David’s great psalm employs the simplest of images—that of a shepherd and his sheep—and assures of the greatest of truths—that God is forever present with his people. “The LORD is my shepherd” he says so simply, “I shall not want.”
No work of art is more beautiful, more valuable, more irreplaceable, than the twenty-third psalm. It has stood through the ages as a work of art more exquisite than The Night Watch, more faultless than Mona Lisa, more thought-provoking than Starry Night. The lines of the greatest poets cannot match its imagery, the words of the greatest theologians its profundity. Credentialed academics may wrestle with it, yet young children can understand it. It is read over cradles and cribs, over coffins and crypts, at births and deaths, at weddings and funerals. It is prayed in closets, sung in churches, and chanted in cathedrals.
This psalm dries more crying eyes, raises more drooping hands, and strengthens more weakened knees than any man or angel. It tends to every kind of wound and ministers to every kind of sorrow. To trade it for all the wealth of all the worlds would be the worst of bargains. I’d have rather penned the twenty-third psalm than written Hamlet, than painted Sunflowers, than sculpted The Thinker, for when Shakespeare’s play has been forgotten, when Van Gogh’s painting has faded, when Rodin’s sculpture has been destroyed, David’s song will remain. We impoverish ourselves if we do not read it, do not meditate upon it, and do not treasure it. We weaken ourselves if we do not drink deeply of it in our deepest sorrows.
David’s great psalm employs the simplest of images—that of a shepherd and his sheep—and assures of the greatest of truths—that God is forever present with his people. “The LORD is my shepherd” he says so simply, “I shall not want.” Because the LORD is his shepherd, this sheep can have confidence that he will never lack for any necessity, for the shepherd loves his flock and will faithfully attend to their every need. When they are tired he will make them lie down in green pastures, when they are thirsty he will lead them beside still waters, when they are downtrodden he will restore them, when they are lost or uncertain he will lead them in the right paths. The sheep can rest in peace under the shepherd’s watchful eye, they can be assured of every comfort under his tender care.