Psalm 23 was the first passage I memorized as a brand-new Christian, at age 15. I remember loving those words. I am amazed at how much more they mean to me now because of the suffering and grief I have both witnessed and experienced since then:
1 Yahweh is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I 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 have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will pursue me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of Yahweh forever. (LSB)
Most of us are accustomed to translations of verse 6 that say God’s goodness and mercy will “follow” us, but the Hebrew here is stronger. It is the same word used of pursuing a chariot and a fleeing army in battle (Judges 4:16). Yes, the pursuer is following, but with a high degree of intensity. God’s goodness and lovingkindness won’t simply amble along behind us; they pursue and catch us. Don’t you want to be caught by God’s goodness, love, and kindness?
Just as the psalm starts with Yahweh (the personal name of God, often translated with all caps LORD), it ends with Him. Yahweh is our shepherd, and that same Yahweh is the one whose place we will live in forever. What beautiful bookends to a priceless song.
During her cancer years, Nanci wrote a prayer based on Psalm 23. It has spoken to me over the last five years, and I hope it speaks to you too, as you reflect on your heavenly Shepherd and the ways He leads and cares for you through every circumstance:
Please, Shepherd of my life,
Cause me to want nothing more than to have you as my Shepherd.
Reveal to me that the pastures and waters to which you lead me are green and still—because you are there!
Enable my heart to receive the restoration of my soul by your Holy Spirit.
Renew my conviction that, for your name’s sake, righteousness is the direction of every path you have for me.
May your Holy Spirit—the Comforter—banish all fear of evil as I walk through this valley—because you are with me!
Open my eyes and my ears to the protection and comfort of your rod and staff.
Help me experience the table you have prepared for me in the presence of my suffering.
Don’t let me overlook—or fail to ask for—your every healing drop of oil on my head.
Keep my perspective on my daily overflowing cup of your goodness and mercy.
Direct my longing toward my place with you in your house, forever!
Finally, I recently listened to Phil Wickham’s rendition of Psalm 23. This is so beautiful: