We Americans love to be independent. Our Declaration of Independence tells us we have the divine right of “the pursuit of happiness”. But we really have the divine requirement of the pursuit of holiness. True happiness entails rejecting the ways of the wicked and accepting the way of the Waymaker — not living life according to our own selections, but according to God’s directions.
Ultimately, there are two ways to live life. We can live in a way contrary to God’s character or in a way conforming to God’s character. We can live life as directed, or live life as selected – according to God’s directions or according to our selections.
The Two Ways have two different destinations. The self-directed way of the wicked leads to instability and destruction. The divinely-directed way of the righteous leads to true bliss and (godly) prosperity.
The LORD is our shepherd. Therefore, He has authority over us humble sheep. Moreover, He protects and provides, sustains and secures, guards and guides. Even in trouble, we need not fear; for God is with us. Our ultimate desire should not be God’s presents but God’s presence.
In these lines, the picture switches from God the Shepherd to God the Host. Here, the LORD shows His generosity and hospitality — even in the presence of the psalmist’s enemies. The psalmist sings confidently of God’s presence and protection in hostile circumstances (Ps 23:4) and from hostile people (Ps 23:5).
In metaphorically dark moments in life, the psalmist fears no evil. Neither should we, for God is with us. This divine withness entails guarding and guidance, as well as to practical encouragement. The Shepherd will never leave nor forsake His sheep.
The psalmist sings that the LORD refreshes the soul — our vitality and liveliness. He leads His sheep to walk with right conduct on track to right consequences. And He does this for the sake of His reputation — for His Name that implies unfailing faithfulness.
The psalmist sings that the LORD makes it possible to enjoy restful sleep — like a full-stomached nap one takes after a delicious meal. Moreover, the psalmist declares that the LORD gently guides to waters of complete rest — again using vocabulary that recalls the Exodus.