Inside: This Psalm 23 bible study explains the breakdown of Psalm 23 through the eyes of a Shepherd and is one of the worlds most well loved chapters of Scripture.
One of the best sandwiches I’ve had was in the desert of California given to me by a Shepherd who lived nomadically as he shepherded his sheep.
I kid you not.
I’ve never forgotten that beautiful experience as a child, and as I read Psalm 23, it always brings the truth of God’s word home in such a powerful way.
Psalm 23 is known as one of the worlds most beloved Psalms, and Scripture verses, in the entire Bible.
And for good reason.
It paints a picture of God and His children as Shepherd and sheep, giving believers the reassurance of heaven.
Psalm 23 Bible Study- The Character and Life of David
When doing a Psalm 23 Bible study, the character of David is an important thing to consider.
David wasn’t a perfect man. But he was a man after God’s own heart and wanted to do what was right in the eyes of the Lord.
Even when David sinned, he didn’t just leave it at that.
He wept before the Lord.
He fell on his face.
Most importantly- He repented.
Before David was crowned King of Israel he was a lowly shepherd boy with humble beginnings.
Living and working daily with sheep wasn’t a clean job. On the contrary, it was stinky and smelly.
David had humble beginnings- which is evidence that God looks at the heart and intents of a person and not the things of this world such as recognition and riches
God used David’s experience as a beautiful Psalm that would resonate through time of God as our Shepherd and we as the sheep of his flock.
David was a king who was beloved of God because of his humble heart to serve God.
Even when he sinned against God and committed adultery with Bathsheba, he laid out his sin before God (check out his prayer to God in Psalm 51) and had a heart full of repentance.
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Psalm 23 Bible Study and Cultural Setting
It’s also important to include the cultural settings in our Psalm 23 Bible study which reveals context and brings deeper understanding of our breakdown of Psalm 23.
Back in the times of the Bible, shepherds were a common site that dotted the hills and landscape of Israel.
In both the Old and New Testaments, and in many parables, Jesus used examples that were common in that time to illustrate and communicate truth.
When Jesus said that he was the vine and his followers the branches, they
understood exactly what he was saying because they were familiar with
agriculture and grew their own food.
When Jesus mentioned the Scripture, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man entering into the kingdom of God, he wasn’t referring to a literal needle.
He was referring to the entrance to
Jerusalem and how the herdsmen had to remove all of their goods from the camel to be able to get inside the city gate.
Psalm 23 Explained Beautifully
It isn’t every day that you come across a scenario in life where you see Psalm 23 explained beautifully right in front of your very own eyes.
When my husband and I were in language immersion in Germany, we traveled to Amberg daily for class. On the way home last spring we saw a wonderful site on the side of the road.
It was a Deutsch (German) Shepherd tending to his flock.
screamed very loudly) asked my husband to pull over so we could absorb this wonderful moment that was happening before our eyes.
On the side of the road was a Shepherd tending to his flock. There he stood leaning on his staff keeping careful watch over his flock with his trusty Sheepdog.
Types of Shepherds in the Bible
There are two types of shepherds mentioned in the Bible:
- Good shepherd
- Hireling shepherd
There are a few Scriptures I want to give you that describe both a perfect shepherd and a hireling shepherd by Jesus himself.
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
Jesus, speaking about himself in John 10:11, said he was the good shepherd and he mentioned specific qualities he had for the sheep under his care that also can extend to any shepherd who takes care of his sheep:
What are the qualities and responsibilities of a good shepherd?
- cares for the safety of the flock
- leads and guides the flock to new pasture for food
- protection from predators
- keeps the sheep healthy
- sheers the sheep
- helps during the birth process if neccesary
The second type of a shepherd we have is a hireling. A hireling is a person who works purely for material reward- money.
What are the qualities of a hireling shepherd?
- Don’t care for the safety of the flock
- Lazy leading the flock to fresh pastures
- Not concerned with predators or losing a sheep’s life
- Doesn’t care if they get sick
- Let’s their coat get overgrown
- Has an ‘I don’t care’ attitude.
David, the lowly shepherd boy would one day become King over all of Israel and illustrate our perfect Shepherd, Jesus, as we see in Psalm 23, the Shepherd’s Psalm.
Check out these other related Bible posts.
Bible Study Psalm 23 Verse by Verse
Let’s get started on our Bible Study of Psalm 23 verse by verse, shall we?
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.Psalm 23:1
The word want means to lack, to diminish and to be decreased in something.
In verse 1 we see a perfect shepherd who supplies all of the needs of his sheep. As children of God, we have no lack in our spiritual life because he supplies everything.
Notice that it doesn’t say he supplies all our wants. it says he supplies all of our needs. Big difference, right?
In Verse 1 we have perfect supply and perfect satisfaction.
He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me besides the still waters.Psalm 23:2
The Thayers definition for the word ‘lie down’ in verse two means not only to recline. It means to stretch out and sprawl oneself out in true comfort.
Where can we lie down? Green pastures are new grass with fresh sprouts.
As God’s sheep, our bed is not made of brambles and thorns. The bed that is prepared for us is green and lush. where we have perfect rest. We also have a free flowing supply of water to drink freely from.
In verse 2 we have perfect rest and perfect refreshment
He restores my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.Psalm 23:3
I love that the word restores is used here in verse 3 because God the best restorational work.
If you’ve ever been to an old car show, you’ll find that the old cars often look more glorious in their restoration than in their original form. God’s restorative process makes us better than new.
In verse 3 we have a perfect path, perfect restoration and perfect guidance and perfect righteousness.
Yea, thought I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thy rod and they staff they comfort me.Psalm 23:4
In our life we will have to walk through many dark times. Those difficult times in this verse are called the shadow of death.
What is the valley of the shadow of death?
It can be many things but here are some examples:
- Death of family members
- Suffering financial hardship
- Going through trials in your faith
- Physical illness
- Wolves who desire to destroy our faith/walk away from God
- Having an unfaithful spouse
Our own unique valley of the shadow of death might have different terrains which we trod through. The course we take might be steep, rocky, difficult to walk through and we might have unsure footing, but we are told in verse 4 that we are not to fear danger because his rod and staff comfort us.
The rod of God is used by the Shepherd for protection and God’s staff is used for our support.
We can be rest assured that God is with us in the valley helping our footsteps be secure in Him.
In verse 4 of Psalm 23 we have perfect trust, perfect protection, perfect companionship with God and perfect defense.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.Psalm 23:5
One of the jobs of a Shepherd is to provide the sheep with food. Even when there is danger the job of providing for his sheep doesn’t go unfinished.
Sometimes the sheep would become infested with bugs. It’s also common for flies to lay eggs in the nostrils of sheep where they hatch and travel into the sheeps brain. Anointing the nostrils of his sheep with oil prevents the flies from landing on the noses of the sheep.
Anointing, in the life of a believer represents the Holy Spirit being poured out over kings in the Old Testament and the infilling of the Holy Spirit in the life of the New Testament believers. God’s is not with us in measure, but our lives our overflowing with his Holy Spirit.
In verse 5 we have perfect provision, perfect food, and perfect safety.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life,and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.Psalm 23:6
If I told you that two people were following you from the moment you became a Christian, you’d think I was a bit off or not in my right mind. I love how goodness and mercy are personified here as following us all the days of our lives.
Sister, goodness AND mercy have followed you from the day you trusted Christ as your Saviour until now.
That same goodness and mercy that gives us salvation will take us to our heavenly home.
In verse 6 we have perfect goodness, perfect mercy, and a perfect heaven
Related Post: Learn How to Pray Psalm 23
As a child in the hills of Bouquet Canyon in California, my Dad and I would go snake hunting in the hills near his cabin. One day we met an old sheepherder and my father and he formed a fast friendship.
On the weekends, we’d go searching for him on the dirt trails through the desert looking for sheep dotting the desert so we could say hello to our friend. We wandered through the dirt roads hoping to catch a glimpse of where he’d brought his sheep to pasture since the last time we saw him.
The first time I met him, he invited us into his mobile trailer and asked us if we wanted a sandwich. As he pulled out a loaf of bread and a chunk of cheese, and cut off a slice of cheddar to go on top of my bread. l I had noticed that his hands were a testament to the hard work of his job because dirt was permanently etched into the crevices of his hands.
In Psalm 23, you can see all of the wonderful promises that the Good Shepherd has for his sheep. but that leads me to one more quality of the shepherd that God wants to have with each one of us.
There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.
Have you experienced the friendship of God and his eternal life? The good Shepherd wants to have a divine friendship with you, sweet friend. All you have to do is ask Him to come into your heart. He has a wonderful life planned and prepared for you!
Verse by Verse Summary and Breakdown of Psalm 23
Let’s quickly recoup the breakdown of Psalm 23.
Verse 1- perfect supply and satisfaction
Verse 2- perfect rest and refreshment
verse 3- perfect path, restoration, guidance, and righteousness
verse 4- perfect trust, protection, companionship and defense
verse 5- perfect provision, food and safety
verse 6- perfect goodness, mercy and heaven
I pray that this Psalm 23 bible study has helped you dig deeper into your relationship with our good Shepherd, Jesus.