This Bible study on Psalm 23:1-6 uncovers interesting insight into God's character. Although this beloved Psalm of David is frequently used to bring comfort at a funeral service, there is actually so much in David's writings that can affect your everyday life.
Throughout its six verses, eight compound names of Jehovah are revealed. They are listed here along with how these impact us.
JEHOVAH = eternal LORD (Ex 6:3), "I AM WHO I AM"
Jehovah is the name God called Himself when He spoke to Moses. Throughout the King James Bible Version, when it is written as LORD, a concordance will show that this is Jehovah in the original Hebrew.
JEHOVAH-ROHI = the LORD, my shepherd
As a good shepherd, our LORD leads and guides, feeds and protects, cares for and loves us, the sheep of His pasture (Ps 100:3).
JEHOVAH-JIREH = the LORD, my provider
Just like sheep that lie down and rest when they are satisfied after feeding in pastures of tender grass, our LORD provides for all our needs so that we, too, can rest in His abundant provision.
JEHOVAH-SHALOM = the LORD, my peace
The shepherd builds small dams to calm the rushing streams. He leads his sheep to the peaceful streams for them to drink from the quiet waters. Our LORD also leads us to safe places and gives us peace.
JEHOVAH-RAPHA = the LORD, my healer
Our LORD restores our soul to the way it was before the fall of mankind, with wholeness and health. 3 John 2 says that we are to prosper and be in health, even as our soul prospers.
JEHOVAH-TSIDKENU = the LORD, my righteousness
Our LORD has given us the gift of righteousness (Rom 5:17), meaning we've been brought into right standing with God.
JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH = the LORD is there
No matter where we go, our LORD is there. He never leaves or forsakes us (Heb 13:5).
JEHOVAH-NISSI = the LORD, my banner
A shepherd prepares a field before his sheep enter it, by emptying snake holes, removing poisonous plants and fighting any enemies within it.
Our LORD also has gone before us. He fought the devil and won. The banner of victory is raised high. Our enemy may rage round about, but we are seated at the LORD's table under His victory banner.
JEHOVAH-M'KADDESH = the LORD, my sanctifier
We are sanctified (Heb 10:10), meaning we are set apart, anointed, and made holy by our LORD. The overflowing and abundant provision of Jehovah-Jirah is again seen here.
JEHOVAH = eternal LORD (Ex 6:3), "I AM WHO I AM"
This closing verse of Psalm 23 is one of comfort that reinforces that our LORD is the eternal God, with whom we will live forever.
Did you notice? One verse is not like the others!
All the other verses talk about what the LORD does for us: He leads us, guides us, restores us, provides for us, prepares for us, and anoints us.
But, Psalm 23:4 says:
In verse 4, it says that I WALK there. It doesn't say that our LORD led me there. Or that our LORD guided me there. Or that our LORD took me there. Or that our LORD wants me there.
Somehow, when I've come off the path that the LORD set before me, and now I'm in the valley of the shadow of death.
Let's look at the words in this verse for fresh insight and a more in-depth understanding.
VALLEY comes from the Hebrew word gay: a steep valley, narrow gorge (a dark place, since no sun can shine in). The word gay comes from g̱êwâ: arrogance, lifting up, pride.
SHADOW OF DEATH comes from the Hebrew almâew: grave, shadow of death, calamity.
Therefore, the valley of the shadow of death is a place of arrogance, pride, and calamity. Arrogance and pride are sins. It's a place I've strayed into.
Now that I am in this dark valley, a sinister place, with sin (arrogance and pride) and calamity (disasters and tragedies), I choose not to be afraid because our LORD, Jehovah-Shammah, is there. And, because You are there, You, Jehovah-Rohi, my shepherd, will lead me out.
ROD comes from the Hebrew šêḇe: correction, dart, rod, scepter, staff, tribe.
A shepherd uses the rod (like a small stick) as a weapon. He throws it to kill or chase away wild animals. He also uses it to help separate the wool on the sheep, so he can correct any problems the sheep may have in its fleece and take care of any skin diseases.
What corrects us? The rod!
Isaiah gives this prophecy of Jesus, the Word: And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots, Isaiah 11:1.
In Micah, God says: hear ye the rod, 6:9.
What is the rod that corrects us?
Timothy tells us that the Word is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 2 Timothy 3:16.
Our correction comes from the Word (which is the rod). As we study the Word, the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth (Joh 16:13).
STAFF comes from the Greek miš‘ênâ: a walking-stick, staff, support.
The shepherd uses his staff with a crook on the end to pull a lamb or sheep out of a crevice that it had fallen into. He also uses it to pull the sheep away from dangerous places.
What is our staff? What pulls us out of a pit of despair?
In Corinthians, we are told that with every temptation, God has provided a way of escape (1 Cor 10:13). Jesus is the Way. We have also been given authority over all the works of the devil. As well, we have been given the use of the name of Jesus. We do not have to remain in a pit. Our shepherd provides the way to get us out.
He [The LORD] brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, Psalm 40:2 (brackets mine).
It's His Word (the rod and the staff) that gets us out of that pit, the valley, that we got ourselves into.
Most of us will accept the fact that God leads us, if we are willing.
What happens, though, when we wonder off His path and enter a valley of the shadow of death, a place of sin and/or calamity?
Our Jehovah-Shammah, the LORD is there. And, if we let Him, He'll guide us out.
O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps, Jeremiah 10:23. This says plainly that we shouldn't direct our own path.
Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established, Proverbs 4:26.
How do we ponder our path?
Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil, Proverbs 4:27.
The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way, Psalm 37:23. I love how the Amplified Bible ends the sentence with ... and He busies Himself with his every step.
Who is a good man? It's a righteous man.
Who is righteous? All those who have made Jesus their Savior (Rom 3:22).
Proverbs 3:5-6 explains in greater detail how we choose the path (direction) we go:
All the paths of the Lord are mercy and steadfast love, even truth and faithfulness are they for those who keep His covenant and His testimonies, Psalm 25:10
Our desire should be, Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths, Psalm 25:4.
My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding ... Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God ... Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path, Proverbs 2:1-9.
Our response: Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path, Psalm 119:105
If we leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness; Who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness [contrariness, defiance, disobedience, insubordination, perverseness, rebellion, unruliness, waywardness] of the wicked; Whose ways are crooked, and they froward in their paths, Proverbs 2:13-15 (brackets mine), we end up in that valley of the shadow of death.
If we didn't heed the instruction: Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away, Proverbs 4:14-15, that's when the Word, the rod and the staff, does its work, IF we let it.
COMFORT comes from the Hebrew nâ am: breathe strongly, to sigh, comfort, repent.
I went my own way into that valley of sin and calamity, but now the Word of God shows me my sin. I repent. I will heed the God's instructions, so I won't make the same mistake again. I can now breathe easy. I am comforted.
Repentance means more than being sorry for doing wrong. It means turning 180 degrees. It means choosing not to be led astray in those areas again. It means to follow our shepherd so closely, that we won't be tempted by the obstacles Satan borders the path with. They are like rocks meant to trip us up.
We have a promise that as we walk closer to the LORD, it gets better and better. We avoid what tripped us up in the past. Our path is as a shining light, leading us forward.
After all, He is Jehovah-Tsidkenu who leads me in the paths of righteousness (Ps 23:3)
It's up to us where we choose to walk.
Matthew 7:13 tells us that there are two paths in life. We get to choose which one we take. When we make Jesus our Lord and receive salvation, we've chosen the narrow path, a new life … eternal life!
STRAIT comes from the Greek stenos: narrow (from obstacles standing close about).
The obstacles are things such as sickness, poverty, persecutions, lusts, and pride. These are Satan's rocks that he tries to trip us up with.
BUT, they are NOT on the path. They border it. And, even though they are right beside us, we CAN ignore them. God isn't the one blocking our path. Instead, He leads and guides us down the middle of the narrow way.
James 1:13 says:
It isn't God who tempts us. It is our own carnal nature and our un-renewed mind (Rom 12:2) that draws us away from the path of the just. We end up falling for Satan's temptations. But it was our choice to be drawn away. We decided to walk into that valley of the shadow of death (Ps 23:4) where we're tripped up by those lusts and sins.
Remember, God doesn't put us into the valley, but Jehovah-Shammah is there to pull us out. That's when He makes a way for us with His rod and staff … the Word … Jesus Christ is always the way out.
If you are going through a bad time, a temptation, a hidden addictive sin, a 'valley', it's something that won't overpower you IF you trust God and turn to Him for the answer out. Let the Holy Spirit lead you to the scriptures that will guide you back to the center of the narrow path.
How do we stay on the narrow path? We follow where our LORD leads us.
How does He lead us? Through His Word.
The LORD told Joshua: This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success, Joshua 1:8
As we meditate and study God's Word, both the Old Testament and the New Testament, and let the Holy Spirit guide us into all truth, we follow His leading.
This will keep us out of the darkest valley and give us the reassurance of not being alone during difficult times. A beautiful picture of Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep (Joh 10:11), is brought to our minds.
Remember that Jehovah-Shammah is there with you. He loves you too much to leave you there.
Unless stated otherwise, all Bible passages quoted in blue are from the KJV translation.