God was everything to David. In the first verse of Psalm 23, David declares, “The LORD is my Shepherd, I have everything I need.” (Good News Translation)
A survey of the BibleGateway’s usage data reveals the Psalms to be the most read book in the Bible and Psalm 23, the most popular Psalm. But Psalm 23 is not merely a pleasant sonnet to have on a plaque, but a rich and powerful declaration of truth from a heroic and authentic soul who lived and experienced its inspired truth.
We know more about the life of David than any other person in scripture. He is mentioned 1,078 times in 28 books of the Bible. After years of Sunday school stories about the shepherd boy overcoming incredible odds and slaying a giant with a stone, we tend to overlook the struggles, valleys, and disappointments David endured.
As we read through the historical record, our first glimpse of David is leaving his lonely job as a shepherd and being anointed by Samuel. Then he is summoned to play the lyre in the courts of Saul. When Goliath challenged the Israelites David delivered them, but King Saul is consumed with jealousy and he eventually flees to the wilderness in fear of his life.
There are other trials during this same season of his life. We know he was scorned by his own brothers and according to Psalm 2710, forsaken by his parents. His wife misunderstood him when he publicly worshipped God, and hundreds of families he faithfully and skillfully cared for in the wilderness, threatened to stone him.
David eventually became king, where he was victorious on the field of battle, but just when we begin to breathe a sigh of relief, he commits adultery, and murder, and the fruit of his sin is felt in his own home when his sons attempt to usurp the throne and kill their own father.
Daviddid not live a fairy tale existence. He did not live in a bubble of blessing. He endured a hard existence. But throughout the many trials and distresses, David continually found God faithful in meeting all of his needs. “The LORD is my Shepherd, I have everything I need. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:1-3)
Throughout his journal entries and private prayers (we call them Psalms) we see David honestly communicate his personal struggles and temptations then draw near to God and affirm that his good Shepherd was enough. David had learned to live vertically. He was truly a “man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14) who loved his heavenly Father with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength.
In verses 4 and 5 of Psalm 23, David affirms that His God was with him in the dark valleys of life and when surrounded by his enemies. “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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
This portion of another Psalm by David provides another glimpse into the sober record of his life: “I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul, and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place. Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing;” (Psalms 31:7-10)
God in Pursuit
David acknowledges the valleys and enemies, but the best verse in this wonderful affirmation of God’s care and character is verse 6. “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6 NLT)
There is no whining, only faith. David’s eyes are fixed on His good God who has never ceased lovingly pursuing His child. David declares that every single day of his life, God’s goodness and unfailing love have pursued him.
As wonderful as God’s goodness and lovingkindness pursuing him, David is about to receive the ONE THING his heart desires above all else. He will soon dwell in God’s home, and live in His presence, forever. Hear his prayer: “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4)
As I have meditated and studied Psalm 23 this summer, I have been deeply impacted by the life and words of this man who loved God and His word with everything in Him. I am in awe of David’s unswerving devotion to His Good Shepherd from youth to old age. David truly experienced the tender care of the LORD, who was his Good Shepherd and provided everything he needed.
May God help me, and all of us, to “taste and see” the goodness of God like “David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.” (Acts 13:22)
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