The most famous of all the psalms and perhaps the most famous words of scripture, psalm 23 has been the joy of God’s people for three thousand years. This would have been a picture close to the heart of most people at the time it was written. Sheep and sheep farming were a common part of life for the Israelites and David himself had been a shepherd before his involvement with Saul. In fact much of David’s spiritual development occurred during his time as a shepherd. His astonishing actions before Goliath is the result of a faith developed in his task of protecting his fathers sheep. Note his words from the account in 1 Samuel 17:
But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.’
God is the shepherd of his people and when David was a shepherd he learned that what he did for his sheep God would do for him and infinitely more. This made him bold in the face of danger so that he could even face death itself with confidence. He could sit and eat in the presence of his foes, in defiance of them, and they could not disturb his peace. The picture is one of a person whose confidence in God’s protection is so great that he can sit down for a picnic in the midst of the battle field.