The Psalm of peace and assurance is memorized and repeated often by many denominations. This 23rd Psalm is widely recognized for the confidence condensed into these few short lines. God is good and we are reminded by such a quiet assurance.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 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. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 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. Psalm 23:1-6
The Lord is my shepherd; He who created the universe is directing my steps to places where I can only prosper. That is a comforting conceit unless backed by a real personal relationship. David knows his shepherd.
He leads me beside still waters; no rapids or flash floods here. The lakes of northern Michigan and here in Wyoming can be quiet restful scenes like these. The grass is green and life is well fed and peaceful. Enjoy!
If I walk in the shadow of death you are with me; David talks to his God in the first person even during the storms of life. David has faced weather, wild animals, and violent men, and has never been left unprotected.
You prepare a table for me in the same room as my enemies; God placed David in the court of a mad king and allowed him to eat in the confidence of his safety. You anoint my head with oil; as performed by the prophet Samuel. David was prepared by God to take over the position of the king who threatened his life by the God who gave him his life.
Goodness and mercy shall follow me…as long as you are my Lord. I will dwell in your house forever; eternal life in the house of God is David’s normal expectation. David has pointed us to his hope, and he talks to his God even as we are listening to his conversational worship and praise of God. David is aware of the real presence of God and of his audience then and now. God is just as real to him as we are, and so is his expectation of life far beyond the veil of death.
The earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods. Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Psalm 24:1-5
God owns us…and the ground we stand on. He created high ground above the seas and floods and a higher place for his throne. What mortal flesh could reach the heights of God’s righteousness? The man who has no sin shall receive the blessing of the Lord. But if all have sinned and come short of God’s glory, who can receive that blessing? There is one who has the blessing, and gives it back to us as his sacrifice. He is the Word of God, being with God and being God, and being God with us, Emanuel.
This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob. Selah. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah. Psalm 24:6-10
This generation is seeking God, and seeking Jacob, Israel. Jew and Gentile are seeking the God of Israel now. Let the gates of Jerusalem look up with joy as the King of Glory enters the city. Who is this King of glory? Handel’s opera “Messiah” puts this question back to music as the Psalms once were. I sense his excitement with biblical prophecy when I hear his music so dominated by scriptures like this.
Remember Psalm 20 describing another king?
Now know I that the LORD saveth his anointed; he will hear him from his holy heaven with the saving strength of his right hand. Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God. They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright. Save, LORD: let the king hear us when we call. Psalm 20: 6-9
The king is not David, but he is the Lord of Hosts in Psalm 24:6-10.
Unto thee, O LORD, do I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me. Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause. Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day Psalm 25:1-5
I have heard these words put to hymns too. These are the expression of hope that we need to have ingrained in our mind at all times. Let this kind of song rally our defense against the negative thoughts that would pound our minds like artillery from hell. These words are the bread of life; the living word.
Hymns inspire worship; they inflame the passion of relationship with God. David lifts up his soul in song, and declares his trust. God don’t let me be ashamed so my enemies can gloat over me. Turn me in a righteous direction before I become their property. David prays for all that believe as well as for himself. Let the enemies of the righteous be the ones to be shamed. Let God be our guide and teacher as we stand on this rock of our salvation. We can wait in peace when we are led to these still waters.
Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to thy mercy remember thou me for thy goodness’ sake, O LORD. Good and upright is the LORD: therefore will he teach sinners in the way. The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way. All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies. Psalm 25:6-10
As David is asking God to remember he is reinforcing his own recollection of God’s mercy. God already knows how faithful he is without this reminder. He could remember David’s failures, but with his repentance they are forgotten. David trusts God to teach him the right way, he acknowledges the merciful correction of a loving God. Anyone who will be quiet and listen will hear the instruction of God. We find a safe highway when we obey the road signs. God already knows the rules of the road as he is their author.
Long before I was a Christian I could feel the peace in these verses. How could words ease my mind and allow me to sleep without being drunk? Where is the scientific evidence that this brings peace? Perhaps God himself is speaking to the reader, even as he did to the writer. The bible is called the “living word” as it has different answers for different readers. In the gospel of John the bible is given another significance.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John 1:14
The bible is Yeshua; his life, his wisdom, and his earthly presence. He lives in these words which come to life within us.
For thy name’s sake, O LORD, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great. What man is he that feareth the LORD? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose. His soul shall dwell at ease; and his seed shall inherit the earth. The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant. Mine eyes are ever toward the LORD; for he shall pluck my feet out of the net. Psalm 25:11-15
God cares about his name because he cares to draw us to safety. His name is his honor to us. As this writer hears God, he also fears God; this is the key. He recognizes that he is a man of flesh; full of evil imagination and a few misdeeds. God will give good choices to one who will listen. God doesn’t seek good people, he seeks willing people; willing, not willful.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25
The secret of the Lord is with them. God chose to be a secret, not validated by science or measured by engineering forces. His creation on the other hand is beyond measure. Would it be reasonable to give eternal life and divine power to men who could calculate a shortcut to heaven? If you know that you need mercy, God knows you will give it to others. He discerns hearts and minds before he extends the invitation to grace.
Turn thee unto me, and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged: O bring thou me out of my distresses. Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins. Consider mine enemies; for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred. O keep my soul, and deliver me: let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in thee. Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on thee. Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles. Psalm 25:16-22
If David is writing this, he is destined to be both a king and a prophet. He will not be a priest because he has violence and sin in his life. But he is a man after God’s heart
But God removed him (Saul) from the kingship and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘David son of Jesse is a man after my own heart, for he will do everything I want him to.’ Acts 13:22
Let me not be ashamed; for I put my trust in you. I wait for you. Beside the still waters it is easy to wait on the Lord. He brought us to such a place where we could be surrounded by the peaceful calm as we wait for powerful help. As Israel waited by the Red Sea, the Egyptian army drew near but God was already there. David asks God to redeem Israel, not just himself. A heart of mercy is given to benefit others first.