Online Bible Study – Psalm 23

Scripture: Psalm 23


Psalm 23 is one of the most beloved passages in the entire Bible. It has brought words of comfort to people for thousands of years. For all of the comfort it provides, though, I wonder how many of us have taken the time to look deeply at it?  How many of us have taken the time to sit and explore this Psalm and see what we might gain from
that exploration?

This psalm is one of trust in God who is described as a shepherd. The shepherd was a familiar figure in Jesus’ day and the image of a shepherd wasn’t just used to describe God. Kings and priests were also described as shepherds. The task of a shepherd was a difficult one. Flocks didn’t spend their time safely tucked up in barns or pens. They grazed in the open countryside, at risk of being eaten by predators or stolen by thieves. It was the shepherd’s job to make sure they were protected from these dangers.

It was also the shepherd’s job to make sure that the flock had easy access to water, and abundant grazing. This last bit involved moving the flock on a regular basis so that the pasture wasn’t killed by overgrazing. Clearly an awful lot went into keeping a flock safe. It was the shepherd’s responsibility for the flock’s access to the basics of life as well as the flock’s high dependence on the shepherd that led to this identification and it is no surprise that it shows up in the book of psalms.

One of the paradoxes in the Bible is that words of trust in God appear most often when there is the least reason to trust in God’s provisions.

Psalm 22 is a psalm of lament and it alternates between words of lament, petition, trust and praise.

I feel like this pattern of prayer is a helpful for us, as we live amid a pandemic, with all its implications. Lament is something that appears often in the Bible. There is even a book called Lamentations. It reminds us that we can go to God with our difficulties and that we are not the first to do so.

It’s okay to express our hurt, confusion and doubt to God.

The pattern of lament also reminds us that times of difficulty and doubt are exactly when we need to express our trust in God and remember all the good things God has done for us. When things are going well, we don’t need to trust in God. We can see God’s goodness all around us. When things seem bleak, remembering all the good things God has done and expressing our trust in God in prayer can help us to feel hopeful.

I think this is one reason that Psalm 23 is so loved. In the time of our deepest need it speaks eloquently of God’s abundant care and concern. It reminds us that God loves us deeply and that we can trust God as fully as a sheep trusts its shepherd.

Food for Thought

  1. How are you doing today? Do you find yourself in a place where you can praise God or do you find yourself in a place of lament?
  2. Find in the Bible or create for yourself something that expresses lament, trust and/or praise of God. It could be a poem or other piece or writing, a piece of art
    or something else.
  3. Spend some time reading Psalm 23. Then either sit quietly with the words for a while or call a friend and talk about it with them.