The Sheep’s Psalm

a brief study of Psalm 23, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 27 Oct 2006

For some strange reason, Psalm 23 is not normally classified as a Messianic Psalm. But it is not difficult to see how it is indeed Messianic.

In the first place, the New Testament speaks of the Lord Jesus as the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:11), the Chief Shepherd (1Pt 5:4) and the Great Shepherd (Heb 13:20). As we look at the content of this Psalm, it is not difficult for us to see how this Psalm is given by our Good Shepherd for His sheep and lambs to sing about Him. He is the Son of God and our Messiah. It is perfectly fitting for us to direct our praises to Him as well as to the Father and to the Spirit.

In the second place, it is not difficult for us to see how our Lord Himself would have used these words to encourage Himself under the care of His Father during the time of His earthly ministry. It is no coincidence that He is called the “Lamb of God,” for He took our nature to live and die for us. So it is no coincidence that in the same place where our Lord calls Himself our Good Shepherd, He says: “As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep” (Jn 10:14-15). Is not the Lord saying, “As the Father knew and led me, so I know and will lead you”?

So then, this Psalm is Messianic both in that it is given for us to sing about our Messiah, and that it was used by the Messiah.

With this in mind, let us consider briefly how Christ is our Shepherd as He is painted in this Psalm.

First of all, we see from this Psalm that Christ our Shepherd is…

1. Our Provider

1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

With Christ as our shepherd, we shall not lack anything—temporal or spiritual. Christ our shepherd will see to it. He is Jehovah Jireh.

“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2Cor 8:9)

We can and should be contented.

Do you find yourself lacking in spiritual gifts and graces? Go to the Lord and ask of Him. He has taught us to ask for the Holy Spirit.

Do you find yourself lacking in material things? He has taught us to pray “give us this day our daily bread”.

Christ is my provider, I shall not want.

2. Our Peace-Maker

2a He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:

A sheep will only lie down when 4 conditions are satisfied: Freedom of fear; Freedom of antagonism within the flock; Freedom of irritants like parasites and flies; and Freedom from hunger.

So it is with us. Christ frees us from the fear that comes with guilt on account of sin. Guilt translates into a fear of God as well as a fear of man. Christ our shepherd gave us peace—peace with God and peace with man. Peace that the world does not understand. He does so by removing our guilt.

And Christ our Lord by His word and Spirit brings us peace within the flock by making us love one another.

And though many cares and concern irritates us and give us no rest, in Christ we can have peace for He calls us to cast our burdens upon Him and assures us that all things are working together for our good.

Most of all, He feeds us. He feeds us with His word to comfort, and encourage us so that we are able to rest in Him in a restless world.

Christ is my peace-maker, He makes me to lie down in green pastures.

3. Our Preserver

2b he leadeth me beside the still waters.

As the sheep need to drink water in order to survive, so we too need to drink if we are to persevere on in our journey.

As sheep will not drink from rushing water, so we will not find refreshment in this busy world except we come apart with Christ to go beside the still waters.

So Christ leads us each day to the closet or to the mountainside where we can be alone with Him and we can pray. Was it not for Christ setting us an example and instructing us to do so, we would not do so. But when we follow Him, and come apart for prayer, oh what refreshment we find for our souls.

2b he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He preserves me by encouraging me to pray.

4. Our Physician

3a He restoreth my soul:

Sheep are prone to wander. If there is a hole in their fence, they would leave the flock in search of greener pasture even if out there is a semi-arid desert.

We too are prone to wonder. We are prone to wonder from the flock and from the green pastures that our Shepherd placed us in. We are prone to wander from Christ who loves us so.

But Christ loves us more than to allow us to get ourselves into danger. He would leave the ninety-nine to look for us. He would restore us by admonishment, by church discipline, by painful providence.

He restores my soul. Thank God for my shepherd’s love for me.

5. Our Pilot

3b He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

The ancient shepherd had to lead the flock from one place to another to graze. Sometimes the paths can be dangerous and difficult. But he leads them on.

So Christ leads us on in our journey to the Celestial City. He leads us in the paths of righteousness by guiding us with His Word. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. He gives us the Holy Spirit to keep us in the Way of Holiness.

He does so for His name’s sake, for at the end of our journey, He will present us to the Father as the trophies of His redeeming grace, and His name will be greatly magnified and we shall share in His glory forever and ever.

Thank God that Christ does not leave me alone to fight the spiritual battle and to run the Christian race. I am with you always, He assures me.

Thank you Lord, for leading me as the pilot and captain of my salvation.

6. Our Protector

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Whenever the flock of sheep is on the move it faces many dangers. Wolves and lions may be waiting in the shadows to pounce upon them.

But with the shepherd guiding them with His rod and protecting them with His staff, they need fear no evil.

So it is with us. We need not fear what evil may come our way. Especially, we need not fear when death approaches.

Death can be a very frightful experience for a person without Christ—for he goes alone and he knows not where he is going.

But death for the saint need not be fearful. When it is time for me to die, my only concern will be those I leave behind, my dear wife, my children, my beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord … and all whose lives may be affected by my departure. But I know that death is but a portal into heavenly glory.

And I know I will not need to enter through the door alone, for Christ will be with me.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

7. Our Prince

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

When we begin this Psalm we were pictured as sheep being led from one pasture to another. But now the sheep is no longer wandering.

They have come to a place of rest. We are now being taken care of in a very personal way. The shepherd makes a table. He lays the food on the table – that’s what shepherds do when they hand-feed their sheep. If they throw the pellets on the ground especially in the wetter months, the sheep may get sick because of the bacteria in the soil.

And not only so, but the shepherd anoints the head of his sheep individually with oil and provides them plenty of water—their cup runs over.

So it is when we have gone through the shadow of death. We shall be in the presence of the Lord. We shall be His guests at His table. We shall dine with Him.

All through life’s journey He protects us from all harm and danger and enemies. When we have finally returned to Him, we shall still see our enemies, but none of them can touch us.

All through life’s journey, we had an earnest of our eternal inheritance, even an anointing of the Holy Spirit. But now the Spirit is given to us in full. We are made perfect in the full enjoyment of Christ.

All through life’s journey our Shepherd provides us sufficient for our needs so that we have no want. But now, He fills our cup full,—brink full,—so that it overflows with spiritual blessing that we can enjoy for all eternity.

What a privilege it is to be a sheep of Christ! What assurance! What hope! And what longing, for Christ is also…

8. Our Patron

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

What is the greatest privilege that a sheep can enjoy? It is to be brought into the house of the shepherd to be cared for as a household pet or a member of the family.

So it will be with us. We shall be invited into the house of our Shepherd. We shall dwell with Him forever.

What a lofty thought: Unworthy sinners being allowed to see their Creator in the beatific vision, and then enjoying the rapturous joy of heaven unhindered by any pain, sorrow or tears.

Yes, today we labour under much sorrow and discouragement due to weaknesses, failures and sin. But all that will be removed.

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev 21:4).

Instead of weeping, there will be laughter of wondrous joy beyond description. Instead of death, there will be life abundant, free and eternal. Instead of pain, there will be everlasting pleasures. Instead of sorrow, there will be the fullness of rejoicing and praise as we behold the glory of God in the face of Christ our Shepherd forever and ever.

Hope and faith will give way to sight, and we shall be ravished with the love of Christ our shepherd forever and ever.

And the love of Christ shall overflow from our hearts so that every sheep will enjoy the company of other sheep perfectly. They will love one another perfectly.

There will be no more quarrels, no more misunderstandings, no more criticisms, no more accusations, no more fears, no more disappointments, no more suspicion, no more hypocrisy, no more slander, no more gossips, no more disrespect, no more jealousy, or any such things.

There will only be love. Heaven is a place of love. The relationship between Christ and his sheep is love. The relationship between sheep and sheep is love. There is no relationship within heaven that cannot be described as love.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.


What a great psalm! What a blessing it is just to think about it. May the Lord our Provider, our Peace-maker, our Preserver, our Physician, our Pilot, our Protector, our Prince, and our Patron—be greatly magnified as we sing these words in His praise.

May His Spirit encourage us too that we may walk with joy in the assurance that surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives until the day we enjoy the raptures of heaven as we behold the face of our Shepherd whose love for us knows no bounds. Amen.

— JJ Lim