Nothin But Fine logo color

Shepherd, Best Friend | Psalms 23 & 138

You might be able to recite this psalm from memory, but do you really understand all that it says or means?

Probably the Psalm that everyone knows, the 23rd.  You might be able to recite this psalm from memory, but do you really understand all that it says or means?  I was fascinated digging into this one and even found another psalm that was very similar in message, 138. 

I made so many notes in my Bible that I can barely find the real text.  This is why it is so good to read scripture even when you think you already know what it says.  You never know what might be revealed to you in a new light.  I mean I was tempted to skip this one, too because … well you know.  Let’s see what you see for the first time today.

Listen along to the episode here or on your favorite podcast app

Psalm 23 is so good I ran out of space to write notes.

[2:41] I love the way Psalm 23 reads from the NLT:

The LORD is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
He leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
Bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
For you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings. 
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life,
And I will live in the house of the LORD forever.

That “I have all I need” gets me.  Alright, let’s get into it.

There are two names of God in the first two verses.  Ya’ll know how much I love the names of God.  So important for us to know.  They help us be even closer to the Lord because each one tells us something about him.  It’s like knowing someone so well that you either have a nickname for them or know of the ones they grew up with.  I did a whole series on the names of God last year.  I will link the two you are about to hear.

[8:27] The LORD is my shepherd is Jehovah-Ra’ah (episode 51 August 17, 2022).  It is literally the LORD is my shepherd.  Ra’ah can also be translated best friend.  That puts a whole new perspective on your shepherd, doesn’t it?  I have always thought that sheep might not be the smartest animal.  I mean they have a tendency to wander and fall off a cliff.  They need that shepherd.  But here is what I have learned, they are actually quite intelligent.  They know they need a protector.  They know that there is safety in numbers.  That seems pretty smart.  They know their weaknesses, sounds like.  They know who is going to take care of them and make sure all their needs are met. “I shall not be in want.”  Thankful for the NET and all the notes it has.  This grammar of this word in Hebrew means that it is an ongoing experience.  Let that sink in.  I shall not be in want now and I can expect that the same goes for tomorrow.

[16:09] That is Jehovah-jireh, the LORD my provider (episode 44 July 27, 2022). Lying down in green pastures and beside the quiet waters refers to the physical needs being met. 

My pastor, Shane Green (I think it was him), said you can rest without fear, full and satisfied.  The shepherd allows this.  He creates this environment for you.  “He restores my soul” because there is rest and peace. He is going to lead you down paths that are right.  You will not be in a rut.  You can be led, as the NET notes say, by God’s providential guidance confident that God takes you down paths that will ultimately lead to something beneficial, not destructive.  He is going to do that because he has a rep to protect.  God has your best interest at heart, and he wants you to know him as faithful.  He wants you to trust him to do what is in your best interest. 

[21:53] Even though you might walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  David sure was in a valley of the shadow of death a few times.  More than I have been, for sure. I saw a post by @charaiarush  that rocked my world.  She pointed out that the valley is not the destination.  See it says through which means you aren’t stopping there.  It might be slow going, but you are just passing through that valley.  Not only that you are not going through it alone, but you are also being led through that valley by your shepherd.  His rod and his staff are the emotional stability you need to make it. Can I get an Amen?  

When you make it through the valley, the LORD is going to prepare a table before you in front of your enemies.  That table shows his favor.  Not only that, but he is also going to refresh you by anointing your head with oil.  This is an act that is done in times of rejoicing, prosperity, celebration.  It is an act of hospitality and honor. Your cup overflows, not making a mess, but in abundance.  This word in Hebrew when used without the context of a cup means that you are saturated that you can drink your fill.

[27:24] As if all of this wasn’t enough, surely goodness and love will follow you all the days of your life.  That sounds good even if you don’t dig a little deeper into the notes of the NET.  The goodness and love show loyalty, faithfulness, commitment, and devotion.  It is a “beneficent action performed in the context of a deep and enduring commitment between two persons, by the one who is able to render assistance to the needy party in the circumstances is unable to help himself.”  That sounds fantastic, doesn’t it?  It gets better.  When David says follow you, it means that it is going to pursue you.  You are going to be chased down by the loyalty, faithfulness, commitment, and devotion of the LORD. If I had an organ and a soul-full organist, they would be playing chords right now.  PRAISE THE LORD.

[30:27] Isn’t that so good?!?  But wait.  Listen to what 138 says.  It starts out with praise, “will praise your name for your love and your faithfulness”.  Passion says bring you my deepest worship.  David talks about God’s name and word being exalted; NET notes that God has been faithful to his promise, and it is apparent to everyone.  Remember that reputation he must protect?  Just like the rod and the staff that comforted in 23, 138 says that I called and you answered and it made me bold and stouthearted/strengthened me deep within my soul (Passion…same place that worship comes from)/energized (NET). 

It ends with the most beautiful reminder, “The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever—do not abandon the works of your hands.”  What’s even more encouraging is that Paul says this to the Philippians, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6. David says don’t forget me and Paul says don’t worry, he won’t. 

Nothin' But Fine Blog

Read more from Nothin' But Fine