Psalm has Israelite believers in view who are eternally secure in their salvation. The passage also has application to New Testament believers within the framework of God's relationship with those of the Body of Christ the church. Parallel passages from the New Testament must be compard to draw upon how much Psalm 23 applies to them
II) [Ps 23:1]:
"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want."
A) THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD
[Expositors Bible Commentary, Vol. 8, Frank E Gaebelien, Gen. Ed., Zondervan Publishing, Grand Rapids, Mi, 1984, p. 215]:
"The first word of the psalm, 'The LORD' (Yahweh), evokes rich images of the provision and protection of the covenant-God. He promised to take care of His people [Israel] and revealed Himself to be full of love, compassion, patience, fidelity, and forgiveness (Exod 34;6-7). The psalmist exclaims, 'Yahweh is my shepherd,' with emphasis on 'my.' The temptation in ancient Israel was to speak only about 'our' God (cf. Deut 5:4), forgetting that the God of Israel is also the God of individuals. The contribution of this psalm lies, therefore, in the personal, subjective expression of ancient piety. For this reason Psalm 23 is such a popular psalm, because it permits each believer [applying this to all believers, not just Israelite believers in accordance with New Testament church passages] to take its words on his lips and express in gratitude and confidence that all the demonstrations of God's covenant love are his, too...
The metaphor [of the shepherd] is not only a designation or name of the Lord, but it points toward the relation between God and His covenant-children [Israel, and by application from NT passages to members of the Body of Christ, NT believers too] (cf. 74:1-4; 77:20; 78:52, 70-72; 79:13; 80:1: Isa 40:11; Mic 7:14).
1) [Compare Jn 10 :7-18 relative to New Testmament believers]:
(v. 7) '''Therefore Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.
(v. 8) All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.
(v. 9) I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.
(v. 10) The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
(v. 11) "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
(v. 12) The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.
(v. 13) The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
(v. 14) "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me--
(v. 15) just as the Father knows me and I know the Father--and I lay down my life for the sheep.
(v. 16) I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.
(v. 17) The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again.
(v. 18) No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father."
B) THE FAITHFUL BELIEVER WILL NOT WANT
"The psalmist moves quickly from 'my shepherd' to a description; 'I shall not be in want.' The people of God were well acquainted with shepherds. David himself was a shepherd (1 Sam 16:11), as the hills around Bethlehem were suitable for shepherding (cf. Luke 2:8)."
1) [Compare Phil 4:18-19 relative to NT believers]:
(v. 18) "I [Paul] have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.
(v. 19) And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."
II) [Ps 23:2-4]:
(v. 2) "He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters,
(v. 3) He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
(v. 4) Even 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."
A) GOD PROVIDES FOR AND PROTECTS HIS OWN
"The image of 'shepherd' aroused emotions of care, provision, and protection. A good shepherd was personally concerned with the welfare of his sheep. Because of this designation 'my shepherd' is further described by the result of God's care: 'I shall not be in want'; by the acts of God. 'He makes me lie down... He leads.. He restores.. . He guides' (vv. 2-3); and by the resulting tranquility, 'I will fear no evil' (v. 4)... The shepherd's care is symbolized by the 'rod' and the 'staff' (v. 4c). A shepherd carried a 'rod' to club down wild animals (cf. 1 Sam 17:43; 2 Sam 23:21) and a 'staff' to keep the sheep in control. The rod and staff represent God's constant vigilance over his own and bring 'comfort' because of His personal presence and involvement with His sheep. Verses 1 and 4, taken as an inclusio, read:
"The Lord is my Shepherd...
Your rod and Your staff,
they comfort me."
The nature of the care lies in God's royal provisions of all the necessities of His people [Israel, and by application via NT passages members of the Body of Christ, His people in Christ, the church even moreso]...
The 'green pastures' are the rich and verdant pastures, where the sheep need not move from place to place to be satisfied (cf. Ezek 34:14; John 10:9). The 'green pastures' were a seasonal phenomenon. The fields, even parts of the desert, would green during the winter and spring. But in summer and fall the sheep would be led to many places in search of food. God's care is not seasonal but constant and abundant. The sheep have time to rest, as the shepherd makes them to 'lie down.' The' quiet waters' are the wells and springs where the sheep can drink without being rushed (cf Isa 32:18). The combination of 'green pastures' and 'quiet waters' portrays God's 'refreshing care' for his own.
As the good shepherd provides his sheep with rest, verdant pastures, and quiet waters, so the Lord takes cares of His people in a most plentiful way. He thereby renews them so that they feel that life in the presence of God is good and worth living. He 'restores,' i.e., he gives the enjoyment of life, to his own (v. 3; cf. 19:7; Prov 25:13). The word 'soul' is not here the spiritual dimension of man but denotes the same as 'me' repeated twice in v. 2, i.e., 'he restores me.'
The nature of the shepherd's care also lies in guidance (vv. 3b-4b). In the previous verse the psalmist spoke of God as leading ('he leads me'). He develops the shepherd's role as a guide only to conclude with another aspect of his shepherdly care: protection (v. 4c). He leads His own in the 'paths of righteousness.' These paths do not lead one to obtain righteousness. 'Righteousness' (sedeq) here signifies in the most basic sense 'right,' namely, the paths that bring the sheep most directly to their destination (in contrast to 'crooked paths'; cf. 125:5; Prov 2:15; 5:6; 10:9). His paths are straight.... He does not unnecessarily tire out his sheep. He knows what lies ahead. Even when the 'right paths' bring the sheep 'through the valley of the shadow of death' (v. 4), there is no need to fear.
The idiom 'the shadow of death' has stirred up some discussion... This imagery is consistent with the shepherd metaphor because the shepherd leads the flock through ravines and wadis where the steep and narrow slopes keep out the light. The darkness of the wadis represents the uncertainty of life. The 'straight paths' at times need to go through the wadis, but God is still present.
The shepherd who guides is always with the sheep. The presence and guidance of the Lord go together. He is bound by His name ('for His name's sake'), Yahweh, to be present with His people. Underlying the etymology of Yahweh is the promise 'I will be with you' (Exod 3:12). For the sake of His name, He keeps all the promises to His covenant children (cf. 25:11; 31:3; 79:9; 106:8; 109:21: 143:11; Isa 48:9; Ezek 20:44). He is loyal to His people, for His honor and reputation are at stake!...
The nature of the shepherd's care lies further in the protection He gives (v. 4c). Above we briefly considered the significance of the 'rod' and the 'staff' as they symbolize His presence, protection, and guidance. They summarize His shepherd role. The effects of His care are expressed in the first person - 'I shall not be in want...I will fear no evil' (vv. 1, 4) - as an inclusionary motif together with 'shepherd' and 'rod/staff' (vv. 1,4). Thus the psalmist rejoices that Yahweh is like a shepherd in His provisions, guidance, and protection, so that he lacks nothing and fears not."
The valley of the shadow of death is an actual ravine overhung by high precipitous cliffs, filled with dense forests, and well calculated to inspire dread to the timid, and afford a covert to beasts of prey. While expressive of any great danger or cause of terror, it does not exclude the greatest of all, to which it is most popularly applied, and which its terms suggest. It is a figure which encourages the believer that in the darkest and most trying hour God is near.
1) [Compare Mt 6 relative to NT believers]:
(v. 25) ''' 'Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?
(v. 26) Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
(v. 27) Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
(v. 28) "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.
(v. 29) Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.
(v. 30) If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
(v. 31) So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'
(v. 32) For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
(v. 33) But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
(v. 34) Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." '''
III) [Ps 23:5]:
(v. 5) "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows."
[Expositors, op. cit., p. 218]:
"The Lord is the host at a banquet (cf. Isa 25:6-8) prepared for His child. The 'table' is laden with food and drink. Before entering into the banquet hall, the host would anoint the nonored guest with oil (45:7; 32:10; 133:2; Amos 6:6; Luke 7:46). The oil was made by adding perfumes to olive oil. The 'cup' symbolizes the gracious and beneficent manner of entertainment. The overflowing pictures the Lord as giving the best to His child. It symbolizes the care and provisions of God, previously represented by 'green pastures' and 'quiet waters.' Moreover, the Lord vindicates His servant 'in the presence of my enemies,' expressing both the adversities of life itself as well as God's demonstration of His love toward His own. In the presence of God, the fragrance of His rewards ('oil') and the bounty of His provisions ('cup') make one forget troubles and tears. His is 'the cup of salvation' (116:13) that pertains to both body and spirit."
III) [Ps 23:6]:
(v. 6) "Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever."
[Expositors, op. cit., p. 218]:
"In view of this picture, the psalmist draws comfort that God's love and presence are constant. His 'goodness and love' reflect the attributes of Yahweh, the covenant-faithful God. The 'goodness' (tôb) of God is demonstrated in His abundant care and promises, and these are evidence of His blessing (cf. 4:6). In the words of 4:7, it gives greater joy than the abundance of 'grain and new wine.' The 'love' (hesed; KJV, 'mercy') of God is the covenantal commitment to bless His people with His goodness, i.e., His promises. The psalmist expresses deep confidence in God's loyalty. Instead of being pursued by enemies who seek His destruction, God's 'goodness and love' follow Him. He need not fear, because God's care will always manifest itself in His provisions, abundance, and protection. His loving care follows him throughout life. The psalmist does not say that our cup shall always be full or that our heads will always be anointed with oil, but we do have the promise that God's beneficence will be our lifelong companion.
The psalmist's experience of God's 'goodness and love' is equivalent to dwelling 'in the house of the LORD.' To eat and to drink at the table prepared by the Lord is a recognition of a covenant bond... The covenant bond does not cease when one leaves the precincts of the tabernacle or temple. The following psalm (24) deals with the moral requisites for fellowship with the Lord and His blessing (vv. 3-6; cf. Ps 15). The saints in the OT had a sense of God's presence in the abundant evidences of His goodness. The 'house of the LORD' signifies... 'whoever has experienced Yahweh's deliverance may at all times remain in the environs of salvation, in the sanctuary....
The 'experience' with God takes on a transcendental significance, as it gives the believer a taste of everlasting fellowship with God...
In motifs and metaphors identical to this psalm, the Apocalypse portrays the ministry of our Lord, the Great Shepherd, to all who suffer on earth (Rev 7:15b-17)."