According to Time magazine, the most popular song in the world is the Disney anthem, “It’s a Small World.” It was written by the Sherman Brothers whom Walt Disney told, “I need one song that can be easily translated into many languages and be played as a round.” But if you were asked to name the most popular Psalm in the world, you would probably answer: Psalm 23. Even in our post-Christian society, most people can quote the opening line, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
Psalm 23 portrays God in two roles, as shepherd and host. As shepherd, the Lord provides for the needs of His people. David declares, “I lack nothing” (v. 1). It does not mean he gets whatever he wants; it means the Lord can and will provide everything he needs. In a barren climate, the Lord leads His sheep to “green pastures” and “quiet waters” (v. 1). This consistent care and provision led David to have a deep trust in the Lord. Even when the Lord led him through the “darkest valley,” he was not afraid (v. 4). As one commentator put it, “The dark valley . . . is as truly one of his ‘right paths’ as are the green pastures—a fact that takes much of the sting out of any ordeal.” In any situation the Lord is there to guide with His shepherd’s tools: a staff and a rod.
In verse 5, the image shifts, and God is pictured as a gracious host. The Lord invites David to enjoy His hospitality even in the presence of his enemies (v. 5). As a good host, the Lord makes sure that His guest has an anointed head and a full cup (v. 5). David responds with gratitude, confessing that the Lord’s “goodness and love” will pursue him throughout his life. He was confident that he would live with God in His presence forever (v. 6).
At times, you may wonder if God really sees what you are going through. Does He notice? Does He care? Today’s psalm assures us that God is present with His people, even when we walk through dark valleys. God’s provision is most perfectly seen in Jesus, who laid down His life so that we could dwell in the Father’s house forever (John 10:15).