I was asked today by a dear friend on my Google Plus network if I could explain the meaning of Psalm 23 and what was the reason this is also read on funerals when someone is getting ready to meet the Lord. I have never been to a funeral so I didn’t know what they read but is a beautiful chapter and here is what I would like to share about it.
A Psalm of David.
23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. 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.
New King James Version (NKJV)
As we see in verse 1 “The Lord is my shepherd,” we must put ourselves as sheep in the care of Jesus Christ our Messiah and savior who is Himself God as we read in John 1:1-3, 14 and Heb. 1:2
1 In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He existed in the beginning with God. 3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.
New Living Translation (NLT)
2 And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Christ is our shepherd and we are His chosen ones as sheep (John 10, John 21:15-17 and Hebrews 13:20). The shepherd is the provider and protector of his flock. The sheep are helpless without him. Similarly, human existence is but a sinful, carnal experience without God in our lives (John 5:30; Rom. 8:6-11).
How about this phrase “I shall not want,” this is an indication that as sheep in Christ’s care, we won’t lack anything. We should have a full understanding in regards to putting God and God’s way first in our life. (Matthew 6:25-34). See also the blog post “What is the Motive in your Life” which talks about not getting distracted and to focus in God’s plan in everyone’s life, and also the blog post “God Gives Life and a calling in everyone’s life” which talks about seeking God’s will in our life and then follow it.
“He makes me to lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters.” Both the “green pastures” and “still waters” indicate a blessed abundance, further illustrating the benefits of a God-led life.
Psalm 23:3 begins, “He restores my soul.” We must understand that we are sinners, but also that Christ had redeemed us and would continue to restore us upon repentance. The blog post “Forgiveness is not an option but a command” is a good example showing an understanding of repentance and forgiveness.
“he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake,” indicates that it is Christ’s example that we are to follow, and that is to God’s glory when we obey. Yet is only through the power of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus Christ in us, that we are even able to do so (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 4:13). All of our Lord Yahweh’s commandments are righteousness.
172 My tongue shall speak of Your word, For all Your commandments are righteousness.
New King James Version (NKJV)
King David was the one who wrote Psalm 23 and he knew that occasionally the shepherd had to lead his flock through treacherous terrain, and so he writes (as the sheep), “Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.” David had complete trust and confidence in God and His way—He had no fear, even in the “shadow of death.” The rod and staff are the shepherd’s tools, and are used to guide and correct the path of the sheep—much in the same way God has to oftentimes guide, and occasionally correct, our path. This comforted David and should also confort us. Paul indicates in II Timothy 1:7 that this mindset comes only from God: “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies: You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.” We must understand the promises of blessings and protections even in our hardest times of our lives we must have complete confidence. (Eph. 3:20; Luke 11:9-13; compare though with James 4:1-3).
We should all know that as long as we would follow Christ, “…goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” in the kingdom of God: “and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” We must dwell in his house as servants, to serve him for ever. If God’s goodness to us be like the morning light, which shines more and more to the perfect day, let not ours to Him be like the morning cloud and the early dew that passeth away.
Personally, I would say that the reason why this is read in funerals is because it remind us of God’s promise and because it comforts the people left behind that God is taking care of the recently deceased as He will also take care of us left behind as we wait upon His return.
In conclusion, the best possible way to put it is that the Lord is our shepherd, and He knows what we need better than we do. God wants us to have what is best for us. As long as we trust in Him as our shepherd, He will lead us to places of safety. He knows how to direct us away from places where we will stumble. Even when we have fallen, He can still rescue us.
Has this message touched you in any way? The love of our Heavenly Father could change hearts even at the last minutes of our lives. Don’t wait until is too late before repenting of your sins and make a better change in your life to walk away from all the earthly pleasures. They give no life but bring sorrows and pain into our life and ultimately they only lead to death. Start the walk and make a change for yourself and your family. Be the leader your family deserves. All you have to do is Surrender and make the decision to follow Christ and be ready to be use in a magnificent way to glorify the name of the Lord.