The basic theme of the psalm is announced in v. 1a. Verses 1b–3 develop the theme by affirming the psalmist’s total security under the Shepherd-King’s care. Verse 4 elaborates on this theme by focusing on the Shepherd’s protection in times of great danger and distress. Verse 5 describes the psalmist’s privileged position as an honored guest at the Shepherd-King’s table. In v. 6 the psalmist professes his full confidence for the future—a confidence grounded in the Shepherd-King’s faithful covenant love. The psalm is framed by its first and last lines, each of which refers to “the Lord.”
Six P’s of Psalm 23
- Possession: My shepherd (v.1)
- Position: He maketh me to lie down … beside the still waters (v.2)
- Promise: He restoreth my soul (v.3)
- Progress: Yea, though I walk through the valley (v.4)
- Provision: Thou preparest a table before me (v.5)
- Prospect: Goodness and mercy (v.6)
Though Psalm 23 is often read at funerals, its message applies to the days of your life right now
Psalms 23:1-6 NIV The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
God meets the everyday needs of your life as you follow Him (Ps. 37:25; Phil. 4:18).
- Philippians 4:19 NIV And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
- If we wander, He seeks us and restores us, as He did with David, Jonah, and Peter.
- When we need to know which way to go, He shows us the right path and then goes before us to prepare the way.
- Even in the places of danger, we need not be afraid. (Note the change from “He” in vv. 1–3 to “You” in vv. 4–5.) He is with you!
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
The Shepherd is there to care for every hurt and heal every bruise.
- 1 Peter 5:7-8, 10 NIV Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
One day, you will look back at your life and see that it was only “goodness and mercy,” and that includes the valley experiences. If life is difficult today, just keep following the Shepherd; He will never lead you where He cannot care for you.
- Psalms 107:1-9 NIV Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story— those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south. Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle. They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.