This psalm is one that we all are familiar with. We read it at a lot of funerals and death beds. It is a psalm that is linked quite often with death and dying. It was even read at my mother’s “going home” celebration.
But when David wrote this psalm, he wasn’t dying. Yes he was in hiding from his enemies. But David was very much alive.
This psalm is a picture of Jesus Christ as the Great Shepherd in Resurrection. This psalm is about complete trust in that Great Shepherd, and peaceful confidence in Him, no matter what happens.
There was another man in the Bible who had complete trust in the Lord – Job. He told his “friends,” ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him,’ Job 13:15
And like Job, David knew that the Lord was his Salvation (Psalm 27:1; 118:13), and his Redeemer (Psalm 19:14; 31:5). Even though in Psalm 22 he cried out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” He could still say, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”
We know a shepherd is someone who tends sheep. A shepherd takes care of the sheep, looks for the lost ones, protects them, guides them and cares for them.
David was saying the Lord leads me; He’s the one who guides me, cares for me, feeds me and protects me. He provides for me. Therefore I shall not want. I lack nothing. He has taken care of my every need.
Jesus the Good Shepherd went one step further; He gave His life for the sheep (John 10:11).
In verse two David talks about lying down in green pastures and being lead beside still waters.
The green pastures are a picture of good eating. The Shepherd leads the sheep to the green, young and tender grass that is full of the needed things to help the sheep grow. The fact that the sheep will lie down represents their trust in the Shepherd. To the Christian the green pasture is the Word of God. It is full of good eating to give the Christian what is needed to help us grow. And if we will trust Him and allow Him to, He will lead us daily to the best grazing so we will be filled each day.
“….He leads me beside the still waters.” Or another way of saying it would be, He leads me beside the waters of rest; the refreshing, restoring waters of the Holy Spirit.
Each day the Lord leads us to a place of rest; a place where our battle weary worn hearts are restored; a place where waves of calm, cool rest wash our souls and purify our bruised spirits. Everywhere water is mentioned like this, it is the Holy Spirit.
“He restores my soul…” He refreshes, rescues, revives, and relieves my soul. We need our soul restored daily. Jesus said, “Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give your rest.” Matthew 11:28. That verse is not just meant for the lost, it is meant also for His children, who labor and get heavy laden.
“He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake…” I Samuel 2:9 says, “He will guard the feet of his saints,” and Psalm 37:23 says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.”
It is for His name’s sake that He leads us in the paths of righteousness. Not ours. He leads us where we would never choose to go. But because He is our Good Shepherd we can trust Him, He knows what the best paths are. A sheep, if left to its own way would take a path that would lead to its destruction. But the Good Shepherd sees the dangers that lie ahead and therefore He is able to guide His flock onto the paths that lead to the green pastures and restoring waters.
The beginning of verse four in this psalm says, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”
Pay close attention to these words. David didn’t say, ‘though I walk through the valley of death,’ he didn’t say, ‘though I run, or crawl, or whine, or moan and complain, or murmur.’ He said, “Yea [yes]! Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”
He said it with confidence. He was confident in spite of the trouble around him. With confidence he could and did walk through the valley of the shadow of death. He knew it was only shadows! And he knew he could walk through those shadows no matter how scary they seemed.
We can walk with that same confidence. Our troubles are just that, troubles; troubles that change like the shadows on a wall change when light enters the room. What happens when light comes into a room full of shadows? They disappear. Who is the light that comes into a room? Jesus Christ.
Why could David walk with such confidence? Why can we? Because he knew who was with him, “For You are with me.” The Lord was with him every step of the way. The Lord is with us every step of the way, as well; no matter how deep and dark that valley may seem. He is there, guiding each step.
David goes on to say, “Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” It was a comfort to him to know that the Lord would reach out His rod to correct him and He would use His staff to protect him.
The rod is the Word of God. II Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine [teaching], for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
The staff is the Holy Spirit, for protection, He is our Protection. The Holy Spirit was sent to us, to not only comfort us, but to teach us and guide us. David could say they were a comfort to him, because he had confidence that the Lord had his best interests in His heart.
In verse five, David tells us, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…” In the presence of our enemies, while the battle rages all around us, the Lord sustains us. He says come child, sit down here, eat, drink, let Me fill you with My strength, with My Spirit. I have made sure that you lack nothing. Sit down here, rest, restore yourself in My Word, and replenish your spirit with My Spirit. Rest and I will go fight the enemy of your soul, because the battle belongs to Me, says the Lord of Hosts.
The Lord has prepared a table for you in the presence of your enemies. It does not matter what the trouble is, whatever the circumstances. The Word of God says, “We don’t wrestle against flesh and blood, but against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
David continues the verse, “You anoint my head with oil; my cups runs over.” The second verse of Psalm 133 states, “it is like the precious oil upon the head, running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron, running down on the edge of his garments…”
When the Lord told Moses to anoint Aaron, Moses poured the anointing oil from the rams’ horn. Moses didn’t just sprinkle Aaron with this oil. He poured it over his head, until he was covered in it. The oil covered Aaron’s head (so he could have the mind of Christ), his eyes (so he could be able to see God), his ears (so he could hear God), his mouth (so he could speak the words of God), over his chest, his heart (so he would have the heart of God and love His people), down his arms, his hands (to do the work of God), down his legs, his feet (so he would follow God), over the edge of his garments.
The Lord would have us filled each day with His Holy Spirit. He would have our cup not be half full, but overflowing; so we can stand before our enemy – not in fear, but with the confidence of the Lord, knowing that the battle belongs to Him and He has already won!
And now, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Mercy – the unfailing covenant of God. This loving kindness is like the New Testament word ‘grace.’ “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…” David is saying that he knows the goodness and grace of God, the covenant love of God will beyond a shadow of doubt, be with him all the days of his life. He knew it, he didn’t question it. Because he knew his God was a covenant-keeping God. David might be unfaithful, but His God was always faithful. He had complete trust that God would be there, always.
“…I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” David said in Psalm 122, “I was glad when they said to me, let us go into the house of the Lord.” He also said, “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that I will seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple.” Psalm 27:4.
David was actually saying, ‘to be in His presence all the days of my life, forever.’ The Good Lord wants us to be in His presence every day, every hour because He is our Good Shepherd and we are His sheep.