Author: Ron Graham

Old Testament

Psalm 23
—Three lines on which to meditate

From this beautiful song, written by David King of Israel, I have chosen three lines upon which to meditate today.

1 “The Lord is my shepherd.”

In this, the first line of the song, the image of the shepherd is most suitable to picture our Lord, who is our Saviour and our Sovereign.

The shepherd finds the green pastures and the still waters for his sheep. His staff touches them kindly, and they are reassured, even in the valley of shadows. The shepherd protects his sheep from harm and foe. He is the saviour of the sheep.

But the shepherd is also the sovereign of the sheep. He leads them in the right paths, and his rod disciplines them with a stern and stinging touch, should they make to go astray. In the Shepherd we behold "the goodness and the severity of God" (Romans 11:22).

In the church, Jesus is our Chief Shepherd. However, in each congregation he has other shepherds "whom the Holy Spirit has made overseers to shepherd the church of God..." (Acts 20:28, 1Peter 5:1-4).

2 “My cup overflows.”

There is irony here. Verse five would, on the surface, seem to be a statement of satisfaction and victory. In our minds eye, we picture the king at table, being ceremoniously annointed with fragrant oil, feasting in the presence of enemies conquered, his cup overflowing as he utters a toast in celebration. But then the irony of this verse is felt, as we ponder what it foreshadows...

We remember that shortly before his crucifixion, a woman came to Jesus with a flask of very costly fragrant oil. She poured it upon his head for his burial (Mark 14:3). Later at the Passover table, he ate the solemn feast in the presence of his enemies represented in the person of Judas Iscariot the betrayer (Mark 14:17-21). Then, going out to the garden of Gethsemane, he prayed, "Father if it be possible, let this cup pass from me..." (Mark 14:36). His cup overflowed. Nevertheless the victory came afterward, for he arose from the dead and ascended to the throne of heaven (Mark 16:1-7,19).

3 “All the days of my life.”

These words have a depth of meaning, because the psalm itself reflects the life story of King David. As he played his harp and sang this song, he must have vividly remembered when, as a shepherd boy, he would be called from the pastures to play his harp before King Saul, when the king was troubled in mind. David must have remembered how he, the shepherd boy, himself later became king and enjoyed many victories. Shepherd and King —these are the two images of this “shepherd’s psalm”, and the two parts of the Psalmist's lifetime, in which goodness and mercy had followed him.

David, the shepherd who became king, is a symbol of Christ, our Shepherd and our King. After David's life was over, and the days of his life were all counted, Ezekiel rebuked the shepherds of Israel and spoke symbolically of Christ:

"I will set over them one Shepherd,
My servant David,
And he will feed them.
He himself will feed them,
And be their Shepherd.
And I, the Lord, will be their God,
And my servant David will be prince among them.
I the Lord have spoken,
And I will make a covenant of peace..."
(Ezekiel 34:22-24)