If you're like me, you've heard the 23rd Psalm so often, your eyes kind of glaze over when you hear it. Yet it's one of the most popular Psalms. This little gem came up one day in my Bible reading, so I asked God to show me a deeper meaning. Now why was I surprised that He did?
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
The Lord is my provider. He takes care of all my needs. Like a true sheppard, He even anticipates needs I'm not aware of.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
His way is always the best. This is where I will find rest.
3 he restores my soul.
He alone is my source of peace. The Hebrew word for restores is shuwb (pronounced shoob), and it has a long list of meanings. The ones that really stood out to me were to return, come or go back; to restore, refresh, or repair.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
I am designed to glorify Him. The Hebrew word for sake is ma'an (pronounced mah'an) and means on account of, for the purpose of, to the intent that, in order to, or to the end that. This is my sole reason for existence. Like a vase in its completed form is a reflection of the potters skill and vision. I, the vessel, reveal God's glory. He created me for this reason.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
Trials are guaranteed no matter how much money we have or how perfect our lives may seem at any one time. There is no such thing as a stress free life while we're on this earth. But we can take comfort in knowing Christ has walked, is walking, and will walk every step of the way with us.
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
God's authority gives us security and freedom. This can be a difficult one to understand. I'm just discovering its meaning myself, but I'm finding this freedom that exists under God's authority to be truly desirable. It's like a protective shield that allows me to be safe and protected as long as I'm under his authority. When I'm not, I'm answering to another "commander"—either my own will or the enemy's. Then I'm in bondage, a slave to sin, and not free.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
He is stronger than anything I will ever face. The Hebrew word for table is shulchan (pronounced shool-khawn) and means of king's table, private use, or sacred uses. Right in the face of my enemies, He's working for my benefit, and not just any table, but a king's table, a feast. He's already preparing for the victory celebration, because He knows Who who will win.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
I love the Hebrew word for overflows. R@vayah (pronounced revawyaw) means saturated. He not only pours out His blessings on us, He saturates us with them.
6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
This is a benefit of God's love. It's not saying we will have an easy life, but we will have goodness and love in our lives. The Hebrew word for follow is radaph (pronounced rawdaf) and means to be behind, follow after, pursue, pursecute, run after, chase, or attend closely upon. (There are more but this post is already long enough!)
God doesn't just trail behind us like a faithful dog. He pursues us, intent to give us His love and goodness. He is passionate about us, jealous for us to experience all He is and has to give. That's powerful.
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
My eternity is secure in Him. The Hebrew word for dwell is yashab (prononced yawshab) and means to remain, still, abide, to be set, stay, have one's abode, or to be inhabited. One meaning even goes as far as to marry (give a dwelling to). We are truly the bride of Christ and our future is set. No matter what lies or temptations the enemy flings at us, he can't change this. Our eternal homes are there waiting for us to inhabit them, like a wedding present.
I won't look at the 23rd Psalm as boring ever again. It's meaning is much richer than I ever realized. But isn't God's Word like that? Deep and interconnected on so many levels. This is what makes the Bible timeless. Like Hebrew 4:12 says:
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Bible photo by Tanya McConnell