When I started this study, the first question that came to mind was, “What would you do in life if you weren’t afraid?” Pondering this question, I sat there several minutes thinking about the different aspects of it.
Then I was hit with a prompting from God, “Turn to Psalm 23.”
“Okay.” I thought to myself, You’ve never been wrong before. So I turn to it and began reading. With only six verses to it, you wouldn’t think that there would be much for information. You would be wrong there just as I was. Here is what I learned.
NASB (In case you don’t know, this is written with the mind frame that God’s people are sheep to Him. This will help all this to make sense.)
vs 1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
If we have the Lord guiding us through life, we will have everything we need to survive. The word ‘want’ is a curious word to me. According to Perfect Dictionary, it means: to be needy or destitute, to fail to possess especially in customary or required amount. In other words, I don’t have it, but I need it. When we have God shepherding our lives, He will look out for us and provide for us what we need to survive. We will have no ‘wants’, because He will have given us all we need to survive. Notice that I’m using the word, ‘survive’ and not ‘happy’. That is a whole other discussion in itself.
2 He makes me lied down in green pastures; He leads beside quiet waters.
When you lie down, this is one of two things: either you’ve reached the end of your life and it just happens to be in a lush, green, fertile field (which is not the case in this verse), or you are able to rest. When you rest, your body is at peace. Your heart rate slows, breathing becomes deeper, and your mind is able to relax.
The green pastures signify that the ground is fertile and gets enough nutrients and moisture to sustain life. Just the thought of being in the soft grass with the moist earth beneath me allows a sense of calm to enter my mind. There are many times when I’m out with my dog that I will take a little bit to lay down in the ground and have him lay down beside me. In that moment, there isn’t anything in the world that troubles me. Could you imagine that state of mind every day for your life?
Quiet waters are crucial for sheep. They will not drink from moving waters, so the shepherd will seek out calm waters that won’t frighten the sheep. Calm waters are often referred to as peaceful. I would say that is an ironic statement, but, I don’t think God works that way. He has a purpose behind what he does.
3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
This again, goes back to the fact that God’s people are like sheep. The sheep’s wool grows throughout the year, equaling a great amount of weight. What can happen is that the sheep can tip over while walking over certain terrain, exposing its underside to the harsh sun which would kill it if the shepherd didn’t intervene. Sounds a lot like what God does for us doesn’t it? We carry around so much weight in the form of stress, worry, and other things that can lead us to tipping over and exposing ourselves to the harsh environment. But, God comes along and rights us and sets us on our feet. When we confess our sins and our troubles to Him, it can be the same feeling as when the sheep gets shorn. All that weight, gone. Just like that.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
Imagine when you are walking, you start to go down in elevation. We’ve all experienced the ups and downs in life, and the valley is the low times. Now, imagine that the valley is shadowed and dark. Makes it hard to see, right? Your travels will be hampered quite a bit. Now imagine that God is right beside you the entire way.
The rod and staff are some of the staple tools for a shepherd. The staff was a light weight stick used for walking, separating the flock, and slight promptings to some of the straggling sheep. The rod was the working side of the two. It was more along the lines of club. Used as defense for the flock against predators, and major corrections for some of the stubborn sheep. I know I’ve felt it a time or two.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.
When you read or hear the phrase, ‘prepare a table’, it is referring to eating a meal. But, it wasn’t as easy as going to the refrigerator and grabbing a sandwich. This process took some time, which is what makes it significant. Imagine preparing a table to eat a meal, (think of Thanksgiving Day on steroids to put it into perspective) and the person or people that are outright against everything you do is right on the other side of the table from you. Think you could have peace during that meal? But this is exactly what God has done for us.
I had to get some help with this next statement, because I wasn’t studied in this area. What it turns out to be is the sheep would have trouble with nasal flies laying eggs in their wet nose and when the fly hatches, it works its way further up and irritates the sheep a great deal. Anointing the sheep’s head with oil would prevent the flies from laying the eggs. This is another example of how God takes care of his people.
6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
And finally, it sure is nice to know that God is with us throughout our journey in life. We can have ups and downs in life, as long as we keep God in the forefront of our mind and not the dire misery we may be going through at the time. What I say without a doubt is the that last sentence. I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. That to me is hope.