November 19, 2017
The Sanctuary | Hazelwood, Missouri
By Daniel L. Segraves
The words of Psalm 23 give great comfort to believers who experience painful and difficult circumstances in life. But as it is placed in the Psalter, following Psalm 22 with its content focused on the death of the Messiah and preceding Psalm 24 with its “King of Glory” content, Psalm 23 can be read as a reference to the Messiah’s hope as He walked “through the valley of the shadow of death” (verse 4).
2 To say that sheep were made to “lie down” meant that they had eaten their fill; the sheep stood to eat. Sheep were frightened by rapidly running waters and would not drink from them.
3 Compare the reference to “soul” (nephesh [life]) with Psalm 22:20, 29. Had the life of the Messiah not been restored, it would have meant that the Lord had not kept His promise to David and it would have reflected negatively on His character, as suggested by the words “for his name’s sake” (i.e., for the sake of His reputation).
4 When Psalm 23 is read as a messianic psalm, “the valley of the shadow of death” refers to the Messiah’s experience on the cross. Even in the midst of this experience, the Messiah would fear no evil, for the Lord was with Him, comforting Him with His rod and staff. In the shepherd/sheep relationship, the rod and staff represented the shepherd’s presence, protection, and guidance.
5 The phrase “in the presence of mine enemies” can refer to the Messiah’s experiences on the cross. (See Psalm 22:7-8, 11-13, 16-18, 20-21.) The table was a symbol of provision and blessing, as was the overflowing cup. (See Psalm 16:5.) The statement “thou anointest my head with oil” reminds us that the Messiah was the anointed One.
6 Having passed through the valley of the shadow of death and having experienced the restoration of His soul (i.e., life), the Messiah testifies that goodness and mercy would follow Him all the days of His life. The word translated “follow” (radaph) meant “pursue” or “chase.” Goodness and mercy would not be passive in relation to the Messiah; His life would be characterized by the presence of these virtues. The “house of the Lord” was the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple was not built when David was alive, so Psalm 23 could not have had its ultimate fulfillment with David. To translate the Hebrew yashab as “dwell” is to follow the Septuagint, Syriac, Targum, and Vulgate. The Hebrew text reads “I will return to the house of the Lord,” looking forward to the return of the Messiah, the anointed One, to the Temple. This messianic image is seen elsewhere in the Old Testament. (See Zechariah 9:8-9; Malachi 3:1.) In the most immediate context, this prepares the reader for Psalm 24, wherein the King of Glory, the Messiah, enters the “everlasting doors” into His holy place on the hill of the Lord. (See Psalm 24:3, 7, 9.) The Messiah will dwell in the house of the Lord forever, further signifying that Psalm 23 does not have its ultimate fulfillment in David.
As it pertains to the Messiah, Psalm 24 celebrates His return to Jerusalem, the hill of the Lord, and His holy place through the gates of the city and the “everlasting doors” of the Temple. The psalm also identifies those who will be permitted to fellowship with the Messiah upon His return. In the larger context of the Old Testament, the Messiah returned to His house. (See comments on Psalm 23:6.) As He entered His house, He was identified as the King of glory, the Lord of hosts (verses 7-10). In other words, the Messiah was God, as identified elsewhere. (See, e.g., Psalm 45:6; Isaiah 9:6; Hebrews 1:8.) The good news of Psalm 24, as it is read in conjunction with Psalms 22-23, was that the crucified Messiah would not stay in the grave. He would come forth in great glory and power, returning to rule the world from His holy place on the hill of the Lord. Those who were faithful to Him would be privileged to fellowship with Him in His victorious reign.
1 The Messiah’s kingdom is universal in scope, covering not only the earth (‘eretz, the Promised Land), but the world (tēbēl).
2 The Messiah is the Creator Himself.
3 The hill of the Lord was Mount Zion. His holy place was the temple. Since the Messiah was entering His holy place, the question has to do with the qualifications of those who could fellowship with Him there.
6 Jacob represents all those who seek the Lord.
Psalm 25 focuses on Israel’s hope in the days following the Exile and during the time that the Psalter was being arranged in its final shape. This was the hope of the return of God’s people to the holy city in conjunction with the reign of the Messiah on His holy hill. Israel’s hope for the return of the Lord to His Temple was kindled by the prophets. (See, e.g., Isaiah 2:2-3; Micah 4:1-5; Zechariah 8:20-23.) These prophecies looked ahead to the millennial era, but they sparked hope in the hearts of the Jewish people that their fulfillment was imminent. Psalm 25 is placed to illustrate the kind of prayers that would be prayed when the King of glory came in through the lifted gates and the everlasting doors (Psalm 24:7-9) to take up His abode on the “hill of the Lord” (Psalm 24:3). As God answered these prayers, He was showing people His ways and teaching them His paths. (Compare Psalm 25:4; Isaiah 2:3.) Psalm 25 envisioned the Lord as having returned to His Temple, where He heard the prayers of His people. This was a psalm of David, who lived and died before the first Temple was built, but his words took on new significance as they were placed in a messianic context. The psalm is an acrostic with some irregularities.
10 The Lord’s paths (i.e., His ways) are characterized by mercy and truth, but only those who “keep his covenant and his testimonies” enjoy His paths. In the larger messianic context of the Psalter, the idea of keeping the Lord’s covenant and testimonies should not be seen as a focus on the law of Moses but on the life of faith. Although the law of Moses was in effect when the individual psalms were written and when the Psalter founds its final shape, it was recognized that the rituals of the law did not bring delight to God. (See Psalm 51:16.) His delight was, instead, in “a broken and a contrite heart,” a heart of faith (Psalm 51:17). (Compare Psalm 32:1-2 with Romans 4:4-8.) Even Abraham, who lived four centuries before the law of Moses was given (see Galatians 3:17), was described by the Lord as a man who “obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws” (Genesis 26:5). This was not because Abraham had some advance notice of the contents of the law of Moses (see Deuteronomy 5:3), but because he was a man of faith. (See Genesis 15:6.) The point is that the law of Moses was intended to bring a stiff-necked and rebellious people to a place of faith in the Messiah. (See Deuteronomy 9:6-7; Galatians 3:22-25.) But those who were not stiff-necked and rebellious were counted as righteous on the basis of their faith in God. They had in this sense kept His covenant, for they had already embraced the faith to which the covenant was intended to lead.
11 To say “for thy name’s sake” means “for the sake of Your reputation.” (See comments on Psalm 23:3.)
 These notes were prepared for the Apostolic Study Bible (Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press, 2014) by Daniel L. Segraves