The 23rd Psalm
By Lyle J. Rapacki, Ph.D.
Most likely you know the 23rd Psalm, especially as someone reads it aloud you echo along in your mind. What a comforting Psalm David speaks as he experiences great hardship even leading him through what he described as the “valley of the shadows.” I’ve seen a real-life replica of the “valley of the shadows;” seriously, in Israel. Middle of the day, sun beating down on a road I was taking UP to Jerusalem, and there was a valley. Sure enough looking down into that valley there was little to no sun, the shadows were dark and expansive, all consuming and breath taking especially for such a bright day. On the other side of the wide valley was a monastery seemingly carved into the hillside. What appeared to be the only way into that monastery was travel through the valley then follow a path up the hillside to the entrance. Fascinating and eye widening! Sometimes life can throw a curve, and you find yourself walking through your own “valley of the shadows.” It can be lonely. It can even be scary. Always it will be challenging, and quite possibly sobering. I have been experiencing such a journey these past few months, and I would like to share how the 23rd Psalm has become more real for me. Will you join me now as I invite you to look at the 23rd Psalm in a more intimate way? ~LJR
The Lord is my Shepherd …so what’s it like to be a sheep? Well…they learn to trust the shepherd, to look toward him for their protection and their best interest. He leads them, and they follow or submit (cooperate) with the shepherd. He points the way in which they are to go versus sheep.
simply scattering in all direction going it their way. This sure keeps order and harmony rather than chaos and disintegration. Even when the travel is through a valley of the shadows, there is order and peace for the shepherd leads, and the sheep renew their trust in him and they follow; they learn to choose to rely on the shepherd and not their own ways.
I shall not want … Like sheep, I won’t experience any lack; therefore, nothing will be missing. “ROHI” – Shepherd in Hebrew, means my shepherd is also my pal, my friend whom I can trust. Few view God as their friend. People for the most part view God as stern, maybe even mad or like a critical father – a force not to be trifled with, respected, but clearly not a friend. I would like you to envision the Lord Yeshua (Jesus) in the front seat of your car with you driving. He is sitting on the passenger seat next to you. On your journey even through the valley of the shadows, the Lord and you are talking, smiling, and even laughing like you did when you were in high school with your best friend. “A*huva ye’ deed” (my beloved friend who I can trust) and trust implicitly. The Lord is a shepherd the sheep learn to not only trust with their lives, but learn He is a good shepherd, a “mentsh” or reliable person, compassionate and real whom they can trust with their very life implicitly. David learned he could trust the Lord as his shepherd even with his own heart, his own fears, his own tears, his jokes (corny or stupid), and could trust his shepherd with the secrets locked away deep inside his heart.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me besides quiet waters, he restores my soul … not just lie down but sprawl on green pastures, allows me to lie flat, to become totally vulnerable and at ease. Such vulnerability is difficult for sheep (and people!) given the various threats abound. But they learn to trust and to lean upon the shepherd for their protection. Learning to fully trust the shepherd, they come to a point of being able to sprawl and lie flat, becoming totally vulnerable, at ease and able to rest from their journey, even a hard journey through the valley of the shadows. The sheep feel protected, even more so, they know they are protected and they are at ease. And they are able to restore their strength, their souls become quiet from the daily grind, and they are restored. The shepherd also leads besides quiet waters, waters that are refreshing and most calm, quiet and relaxing, soothing and even healing. Clearly these quiet waters bring rejuvenation from the arduous journey and the continuation of more to follow. The waters are still, but they move ever so slightly calmly. The waters are quiet, but you can hear a faint trickle that is so soothing, relaxing, and rejuvenating.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake … The shepherd leads taking deliberate circular paths of righteousness. Righteous “tsa’deck” for you and for me for the sake of His Name. Your best friend (the Lord, Yeshua) gets a good name when we are right because of our submission (cooperation) to His will, His ways. And as we travel through the dark valley, we are learning to yield to our shepherd and accomplish what is right, not what is expedient or even easy, but what is right as He prescribes. David acknowledges that God’s ways are not man’s ways.
Even though I walk thru the Valley of Dark Shadows … (not valley of death as King James Bible scripts). Picture David, he just had a very rough and life-threatening time with Saul and the Philistines. He is sneaking back to his people, but David has to travel through a deep and most difficult valley, navigate ravens not knowing who is waiting for him on the other side. David says that even though it is dark, I will fear no evil for you are with me God. What confidence. What trust knowing your best friend is with you, and he has your back, you are not alone no matter how difficult and how scary the journey. For what is darkness to the Lord? Even darkness is like the light to the Lord.
Your rod and your staff, they comfort me … they equally give me comfort. Your rod has taught me that you walk with authority, while your staff is carried as a weapon for defense and protection. Even your rod is employed to help save; if a sheep falls into a hole your hooked rod is employed to pick him up by the neck and bring him to solid ground. How much more do you value me and will pick me up and reposition me on solid land. I am comforted in this knowledge, and I further rest knowing you watch over me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies … So I want you to envision calling in those who have done you wrong, who have given you trouble, who have hurt you. You call them to come to a banquet as your guest, thereby, forgiving all charges held against them. David learned this is exactly what the Lord does for us.
You have anointed my head with oil … David is proclaiming the decree the Lord of All is using; His Messiahship anointing as He chooses to pour oil on whom He chooses, bringing life into them, bringing healing into them, bringing shalom (peace) around and through them, giving them a hope and a future the world cannot give, and the valley of the shadows appears to have hidden away.
My cup overflows … Again this is the King James Version. The cup NEVER runs over. The cup is satisfying, it’s quenching, it is pleasantly filling and there is no more thirst. As we drink the cup renews itself by our Heavenly Father’s Hand. The cup NEVER runs out!
Only goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life … So if I become stressed, frustrated, even slightly paranoid, I remember and proclaim goodness and mercy are right behind me. They are following me faithfully. I don’t need to look, to wonder, and surely do not need to doubt which only leads to confusion and worse…fear! Goodness and mercy follow me just like I follow the shepherd.
I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever … Where else would I want to dwell? Why would I want to dwell anywhere else when I have learned the Lord has led me safely through the valley of the shadows, and I have come through the valley not only intact and safe, but refreshed, renewed, energized, and with a proper confidence and intimacy all the more knitted between me and the Lord who is my Shepherd and friend.
David was a shepherd long before he became a King. He learned about sheep…he knew sheep…he knew the dangers all around waiting to get at sheep. He learned how to care for the sheep, how to reassure sheep, he got to know their individual personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. If one became lost he searched until he returned it safely to the fold. David knew about sheep! David also knew that God (Yahweh – The Lord, the proper name for the divine person; Genesis 2:4; Exodus 6:2, 3) cares deeply for each of us, our needs our protection, our being found if we stray. David knew a shepherd watches intently over his flock, and caringly guides them along the path they are meant to travel; not necessarily the path they want to choose to travel. When David walked through his own “valley of the shadows,” he knew deep inside this trial was tough, sobering, even painful and scary. But he also knew the Lord was his Shepherd, he shall not want…. I am learning what David knew, and then what he experienced anew as he traveled through his valley of the shadows experience. May I encourage you to look at what David wrote from a new perspective; from the perspective of God as your dear friend and dear shepherd, who knows your needs before you ask, and your ignorance in asking? May I encourage you to look at the Lord from a new perspective especially if you are in a calm space, no valleys, no shadows, and no worries. Look upon the Lord as your dear friend sitting in the front seat of your car next to you while you both are going on an adventure, laughing and enjoying the experience and companionship of one another. Look upon the Lord as the true Shepherd He truly is, the one David knew well and wrote about in the 23rd Psalm.
So whether you have been a follower of Yeshua or sense a wooing in your spirit to come to Him, may you begin to know Him as your dear friend who shall never leave you or forsake you, who will travel as your companion through any valley of the shadows this life may bring for you to crossover! May you come to know the shepherd in such a personal and profound manner that no experience(s) will prevent you from walking in and through the valley without your head held high and fully knowing the Lord is guiding and protecting you, providing for you, and will even grant you rest and quiet waters that will restore you.
One closing example of such intimacy and trust. Now look at the 23rd Psalm I have placed below, but with YOUR NAME inserted. Go ahead! Read the 23rd Psalm but personalize it for YOU.
The LORD is YOUR FIRST NAME shepherd; YOUR FIRST NAME has everything YOUR FIRST NAME needs. He lets YOUR FIRST NAME rest in green meadows; he leads YOUR FIRST NAME beside peaceful streams. He renews YOUR FIRST NAME strength. He guides YOUR FIRST NAME along right paths, bringing honor to his name.
Even when YOUR FIRST NAME walks through the valley of the dark shadows, YOUR FIRST NAME, will not be afraid, for you are close beside YOUR FIRST NAME. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort YOUR FIRST NAME.
You prepare a feast for YOUR FIRST NAME in the presence of YOUR FIRST NAME enemies. You welcome YOUR FIRST NAME as a guest, anointing YOUR FIRST NAME head with oil. YOUR FIRST NAME cup overflows and fills again with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue YOUR FIRST NAME all the days of YOUR FIRST NAME life, and YOUR FIRST NAME will live in the house of the LORD forever.
LYLE J. RAPACKI, Ph.D. is an intelligence and threat assessment specialist who provided briefings and consultations to members of the Arizona State Legislature from April 2010 thru April 2018, on matters addressing southern Border Security and related threats to State sovereignty. His briefings, reports, and consultations enlarged to include elected and law enforcement officials across the country. He now believes he is to sound the Shofar of Warning to the Remnant Church Arising across the country on the threats and challenges directly ahead. He is the author of the highly successful and quick-reading Amazon book: “Our Forefathers Truly Appealed to Heaven” Amazon Kindle $10 and Kindle E-books $7.