The Pearl Of The Psalms


‘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

Written by David the 23rd Psalm has 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.

‘The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.’

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 to take 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.

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 ‘Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.’

‘He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters.’

David had to constantly search for green pastures, sheep need green grass, 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 in the leftover grass.

Sheep need water but don’t like the sound or rushing water, they prefer still or quite water such as a small stream or pool. The shepherd was always careful to lead them to a brook or a quite pool of water. Sheep by nature are gentle animals, they like serein surroundings.

‘I lack nothing’

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, 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 quit water. The shepherd leads them to quite water such as a brook or shallow pool of water, they are by nature quite animals.

‘He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.’

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 ‘Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play.’

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, He leads us in 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 ‘So Saul took three thousand able young men from all Israel and set out to look for David and his men near the Crags of the Wild Goats. He came to the sheep pens along the way; a cave was there, and Saul went in to relieve himself. David and his men were far back in the cave.’

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.

‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.’

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 (David). 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.

‘You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.’

This is the kind of oil that would be used to honour a guest of honour at a banquet. It’s perfumed oil which showed delight and hospitality. Mary poured this kind of oil on the head of Jesus.

John 12:3 ‘Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.’

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 ‘So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David.’

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.

‘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.’

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.

Since God has done so much to and for His people, we are motivated to do good to others and show mercy,

James 2:13 ‘Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.’



"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

Galatians 2:20