Focal Passage: Psalm 23; Hebrews 13:20-21
Psalm 23 is often called
“the Shepherd’s Psalm.” If the order of the verses were reversed, it might be
known as “the Party Psalm.”
The opening metaphor is
plain and familiar. “The Lord is my shepherd” is a statement of faith: in God I
trust, on God I depend, to God I belong. Think of Jesus: “My sheep hear my
voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).
“I shall not want” might be
less about what I have than about my attitude. Consider Paul: “Not that I
complain of want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content”
I “lie down in green
pastures” and drink from “still waters;” “he restoreth my soul.”
On the wall of a soup
kitchen in our town is a sign: “O God, we ask you for what we want, and in your
divine extravagance, you give us what we need.”
Rested and restored, I’m
ready to follow where the shepherd leads: in “the paths of righteousness,” by
the right road, to the right place.
In the final two verses the
image changes. “Thou preparest a table before me” means a feast: caviar and steak tartar (maybe barbecue
and hush puppies in the South).
“In the presence of mine
enemies” is an ironic reversal; one formerly persecuted is lifted up.
Remember Jesus: It’s better
to sit at the back and be invited to the head table, than to have to be asked
to step down (Luke 14:7-11).
Psalm 45:7 mentions the “oil
of gladness,” a gesture of joy and approval. “My cup runneth over” evokes a
waitress at a crowded table, reaching over, generously filling the glass till
the wine (or iced tea) spills over.
And this is no one-time
party. It lasts “all the days of my life,” even “forever,” in a sumptuous
palace, “the house of the Lord.” Jesus used the same concept in parable after
The bridge from the first
image to the second, from trusting the shepherd to partying in the palace, runs
through the “valley of the shadow” (v. 4). Notice the change in pronoun from
“he,” talking about God (vv. 1-3), to “thou” (“you”), talking to God (vv. 4-6). Now it’s personal.
In the dark places of life,
even facing death, God is truly with us, guarding (“thy rod”), guiding (“thy
staff”), comforting. So “fear no evil.” Our trust is well-founded. Welcome to