Psalm 23 (NIV)
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
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Psalm 23 is the most well-known psalm in the Bible. It is often used at funerals as a message of comfort. The reason is because this psalm points us to Christ as the Good Shepherd. It is an appropriate reminder for us as Christians who engage this psalm that Jesus is the one who walked among us as the good shepherd of the sheep (John 10:11, 14).
The peace of Psalm 23 is not rooted in outward circumstances or our passing emotions. The first verse of the psalm begins with an emphatic emphasis on the Lord. He alone is the source of all comfort and peace. He is the one who “leads me beside quiet waters” and who “restores my soul” (vv. 2–3). The psalmist is not living in a spiritual vacuum. He is walking through the “shadow of death” (v. 4), but even there the Lord is with him and guides him. Even in the presence of his enemies, the Lord spreads “a table before [him]” and anoints “[his] head with oil” (v. 5). When the psalmist declares that “goodness and love” (v. 6) shall follow him all the days of his life, he foreshadows not a sequence of circumstances, but the very presence of the Lord himself, who embodies goodness and mercy in our midst.
As Christians, we are reminded that we are his flock. We hear his voice even under the clamoring din of the voices of unbelief and skepticism that surround us. The psalmist can only point to the deepest truth of the Good Shepherd: namely, that he “lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). The peace of the Christian, both now and in the New Creation, is not a mere emotional moment of stillness; it is an everlasting peace that has been purchased at great price.