The Bible

 

Psalms 23:2

Study the Inner Meaning

              

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

   Study the Inner Meaning

The Inner Meanings of the 23rd Psalm      

By Rev. Julian Duckworth

Psalm 23 is undoubtedly the most well-known and well-loved of all the psalms, with its illustration of the Lord as our shepherd. The shepherd's care for his sheep is, internally, describing the things that the Lord does for us in our spiritual journey.

As the psalm unfolds we hear about the Lord’s work for us, during states in our lives when we could be unsure and afraid, and of the Lord’s provision for us. Gradually the psalmist confirms his trust in the Lord’s guidance and declares the many blessings the Lord brings.

This psalm of six verses would surely have been known and loved by the Lord during his life in the world. It would have, for him, been a statement of faith in his purpose to overcome evil and glorify his humanity. Jesus, in states where his human heredity was strong in his mind, would have regarded his own divinity as his shepherd, and seen it as his anchor and provider. For us, spiritually, the same parallel applies -- that our faith in the Lord is to be our trust and guide at all times.

The shepherding care in verses 2 and 3 speaks about how the Lord leads us into acquiring new truths that bring heavenly peace and rest for us. Our state is lifted up and we live in goodness because we understand that this is the divine quality that God wishes for us to live by. (See Apocalypse Explained 375 and Arcana Caelestia 3696)

The valley of the shadow of death describes our states of being afraid, and of not seeing the Lord with us, during which our mind can be filled with disturbing and mocking thoughts. But we know that the Lord is there with us nonetheless. The “rod” and “staff” represent the power of the Lord’s truths for us to use; a rod - used actively to guard the sheep - stands for spiritual truths, and a staff is leaned on, representing natural truths or truths to do with life.”
(Apocalypse Explained 727)

With the provision of truth from the Lord, the psalm shifts to the picture of the bounteous table which truth brings to us as our spiritual nourishment and satisfaction. Our head anointed with oil has many associations of being the Lord’s chosen, of being loved and blessed by the Lord, and of how our mind with its understanding receives love and good to make it full of heavenly joy. “My cup runs over” means the unknown extent of the truths of the Word and the blessings of the Lord. (Apocalypse Explained 727)

The final verse is put in terms of our full conviction of being in the Lord for ever and in all the days of our lives. What we experience and say in terms of time and duration spiritually means what is certain, perpetual and to all eternity. The ‘house of the Lord’ is heaven. (Arcana Caelestia 650)

From Swedenborg's Works

Main explanations:

The Inner Meaning of the Prophets and Psalms 273


Other references to this verse:

Arcana Coelestia 57, 3696, 5201, 6078, 7571

Apocalypse Revealed 50, 383


References from Swedenborg's drafts, indexes & diaries:

Apocalypse Explained 71, 375, 482

Related New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:



Hop to Similar Bible Verses

Exodus 15:27

Ezekiel 34:14

Revelation 7:17

Resources for parents and teachers

The items listed here are provided courtesy of our friends at the General Church of the New Jerusalem. You can search/browse their whole library at the New Church Vineyard website.


 A Shepherd and His Sheep
Use oil pastels or wax crayons to make a picture of shepherd, then use a sponge (cut into the shape of a lamb) to make little lambs around him.
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 Blessings: Good Tidings of Great Joy
Blessings to say at mealtime.
Activity | Ages over 7

 Blessings: Unto Us a Child Is Born
Blessings to say at mealtime.
Activity | Ages over 7

 Experiencing the Twenty-third Psalm
Explore the meaning of each phrase in Psalm 23, then help children experience it using their five senses.
Activity | Ages up to 10

 Following the Lord Our Shepherd
Use magnets to picture members of a family following the Lord as the shepherd.
Project | Ages up to 10

 Lord Is My Shepherd Diorama
Make a simple diorama to help remember the Lord's unceasing care.
Project | Ages 4 - 10

 Memory Verse: God Meant It for Good
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Out of the Forest
A story showing how the Lord leads as described in the 23rd Psalm.
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Quotes: The Lord Is My Shepherd
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Rainbow Method of Learning the 23rd Psalm
Use the colors of the rainbow to help you learn the sequence of this psalm. 
Activity | Ages 4 - 10

 Ribbon Bookmark to Embroider
Embroider a satin ribbon with the words: "The Lord is my Shepherd" and pictures of a shepherd's staff and a little lamb.
Project | Ages over 7

 Shepherd and His Sheep Diorama
Project | Ages 7 - 17

 Talking with Your Child About the Twenty-Third Psalm
Article | Ages over 18

 The Good Shepherd
Worship Talk | Ages 4 - 7

 The Good Shepherd
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 The Lord Is My Shepherd
The Lord with His flock all around Him.
Coloring Page | All Ages

 The Lord Is My Shepherd
Print and display this lovely poster of the Twenty-third Psalm with an illustrative color border.
Picture | Ages over 7

 The Lord Is My Shepherd
"The teaching that the Lord is our Shepherd is a powerful and comforting one. The relationship between the sheep and their shepherd involves a sense of trust and security.
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Lord Is Our Shepherd
Color picture of the Lord our Shepherd.
Picture | Ages up to 14

 The Lord’s Rod and Staff
This family talk explains what the Lord's rod and staff are in our lives, and how He uses them to comfort us. 
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Shepherd Rescuing His Sheep
Project | Ages 11 - 17

 The Stream of Providence Game
This game is about the Lord leading us toward His heavenly sheepfold. 
Activity | Ages 11 - 14

 The Twenty-third Psalm
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Twenty-third Psalm Book
Illustrate the literal meaning of the psalm or its application to life. 
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 The Twenty-third Psalm Calligraphy with Illustrations
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Twenty Third Psalm
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 9 - 12

 Two Roads
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 Understanding the Twenty-third Psalm
An outline showing parts of the Psalm 23 with suggestions for explaining them to children.
Activity | Ages 4 - 10

Commentary

 

The 23rd Psalm

     

By Mr. Brian P. David

The Lord as Shepherd, by Nana Schnarr

The 23rd Psalm is one of the best-known and most-loved literary works in the world, and it may well be the best poem ever written. It is also a fine example of the power of figurative language: We read deep things into the vision of ourselves as sheep, led to green pastures and good water by a kind shepherd. It’s empowering to feel the confidence to go fearlessly into the valley of the shadow of death, and to feel the love and caring of a table prepared by the Lord and a cup so full it overflows.

What people don’t know, however, is that this language actually has precise internal meanings, and that when we see them there is an even deeper beauty in the poem. That’s because what it actually describes is the path to heaven, and the fierce desire the Lord has to lead us there.

The first step is to let the Lord be our shepherd – to accept His teaching and His leadership. The green pastures and the still waters represent the things He will teach us for the journey. Then He begins working inside is, setting our spiritual lives in order, so that we desire to do what’s good and to love one another. That’s represented by restoring our souls and leading us in the paths of righteousness.

But we will still face challenges. We still live external lives, out in the world, and we are subject to desires that arise in those externals, in our bodily lives. That’s the valley of the shadow of death. But the rod and staff represent truth from the Lord on both external and internal levels, ideas that can defend us against those desires.

And if we keep following, the Lord will prepare a table for us – a place inside us that he can fill with love (the anointing oil) and wisdom (the overflowing cup). Thus transformed, we can enter heaven, with love for others (“goodness”) and love from the Lord (“mercy”) and can love and be loved to eternity.

One of many beautiful things about this is the fact that it is the Lord who really does all the work. In the whole text, the only action taken by the sheep is walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Other than that, they follow the Lord, trust the Lord, accept the blessings of the Lord. And that is really true! In external states (in the valley) we might seem to be doing the work ourselves, but internally, spiritually, we simply need to give ourselves to the Lord and let Him bless us.

The underlying idea here is that the Lord created us so that He could love us, in loving us wants us to be happy, knows that our greatest happiness will come from being conjoined to Him in heaven, and Himself wants nothing more than to be conjoined to us. So everything He does, in every moment of every day for every person on the face of the planet, is centered on the goal of getting that person to heaven. He wants each and every one of us in heaven more than we are capable of imagining. We just need to cooperate.

(References: The Apocalypse Explained 375 [34], 727 [2]; The Inner Meaning of the Prophets and Psalms 273)


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