PSALM 23 - Messiah: The Great Shepherd of the sheep (Heb 13:20,21)
Psalm 23 is central to the three Psalms of the Shepherd:
Psa 22 -The Good Shepherd who gives His life for the sheep. (Joh 10:11)
Psa 23 -The Great Shepherd, alive from the dead, cares for His sheep. (Heb 13:20,21)
Psa 24 -The Chief Shepherd, King of Glory, rewards His sheep. (1Pet 5:4)
Strictly speaking, Psalm 23 is not quoted in the NT. However, the frequent NT allusions (some by the Lord Jesus Himself) to the Shepherd work of Christ, cannot be understood apart from this Psalm.
23:1 A Psalm of David. {the shepherd-king}
For David, the shepherd boy whom the LORD elevated to be Israel's king (1Sam 16:1-13),
it was natural to view the One, who cared tenderly for him, as his great Shepherd.
The LORD used similar terms to communicate both covenant & rebuke to David.
2Sam 7:8-16; 2Sam 12:1-9
This Psalm, is not limited to the experience of David,
for the Shepherd's care extends to countless sheep throughout the ages.
The LORD [is] my shepherd;
The LORD, via the OT prophets, voiced His complaint against the faithless shepherds
(ie., the spiritual leaders) of Israel, and promised to deliver His people from their oversight.
Instead, He Himself would seek, deliver, gather and feed His flock, in the person of the Messiah ("my servant David"). Eze 34:1-31 (v.1-16,23-24); Isa 40:9-11; Mat 9:36
Jesus identified Himself as the promised "Good Shepherd," in contrast to those
false shepherds whose purposes were "to steal, kill and destroy" (Joh 10:1-10).
In doing so, He identified Himself as the LORD (the ever-living One): "I and my Father are one." Joh 10:27-30
my shepherd - Only those whom the Lord calls "my sheep" can truly make this claim.
I shall not want.
want - ie., lack, be in need.
Sheep are dependent creatures, unable to provide for themselves.
Our Shepherd supplies "life... more abundantly." Joh 10:10, cp. 2Pet 1:2-4
Contrast the lot of those, who think themselves strong and self-sufficient, and therefore fail to follow the Shepherd: Psa 34:10
23:2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He - is the One who actively meets the needs of His own.
green pastures - A place of abundant food for the sheep.
lie down - Sheep stand to eat.
Those who are hungry do not lie down in green pastures. Eze 34:15
The Shepherd's provision satisfies completely. Joh 6:35
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
still waters - Sheep avoid drinking from turbulent water, even when thirsty.
Joh 7:37-39; Rev 7:17; Rev 22:1
In the above references, the source of living water is 'the Lamb,' who is the Good Shepherd, who gave Himself for the sheep, as depicted in Psa 22.
23:3 He restoreth my soul:
restore - The basic meaning of the HB word is 'to turn back,' or 'to return.'
The wanderer, who returns to follow the Shepherd, finds rest in Him.
cp. Deut 30:1-3, 8-10; Psa 116:7; Isa 30:15; (also cp. the prodigal son, Luk 15:17-19)
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
He leads me...- This requires my willing obedience & desire to follow.
the paths of righteousness - This is the way of sanctification, and holy living.
eg., 1Pet 1:14-16; 2:11-16
for His name's sake - The way I live reflects on Him to honor or dishonor.
cp. Psa 5:8; 31:3; Prov 8:20; Titus 2:11-14
23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
Death - is the final enemy. Yet, the Shepherd may lead
through other terrifying shadows, which threaten to destroy,
and seem impossible to endure. (cp. Rom 8:35-39)
walk - ie., at a measured pace, at peace to follow where He leads.
(Rather than running in terror, in futile search of my own way of escape.)
through...- Death is not the goal, but the passage to our home with Him.
For the believer, death may be compared to passing through the wilderness. cp. Jer 2:6-7a
The Shepherd, who leads, will bring His followers safely through all dangers.
shadow of death - The substance of death has been removed by Christ's death & resurrection.
As the shadow of a dog cannot bite, death has lost its sting. 1Cor 15:55-57
He is Light in the darkness. Death itself cannot cast its shadow except He allow it.
cp. Job 10:21,22; Luke 1:77-79; Psa 27:1
I will fear no evil: for thou [art] with me;
Our Shepherd knows this valley, for He passed through it before us.
Here, He was forsaken, that we might always know His Presence.
cp. Psa 22:1,11,19; Isa 43:1,2; Acts 18:9,10; Heb 13:5,6
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
thy rod - The HB word can refer to a shepherd's club or to a king's scepter.
It speaks of His authority and power to protect His own from their enemies.
thy staff- The HB word refers to a support of any kind.
The staff upon which a shepherd leaned was also his tool to lift the fallen and to nudge the wanderer onto the path again.
The sheep are comforted in the knowledge that the Shepherd is equipped to defend them from their enemies (Psa 27:1-3; 138:7), and also to chasten and correct them in their waywardness (Heb 12:5-11; Rev 3:19).
23:5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: {cp. Psa 31:19,20}
The night before Christ went to the cross, a table was prepared.
Satan and his hordes were working overtime to destroy Him.
But our Shepherd paused to worship and to encourage His own: 'My sheep, when you see my body broken and my blood shed, do not be troubled. I go through this valley to make it safe for you. I will come again to receive you unto myself. Until then, do this in remembrance of Me.' cp. 1Cor 11:23-26; Joh 14:1-3
thou anointest my head with oil;
oil - Shepherds used oil medicinally. In scripture, oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit.
Joh 16:5-7; Joh 14:16-18; Rom 8:26,27
my cup runneth over.
ie., I have all that I need and more. Rom 8:28-32
23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
"All the days - whether dark or bright, whether fast or feast." [CHS]
Psa 36:7-10
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
The sheep who dwells in the Shepherd's house is held in great tenderness. cp. 2Sam 12:3
cp. Joh 14:2,3; 2Cor 5:1,8; Php 1:23
The LORD is the Great Shepherd.
He is my Shepherd. Is He yours? Heb 13:20,21; 1Pet 5:4

This Concludes the study in Psalm 23.
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