s comfort for the grieving in the presence of death. But there is, however, another way to interpret the 23rd Psalm and its meaning, and that is that rather than being a Psalm that is comforting the grieving, the 23rd Psalm is a psalm that is encouraging the living. That rather than being a statement about death, the 23rd Psalm is a statement about life. Perhaps the best way to think of the 23rd Psalm is to think of the psalm as an affirmation of life. It’s in the mists of life shadows that the psalmist affirms God’s power. In the fifth and the sixth verses of psalms, a psalm for the living. It is in this psalm and in its verses that God’s presence in living is affirmed. As God prepares a table for the psalmist in the presence of the psalmist enemies as oil is poured over the psalmist’s head as a sign of God’s presence in life. That God’s goodness and mercy shall guide the life of the psalmist and that the psalmist shall live in the Lord’s house, with God’s people, in the Kingdom of God, that is now and that shall ever be for the living.