Life: The shelter of God’s presence

• The Bible Studies for Life lesson for Dec.7 focuses on Psalm 23:1-6.

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• The Bible Studies for Life lesson for Dec.7 focuses on Psalm 23:1-6.


One of the great chapters of the Bible, Psalm 23 has influenced the lives of countless people through the ages. As a psalm of trust and confidence, its popularity still soars. It’s the most requested Scripture for funerals and has several frequently quoted passages. Today, Psalm 23 teaches us about the shelter of God’s presence.

Psalm 23 masterfully expresses the Lord’s sheltering care by using the imagery of shepherd. The way God moves in the lives of his people parallels a shepherd who mindfully tends his flock and provides the type of care sheep need. The psalm cultivates hope in believers by illuminating God’s movement in each believer’s life.

God is with me to guide me and provide what I need (Psalm 23:1-3)

The psalm expresses three conclusions deriving from three pleasant discoveries. The first discovery arrives in verse 1—with God as my shepherd, I lack nothing I need. Human beings are created with hundreds, maybe thousands, of needs. God is attentive to all of them. He carries out his tender care in his people’s lives in such a masterful and quiet way, we often don’t realize the extent of our dependence on him.

Verse 2 speaks of lying down in green pastures. At face value, this doesn’t seem to be of much importance, yet it describes being led to a place where the healthiest of provisions are provided in such abundance that one eats to capacity and then leisurely lies down in complete safety. The author declared in eight marvelous words (in English) what the previous sentence explains in 42!

Verse 2 makes another observation: The Shepherd, knowing his sheep’s aversion to swiftly flowing water, leads his sheep beside quiet waters. They drink without fear of being swept away by water-laden wool. The refreshing water parallels the spiritual refreshment the Lord provides. The greatest human need is for a right relationship with the Lord. The shepherd imagery shows such a relationship is in place. With the greatest spiritual need fulfilled, the believer needs regular spiritual refreshment. The Lord provides this, as well.

Guiding along the right paths (v. 3) refers to one’s life walk. God has pledged to satisfy every need of his followers. Therefore, he must lead his people in the correct direction. Thus, the righteous Lord leads his people in the way of righteousness. He does so to preserve his reputation. He must never err in his leadership of his people, lest they be harmed, lost or lose their lives. God seriously providing for his people and tends personally to his people. To know this kind of personal, intimate, all-knowing care by the great Almighty is greater than any miracle ever recorded.

God is present with me even in difficult circumstances (Psalm 23:4-5)

Verse 4 reveals the author’s second pleasant discovery: The Lord provides all the believer needs, even in the presence of the greatest dangers and most fearsome evil. Furthermore, the Lord provides such complete safety the believer can enjoy his provision.

The phrase, “the valley of the shadow of death,” speaks to an immediate and overwhelming mortal threat. Yet the Lord has such superior power that no threat can materialize in the believer’s life. Furthermore, the Lord’s presence comforts the believer during times of mortal danger.

In verses 2-4, we can see a progression of the pathways a believer must walk. All are navigated by the Lord’s leadership. The first is the way of common living in which material and spiritual needs are provided. The second is the path of righteous living. The third concerns passage through mortality. God has wisdom and power to guide a believer through every passageway of life.

For the believer who has walked many pathways with the Lord, enjoying the green pastures of life and learning the ways of righteousness, to be guided by the Lord through the valley of the shadow of death, is truly remarkable. This includes the times when, in sickness or worldly peril, one’s continued existence is threatened. One day each believer must walk the passageway through death.

This psalm promises God’s comforting guidance, as a shepherd steers his sheep with rod and staff. God can provide such knowledgeable leadership through death’s passageways because his Son Jesus successfully navigated the way through death to God’s personal presence. God never will leave his sheep to languish and perish.

Verse 5 describes how God provides for his followers. He lavishly gives to his children though such activity that attracts the malicious attention of the evil world. Yet God also provides safety to enjoy what he has provided. Despite the intentions of the world, God is determined to provide a life his people can enjoy.

Dwelling in God’s loving presence can be a constant in my life (Psalm 23:6)

The third pleasant discovery appears in verse 6—the realization of the constancy and perpetuity of God’s goodness and covenant love in the life of the believer. The King James Version of the Bible famously renders the word “love” as “mercy.” Both qualities—as well as faithfulness, loyalty and graciousness—are present in the underlying Hebrew word hesed, which is the Bible’s word for covenant love.

The Lord’s covenant name appears in verse 1. The psalm is about the way the covenant Lord takes care of his covenant people. All his activity now is declared in verse 6 as his covenant love. The Lord loves his people with such tender care and lavish provision which extend throughout eternity. Though initially expressed by the temporal phrase “all my days,” eternity is confirmed by the concluding wording of verse 6, “forever.”

Shelter can be found in God’s presence. Many have believed in the Lord and have found shelter in his presence, a shelter that is fulfilling, righteous, safe and eternal.

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