Psalm 23 Essay, Research Paper
The Good Shepherd:
Psalm 23 is probably the most familiar passage there is in the word of God. No portion in writing of any time or of any work has been so widely circulated. Much has been written about this psalm, although its six verses are short and simple. I appears that the author, David, wrote this when he was an adult. You do not have the fantasies of a green, inexperienced boy but the mature reflections of a ripe experienced man. As in many of the writings in scripture this psalm is filled with symbology.
This psalm begins by saying, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want” (Psalms 23:1). In describing the Lord as a shepherd, David wrote out of his own experience because he had spent his early years caring for sheep. He recognizes the Lord as his Shepherd King and through metaphor identifies him as such. Sheep are completely dependent on the shepherd for provision, guidance, and protection. David does not say he has not wanted, but that he is not in want. The New Testament calls Jesus the good shepherd. There Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
Next the psalmist says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters” (Psalms 23:2). This beautiful verse expresses the contentment and security the sheep are enjoying. When sheep are lying down in green pastures, it means they have their tummies full. The “quiet waters” might better be thought of as “restful waters.”
David had sinned in his life when he had Bathsheba’s husband killed. In his next verse, “he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalms 23:3), he tells us that he recognized that he was that little lost sheep that had strayed from the fold, and his shepherd had restored him. While he realizes this, he also knows that since birth he is destined to die. “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” (Psalms 23:4), reminds us all that we are only on this earth for a short while. David also saw that God provided protection and guidance with his use of the words “rod” and “staff.”
He then expresses his overwhelming faith in God when he says, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” (Psalms 23:5). In ancient Near Eastern culture, at a banquet, it was customary to anoint the honored guest with fragrant oil as a lotion. The meal was an expression of a bond of friendship. Hosts were also expected to protect their guests at all costs. His overflowing cup was symbolic of the joy he is experiencing. In his final verse he continues sharing his trust in God. He believes that if he walks with God, God will not only protect him but bless him with “goodness and love” (Psalms 23:6).
The psalms record deep devotion, intense feeling, exalted emotion, and gloomy depression. They play upon the human soul with all the stops pulled out. It’s no wonder this psalm is one of the most widley known and remembered of the psalms. Jews, both Orthodox and Reformed, know this psalm. Christians of all denominations are acquainted with this psalm. David took us from green pastures, to quiet waters and finally to the house of the Lord. This psalm has blessed the hearts of multitudes down through the ages. The book of Psalms is a hymnbook and a HIM book The world has caught its beauty.
The NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: The Zondervon Corporation, 1985