Reading: Psalm 23
Focus: (it’s only 6 verses)
The 23rd Psalm is so familiar to so many people. It uses fairly common language and is reasonably easy to understand, even if you’re not familiar with all of the historical detail. If you’d like an interesting exercise, read it in several versions… King James, Revised Standard, New International, New Living – they’re all a little different.
Today we’re not going to focus on what it says. (Seriously?) Instead, we’re going to review what it doesn’t say. Verse by verse.
Verse 1: The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. (RSV)
It doesn’t say that the Lord is the shepherd of the whole human population. Don’t get me wrong, He is, but that’s not what it says. It says, “The Lord is MY shepherd…” He watches out for me. He cares for me. He wants the best for me.
It doesn’t say that I will have every possible thing I wish for. God is not a genie. It also doesn’t say, “I will not want.” Oh, we’ll want. But we’ll have what we need.
Verse 2: He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams… (NLT)
This reminds me of the phrase, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” It doesn’t say that he makes me do anything. God offers these – green meadows and peaceful streams – as very inviting options for me, but not requirements.
Verse 3: …he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. (NIV)
He doesn’t force me along the right path, He guides me. Not so my life will be better (although ultimately it will), but so His name will be glorified!
Verse 4: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (KJV)
This does not say there will be no evil or death. But when I have God’s rod and staff with me, these things are not threatening. Deliverance from evil and death are promised to every believer!
Verse 5: Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. (KJV)
It doesn’t say that God gives me what I deserve (because I really don’t deserve anything), or that He rewards me after we prove myself. Here, God gives luxury in excess. Not just to the top of the cup (what we require), but overflowing.
Verse 6: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (KJV)
Not maybe goodness and mercy, but surely. Not will be with me sometimes, but will follow me in all circumstances. Not I might get to go to heaven, but I WILL live with God forever!
So, kind of a backwards look at Psalm 23. I love what it says and what it means (and I apparently like the King James version). But after looking at it this way, I also love knowing what it doesn’t say. What confidence we can have in our good and gracious God!
Prayer: God, thank you! I know that You made me for a specific purpose, and that You’re there, always, to guide me, protect me, love me, and know me. Help me to remember the unwavering confidence I can have in You, and to live so I can glorify Your name. I love you! In Jesus’ name, Amen.