THE 23RD PSALM
The 23rd Psalm is not only the most famous psalm in the entire book of Psalms, it is probably the most famous writing in the entire Bible, except for the Lord's Prayer. It is difficult to say anything about this psalm that has not already been said. I could spend most of the time I have just on the introduction to this psalm. It is most probable that David wrote this psalm after he became king, for his early life was hectic and danger-fraught, being chased by King Saul like a hunted animal. When he wrote this psalm, he is experiencing prosperity, abundance and peace of mind. He is happy, lacks nothing and has no fear. He has but one desire for the future, and that is to dwell in the presence of God forever.
Before I present a brief exposition, let me mention a few things that men have said about this little piece of writing. Much praise has been heaped on this poem by preachers, commentators and writers. It has been said that no passage of the Bible has been read more often and by more people, with the possible exception of the Lord's Prayer. Probably more people have heard this psalm read in their hearing than any other part of the Bible. It is said to be read more often at funerals than any other passage in the Bible. This psalm is sung in the assembly of Christians just as it was written and is sung to the tune of at least three different melodies. It will continue to be sung to your children and my children and to their children through all generations of time. It may well be the most famous poem ever written. So much for its popularity. It is loved by Christians and non-Christians alike.
More important than its popularity is the fact there is something about the psalm that comforts people. I don't fully understand the power of its charm, but it has filled the air of the whole world with joy greater than the heart can conceive. It has been like a special messenger from God to drive away fear, trouble, sorrow and sadness. It has put more grief to rest than all of the philosophy and psychology of the world. It has poured balm and consolation into the hearts of the sick, captives in prison, and orphans in their loneliness. Dying soldiers have died easier as it was read to them. There is something about this psalm that appeals to everybody. It specially appeals to people when they bury their loved ones.
In addition to all these things, it is said to be a piece of writing that has great beauty about it. Our English ancestors compared it to the sweet song of the Nightingale. This little bird of the thrush family lives in western and central Europe. Its beautiful song is so famous that the finest praise that could be given to Jenny Lind, the great singer of the 1800's was
to call her the, “Swedish Nightingale.” What the Nightingale is among the birds, the 23rd psalm is among the psalms. Everything I have said is introduction, but these things just had to be said.
Let us now read this psalm, and as we read I will present a brief exposition. It begins with the words, “The Lord is my Shepherd..” This poem is a figure of speech which we call a simile. God is compared to a kind and loving shepherd. This psalm is carried over into the New Testament where Christ is called the Chief Shepherd of our souls, Elders are called shepherds of the church, and Christians are the sheep of God's flock. Speaking of the Gentiles, Jesus said, “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring...and there shall be one flock and one Shepherd.” The Mormons twist this passage to falsely mean that the “other sheep” in the passage refer to Mormons and no one else. The true meaning is that God has two flocks of sheep, Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians; and they make up one body of people called the Church of Christ or the Church of God..
Next, David said, “I shall not want.” David felt like a sheep well fed, protected and guided by a loving shepherd. I am told sheep will not lied down in green pastures until they are full and satisfied.. The same thought is expressed in the words, “My cup runs over,” which means fully satisfied and completely happy. In the opening decades of the 21st century we Christians in America are drinking from a full cup. We are certainly lying down in green pastures.
Then he said, “He restores my soul.” To restore the soul is to bring it back from it errors. He who first rescued us as straying sheep also reclaims us from other wanderings later on. The early Christians had to have their souls restored. Gal. 6:l says, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual restore such a one...” James said, “If anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone turns him back, let him know that who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins”(James 5:19) Please notice that Christians who err from the truth are compared to sheep who wander away from the shepherd. Christians are restored and their sins covered when they receive the forgiveness of God.
Verse four contains the thought that has brought so much comfort in the time of death. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Your rod and your staff they comfort me.” These words have been spoken over a many dying bed. What is the valley of the shadow of death? .A valley is a low place with
a mountain on either side. In Davis's time these places were dangerous passage ways for travelers. Robbers and ruffians posted themselves in these hills to harass travelers. Death is said to be lurking in such a valley and casting its shadow which is a figurative way of saying death may be near. But travelers had to pass through these dangerous hills to get to where they wanted to go. Really the figure is not primarily, as is commonly supposed, our dying moments, though it is an appropriate application. It really refers to the dangers that confront us in life that may take our lives. In modern times we all live in dangerous times, and we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death when accident, violence, disease and age may take our lives. It is a comfort to us feel like David.
This psalm impressed an artist of yesteryears to illustrate this passage with a marvelous picture. It is entitled, “The Valley of the Shadow of Death.” In the foreground is a dark and dismal valley, through which a destructive wind has blown. Lying dead is the warrior and the king. The helmet of one and the crown of the other lie useless on the ground. In the center of the picture is Jesus with a halo of glory over His head, a crown of thorns around His brow, and in his hand a shepherd's staff. On the left is a young maiden, whose face shows traces of terror she has felt in coming through the valley, and yet of great hope as she now sees the good shepherd there. She holds His hand and the feet of Jesus stand on a grave stone, beneath which lie the remains of the fallen. But where the Shepherd sets his feet, the tombstone is luminous with the words, “Death is swallowed up with victory.” The point of the painting is that Christ has completely abolished the fear of death. It is a most comforting thought about death that there is no passage of time experienced between the moment of death and the coming of Christ. We will pass away at one moment, and the next moment we will see Christ at His coming The only people in the world who are prepared to die are faithful Christians. Jesus said, “If you believe not that I am He (the Savior), you will die in your sins.” Jesus taught that whoever hears the good news of Christ, His death burial and resurrection, believes it and is baptized shall be saved. If you want more information about becoming a Christian, call the number on this website..