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There is no getting closer to God without getting to know Him--God of Creation, Savior, Lord, Friend, Father and Good Shepherd, a shepherd such as the One described by David in the 23rd Psalm. While I memorized the six verses of Psalm 23 from the King James Version when I was a wee girl, I had no idea about the comfort the psalm could provide; I also had no understanding about how the words inform us of an all-loving, ever-present God.
But now I know a little more.
And now we have modern translations to better understand so we can see how scriptural truths apply to our lives.
The 23rd Psalm. I have watched its effect on people; fact is, it calms the soul.
David was probably king when he wrote this song. He who had been a shepherd knew all about the care and leading of sheep--how dependent and needy they were, how lost if left to their own devices. David also vividly remembered running for his life from Saul and how God, his good Shepherd, had protected him in the darkest valley.
When I was in high school choir, we sang The Living Bible’s paraphrase of the psalm, but today I give you the New Living Translation. (Note: while The Living Bible and The Message are good to use as supplemental, they are both paraphrases, not translations from the original languages, which makes them less reliable for accurate study). Read the few verses slowly, please, savoring the content, considering its meaning. O, do step a little closer, my friend.
The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.
2 He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3 He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.
4 Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
5 You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.
6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord forever. New Living Translation
Here is a link to Bible Gateway with three more translations of Psalm 23:
Do yourself a favor--read Psalm 23 out loud, then the hope-filled words of comfort and hope will land on your ears as well. Take them in to your soul. Perhaps make five minutes to write it out as a personal prayer: 'Lord, because you are my shepherd, you will take care of my needs . . .'
Pictured above is the Eastern shepherd. One of my favorite sights in Israel is seeing the flocks tended in much the same way as in the time of David. (we are going again in September, 2024. I did not think I would go again, but one of my sons said, 'Mom...'one more time? Why, of course!) Notice how arid, rocky and barren is the land. When David speaks of green meadows and peaceful streams, I always pictured a lush green landscape with rippling streams . . . but often the shepherd has to find a water source. And as for green meadows? They too often have to be searched out by the shepherd. So rich in meaning, so vast in application is the treasury of scripture!
One afternoon, I was summoned to the bed of a woman in the last stages of cancer, suffering from restless leg syndrome. Sitting next to her bed, I very quietly read the 23rd Psalm to her, and suddenly, her legs stopped their incessant movement; peace came over her.
What is your comfort food? Mashed potatoes, pasta, pralines n cream ice cream (that's mine!!), good chocolate? Those may comfort for a minute, but the soul food of Scripture sates again and again.
The Lord is your Shepherd ~ your very faithful Shepherd ~ if you will follow him.
Thank you, Father, for The 23rd Psalm - truth, reminder, comfort for our souls, and hope for the future too. Amen.
Be blessed today by watching this rendering of Psalm 23 in music, at the best church in the world, Brooklyn Tabernacle, NYC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgyXUhw9Ie8