The Twenty-third Psalm is perhaps the best known psalm in the Bible. It’s a beautiful and moving psalm in any translation, but the language of the King James Version is hard to surpass. The rhythm and cadence of the words that begin “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” are unforgettable.
This psalm of David, Brian Johnston tells us in Knowing God: Reflections on Psalm 23, is also an intensely personal psalm – for God. The “Lord” of the first line is God’s personal name, Yahweh, the name the Jews considered so sacred that that wouldn’t speak it and in writing left out the vowels – YHWH. And it is this personal God to whom David repeatedly refers as the psalm unfolds; in fact, this psalm is not about David’s (or our own) trials and tribulations but about God.
Johnston uses the framework to describe God’s attributes as revealed in the other names he’s known by in the Bible – the provider, the healer, the banner, the sanctifier, peace, our righteousness, the Lord who is there, and the shepherd. David knew all of these attributes of God, and he especially knew the role of shepherd, having been one himself.
The way God declares his name to us, Johnston says, “makes His character known to us.” And so each of the statements of God are discussed and reflected upon in the succeeding chapters.
A native Scot, Johnston worked as a government scientist until he began full-time ministry with the Churches of God. For more than 30 years, he has broadcasted on the Search for Truth radio program. He’s also done missionary work in Belgium and the Philippines. He’s the author of numerous books, including Five Sacred Solos: The Truths That the Reformation Uncovered; Minor Prophets: Major Issues; Double Vision: The Insights of Isaiah; and many more.
Knowing God can easily be used as a devotional or for meditation. Johnston writes in a simple, easy-to-understand style, which makes the narrative a moving, straightforward one. It’s a short read, and more than worth the time required to read it.
Photograph by Biegen Wshodni via Unsplash. Used with permission.