THE PSALM OF PSALMS (by Rev. Timothy Tow from Meditations from the Psalms)

What better title can we give to Psalm 23, not only for being the best known and most beloved, but also the most versatile of David’s Psalter. Psalm 23 is like the Hebrew word “Shalom” which means peace. As the Jews use Shalom as a word of greeting for all occasions, whether in life or death, in peace or war, in times of happiness or in times of sorrow, so we repeat or sing Psalm 23 under all circumstances. Psalm 23 fits all occasions because this Psalm breathes with every breath we take through every vicissitude of life. As life vibrates with every mood and emotion, so Psalm 23 is chanted to “seven” tunes as if to reflect our seven emotions, according to this order in Chinese psychology, viz., joy, anger, sorrow, fear, love, hatred, desire.

Psalm 23 is a psalm of life-hid-in-God. Whereas the world, of whatever religion or cultural background, is without God and has no hope (Eph. 2:12), the Christian, like David, has fullness of confidence in God, like a Lamb in the Shepherd’s arms. This is how David felt when he penned this Psalm, recalling how God had delivered him “out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear” (I Sam. 17:37). Therefore, he could confidently go to battle against Goliath, knowing God would deliver him “out of the hand of the Philistine” (I Sam. 17:37). As he wrote this Psalm, he throbbed to the vivid memory of how God also delivered him from Saul’s spear and revived his fainting spirits with Ahimelech’s shewbread. Thus he could testify of his all sufficiency in God, in his every need in a perilous livelihood. Not only of God’s emergency supply but also of His tender mercies leading to rest and recreation.

What David treasures most is God’s leading him along the spiritual path that keeps his feet from sliding into sin – for His name’s sake. Did he not fail God miserably once when he fell flat for Bathsheba; and into the ten times more heinous crime of murdering Uriah by proxy? How we must plead with God to keep us on the right track too!

How does “thy rod and thy staff” comfort me? The Shepherd invariably carries a staff or rod with him when he goes forth to feed his flock. It is often bent or hooked on one end, which gives rise to the Shepherd’s crook in the hand of the Christian bishop. With this staff, he rules and guides the flock and defends them from their enemies.

From the rustic scene, we are introduced to a palace setting. Is David speaking from his victory over Goliath and his honours conferred before the king which excited the envy of other servants?

Anointing the head with oil is done as an expression of joy against putting on dust and ashes in sorrow. “Those that have this happiness must let it overflow into their poor brethren’s emptier vessels” (John Trapp).

While David had many enemies following him, he could rest assured in the Lord that He, on the other hand, was attending him with loving kindness. He had no doubt that a place in heaven was reserved for him. Is this your assurance too?