Psalm 23 – A Fresh Read of the Familiar

Psalm 23 is one of the most familiar passages in the Bible. It is learned by children, it is put on posters, it is recited at funerals. An no wonder, because it is easily accessable to us, even if we don't know much about sheep.

Here is the assignment:

1. Read Psalm 23

2. Print it from this page, if you like and carry it with you.

3. Write down observations and questions.

4. Find a way to respond to it by re-writing it in your own words, by writing something in response, by composing music, creating a collage, or whatever blows your hair back.

5. Feel free to post your thoughts.

Here is Psalm 23 in the New Revised Standard Version

Psalm 23
The Divine Shepherd
A Psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I 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 goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.

 

 

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6 thoughts on “Psalm 23 – A Fresh Read of the Familiar

  1. My favorite line is ‘he restores my soul’. Jehovah Jireh. God works in the interface between our world and God’s world, the conscience (Heb 9:14 and 1 Pet 3:21; see also 2 Sam 24:10, Job 27:6, Rom 2:15, I Tim 1:5,19 and other verses one can find at biblegateway.com).

    While, as noted, this psalm is used to comfort our emotions from an external event, I struggle with David’s preoccupation with gloating (‘… in the presence of my enemies;’). The effect of an avoidance of gloating could lead one to mumble through this sentence. If I have a local enemy, say the neighbor over the back fence, then perhaps I’m not following Paul’s command to live at peace with others (or not mowing the dandelions), and I wouldn’t admit it publically (or may rightly deserve the neighbor’s wrath). If I have a global enemy, the distance of that enemy seems irrelevant to the closeness of this psalm.

    Even if there is a bully in my life, is this cause for gloating, prayer or right living? In following the directive in I Pet 3:16 to have a clear conscience, are we avoiding naming our enemies so as to treat neighbors equally? Is there any benefit for vagueness?

  2. Can one think of “in the presence of my enemies” in any other way than “gloating”?

    it could indicate merely that the enemy is not removed, but yet good things are provided.

    in the image used of sheep and shepherd, the sheep still have enemies (bears, wolves, etc) but are under the protection of the shepherd.

    What is the best way to apply that image to the life of a believer?

    personal enemies, such as bullies
    national enemies, al Qaida
    spiritual enemies, sin, death, the demonic

  3. I believe that this Psalm is mainly meant to encourage the reader. The first section is about how he shepherds us, or directs us. The second section is about how he protects us. The third section is about his plans for us.

  4. “He makes me lie down in green pastures”

    sometimes i forget to sleep,
    i stay up late protesting obligation
    by conversing with roommates
    or contemplating life without myspace,

    and sometimes i wake up too early surrounded by sunshine
    and construction workers
    clanging.

    but God provides
    a sunshine,
    and a window with a breeze
    and quietly leads me
    to naptime…….

  5. In the Modern King James Version Psalm 23 reads like this: The LORD [is]my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You [are] with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all th days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. I like this version. Even though it’s almost the same, it’s slightly different.

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