How many times do you read a passage of Scripture and always see the same application over and over again?
This week, my husband and I were studying Psalm 23, and saw a new focus in the psalm. What we always assumed is that the chapter is only about learning to trust in God as He leads us. But look at verses 5-6:
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:5-6).
These two verses do NOT describe a sheep. There is no meekness, no fear, no needing to be guided by a rod, no following searching for food. Yes, David starts out the Psalm describing himself as a sheep, but at this point he is describing himself as a victorious warrior. He has been cleaned up from the battle and oil put on his hair. He is being served the best wine and food. It is presented by the king he is serving. And it all is in the presence of those he conquered.
Verse 6 shows that David is not just describing himself as a warrior, but he is someone who has moved up to the point of being the king’s consultant or may even be seen as a member of the family. Soldiers, even decorated ones, do not ‘stay in the house;’ they go back out and fight. Yet, in this verse, David says that he will stay forever in the Lord’s house, always having the goodness and love that comes from such a protected position.
Taking the next step
Now, what did it take to get David from a sheep to a victorious warrior living in the palace in peace and prosperity? Ah, this is the part you are used to reading, but look at it once again. First, trust has to be established. As a Christian, the first level of trust is the same as that of a sheep—do you believe that your Shepherd-God will provide your basic food and shelter?
As you move from focusing on basic needs, your trust will move you to the next step of being a sheep—you get to the point of wanting peace, or still waters, and wanting to be guided by God’s voice to the good paths. This is the point of the sheep spending time with the Shepherd.
The next step in a walk of faith is testing. The Psalmist describes this period as a time spent in a valley of death. It is dark, it is cold, you can’t see where you are going, it isn’t easy, but because you have learned to trust during prior circumstances, you keep listening to the Shepherd and believing that He isn’t going to let you die in this Valley.
As the sheep come out of the valley, they have leaned so hard on the Shepherd’s instruction and voice. Now, the sheep are looking to the Shepherd for both protection and direction at all times. The rod and staff were used to keep the sheep from falling off cliffs AND to fight off predators trying to get to the sheep. It is at this point where you are looking to God as both your guide and your protector.
Is your walk of faith at this point yet?
And here, finally at this point in Vs 5-6, we see the sheep describing himself as a victorious warrior, honored before the enemies he overcame, forever in the security and favor of the king. You know it’s possible to get here; you may be here yourself or know some people who are. Vs 5-6 are their story, but you seem stuck in verses 1-4.
Let me remind you—this psalm didn’t happen quickly; it is David’s life story. See, we tend to focus on one side or the other of this Psalm, and forget that this journey may have taken 50-60 years to go from a sheep to a decorated warrior.
Don’t discount your journey, and don’t think you will never get to the peace stage. Find where you are and focus on the step of faith you are working through at this stage in your life. Your Shepherd will guide you through each step.
Your job is to trust Him.