Psalm 23 is a life-long companion. I can’t recall a time when I didn’t know it, though I can recall times when I didn’t know it. My mother must have recited the Psalm frequently for it to have been embedded in my mind, while I have no distinct memory of her doing so, it must have been so for I knew it from my earliest memories. From those early years it has been comforting; its words, its cadence, its story of assurance and of a journey well ended.
While rote familiarity may breed a lack of appreciation for this Psalm (though I recoil at such a prospect), intimacy with Psalm 23 beckons us into a lifelong relationship with our Good Shepherd. It is a Psalm that can be with us whatever our circumstances, whether we are high or low, anxious or tranquil, sick or healthy, in the prime of life or preparing to turn the last page. There is a sense in which these six verses say all that need be said about Yahweh’s love and faithfulness to His people, all that need be added is the Good Shepherd of John Chapter 10 – the Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep. What love, what care, what assurance we have that our Good Shepherd loves and cares for us, that He never leaves us or forsakes us, that He is ever with us, actively protecting us, covering us with His Presence, enveloping us in Himself.
Psalm 23 is a good place to live. For those who have yet to learn to meditate in the Law of Yahweh (Psalm 1) Psalm 23 is a good place to begin. For others who know not how to abide in the Vine (John 15) this Psalm is a good portal through which to enter with heart and mind. Are there some who struggle to pray? Let them pray Psalm 23. Are there those who wrestle with beginning their day in Christ? Let them begin with Psalm 23. Does anxiety buffet a brother or sister? Let such a one pause and meditate and evoke Psalm 23.
We see the span of Scripture from Eden to the New Jerusalem in this Psalm, and we see our lives from birth to death and beyond – it is a covenant Psalm about the covenant God and His people, and it is a Psalm about the covenant God who is the Good Shepherd who cares and seeks and loves not only the flock as a whole, but every individual sheep who He calls by name.
…he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out…the sheep follow him because they know his voice…I am the Good Shepherd; the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep…and I lay down My life for the sheep – John 10.
What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulder, rejoicing – Luke 15.