A Fresh Look at Psalm 23

by Karen Sargent

It’s a commonly quoted scripture: The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. Recently Psalm 23 has been speaking to me. It’s amazing that a portion of scripture that I know so well can still be fresh. 

How can it be a fresh Word?

We have seen Psalm 23 on a plaque or sung it to our children. So how can it speak to us in a new way today? Like the other psalms it deals with emotions and matters of the heart. Your heart is the soil where the Word is planted. So that means the harvest from the Word depends on the condition of my heart or the soil. That’s why it can bring new revelation to me even though I know it from memory.

Timing plays a part 

A need I have right now will affect my ability to receive Psalm 23 in a new way. Prepare your heart by spending time reading the Bible or praying. Then the words fall on soil that can receive it. When we are seeking God for an answer, we are more sensitive to the ways He will whisper a response. We may think that it’s a coincidence that we heard it at just the right time. In hindsight, I see how the Lord  has orchestrated or presented opportunities to receive encouragement if I have “ears to hear”.

Applying Psalm 23 to life

Like a bandage or dressing is applied to a wound, the Word can be applied to our hearts. I  have appreciated hearing Psalm 23 broken down in different ways. Even as I go line by line I can see the hand of the Father applying it for the healing of my heart.

Here are some of the insights

Here are some of the insights I have been meditating on lately.

The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want.

First of all He is MY Shepherd. It’s personal. Just like a real shepherd, He is my caretaker, covering, guide, provider, and protector.

 He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters.

 Second, He is my provider, and causes me to rest  in safe places of plenty.

He restores my soul;

What a revelation it was when I learned it’s not all up to me, but He is the restorer of balance in my mind, will and emotions. 

He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. 

The Lord is my Leader, it’s my job to follow. He is guiding me in the right paths and His name is on the line. 

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil

When things get tough, I am walking through them, I’m not stopping. 

For You are with me.

Even if it is a low point and it may be dark and scary, I know Who is with me. I am not alone.

Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 

The rod is the slender stick used by the Shepherd to gently guide the sheep and the staff is a guiding tool with a hook on one end. It’s used  to hold a sheep around its chest to pick them up or pull them out of water. It can also be used for protection. Only the two tools together provide comfort to the sheep, both guidance and protection..

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; 

That means the enemy can see me in the presence and provision of the Lord.

You anoint my head with oil  

Did you know that  the shepherd intentionally covers the head of the sheep with oil to keep it from getting stuck, and to keep parasites and pests off? I didn’t realize it was a helpful covering meant to protect us. Look how the Father cares for us.

My cup runs over. 

I have more than enough- I am abundantly provided for

Surely (it’s a sure thing) goodness (God’s goodness toward me) and mercy (pardon, forgiveness- not reaping what I’ve sown) shall follow me (be with me always- protect me from behind)
All the days of my life; (not sometimes)
And I will dwell
(live in abide- make my home in- rest in my safe place) in the house of the Lord (The maker of Heaven and earth, Lord God almighty )
(Celebrate! Makes me shout Hallelujah!)

How can we plant Psalm 23 (and any scripture) in good soil?

Prepare your heart by seeking the Lord. Through prayer and reading your Bible, and most importantly speaking the Word, it will get in your heart.  Worship is another key. This song has really ministered to me lately, and contains parts of Psalm 23. Red Rocks Worship – Good Plans (Official Lyric Video)

Another way to sow the seed of Psalm 23 into good ground is to share it with others. I have sweet memories of singing psalm 23 and praying it with my children. One that I am especially fond of is that my son would say “And surely and goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”. My mother’s name was Shirley, so I always heard “and Shirley and goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”. It was particularly sweet because my mother passed away when he was only 4. 

Remember God has great plans for you. Take heart. Let Psalm 23 speak to you in a fresh way today.