Psalm 23: Introduction
Robert E. Wells
"I once heard President Hugh B. Brown relate this inspiring story: Sometime ago a great actor in the city of New York gave a wonderful performance in a large theatre, at the close of which there were rounds of applause. He was called back again and again. Finally someone called to him, 'Would you do for us the Twenty-third Psalm?'
"'Why, yes. I know the Twenty-third Psalm.'
"He recited it as an actor would, perfectly, with nothing left to be desired as far as a performance was concerned. When he was finished, again there was thunderous applause. Then the actor came to the front of the stage and said: 'Ladies and gentlemen, there is an old man sitting here on the front row whom I happen to know. I am going to ask him without any notice if he will come and repeat the Twenty-third Psalm.'
"The elderly gentleman, of course, was frightened. Trembling, he came to the stage. Fearfully he looked out over the vast audience. Then, as though he were at home only with one, he closed his eyes against the audience, bowed his head, and talked to God, and said:
The Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
"Then changing to address the Savior directly and intimately:
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will 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 mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil: my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. (Ps. 23:1-6)
"When the old man finished, there was no applause, but there was not a dry eye in that house. The actor came to the front of the stage. He, too, was wiping his eyes. And he said, 'Ladies and gentlemen, I know the words of the Twenty-third Psalm, but this man knows the Shepherd.' (Adapted from Hugh B. Brown, The Quest, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1961, pp. 335-36)" ("Know the Shepherd," Ensign, Nov. 1980, 12)
Psalm 23:2 he maketh me to lie down in green pastures
Jeffrey R. Holland
Those who will receive the Lord Jesus Christ as the source of their salvation will always lie down in green pastures, no matter how barren and bleak the winter has been. And the waters of their refreshment will always be still waters, no matter how turbulent the storms of life. In walking His path of righteousness, our souls will be forever restored; and though that path may for us, as it did for Him, lead through the very valley of the shadow of death, yet we will fear no evil. The rod of His priesthood and the staff of His Spirit will always comfort us. And when we hunger and thirst in the effort, He will prepare a veritable feast before us, a table spread even in the presence of our enemies-contemporary enemies-which might include fear or family worries, sickness or personal sorrow of a hundred different kinds. In a crowning act of compassion at such a supper He anoints our head with oil and administers a blessing of strength to our soul. Our cup runneth over with His kindness, and our tears runneth over with joy. We weep to know that such goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our life, and that we will, if we desire it, dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
I pray this morning that all who are hungering and thirsting, and sometimes wandering, will hear this invitation from Him who is the Bread of Life, the Fountain of Living Water, the Good Shepherd of us all, the Son of God: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, ... and ye shall find rest unto your souls." Truly He does fill "the hungry with good things," as His own mother Mary testified. Come, and feast at the table of the Lord in what I testify to be His true and living Church, led by a true and living prophet. ("He Hath Filled the Hungry with Good Things," Ensign, Nov. 1997, 66)
Psalm 23:3 He restoreth my soul
James E. Faust
Early one morning I went out on a hill on the island of Tahiti, above the exquisitely beautiful bay where Captain Bligh anchored the Bounty. I went to that lovely spot to watch the day be born. In the soft light of the early morning I could see Mooréa, the "Bali Hai" of South Pacific fame, jutting up out of the water. The ocean was very calm, and the gentle waves lapped the black, volcanic beaches and covered them like frosting on a chocolate cake. In the distance, clouds rose up out of the ocean and poked their fingers into the sky to be illuminated by the first brilliant rays of the yet-hidden sun. Early-morning fishermen headed out to sea in their small boats to seek their fortunes for the day. There was a gentle, gray haze over the outskirts of Papeete, created by the early risers preparing their morning meal. This seemed to be the world at its perfection. This was one of God's most beautiful creations, and in this idyllic setting He did not seem far away. In this beautiful scene, so peaceful, so restful, it seemed as though my soul had been restored, and I recalled these lines from the 23rd Psalm: "He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake" (Ps. 23:2-3).
I have come to realize that the comfort and sense of well-being I felt on that special morning came not only from the external influence of the beauty of the landscape and the sea, lovely as they were, but from the inner peace, strength, and security of knowing that God lives and from a testimony of the divinity of His work upon the earth. It is not where but who and how. That great psalm tells us that God restores our souls. The replenishing of our inner selves occurs as we come to know the Savior through keeping his commandments and serving him. ("He Restoreth My Soul," Ensign, Oct. 1997, 2)
Psalm 23:4 though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
If anyone had reason to worry for his own safety, it was David in the years that Saul persistently sought his life. Walking through the "valley of the shadow of death" was not poetry for David-it was reality. "David abode in the wilderness in strong holds, and remained in a mountain in the wilderness of Ziph. And Saul sought him every Day, but God delivered him not into his hand" (1 Sam. 23:14) What to us may be figurative, was all too real to David.
"David... knew loneliness and estrangement; he knew what it meant to be homeless, without friends; he knew what it meant to be betrayed by those closest to him; he knew what it meant to have his friends suffer. His psalms reflect this. He also was a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief. He, like Jesus after him, knew to an amazing degree the fulness of the dimensions of life. But through all this, David knew best that God knew best-and that the safest course in life is to throw oneself to a great degree upon the wisdom of God. This theme is dominant throughout the psalms. He knew as well as anyone what Christ meant when he told his own disciples ten centuries later, "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." (John 15:5.) This knowledge underlies all of David's poetry-and all of his greatness." (Arthur R. Bassett, "The King Called David," Ensign, Oct. 1973, 69)
Gordon B. Hinckley
Lord, when we walk in the valley of the shadow of death, give us faith to smile through our tears, knowing that it is all part of the eternal plan of a loving Father, that as we cross the threshold from this life we [page 54] enter another more glorious, and that through the atonement of the Son of God all shall rise from the grave and the faithful shall go on to exaltation. (Ensign, Nov. 1987, 53-54)
Psalm 23:4 thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me
"Early one evening, when we had been at the hospital nearly two weeks, a staff psychologist took me aside and explained that [my husband] Lynn's vital signs had changed drastically and that it would be just a short time until he died. I walked back to his bedside, knowing that I could do nothing to delay the inevitable. The night before, as I closed my prayer with the words, 'If it be thy will,' I knew that we wouldn't have the miracle I so desperately wanted. The psychologist's words only confirmed what I already knew.
"I understood that in order for me to accept Lynn's death I needed the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, with me. I couldn't be angry for not getting the miracle I wanted. I somehow had to accept this event and have a good feeling in my heart; if I didn't, the Holy Ghost could not attend me.
"Not knowing what else to do, I picked up my scriptures. The Bible fell open to the twenty-third Psalm: 'Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.' (Ps. 23:4.) The message struck me with great force, and I was comforted. I knew a loving Father in Heaven was with us.
"As I closed the scriptures and went to Lynn, his heartbeat was slowing down. I leaned over the bed, laid my head next to his, and held him in my arms. As I talked to him I felt that he heard me and knew of my feelings, even though he was unconscious. For a time I was desperately unhappy. I didn't want to be parted from him, even for the rest of this life. Then I felt his arms encircle me, bringing me strength and comfort. The pressure of his arms was tangible, and I had to look at his arms lying beside him on the bed to realize that it was not his physical arms that were around me. At that moment, I sensed that we were not alone in the room, that other spirits were attending us...
"I determined to stay as close to my Heavenly Father as I could. I needed him. There was no one else left to rely on.
"In the lonely days, months, and years since the loss of my beloved husband and mother, Heavenly Father has indeed become my constant source of strength. I have prayed often to him for sustenance. And I have been blessed beyond measure. Truly, 'Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.'" (Carol Jardine, "Peace in the Shadow of Death," Ensign, Oct. 1982, 34-35)