Reflection on the 23rd Psalm to bring you strength today
Psalm 23 can bring us great comfort in tough times. The 23rd Psalm reminds us that we can always trust God, even when we walk through the valleys of life.
Psalm 23 words:
1 “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
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 overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
This Psalm 23 Bible verse is taken from the NIV version of the Bible.
A homeless boy, Psalm 23 and Compassion
Psalm 23 is one of the most heartening psalms in times of difficulty.
When 10-year-old Julius’ world fell apart, the words of this psalm became a lifeline to him.
His story of survival in west Kenya is raw and shows how compassion for others and prayer has the power to change lives forever.
After the sudden death of his mum, Julius was left homeless. As a vulnerable child, he was forced to live on the bustling streets of Luanda. Every day he would spend hours rummaging through rubbish heaps for scraps left by the local hotels.
Terrified by the reality of street life, Julius was eventually persuaded to return to live with his elderly grandma.
But tragedy struck again.
“As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death”
Julius had only been in safety for a couple of weeks when his grandmother’s health deteriorated and Julius became her sole carer. His days were filled with chores including travelling to the nearest river to wash her clothes and bedsheets.
Julius can clearly remember the moment his grandma’s eyes stopped moving. He called out to her, “Dani (grandmother), Dani, are you ok?”. But there was no answer, he told us.
In the middle of his struggle, Julius clung on to the words of Psalm 23. Every night he would lie on his bed and meditate on the psalm in his Good News Bible. Julius was comforted by the promise that God was with him through his valley of pain and grief. And whatever valley you’re going through, God can comfort you too.
“I will fear no evil for you are with me”
Julius was encouraged by the truths of Psalm 23. He knew that thanks to his Heavenly Father, he would “lack nothing”.
After praying through the Psalm, Julius experienced the reality of God’s incredible provision. At his grandma’s funeral, Julius’ uncle Wellington offered to give him a home. “My heart was not at rest knowing that the children were left alone,” explains Wellington.
But Wellington and his wife were battling poverty. They had no idea how they were going to provide for the two boys in addition to their own five children.
But again God was faithful. He guided Julius along the right paths.
“We received visitors from the local Compassion project who were seeking to help more needy children in the community,” remembers Wellington. “I prayed for Julius to be sponsored so that he could access the medical intervention he needed and start attending school.”
“Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life”
Julius was amazed that God’s goodness and love really did follow him. Thanks to his sponsor, Julius was able to join Ebusiralo Primary School. His Compassion sponsor provided everything he needed including food, education and support.
I’m happy because my uncle took us in. I also enjoy visiting the [Compassion] project on Saturdays because I have many friends there,” he says. I receive gifts from my sponsor and my sponsor’s letters encourage me to work hard in everything I do. I feel loved and appreciated.
Every night Julius still goes to bed and reads the words of Psalm 23. He’s experienced their truth in powerful ways. Julius knows the Lord really is his shepherd.
What does Psalm 23 mean?
by Maria Reyes, Programme Communications Manager, Compassion Bolivia
“The meaning of Psalm 23 still amazes me. The famous King David describing himself as a sheep, a sheep that has a gentle and courageous shepherd who cares for it.
Despite the sheep’s vulnerability, it is not afraid because its security is not in its own skills but in being near its shepherd, who keeps it safe.
This is a beautiful image of us receiving God’s tender love and care. He has forgiven us and filled us with love. As His children, He expects us to do the same with those in need.
Jesus compared helping the poor with serving Him. The gospel of Matthew records Jesus’ description of the trial of nations, in which Jesus sits on His glorious throne to reward His people with their inheritance.
It is those who have offered drink to the thirsty, food to the hungry, a home to the stranger, clothing to the naked, or a visit to the sick or imprisoned who know Jesus and are called his “sheep”.
“All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right.” —Matthew 25:32–33, NIV
Inspired by these insights and stories, we invite you to take time today to thank God for the love and generosity He has shown us. Ask Him to give you His humility and sensitivity to show love and generosity to others every day.
One way you can show the love of God to the thirsty, the hungry and the stranger is by sponsoring a child with Compassion. Your sponsorship will provide a vulnerable child in extreme poverty with education, health care and the love of a local church.
Interesting facts about the 23rd Psalm
- Psalm 23 is one of the Psalms of David.
- It’s often referred to as the Shepherd’s psalm. Psalm 23 portrays God as our good shepherd, feeding and leading his flock.
- The 23rd Psalm is used to provide comfort to those in difficulty. It’s often used as a reading at funerals – it was even read at Whitney Houston’s memorial.
- It’s not known exactly when the 23rd Psalm was written. Some believe it was written towards the end of David’s life.
- Psalm 23 may have been made popular by the 19th-century preacher Henry Ward Beecher. Henry described Psalm 23 as the nightingale of the psalms.
Psalm 23 and popular culture
- Psalm 23 inspired Bach’s Cantata No. 208, “May Sheep Safely Graze”.
- It’s been used in various films including The Wicker Man, The Elephant Man, Titanic and War Horse. In Titanic the priest reads Psalm 23 as the ship is sinking.
The words from this Psalm of David have been referenced in songs by Pink Floyd, U2, Jay Z, Coolio and Kanye West.
- Coolio’s song “Gangsta’s Paradise,” Tupac Shakur’s “So Many Tears” and Kanye West’s “Jesus Walks” all refer to “the valley of the shadow of death”.
Variations of Psalm 23
A David Psalm
23 1-3 God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.
4 Even when the way goes through
I’m not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure.
5 You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.
6 Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life.
The Lord the Shepherd of His People
A Psalm of David.
23 The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not [a]want.
2 He makes me to lie down in [b]green pastures;
He leads me beside the [c]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 [d]dwell in the house of the Lord
The Lord the Shepherd
A song of David.
23 The Lord is my shepherd.
I have everything I need.
2 He gives me rest in green pastures.
He leads me to calm water.
3 He gives me new strength.
For the good of his name,
he leads me on paths that are right.
4 Even if I walk
through a very dark valley,
I will not be afraid
because you are with me.
Your rod and your shepherd’s staff comfort me.
5 You prepare a meal for me
in front of my enemies.
You pour oil of blessing on my head.[a]
You give me more than I can hold.
6 Surely your goodness and love will be with me
all my life.
And I will live in the house of the Lord forever
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