This psalm is read every Sabbath (which is a Saturday in Israel) when the people come back from the synagogue after a time of morning prayers.
v1: A shepherd was someone who cared for a flock. David was the kind of shepherd who would lay down his life for his flock, as he had a close connection to them. The sheep recognised the voice of the shepherd who looked after them. They knew that if they stayed close to the shepherd they would be protected, and that he would lead them to find good food. When David is calling the L-rd his Shepherd he is doing so with these things in mind (John 10:1-18)
· ‘Will not want’ – more accurately translated: ‘will not lack”. The emphasis of this line is on the fact that G-d is faithful to provide what we need – not necessarily what we want (the emphasis is not on me and on what I want)
v2: This is a verse that speaks about G-d’s leadership and guidance in the lives of those who are His. If we’re not interested in His leadership we will not experience Him leading us to those good places.
· Lying down speaks of rest and contentment. Most times these animals will not lie down until they feel secure and safe. If they feel like their needs aren’t being met they will continue to stand so that they can move away quickly.
· Green pastures – lush and fertile places, like a manicured yard where the grass is well taken care of. This would be a place of comfort and satisfaction for the sheep.
· Still waters are not dangerous waters. When water is still we can see better into it – an increase of perception to any threat that might be lurking about. In still waters there is no danger of being swept away. Still waters aid in helping us to feel safer (emotionally, physically etc).
v3: Soul – David now dealing with the part of us that is more spiritual.
· Restore – going back to its original condition – pre fall, the way G-d intended for us to be. We were created to reflect the glory, the character, the truth of G-d.
· Paths – in the plural. Shows a multiplicity of ways that we are going to walk in our lives. However, every single one of those ways has a common thread – every path we tread needs to be a path of righteousness (Matt 7:13-14). Our lives need to manifest righteousness – wherever we go. Why? For the sake of His name – His character, His reputation. When we behave (or walk) in a righteous manner we bring glory to His name. And the converse is true too.
v4: Even as Christians we are not exempt from walking through difficult and dangerous times – the valleys. The valley of death is the domain of the enemy. G-d sometimes leads us through enemy territory. Why? We have work to do. In the place of darkness He wants us to manifest light. We can be assured that if G-d is leading us into these places He has a plan and a purpose for it. He also has the ability to lead us safely out of these places. Assurance in G-d breeds confidence in Him – which will be manifest in our lives.
· Fearing no evil (anything outside of G-d’s will is evil) shows confidence and assurance in the faithfulness of G-d to lead us within His will.
· “You (G-d) are with me”: It would be foolish for us to misappropriate the text here. This does not mean that G-d will be with me wherever I want to go – along my own paths, following my own desires. If we decide to walk in our own paths G-d will still be with us (because He has promised to never leave or forsake us) but by acting in this way we render the Holy Spirit ineffective in our lives. He will still be there to convict us, to move us toward repentance etc but He will not necessarily be providing for us or comforting us – until such time as we get back onto His paths of righteousness.
· Rod and staff are synonyms. When one is tired this is an instrument that can be leaned upon. It is a support. It can also be an instrument of defence (A weapon of war, a weapon used to attack) or as an instrument of discipline. These are instruments that bring comfort to the sheep – they bring the things in our lives into the purposes/will of G-d. G-d will defend us when we need defending. He will discipline us when we need discipline. He will go to war for us when the enemy is coming against us.
v5: When my enemies (in the plural) are in my domain (my presence) I have no cause for fear. This verse assures us that G-d can still abundantly provide for and nourish us in the midst of being surrounded by our enemies.
· This word ‘anoint’ has to do with a pouring out in a very abundant manner. It’s related to the fat of the land. Within this context this anointing speaks about comfort. This oil, with its fine fragrance, comes upon us and restores us physically, emotionally etc. Even in the midst of our enemies activity G-d can still provide for us luxuriously.
· My cup runs over – we are saturated with the good things that G-d provides. There is so much that it pours out of our lives. It is too much for us to contain. Why does G-d do all these things for us? In order that we can be enabled and free to worship Him. If we desire to live victorious lives we need to worship G-d. Nothing in our lives (no enemies, no shadow of death) should hinder us from worshipping Him.
v6: Goodness – our definition of good: good = the will of G-d. We experience the goodness of G-d in His will.
· Mercy/grace. We can never take hold of the will of G-d unless we first take hold of the grace of G-d. Grace has a two-fold purpose – to save us, but then also to work in our lives to bring us into the will of G-d once we are saved (Titus 2:11-12)
· Shall follow/shall pursue – we don’t have to worry about trying to find G-d’s will. He will make it known to us.
· All the days of my life i.e everyday! Every day G-d’s will is presented to us and it is pursuing us.
· I will dwell in the house of the L-rd – The temple/the place of worship. Why will we dwell here (for eternity, for forever)? To worship Him. Pursuing my own destiny is fruitless. This is G-d’s destiny for us – to worship Him and dwell in His Presence forever. Eternal satisfaction – IN HIM!