Psalm 23: A Sheep's Testimony
Almost everyone knows Psalm 23. Even non-Christians have heard it because it seems to be a favorite at funerals. However, it’s not a psalm of death, but of life, rest and peace. It is a psalm that heals, delivers, comforts and set free. For something 3,000 years old, it is extremely relevant for our lives today.
Psalm 23 is the best known and most popular of all the psalms. Many people know this psalm by heart. The psalm of only six verses could be divided into two sections.
- The first explores the image of God as Shepherd, guiding and caring for his sheep.
- The second section is the image of the sheep talking to the shepherd.
In order to understand Psalm 23, you must know that Psalm 23 is really the testimony of the sheep. David speaks of the relationship of the shepherd to his sheep. The psalm lists all the benefits that the sheep receive from the shepherd. As we go through this short psalm of 6 verses and 117 words, think of yourself as a sheep with the Lord as your shepherd.
Three things you should know.
- You must know something about the shepherd.
- You MUST know something about the sheep.
- You must travel along with the sheep in the green pasture, in the valley of the shadow of death and finally, they in the house of the Lord.
Verse 1: Testimony of Sufficiency
“The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want.”
This is A Testimony of Sufficiency. The sheep do not worry because they know the shepherd will provide them with everything they need. A good shepherd is personally concerned with the welfare of his sheep.
Verse 2: Testimony of Satisfaction
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters.”
This is a Testimony of Satisfaction of having green pastures to lie down and rest. For those who don't know, sheep must be made to lie down in green pastures. Otherwise, they would fall asleep while standing up.
Sheep are led by still water to satisfy their thirst. Sheep do not like to drink gurgling water. Therefore, the shepherd takes them by still waters.
The combination of green pastures and still waters portrays God’s refreshing care for His own.
Verse 3: Testimony of Sovereignty
“He restoreth my soul, He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
This is A Testimony of Sovereignty. Sheep are not very smart. They have a predictable inclination to lose their way. They can be in a pasture with plenty of grass and adequate water and still wander aimlessly until they have nothing to eat or drink. Once lost, they can’t find their way back. Many animals seem to have inborn compasses. However, that is not so with sheep. Once lost, the shepherds must go and find them.
Even after the shepherd had restored the sheep, he is not finished. Since sheep have poor eyesight, they must stay close to the shepherd so they can observe him and listen so they can obey him. Sheep cannot see more than fifteen yards ahead of them, so they need to be led in the right path.
Verse 4: Testimony of Security
“Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me."
This is a Testimony of the Sheep’s Security. After being restored, there must be a shepherd to guide the sheep the valley. There are three kinds of sheep that need to the rod and staff for security.
- The rod is used as protection against the wild animals but also used as a means to discipline the stubborn sheep and to keep them from danger.
- The shepherd uses the staff around the neck of a large sheep or around the body of a little lamb to draw the sheep to him, to guide the sheep or to lift sheep that have fallen or about to fall off the cliff.
- The shepherd thoroughly examines the sheep for thorns, bruises, scabs, and raw places. A soothing oil is then applied to the wounds.
"Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.”
Also, the rod was used to count and inspect the sheep. Because of their long wool, it is not always easy to detect disease, wounds, or defects in the sheep, but the shepherd would take his rod and part the sheep’s wool to determine the condition of the skin.
Verse 5: Testimony of Safety
This is the Testimony of Safety. This is where the psalm changes from the sheep speaking about the shepherd in the third person to speaking directly to the shepherd.
“Thou preparest a table...”
Full sheep are happy sheep, but the sheep must have a table land prepared for them because of their enemies. The shepherd prepares a table, but it is not a table with four legs like we use when we eat. The shepherd makes a square with his rod on one side, his staff on the other side, his coat at the bottom and he himself would lie down to sleep with the sheep; thus making a table for the sheep to be protected from enemies.
“Thou anointest my head with oil...”
As each sheep passes by in a single file, the Shepherd quickly examines it for briers in the eyes, snags in the cheek, or scratches. The shepherd would rub oil on a sheep’s cuts and scrapes and also into its ears and around its eyes to keep flies and bugs away.
“My cup runneth over.”
A shepherd uses a large cup. It is always overflowing so the sheep could sink its face into the water to clear his eyes and to drink until refreshed.
Verse 6: Testimony of Surety
As we come to the end of the 23rd Psalm we are given some great news. It is the Sheep’s Testimony of Surety. . .
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life."
Everyone knows about the goodness and mercy of God. God’s goodness is His provision for the good times, and His mercy is His provision for the bad times. Goodness takes care of our steps and mercy takes care of our stumbles.
"And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
The word “dwell” means to settle down and be at home. The “house of the Lord” is a state of constant joy; with no more sorrow and no more separation. It will be for eternity. That's a long time.
If the Lord is our shepherd, we too can dwell in the house of the Lord for all eternity.
“all the days of my life.”
This means eternally, forever, forevermore, and as long as you live. God’s love, care, protection, and provision are not seasonal, but all the days of your life.
Are you familiar with the Twenty-third Psalm?
Broadcast of Psalm 23
- Psalm 23: A Sheep's Testimony
Hear the explanation of Psalm 23 like you have never hear it explained before. Listen to Rev. Margaret Minnicks as she creatively explains Psalm 23 from the viewpoint of the sheep. Jan 12 2011
Other Psalms To Read
- How to Study the Psalms
Psalms is a popular book of the Bible. It is not to be studied like other books. The book of Psalms is easy to understand when you know some background information instead of trying to interpret what the psalmists said thousands of years ago.
- Psalm 150: Five Reasons to Praise God
Psalm 150 is the last of the psalms in the Bible. There is much to say about the chapter consisting of only 6 verses.
- Psalms: Hymns About Him
The Psalms are considered the most famous collection of religious poetry. The Psalms were meant to be sung.