Using the 23rd Psalm to Nurture Our Relationships with God-Pt.1

By: Scott Ward

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Psalm 23: Part 1

Psalm 23 is one of the best loved and most familiar Psalms in the Bible and yet many people have turned it into a vain repetition like the ones Jesus warned against in Matthew 6:7. It is a vain repetition to most of us because we can repeat it—often times in unison with others—but we fail to understand it. We will never truly understand scripture until we learn to internalize it relationally. We must do more than memorize scripture—we must learn to “live it.” The best approach to more fully embracing this passage of scripture and more clearly understanding it’s relational impact is to first understand the meaning of the passage in David’s life and then make application to our own—phrase by phrase. Since so many people have been memorizing this passage for so many years it is most often repeated from the old King James Version—so that is what we will use here—because it is the most familiar.

The LORD is my shepherd

At first hearing I suppose this is to many people a very poetic introduction with all its imagery of the good shepherd watching his sheep. It’s very idyllic and many are happy with the comfort of the familiarity of it. But this phrase is far more than soothing—it is the very foundation of the Christian life. For David it was true—the Lord was his shepherd. There is overwhelming evidence of this throughout the Old Testament. David followed the Lord faithfully. He learned to follow His Lord as a young shepherd on the hillside tending his sheep writing and singing hymns to Him. Spending his time writing songs and praises to God is evidence that God was on David’s mind and heart constantly.

Who of us does this today? What are our minds preoccupied with? How often do we think of our Savior throughout the day? The scriptures not only contain dozens of psalms written by David about his affection for his Lord but it also contains record of his accomplishments with the power that this relationship with God brought to his life. As a teen he was braver than all the warriors in Israel and the only one so filled with the Spirit that he faced the greatest giant of the day without thinking twice. He went on to show incredible restraint in dealing with the vengeful King Saul because he dared not touch the “Lord’s anointed.” He “followed” the Lord and didn’t run ahead in his own power, as King Saul did, because of the close relationship he had with his Lord. The relationship is what caused David to be Spirit “filled” and Spirit “led”—the two come together and are evidenced by the psalms and the resulting historical accounts of his exploits. This is why David was known as a man after God’s own heart.

This is why I pray the 23rd Psalm several times per week during my devotional time. Every day I must ask myself if I am allowing the Lord to be my Shepherd. It is a choice. We do not have to follow God. We are often like the sheep that intentionally or unintentionally strays. We all know the stories of the lost sheep. The sheep make a choice and we must as well and it is foundational in my relationship with Jesus to ask myself each morning if I am committed to making Jesus “my” Shepherd for the day. Every day the choice is new. As I pray about this I think through the choices I have been making and I ask myself where my choices are taking me—to the shepherd or away from Him. My goal is to pray, “Dear Lord, be my shepherd today. Guide my actions and choices and help me to follow You and Your ways.” “The Lord is my shepherd” is not a given—it’s a choice!

I shall not want

This is the promise that comes with the choice. When David first chose to follow the Lord he still remained a poor shepherd boy for many years. Then he became a fugitive hunted like an animal for even longer. As one intimately committed to God he definitely did not have everything his heart could desire—but he never “wanted” for the basic necessities of life. Through it all David remained faithful to his Lord and eventually became king. Scripture promises that if we are faithful through the difficulties of our own lives as David was in his, we will reign with Christ in heaven (Revelation 20:6) just as David reigned as Christ’s anointed king on earth. “I shall not want” is a promise for now and eternity when Jesus is our choice.

1. How many of the scriptures that you are familiar with do you really know, and how many do you think are vain repetitions?

2. What evidence is there in your life that the LORD really is your shepherd?

3. What things can you do to help make Jesus more in control of your life?

4. How do you feel about the fact that Jesus doesn’t want you to lack for any “needs” in your life?

5.Now, find someone today that you can share this good news with!

About the Author

Scott R. Ward is a husband and father of two daughters and a son. Scott is also a Youth Pastor and the Public High School Ministries Coordinator for the NAD. Scott loves helping people learn to nurture their devotional lives and challenging them reach out to the world around them by Living their faith. Scott’s first book on the devotional life, Authentic: Committed for Life, is due out August 2012 from Review and Herald Publishing Association.

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