Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Psalm 231NIV New International Version Translations
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, 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 forever.


It is not known when David wrote Psalm 23. Perhaps it was when his son Absalom tried to become king. During this time, David ran away. He went down to the River Jordan. He crossed it by the ford that called Jabbok and then went on to Gilead. There he met Barzillai, a shepherd. Barzillai gave David food and shelter. All this made David think. God was like a shepherd. God was like a guide. God was a good friend. David put these ideas into Psalm 23. Many people know this psalm better than they know than any other psalm.

Biblical Truths

Verses 1–2: God is like a shepherd. In Israel, sheep followed their shepherd. The man that wrote Psalm 23 said:

  • He makes me to lie down in green fields: these were fields where the grass was new. Green fields means that the sheep would find plenty to eat. And they would sleep easily.
  • He leads me to waters where I can rest: this was the best water. It was probably a well, not a river.

The shepherd leads the sheep to all that they need: food, rest and water. Jesus leads his people to all that they need. Remember – what we NEED is not always what we WANT.

Verses 3–4: God is like a guide. We do not know who led David to Barzillai. There was a guide. Just as the old shepherd Barzillai made David think about God, so the guide made David think about God. Some Christians think verses 3 and 4 are also about the shepherd and his sheep. Others think that it is about a guide. That guide led David through the wild places to where Barzillai lived. The two ideas are true. GOD IS LIKE A GUIDE. GOD IS ALSO LIKE A SHEPHERD. The valley of the River Jabbok was very dark. But with God as guide and shepherd David was safe. God brought David through the shadow of death. He will do the same for us – if we believe in Jesus. We must all die. It is a great help to know that:

  • Jesus died and God raised him from the dead
  • if we believe in Jesus God will raise us from the dead

Verses 5–6: God is like a friend. Psalm 23:1-4 is about life on earth. Psalm 23:5-6 is about life in heaven. In the psalm, Barzillai made a great dinner for David. He poured oil, from plants, on David’s head. This was usual in those days. He gave David wine to drink. It made David feel very happy. But it also made David think this: I WILL ALWAYS LIVE WITH MY GOD. It is the same for us. If we believe in Jesus we can say, “I will always live in the house of the LORD.”

Items for Discussion

  •  What was the impact of Barzillai’s act of kindness on David?
  • How would you interpret the words, “he makes me lie down in green pastures?
  • What other kinds of places might the sheep pick to wander to – how are sheep similar to people?
  • How would you describe “quiet waters” in your life?
  • Discuss the differences between a “rod and a staff” — How does God use both to give us hope?
  • What characteristics of God can we find in David’s psalm?
  • What parts of this psalm refer to life here and now on earth and what parts refer to our life in heaven?
  • What are the benefits to your life when you place your trust in God?


Romans 15:13
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.


The scope or design of the apostle in writing to the Romans appears to have been, to answer the unbelieving, and to teach the believing Jew; to confirm the Christian and to convert the idolatrous Gentile; and to show the Gentile convert as equal with the Jewish, in respect of his religious condition, and his rank in the Divine favor. These several designs are brought into on view, by opposing or arguing with the infidel or unbelieving Jew, in favor of the Christian or believing Gentile. The way of a sinner’s acceptance with God, or justification in his sight, merely by grace, through faith in the righteousness of Christ, without distinction of nations, is plainly stated. This doctrine is cleared from the objections raised by Judaizing Christians, who were for making terms of acceptance with God by a mixture of the law and the gospel, and for shutting out the Gentiles from any share in the blessings of salvation brought in by the Messiah. In the conclusion, holiness is further enforced by practical exhortations.

Bible Truths4

Now the God of hope – A glorious title of God, but till now unknown to the heathens; for their goddess Hope, like their other idols, was nothing; whose temple at Rome was burned by lightning. It was, indeed, built again not long after, but was again burned to the ground.

Items for Discussion

  • As mankind’s greatest pursuit, how is peace and joy found?
    • As the world tells us
    • As the Apostle Paul tells us
  • What is the weakness in the world’s advice for finding peace and joy?
  • Can peace and joy be found in this world or do we have to wait for the next world?
  • What happens to people when they have no hope?
  • Is Paul saying that to have hope in this world, we must have the help of the Holy Spirit?
    • If so, how would you seek the Holy Spirit?
    • If not, then what would the role of the Holy Spirit be in a person’s life?

Discussion Challenge

  • How do you help others hope?