Our Old Friend Psalm 23

By Steve Akin

There’s always Psalm 23.  It stands as a favorite of many, many people. It’s like a good friend with whom you can pick up a conversation even though it may be years since you’ve talked. 

They (theologians, historians, and archeologists who have extensively studied the ancient world) attribute Psalm 23 to the end of David’s life, the end of his career as king, and a summing up of his view of the goodness of the Lord who is One. This is David as translator – on top of his reflections as a leader and follower of his Deliverer.  This is David as son, husband, and father.  This is David coming full circle to his earliest acts as a shepherd boy slaying lions, bears, and giants for the sake of his sheep. David did these things based upon a faith in God and his relationship with God. But David wants to make clear who God is to His creation, in his view, before he “dwells in the house of the Lord forever.”

Psalm 23

1 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.

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.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

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.

David’s simplicity, clarity, and sincerity, coupled with his tenderness (remember that he was also an amazing warrior-leader), lays out an understanding of the Spirit of the Law as well as the Lawgiver. His words grab us and shake us out of our shame and rule-following for the sake of rule-following. Sure, the natural world obeys its laws regarding things like chemical bonds, the power of gravity, and the requirement that “living beings” be growing and multiplying. This psalm, however, calls us to Christ-likeness by dwelling with the One who thought all that up, created it, set it in motion, and then called it “good.” 

It’s hard to imagine tiring of this psalm. We have the classics in music, art and architecture. Then there are the eternal truths that reflect the God who is, who always was, and always will be crazy in love with His creation. 

But Psalm 23 is more than “classic.” It resonates with your soul, your mind, and your body right down to the DNA level. Marvel at it. More importantly, marvel at the One who additionally thought your kids, your gifts, your career, your relationships, and even you are all good ideas. That’s what David is translating to us: Faith has its consequences. Abundant provision, impenetrable protection, and unending companionship are direct results of obedience to the Original Promise Keeper.

I have two questions for you that seem left-field. Before I pose them, be reminded that you are a human being, not a human doing.

Are you willing to lie down in the green pastures, beside the cool waters, and do so for His namesake, or do you have to be made to do this? Can you simply choose to dwell in His presence without being made to do so?

David tells us through his life and his Psalms that (a) The battle is the Lord’s, (b) You need not fear, and (c) He will not only win, but He will set a table for you before the enemy to make clear to them that He will prevail.  Let there be no doubt.

You have been set free.  Dwell and rest with your Freedom Fighter.  Peace.