He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul; He leads me in the 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 before 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 the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalm 23 was written as a declaration of David's confidence in God's grace and it has brought comfort to many over the years - including myself. Sometimes we read and memorize scripture and can miss the depth of what God is desiring to say to us. Every word and thought is intentional - God never needed to fill a gap.
"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want..." When we view God as our keeper, our guide, and protector, there is no want, no lack, and no fear. "He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul..." Peace is the manifest presence of God. And in His presence, our soul (where our mind, will, and emotions abide) is replenished with serenity and vitality.
"He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake..." The Amplified Bible says, "He leads me in paths of righteousness, not for my earning it, but for His name's sake." What an awesome clarification! We know righteousness is right-standing with God; the ability to stand before Him without guilt or inferiority as if we had never sinned. David understood that God leads us in paths of this kind of righteousness FOR HIS NAME'S SAKE. Thankfully, it is not based on anything we have or have not done. If it were, none of us would qualify! But it was (and is) God's desire that we have right-standing with Him. He desires to have a close relationship with all of His children. Therefore, He LEADS us in the path of righteousness (which we received at salvation) for His glory, not ours. In another place, Daniel prayed something similar: "...for we do not present our supplications before You for our righteousness, but for thy great mercies' sake" (Daniel 9:18, ASV). It brings glory and honor to God when we receive His righteousness and walk in all of its fullness.
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil..." Think about a shadow. It is impossible to have a shadow without first having light, right? For there to be a shadow, there must exist a light source and an obstacle between the light source and another surface. In this passage the "shadow of death" is any obstacle from the enemy. But realize that God's presence, His GLORIOUS, EVER-SHINING presence in our life reveals the shadow. That is why David could boldly state, "I will fear no evil!" We too, need to recognize this fact when we are facing trials and tribulations in our life. Psalm 27:3 says, "Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident." In what shall he be confident? "The Lord is the strength [the light] of my life" (Psalm 27:1). In this, we too can be confident!
"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies..." When you go through a buffet line, there are many choices. In the same way, whereas the enemy may offer you sadness, depression, pain, and grief, the Lord has prepared a banqueting table of joy, love, peace, faithfulness, security, and much, much more! You choose to sit and partake - the table's been prepared (and there's more where it came from).
Lastly, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life..." Always remember that although we get knocked back at times, God's goodness and mercy are behind us to catch us and put us back on our feet. And it's all FOR HIS NAME'S SAKE!