The 23rd Psalm

Psalm 23

Saturday, July 9, 2022

What comes to your mind when I say “The 23rd Psalm?”  Perhaps you know that it is the most famous of all the Psalms, or even the most well-known chapter of the Bible.  You might think, “Ahhh, the Shepherd Psalm.”  Maybe you remember its author, David, and that he was a shepherd boy.  Or, perhaps you know that Psalm 23 is identified as a Messianic Psalm, picturing Jesus as the Good Shepherd.  These thoughts are all reasonable when considering Psalm 23.  But here are my thoughts when the words “The 23rd Psalm” are said to me. 

I remember a little 4-year-old girl attending the Church of God Illinois State Conference Bible School in Oregon, Illinois in the summer of 1956.  During our lessons that week, the children in attendance were challenged to memorize Psalm 23.  The little girl thought she could memorize it just as well as her older brother, and she was determined to do so.  At the end of the week, each child was asked if he/she wanted to go in front of the gathered students, and recite this beautiful Psalm.  The little girl was shy, but went up in front, by her teacher, and proudly recited the Psalm.  There were a few missed words, but she finished well, and was applauded for her efforts.  She was so proud to receive a ribbon with a “Shepherd and sheep” seal upon it, as an acknowledgement of her accomplishment.  She kept that ribbon for years!

As I (the little girl, as you probably guessed) grew older, I would occasionally recite the psalm to myself.  Years later as an adult, I realized I couldn’t recite it anymore.  I was disappointed in myself.  I made an effort to re-memorize the Psalm, and now it is a part of me.

If you are sad, recite the 23rd Psalm.  Are you stressed, weary, needing direction?  Quote Psalm 23.  Is everything swirling about you, are the burdens weighing too heavily on your shoulders, is hope fast disappearing before you?  Say the 23rd Psalm to yourself.  It offers comfort, strength, and encouragement every time. 

As you say the words, picture yourself as a sheep, lovingly cared for by Jesus, our Good Shepherd.  He leads you to green pastures for grazing, quiet waters for a refreshing drink, and guides you THROUGH dangerous territory, “the valley of the shadow of death.”  He draws you close with his staff, and he rubs oil in any wounds you might have.  What reassurance and love the Shepherd gives his sheep.

As Jesus states in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

The 23rd Psalm’s words are a treasure to all who read or recite them, providing immeasurable solace in the midst of life’s challenges and troubles. 

The opening sentence actually sums it up.  “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

-Paula Kirkpatrick

Questions for Reflection

  1.  When you hear the words, “The 23rd Psalm”, what comes to your mind?
  2. What scriptures provide comfort and peace to you?

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