Psalm 23


Psalms 22-24 are Messianic Psalms. Psalm 22 focuses on the coming Saviour and Psalm 24 proclaims the sovereignty of the Saviour. Psalm 23 pictures the Saviour as a shepherd of the people. This psalm of David has often been called the ‘Pearl of the Psalms.’

It probably is one of the most quoted Scripture in the Bible. Was it written by a young boy no more than 15 years of age? How could a 15-year-old have such profound wisdom and knowledge?

Many believe he wrote it later years recalling his days as a shepherd. As a boy, he would have been given the responsibility of looking after the family sheep, a job no one else wanted. It was a dirty job filled with many hours of loneliness.


‘A psalm of David.’

Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding of the Psalm and they help us to see why it was written. The headings usually tell us four things.

1. Who wrote them, probably wrote them or possibly wrote them.

2. Information about the historical background to the Psalm. Why it was written.

3. They tell us of the tune the Psalm was written to.

4. How it was used.

The heading here, simply tells us that this is a psalm of David.

‘The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.’ Psalm 23:1-6

David knew that he could count on God to help him be a good shepherd. He no doubt spent many an hour both day and night alone with his sheep. But he was not really alone because he knew God was there with him. What a great feeling of security.

It isn’t always easy to put our complete trust in God but David did, his responsibility was leading and taking care of his sheep all by himself, it was a job he took seriously. He sought God’s help and strength to help him with his responsibilities.

This Psalm shows his confidence and trust in the Lord, his relationship with the Lord was intense. He didn’t fear taking on some wild animal refusing to let him take one of his sheep. In order to save his sheep, he killed both a lion and a bear with his bare hands, 1 Samuel 17:34-36.

The whole Psalm shows the confidence and trust he had in the Lord, it’s his trust that amazes us, he had absolutely no fear of the giant who was probably three feet taller, 1 Samuel 17:36.

David had to constantly search for green pastures, sheep need green grass, and they are constantly moved around from field to field to find grass, after grazing on the grass, they were fully content and quiet. They trusted their shepherd to take care of their need for green grass.

After they finished eating they often would lie down on the leftover grass. Sheep need water but don’t like the sound of rushing water, they prefer still or quiet water such as a small stream or pool. The shepherd was always careful to lead them to a brook or a quiet pool of water. Sheep by nature are gentle animals, they like serein surroundings.

How could David be so satisfied with his job of looking after sheep? Nobody wanted to do this kind of work, often it was turned over to hired workers.

Have any of you ever reached the point where you resented your job? David was content, he was satisfied looking after the sheep, he never felt alone, and he always felt that God was nearby. Many times, we get placed in this kind of situation.

Sheep don’t like rushing noisy water they prefer still quiet water. The shepherd leads them to quiet water such as a brook or shallow pool of water, they are by nature quiet animals.

Sheep are easily frightened, the shepherd comforts them, the tone of his voice assures them that all is well and they have nothing to be afraid of. He leads them through places that are safe, remember also he could play the harp and probably sang to them, 1 Samuel 16:23.

David seems now to shift his thoughts to God. God does this for his name’s sake by demonstrating he can always be trusted. We sometimes forget that were it not for God’s providence we might not be alive today.

We certainly would be lacking were it not for His guidance. What God commands is best for us, it’s for the honour of His name that He can always be trusted, and He leads us on the right paths.

‘Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.’ This part of the Psalm is often used at funerals to speak of a person passing through this life into the next.

This isn’t what David had in mind, he’s probably speaking about the various times he had to run and hide from King Saul, 1 Samuel 24:2-3.

The shepherd is careful in leading his sheep through places that are narrow or slippery. Sheep paths pass through rough and steep places sometimes. I know this personally from following a sheep path once, the shepherd is always nearby to give them assurance that they can pass through rough terrain safely.

The shepherd carries with him a rod and a staff, he keeps his rod in his belt to fight any vicious animal who might try to harm the sheep. The staff was used to correct the sheep if they strayed from the pathway, the sheep know their shepherd watches out for them.

Again, David seems to move his thoughts from his sheep to God the faithful shepherd. A well-set table, feast, has been set for him. Near East kings would prepare a banquet for the ones they favoured and sought to honour. In the case of God’s people, by His provision for their needs, He openly manifests to the nations that they are His people.

There are enemies nearby who would find satisfaction in stopping the feast but they can do nothing to prevent it. Satan resents God’s people who enjoy God’s blessings, they probably resented the feast God had prepared.

This is the kind of oil that would be used to honour a guest of honour at a banquet. Its perfumed oil which showed delight and hospitality. Mary poured this kind of oil on the head of Jesus, John 12:3.

Little did David know the time would soon come when Samuel would pour out a different kind of oil, the kind used when appointing someone king, on his head appointing him to be the king of Israel, 1 Samuel 16:13.

Generally, shepherds were poor but David said his cup was overflowed with God’s blessings. It was the custom of the Jews to honour a guest with a cup of wine, but the more you poured in, the more honoured you were, in David’s case it was overflowing.

While out in the fields with the sheep David had very little that was of value but he was rich in spiritual blessings. God doesn’t hold back on his blessings to those who serve him faithfully, James 2:13 / 1 John 4:19.

We are amazed that David at a young age understood that his earthly home wasn’t forever but he would later dwell in the house of the Lord.

The love and grace of God would continue in heaven. Being in the house of God is the same as being in heaven with God eternally, 1 Timothy 3:15.


Kings were supposed to shepherd the people. The Shepherd King is the Messiah, Genesis 49:10, notice the staff and rod are mentioned and Judah has the lion’s sceptre and staff.

In those days, the head, the staff which stands for authority was planted or placed in-between his feet whilst legs were crossed. The rod stood for justice, Judah would become the King.

1. The Old Testament prophets spoke of the promise of a Shepherd, Isaiah 40:9-11 / Jeremiah 31:10 / Ezekiel 34:23.

2. The New Testament reveals that Jesus is that Shepherd, John 10:1-16 / 1 Peter 5:4 / Hebrews 13:20.

3. The motif of a shepherd is revealing. It pictures the blessings enjoyed by those who follow Jesus and it should remind us of the duties we have as His sheep.

He gave his life for us. He laid down His life for His sheep, as foretold in the Old Testament, Zechariah 13:7 / Matthew 26:31. As Jesus told His disciples He would do, John 10:11 / John 10:15.

Thus, He is able to offer eternal life to His sheep, John 10:28 / 1 John 5:11-13. Offering security to those who continue to believe. Such that none can snatch them from the hand of God. Though one can fall from God’s hand through neglect. Hebrews 3:12-15 / Revelation 2:10.

He now cares for us. Having called us through the Gospel, John 10:3 / 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14. Having gathered us into His one-fold, even Gentiles, John 10:16 / Ephesians 2:11-22. As our Good Shepherd, He knows us, John 10:14 / John 10:27 / 2 Timothy 2:19.

He feeds us, John 10:9 / Psalm 23:1-2. He guides us, John 10:3-4 / Psalm 23:3. He cherishes us tenderly, Isaiah 40:11 / Ephesians 5:25-29. He protects and preserves, Jeremiah 31:10 / John 10:28-29 / Jude 28-29.

Wonderful are the blessings of Jesus our Shepherd! Such blessings are prefigured in that most beautiful of psalms, Psalms 23.

Go To Psalm 24


"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds."