Words of Grace | Psalm 23 | Structure & Message

As we take a step back and examine the structure of Psalm 23, we see three notable pictures or vignettes of our relationship with God:

  1. The sheep & the shepherd (vv. 1-3) - 1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
  2. The traveler & the companion (v. 4) - 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
  3. The guest & the host (vv. 5-6) - 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

At the heart of each section is a personal confession that is based on the character of God:
  • “I shall not want” (v. 1) How is that possible? Because God is my shepherd
  • “I shall not fear” (v. 4) How can that be? Because God is my companion
  • “I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (v. 6) How does that happen? Because God is my host

This Psalm is an expression of complete trust in God’s total care, which is at the heart of its central message. Psalm 23 reveals a deep and personal relationship between its author (i.e., David) and the person it describes (i.e., God).

In the ancient Near East, shepherds were entirely and absolutely responsible for their sheep. Likewise, hosts were entirely and absolutely responsible for their guests. From starting to end, God is described not as a distant, passive observer but a caring shepherd, a companion, and a host who is actively at work in caring for His people. Notice again all the active verbs throughout this Psalm: “He makes…he leads…he restores…he leads (again)...he is with me…he prepares…he anoints.”

Reflection Questions

God is actively at work in the world.

How is God at work in your world? In your relationships at work, school, home, neighborhood or church?

Take a few moments to pray that God would open the eyes of your heart today. And then take some time to list five things in your life that you are grateful for the ways in which God is at work in and through your life.

Until next time, may the goodness and mercy of God follow you all the moments of this day!