Shepherd of My Soul (Psalm 23)

psa23shepherd.jpgWithout a doubt this is the best known and most loved of the Psalms. We call it the ‘Shepherd’s Psalm’ since it considers God as Shepherd and was written by a shepherd. David composed this, not as an innocent boy seated on a tranquil meadow playing his harp, as I once thought, but as an experienced warrior-king during a crisis situation. Several clues within the text point to this

David seems to have gone through some failure and is in a ‘valley’ experience. In spite of his grave sin with Bathsheba, his Shepherd had ‘restored his soul’. David makes reference to his ‘enemies’, the most shocking of all must have been his own son Absalom, who was seeking to kill him. It seems to me that the events taking place in 2Sam. 11-17, particularly the scene around 17:26-29, may have been the immediate context and background of this psalm. Absalom’s army and David’s soldiers had gathered around the wilderness of Mahanaim. Here, when David and his men were ‘hungry, weary and thirsty’, God mercifully, through some generous friends had ‘prepared a table’ to refresh them. I believe, here David regains his confidence that his Lord like a shepherd will continue to ‘lead’, guide, provide and deliver him.

Although presently away from the capital and tabernacle at Jerusalem, David was aware that he was the Lord’s ‘anointed’. Whatever the outcome of battle, he was convinced: ‘I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever’. Like a sheep, David places his dependence on his Lord who is in control, and Psalm 23 may have been the result of this assurance. Incidentally, the battle was won, Absalom killed, and the kingdom given back to this shepherd-king.

This psalm helps me understand the substance of the gospel. It foreshadows Jesus as the Good  Shepherd who died to save me (Jn.10:11), the Great  Shepherd risen and interceding to equip and keep me from falling (Heb.13:20) and Chief  Shepherd coming again to take me to the Father’s house (1Pet.5:4). Christians can know Psalm 23 without knowing David’s Lord. If we experientially know the Lord Jesus as Shepherd, there is no need to be in want (v.1-3), no need to worry (v.4-5) and no need to wander away (v.6) since he promises to be ‘with us’. He will never let us go and never let us down!

Could you comment on my view regarding the socio-historical context of this psalm? May I further submit that its ‘pastoral’ (implicit to the word is leadershiptheme promotes a personal divine-human relationship;(notice all the things ‘He’ does for ‘me’); the essential pastoral task  is about discipleship (leading, feeding and breeding sheep!) and the thrill  in it all is an awesome fellowship (between this shepherd-‘King and I’)! What do you think?

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16 comments

  1. The shepherd is not immune to problems and issues of grave danger to self. But a shepherd has to still mind his flock giving them care and comfort.

  2. Dr Chris,
    This is a real illumination into the very well known Psalm, especially to see it in the light of the background of the Psalm as you show it to be in 2nd Samuel. Encouraged me to lok at all the other Psalms in the light of its background. Thank You.

  3. sir I felt very encouraging after reading this thought, i feel God provides to all in their crisis but very often we fail to look at God’s providence but look at the crisis itself. thank you

  4. its a very good exposition. i like the way u have drawn the things from the background that u have taken (2 Sam 17). i believe that the 2 Sam 17 would have been the background from where David wrote this Psalm. very helpful. thank u

  5. “Shepherd of my soul, I give you full control, wherever you may go, I will follow……”. This song comes to my mind. We follow the guidance of our shepherd as He knows what is the best for us in whatever situations.

  6. The socio-historical context of Psalm 23 is insightful, moving, and profoundly relevant to the Christian experience. Thank you for sharing.

  7. I agree that David is having a ‘valley’ experience, that reflects a common pattern of orientation-disorientation-reorientation in the psalms between Ps 1-2 and the Haleluja psalms. That also is our reality. That’s why many of us, including non-believers, like this psalm very much. Thanks for your sharing.

  8. well this is a complete new insight into the pslam wrriten by David. it is certainly during the time when David was facing hardship in his reign. it is psalm of a shepherd boy regard a shepherd Lord.

  9. It’s such a joy to serve a living God who, even in times of hardship give us the hope and assurance that He is always with us. reminds me of John 10:11 where it say “I am the good shepherd and the good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”

  10. Dear Sir,
    I’m delighted and overwhelmed by your vision of understanding
    Psalm-23. Your message is sensitive and lovely. I want to thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.It has added a new dimension to my own prayer life.It is inspiring to note your insightful thought.
    Thank you.

  11. Your class lecture on Psalm 23 was profoundly expounded and reading this article again, reinforces my uderstanding even better. Besides other insightful explanations, notably the passage “He resortores my soul” was personally very helpful and encouraging. Thank you.

  12. Thank you Pastor Chris for this insight on Psalm 23. As you have rightly said, till today I was also thinking that this Psalm is written by little shepherd boy. Thank you very much for giving scripture references of would be situation for writting this Psalm.

  13. Dear Dr Chris,
    It’s indeed true that the deeper we dig into the scriptures, the more treasures we discover:-) I am reminded and comforted again with the assurance that we are not alone in the pilgrimage called life. :-)God is ever vigilant, watching over us, meeting us every morning, and abiding with us through the darkest hours of the night.:-). Thank you
    God Bless you!

  14. Thanks Dr. Christ once again for this thought. Tomorrow I am going to preach from Psalm 23 to my students in Coimbatore and I will be heavily depending on this background story that you have grasped.

  15. Thanks Dr. Chris once again for this thought. Tomorrow I am going to preach from Psalm 23 to my students in Coimbatore and I will be heavily depending on this background story that you have grasped.

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