We are going to use the same 4 steps mentioned previously, to study PSALM 23:
1/ Setting the context: (abc’s)
A) – Author — The Holy Spirit inspired King David to write this psalm.
B) – Background — When did the author live? In what culture? Born in 907 BC, he reigned as king of Israel for 40 years, dying at age 70 in 837 BC. He was a farm boy, a shepherd & a musician, then became a warrior & a king. David had a heart for the Lord.
C) – Context — Book of Psalm, Chapter 23:1-6 The Christian sees in this Psalm a wonderful foreshadowing of “The Good Shepherd” Jesus Christ, (John 10) who gave His life for His sheep & watches over them even now.
For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today if ye will hear his voice,” Psalm 95:7
2/ What does the passage say? (observation):
Pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Read Prayerfully. Re-read the passage.
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
– Questions we may ask:
What is a shepherd? shepherd is a sheep farmer, a pastor.
What are some of the duties of a Shepherd? Their main duty is :
-To guide the sheep safely from one place to another.
He has to make sure that he leads them to:
-graze, ( eat right food )
-drink good clean water, ( right water ), sheep get sick easily when water is not good.
–make them rest and then return them to the pen for safety.
-He is responsible for protecting the sheep day & night, from wolves or other predators,
-to examine & keep them healthy,
–protect them from eating poisonous plants,
-to take care of the wounded & heal them, etc.
Sheep are not ferocious animals and have no ways to defend themselves from any predators, they depend on their shepherd for survival. The Shepherd knows what is best for the sheep and always acts in their best interests.
– Locate and mark any key words, repeated words or phrases & commands: In Psalms 23 – The Lord, & me.
What King David realized and wrote so beautifully is that your Shepherd loves you. He really loves you & gave His life for you.
3/ What does it mean? (meaning)
-Carefully examine the text and let it speak for itself. Remember let Scripture interpret Scripture.
-What is the main idea or lesson that the author & God was trying to communicate? – The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want (or lack anything)
-You can make an outline and/or write down the general idea: In this Psalm King David begins by illustrating the provision of the Lord, both physical and spiritual (1-3). David then describes the protection & provision of the Lord, as he travels through dangerous places and in the presence of enemies (4-5). The psalm ends with an expression of faith and hope in the Lord’s care, that God will furnish the goodness and mercy needed throughout life, so that he made abide in the house of the Lord forever (6).
– You can look for Bible verses that relate to the passage (cross-references).
1. The Shepherd’s Provision & guidance (23:1-3)
The source of provision & guidance is God’s presence, Josh.1:5-9
a. Physical, soul & Spiritual Provision (1-2)
1. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want (Is.40:11, Lk12:22-32, Heb.13:20, Jer.23:4)
3. He leads me beside the still waters ( Rev. 7:17)
b. Soul Restoration (3)
1. He restores my soul (Psalm 51:10, 1 Peter 2:25)
2. He leads me in the paths of righteousness, for His name’s sake (Psalm 5:8, 19:7, 143:11; 1Co 10:13)
2. The Shepherd’s Protection (23:4-5)
a. His faithfulness through difficult times (4), (Valley of the shadow of death, Job 3:5)
1. I will fear no evil, for He is with me (Matt. 28:20; Psalm 27:1-2,138:7)
b. In the presence of our enemies (5)
2. He anoints my head with oil, my cup runs over (Psalm 16:5, Eph 3:19-21).
Oil : Healing, James 5:14, Luke 10:34 & Consecration: 1 John 2:27, Exodus 29:7, 30:22-31,Exodus 40:9; 2 Kings 9:6;
Ecclesiastes 9:8; Acts 10:38.
3. The Shepherd’s Everlasting Care (23:6)
a. All the days of one’s life (6a)
1. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me
2. All the days of my life (2 Ti 4:18)
b. Forever (6b)
1. I will dwell in the house of the Lord
2. Forever (Jn 14:1-3)
Studying Verse by Verse
1. “The Lord is my Shepherd; – Relationship, If we believe & follow Jesus, then we become one of His sheep. Then we can say, “The Lord is my Shepherd”. The central image that the author/King David uses to describe how the Lord relates to him is a shepherd to his sheep, remember David was a shepherd, and he understood very well that relationship. But God in the Old Testament compares himself to a Shepherd and Jesus in the New Testament in John 10:11, describes himself as the ‘GOOD SHEPHERD’, revealing to us He is God. Jn 10:11-15, 25-30; He 13:20; 1Pe 2:21-25; 5:4; Is.40:11, Lk12:22-32, Heb.13:20, Jer.23:4.
I shall not want! –Provision on every area of my life. When the Lord is my Shepherd, I will lack nothing for only He can bring satisfaction and I find that my satisfaction is in Him not in things. Matt. 6:25 – 34; 1 Tim.6:8; 2 Pet.1:3-4; Revelation 7:15-17
2. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; –Provision for body, soul & spirit. Isaiah40:11, Jeremiah 3:15,Matthew11:28; Heb.4:1
Sheep have been known to stay in one place and eat until they eat down to the dirt. A good shepherd moves them to green pastures.
Sheep are stubborn. They don’t have enough sense to know when to lie down to rest. It’s almost impossible for them to be made to lie down unless 4 requirements are met:
-They refuse to lie down unless they are free of all fear.
-Because of the social behavior within a flock sheep will not lie down unless they are free from friction with others of their kind.
-If tormented by flies or parasites, sheep will not lie down. Only when free of these pests can they relax.
-Lastly, sheep will not lie down as long as they feel in need of finding food. They must be free from hunger.
“On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37-39)
3. He restoreth my soul; – Provision for the soul. Romans12:2, Psalm139:23-24; Psalm51:10; Matthew11:28-29, 1 Peter 2:25
My Shepherd leads me to restoration by leading me in the paths of righteousness. His righteousness was imputed to me (2 Cor 5:21)
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. John8:12, Matthew5:6, Matthew 6:33-34
4. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
The reason for that lack of fear is that we are in the shepherd’s care, and in him we can place all our trust. God never promises to keep us out of these valleys of shadows of death or prevent us from going through them but He does say that He will go “through the valley” with us. Psalm27:1-2, 1Peter 5:8-9, Matthew 28:20.
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Proverbs 3:11-12, Numbers17:1-6, Ezekiel 20:37 The rod (Shebet) was used when corralling the sheep to insure they went in the direction they were supposed to go. Also used to be thrown out on a path to startle the sheep warning them that they are in danger of wandering into an unsafe place. The rod wasn’t used to strike or poke the sheep.
Sheep were valuable for the shepherd; In fact, a damaged or maimed sheep was a liability, since it was considered tamé, Hebrew for polluted or impure. This being the case, the shepherd who owned their sheep took good care of them and used these tools as they were meant to be used–to guide, to direct, and to teach (the literal meaning of discipline). The shepherd also uses the rod to count (Lev. 27:32) & inspect his sheep for bugs, etc. (Search me O God. and know my heart; . . Psalm 139:23-24). The rod also keeps predators like wolves & snakes away. The Hebrew word Shebet has the idea of a “stick.” It originally referred to a part of a tree. In the Old Testament, the rod is mainly used to represent God’s authority (Ex. 4:2 , Exodus 4:20; Num. 17) or also men’s authority (Isaiah 9:4, 114:29; Eze.19:11). The God given authority of the shepherd (The Word of God) is his rod, it will protect him and his sheep.
The Staff (Mishena) is used to draw the sheep nearer to the Shepherd, which results in a “closeness” that is beneficial to both the sheep & the Shepherd. The shepherd will use his staff to gently lift a newborn lamb and bring it to its mother if they become parted. He does this because he does not wish to have the ewe reject her offspring if it bears the odor of his hands upon it. The Hebrew word Mishena has the idea of “something to lean on,” “trust,” “support,” or “staff.” Together, the two words paint a picture of a strong, protective shepherd whom we can trust. One who not only cares for us but who will protect us.
5. Yea, Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. When He prepares a table before my enemies, this means that He sustains me, give me strength & defeats the enemy in my presence.
Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 1John 2:27,John16:13-14.
Oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. The Good Shepherd anointed us, put His seal of ownership on us, gave us His Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).
Anointing in the bible:
- An anointing of respect or hospitality. A person was anointed to signify respect and hospitality. Anointing the head with oil before a meal was an eastern custom. It served as a means of “freshening-up.” (Mk 14:8; 16:1; Luke 7:46)
- An anointing for service, for priesthood (Ex. 28:41), prophets (1 Ki. 19:16) and Kings (1 Sam. 10:1).
- An anointing for medicinal purposes (I Sam. 1:6; Lk. 10:34; James. 5:14 & Rev. 3:18).
In normal life a shepherd would anoint the sheep in order to:
- Heal wounds
- Protect against insects (& snakes)
- Soften fights, the oil serves as a lubricant so their heads will deflect and not cause serious injury to each other.
6. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever! 2Corinthians 4:16-18,Revelation21:3-4
What an awesome & loving Shepherd is our Lord Jesus! We thank you Lord Jesus, we bless you, & praise your Holy name !!
– Other bible passages related to shepherds & sheep:
John 10 – Jesus the Good Shepherd.
Matthew 18:10-14 – Parable of the lost sheep.
Compare with parable of the Prodigal Son Luke 15:24. Nobody can snatch us out of the Lord’s hand, but we can wonder around & get lost. We have a free will, (Also notice that the prodigal son was spiritually dead after leaving his father’s house, vs.24).
Mat.10:16-22 – Sheep in the midst of wolves
Ezekiel 34 – Word for the shepherds/pastors
Matthew 7:15-29 – Wolves in sheep clothing
Acts 20:28-31-Take care of the flock
4/ How can I apply this passage to my life? (application).
Personal application: What is God saying to us in this passage? How does the truth revealed here affects my relationship with God & with others?
If we are true imitators of Christ (Eph. 5:1-2 ; 1 John 2:6), this Psalm will help us to know how to treat those our Lord puts temporarily under our care. Also we as sheep should keep closer to our Shepherd to survive & avoid to get lost, and because we see the love of our Lord for all His sheep, we should care for each other & treat one another with love & respect.