The OT often speaks of God as Israel’s shepherd (Psalm 80:1; Ezek. 34:15). In Psalm 23 David personalizes the image. God is not only Israel’s shepherd, he is also David’s shepherd. The original Hebrew says “The Lord shepherds me,” as does the Greek Septuagint. Because God shepherds David, he will lack for nothing. This includes nourishment and refreshment – green pastures and quiet waters — and personal renewal. God guides David in righteous paths, not only for David’s sake but for the honoring of God’s name. God provides peace of heart even in the most frightening of circumstances. When David’s path takes him through the valley of the shadow of death, he can walk that path without fear – “for you are with me.” God’s rod symbolizes his strong defense and his staff represents his guidance and rescue.
God’s hospitality is lavish. David’s enemies see God’s table spread for his beloved servant. God welcomes David with anointing oil and fills his cup to overflowing. David has experienced God’s goodness in the past and he is confident that it awaits him in the future. “Loving kindness” here is God’s covenant faithfulness. Because God acts in keeping with his character, this happy picture has no end in sight. David expects to enjoy God’s company forever.
When the Parkinson’s medicine is wearing off or when leg muscle spasms and pains from neuropathy grow intense, the fingers begin a frantic drumbeat against whatever they happen to be touching. Usually a pill for pain and/or for Parkinson’s quiets the storm. Sometimes, so can Psalm 23. Repeating the psalm again and again can at times distract the brain from pain signals for at least a while. The truth that God shepherds me –and you, and all his people – might be the best medicine of all.