The Good Shepherd
David’s poetic praise to God
1Yahweh is my best friend and my shepherd. # 23:1 The word most commonly used for “shepherd” is taken from the root word ra‘ah, which is also the Hebrew word for “best friend.” This translation includes both meanings. The unique term for shepherd is ro’eh tzon—“lover of the flock.” This teaches us that a shepherd was not just a responsible overseer, but a caring father figure, tending to his flock out of a deep sense of love. Shepherds were also fierce protectors of their flocks. Jesus is the Fierce Protector of his people.
I always have more than enough. # 23:1 Or “I lack nothing.” What a wonderful declaration over your life! To never be in lack, always possessing more than enough. Our God meets our emotional, physical, and spiritual needs.
2He offers a resting place for me in his luxurious love. # 23:2 Or “in spring [green] meadows.” A good shepherd knows where to pasture his flock. These green meadows would be a resting place, free from all fear. The Greek verb “to love” is agapao, which is a merging of two words and two concepts. Ago means “to lead like a shepherd,” and pao is a verb that means “to rest.” Love is our Shepherd leading us to the place of true rest in his heart.
His tracks take me to an oasis of peace near the quiet brook of bliss. # 23:2 The Hebrew word menuhâ means “the waters of a resting place.” See Isa. 11:10.
3That’s where he restores and revives my life. # 23:3 Or “he causes my life [or “soul,” Hb. nephesh] to return.” So often life drains out of us through our many activities, but, as David found, God restores our well-being when we pursue what pleases God and when we rest in him.
He opens before me the right path
and leads me along in his footsteps of righteousness # 23:3 Or “circular paths of righteousness.” It is a common trait for sheep on the hillsides of Israel to circle their way up higher. They eventually form a path that keeps leading them higher. This is what the psalm is referring to here. Each step we take following our Shepherd will lead us higher, even though it may seem we are going in circles.
so that I can bring honor to his name.
4Even when your path takes me through
the valley of deepest darkness,
fear will never conquer me, for you already have!
Your authority is my strength and my peace. # 23:4 Or “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
The comfort of your love takes away my fear.
I’ll never be lonely, for you are near.
5You become my delicious feast
even when my enemies dare to fight.
You anoint me with the fragrance of your Holy Spirit; # 23:5 Or “You anoint my head with oil.” “Oil” or “fragrance” becomes a symbol of the Holy Spirit.
you give me all I can drink of you until my cup overflows. # 23:5 Or “your cup cheers me like the best wine (LXX),” or “my chalice that inebriates me, how goodly it is (Vulgate).”
6So why would I fear the future?
Only goodness and tender love pursue me all the days of my life.
Then afterward, when my life is through,
I’ll return to your glorious presence # 23:6 Or “return to Yahweh’s palace.” to be forever with you!