Summary: a verse by verse commentary of Psalm 23
August 13, 2000 Psalm 23:1-6
Today we are going to look at one of the most comforting - and definitely the most well known psalm in the Bible - the 23rd psalm. There is so much to this psalm - it is impossible to do justice to it in a twenty minute sermon. So instead of trying to split it into two or three parts or topics - I am going to try something a little different - and just read the text and give a running commentary on it with help from Luther. (Hopefully my homiletics professor doesn’t decide to visit this morning.) So let’s begin -
1 A psalm of David.
This was a psalm of David. David is someone whom most of us can associate with very well. He knew what it was like to be a lowly servant - as he served as a shepherd of literal sheep. He knew what it was like to be on the top of the social ladder - being the king and shepherd of thousands of human sheep - the Israelites. He knew what sin was all about - having committed murder and adultery. He was a brilliant fighter and an excellent musician as well. Maybe that’s why most of us know the story of David so well. We can all associate with him in some way. He was a man who had a vast array of experience. This seems to be a prerequisite nowadays for well known “speakers.” People like to listen only to people who have had some out of the ordinary experiences. It should be enough to know that this is the Word of God. But such is the human spirit - we won’t listen unless we feel it is applicable to ME. God knows this. So in His mercy he tells us that this psalm was inspired through David. When we see that David wrote this psalm through inspiration of the Holy Spirit - our sinful ears are more apt to perk up immediately.
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul.
What a peaceful picture! David, the shepherd of sheep - said that the LORD was his shepherd. Notice the word is spelled in capitals. This stands for the ever constant God - the one who had consistently been there for the Israelites - mercifully saved them from their slavery to the Egyptians - led them through the desert - and brought them into the Promised Land. Jesus identified Himself to be that Shepherd. David knew that this LORD was his shepherd. We couldn’t ask for a better shepherd.
Isn’t that a neat term? Other Scriptures refer to God as our Rock and our Fortress. These are comforting indeed. We can find shelter behind rocks and fortresses from the enemy. For those of you who have owned a “pet rock,” you realize that you can’t hold a very interesting conversation with a rock. A rock can’t feed you or clothe you. A rock is cold and impersonal - strong as it is. But when David says the Lord is His shepherd - what a comforting illustration this is! Our Lord is a living and personal God - one who carries us in his arms - searches for us when we are lost - and takes a personal interest in us!
How does this shepherd provide for us? He lets us lie down in green pastures and leads us beside quite waters! For a natural sheep nothing can be better than when its shepherd feeds it in pleasant green pastures and near fresh water. Where that happens to it, it feels that no one on earth is richer and more blessed than it is. Notice what the shepherd allows us to do. Not just to graze on the green pastures - but to lie down in them. The picture I get is of when my dog will lie down in the grass and just roll in it. The picture is one of just complete rest and relaxation.
What are these green pastures symbolic of? It can be nothing else than the Word of God! As 1 Peter 2:2-3 says, Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. Hearing the Word of God is like eating a great dinner! The first time it gets between your teeth - your mouth waters even more. You can’t wait to chew on it - swallow it - and get some more. And after you eat that first meal - you plan to eat it again and again.