DISCOVERING THE SHEPHERD:
A STUDY OF PSALM 23
By G.E. Johnson
Thousands of years ago, King David penned what has possibly become the best known passage of the Old Testament - the 23rd Psalm. This testimony of God's faithfulness has served as a hymn of confidence for Christian believers worldwide who look to the Shepherd of the Psalm as their comforter and provider. Yet, how many believers have taken time to really become familiar with the scripture in its original language? Are there hidden meanings in the Hebrew text of the Psalm?
In "Discovering The Shepherd," readers will take a deeper look at the text of Psalm 23 through a scholarly overview of the scripture. Modern believers will learn more about the ancient Hebrew text and discover revelation hidden beneath the surfaces of the English translations of the verses. An excellent accompaniment to your regular bible study, "Discovering The Shepherd" will strengthen and inspire your faith as you become more familiar with Shepherd of the Psalm.
Psalm 23, Verse 1
“The LORD is my shepherd…”
“This psalm is probably the best known passage of the OT. It is a testimony by David to the Lord’s faithfulness throughout his life. As a hymn of confidence, it pictures the Lord as a disciple’s Shepherd-King-Host. David… progressively unveils his personal relationship with the Lord.” (Footnote from The MacArthur Study Bible)
It is precisely with the same purpose as revealed by King David that God is calling his people to reacquaint themselves with the 23rd Psalm – to unveil and gain a deeper understanding of our relationship to God, but more importantly His relationship to us. This Psalm is all about His vow and commitment to His sheep - those that belong to Him and hearken to the guiding voice of the Holy Spirit. It is a decree and a declaration spoken from the mouth of David in confidence, and even in warfare, against those who persecuted him under the power of evil influence. There are relationship promises and revelation regarding the nature of God’s relationship to his people hidden throughout each verse. Let’s begin with verse 1:
“The LORD is my shepherd…”
King David wastes no time in establishing who will be the subject of Psalm 23 – the Lord. Much like anything that is established by Holy Spirit, the Savior is placed first and properly positioned as the head of any proceeding thing. He is the banner that waves and guides us into the Psalm, then serves as the helm of the multi-compartmental vessel that is Psalm 23. I use the term “vessel” to describe the scripture because of its ability to hold, and store, the Truth and Mystery of the identity of God. It is multi-compartmental because of its ability to hold very distinct pockets of revelation, yet maintain the cohesion of one song or psalm.
The very first word alone – THE - unleashes a torrent of information for the believer engaging in a study of this verse. First, it eliminates any ambiguity regarding to whom King David is referring and establishes David’s faith in the solo God of Israel. This is important because there were numerous false gods being worshipped by the people at that time, several of which are still in existence today. David does not leave it for us to figure out or debate the deity to whom He is referring to in the Psalm. It is THE Lord – the one and only God professed by David and his kingdom.
Second, the use of any other article would have altered the reference to Lord in a way that could have subsequently rendered this scripture ineffective. Imagine reading “A Lord is my shepherd…” or “That Lord is my shepherd…” or even “My Lord is my shepherd….” One could easily insert a deity of their choice, creating a perverted version of the Holy Word of God that was intended.
David could have said “The Lord of Israel is my shepherd…” if he had wanted to be super specific and not leave room for misinterpretation, but the fact that he didn’t can actually be seen as prophetic. Though the coming of Jesus would happen some nearly 1000 years after the beginning of David’s reign over all Israel, David’s choice of “the” as a solo modifier of “Lord” speaks to the coming Lord’s (Jesus) dominion over ALL people, not just Israel and its descendants. Indeed Jesus would come to die for both the Jews and Gentile people and be established as THE Lord over all people. (Romans 3:29-30)
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