Psalm 23 is certainly world famous. It begins with the words “the Lord is my Shepherd” and is a beautiful psalm of faith and hope in the Lord. To begin, lets see the psalm in its entirety.
Psalm 23 A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want;
he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
The 7 Sacraments do seem alluded to in this psalm, in a spiritual interpretation.
It says, “He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.” This is Baptism, where God brings us to the waters of rebirth and our souls are restored as Children of the Living God through the Holy Spirit.
It says, “He leads me in paths of righteousness..." Confirmation is given to complete our Baptism that we might be strengthen by the Lord so that we might walk on the narrow path toward Him.
It continues, “...I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” a reference to the Anointing of the Sick which is to be given to those who are in danger of, or near, death.
The psalm says, “thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” We are comforted in the sacrament of Confession, where we are given the rod of penance and led by the staff of the priest's advice to avoid those sins again.
It says, “ Thou preparest a table before me...," a Eucharistic altar that God has Himself prepared and feeds us from.
It continues, “thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows.” This is Holy Orders. Priests are anointed and they offer the Lord the the Blessed Sacrament and sacrifice of Christ's Body and Blood.
Finally, “goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life...” Marriage is the sacrament referred to in this verse. No married person can deny the goodness and blessings of marriage coupled with mercy toward one another.
The geographical features mentioned in this psalm are also significant, I believe.
Psalm 23 begins in green pastures and then continues on toward still waters. Then there is a turn toward danger in the valley of death and ends in the house of the Lord.
I think the significance of the geographical features is played out in the life of the Christian destined for heaven.
For the average Christian, the spiritual life begins in green pastures of blessing and prosperity as God tries to woo the soul toward trusting in Him. Once that trust is obtained, God teaches the soul how to carry the cross that was meant for them, and this is where following Christ is really intensified. The valley of death could be that the souls are lead through certain outward trials, or inward trials, like dying to self or a white martyrdom. However the cross might present itself, there is always the final hope of living with God forever in the next life.
I think that this Psalm also tells us about God.
For the most part of Psalm 23 God is the subject of each sentence. God is the initiator of each part. Listen to the part that God plays in this psalm.
The LORD is my shepherd
2 he makes me lie down
He leads me
3 he restores
thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff,
5 Thou preparest a table
thou anointest my head
So in 6 short verses God is acting on the Christian soul 9 times.
I think sometimes we tell God what we want done to our souls and where we are to be lead and how, but we must let God be in charge if we want to end in the house of the Lord forever.
This is a beautiful Psalm to memorize!