He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
By Mr. Brian P. David
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.
220. But it shall be told also what "temple" signifies in the Word. In the highest sense, "temple" signifies the Lord's Divine Human, and in the relative sense, heaven; and as it signifies heaven, it also signifies the church, for the church is the Lord's heaven on earth; and as "temple" signifies heaven and the church it also signifies Divine truth proceeding from the Lord, for the reason that this makes heaven and the church; for those who receive Divine truth in soul and heart, that is, in faith and love, are they who constitute heaven and the church. As such is the signification of "temple," it is said, "the temple of My God;" "My God," when said by the Lord, meaning heaven and Divine truth there, which also is the Lord in heaven. The Lord is above the heavens, and to those who are in the heavens He appears as a sun. From the Lord as a sun light and heat go forth. Light in heaven is in its essence Divine truth, and heat in heaven is in its essence Divine good; these two make heaven in general and in particular. Divine truth is what is meant by "My God;" therefore in the Word of the Old Testament the Lord is called both "Jehovah" and "God;" "Jehovah" where Divine good is treated of, and "God" where Divine truth is treated of; for the same reason also angels are called "gods," and the word God in the Hebrew is used in the plural, Elohim. This shows why it is said, "the temple of My God." (That the Lord is called "Jehovah" where Divine good is treated of, but "God" where Divine truth is treated of, see Arcana Coelestia 709, 732, 2586, 2769, 2807, 2822, 3921, 4283, 4402, 7010, 9167; that He is called Jehovah" from Esse, thus from Essence, but "God" from Existere, thus from Existence, n. 300, 3910, 6905; that the Divine Esse moreover is Divine good, and the Divine Existere is Divine truth, n. 3061, 6280, 6880, 6905, 10579; and in general that good is the esse, and truth the existere therefrom, n. 5002; that the angels are called "gods" from their reception of Divine truth from the Lord, n. 4295, 4402, 7268, 7873, 8192, 8301, 8192. That the Divine of the Lord in the heavens is Divine truth united to Divine good, see in the work on Heaven and Hell (13, 133, 139-140. That light in the heavens is in its essence Divine truth, and heat there is Divine good, both from the Lord, see in the same work n. 126-140, 275.)
 That "temple" in the Word signifies the Lord's Divine Human, and in the relative sense, heaven and the church, consequently also Divine truth, can be seen from the following passages.
The Jews asking, What sign showest Thou unto us, that Thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, In forty and six years was this temple built, and wilt Thou raise it up in three days? But He was speaking of the Temple of His body (John 2:18-23).
That "temple" signifies the Lord's Divine Human is here openly declared; for "destroying the temple and raising it up after three days" means the Lord's death, burial, and resurrection.
(References: John 2:18-22)
 In Malachi:
Behold, I send My messenger, and he shall prepare the way before Me; and the Lord shall suddenly come to His temple, and the Angel of the covenant whom ye seek (Malachi 3:1).
Here also "temple" means the Lord's Divine Human; for the Lord's coming is here treated of, therefore "coming to His temple" signifies to His Human.
 In Revelation:
I saw no temple in the New Jerusalem, for the Lord God Almighty is its temple, and the Lamb (Revelation 21:22).
The New Heaven and the New Earth, when they will be in internals, and not in externals, are here treated of, therefore it is said, that "there will be no temple," but "the Lord God Almighty, and the Lamb." "The Lord God Almighty," is the Divine Itself of the Lord, and "the Lamb" is His Divine Human; from which also it is clear, that His Divine in the heavens is meant by "temple."
(References: Luke 12:8)
 In Isaiah:
I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His skirts filled the temple (Isaiah 6:1).
"The throne high and lifted up," upon which the Lord was seen to sit, signifies the Lord in respect to Divine truth in the higher heavens; but "His skirts" signify His Divine truth in the church. (That "skirts" signify, in reference to the Lord, His Divine truth in ultimates, see Arcana Coelestia 9917.)
The veil of the temple was rent into two parts from the top to the bottom, after the Lord suffered (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:34, 38; Luke 23:45);
signified the union of the Lord's Divine Human with the Divine itself (see Arcana Coelestia 9670).
 In the passages that follow "temple" signifies the Lord's Divine Human, and at the same time heaven and the church.
In David :
I will bow myself down toward the temple of Thy holiness, and will confess unto Thy name (Psalms 138:2).
I said, I am cast out from before Thine eyes, but yet will I add to look to the temple of Thy holiness, and my prayer came to Thee to the temple of Thy holiness (Jon. Haggai 2:4, 7).
Jehovah in the temple of Thy 1 holiness (Habakkuk 2:20).
Woe unto you, ye blind guides, who say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor. Ye fools and blind; for whether is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? (Matthew 23:16, 17).
In John :
Jesus said to them that sold in the temple, Take these hence; make not My Father's house a house of merchandise. Then the disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of Thine house hath consumed me (John 2:16, 17).
 Beside these, there are many other passages in the Word where "temple" is mentioned. That it may be known that "temple" means heaven and the church, as also Divine truth proceeding from the Lord, I will cite these passages here, lest the mind should cling to the idea that a mere temple is meant, and not something more holy; for the temple in Jerusalem was holy because it represented and thus signified what is holy. That "temple" signified heaven is evident from these passages. In David:
I called upon Jehovah, and cried unto my God: He heard my voice from His temple (Psalms 18:6).
In the same:
A day in Thy courts is better than thousands. I have chosen to stand at the door in the house of my God, rather than to dwell in the tents of wickedness (Psalms 84:10).
In the same:
The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree; he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They that are planted in the house of Jehovah shall flourish in the courts of our God (Psalms 92:12-13).
In the same :
One thing have I asked of Jehovah; that I may dwell in the house of Jehovah, and to early visit His temple (Psalms 27:4).
I shall be at rest in the house of Jehovah for length of days (Psalms 23:6).
Jesus said, In My Father's house are many mansions (John 14:2).
It is clear that in these passages, by "house of Jehovah" and "Father's house" heaven is meant.
 In the following passages the church also is meant. In Isaiah:
The house of our holiness and our splendor, where our fathers praised Thee, is burned up with fire (Isaiah 64:11).
I have forsaken My house, I have abandoned Mine heritage (Jeremiah 12:7).
I will shake all nations, that the choice of all nations may come; and I will fill this house with glory. The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than that of the former (Haggai 2:7-9).
He shall say to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thou shalt be founded (Isaiah 44:28).
Here the coming of the Lord and a new church at that time are treated of. In Zechariah the meaning is similar:
The house of Jehovah was founded that the temple may be built (Zechariah 8:9).
Belshazzar commanded to bring the vessels of gold and silver which Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem, that they might drink from them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone, and then came the writing on the wall (Daniel 5:2-4.).
The "gold and silver vessels that were brought from the temple of Jerusalem" signified the goods and truths of the church; that they "drank wine from them and praised the gods of gold, of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone," signifies the profanation of those goods and truths; and on account of this the writing appeared on the wall, and the king 2 was changed from a man into a wild beast.
 In Matthew:
And the disciples came to show Jesus the building of the temple. Jesus said unto them, See ye all these things? There shall not be left here stone upon stone that shall not be thrown down (Matthew 24:1, 2; Mark 13:1-5; Luke 21:5-7).
That "there should not be left of the temple stone upon stone that should not be thrown down" signifies the total destruction and vastation of the church ("stone" signifying the truth of the church); and because this is what is meant, the successive vastation of the church is what is treated of in these chapters in the Evangelists.
And the angel stood, saying, Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar, and them that worship therein (Revelation 11:1).
The "temple" here also signifies the church, and "measuring" signifies to explore its quality:
The new temple and its measurements (Ezekiel 40-Ezekiel 47); have a like signification.
 That "temple" signifies Divine truth which is from the Lord, is evident from the following passages.
The glory of Jehovah mounted up from above the cherub over the threshold of the house; and the house was filled with the cloud; but the court was full of the brightness of the glory of Jehovah (Ezekiel 10:4).
"House" here means heaven and the church, and "cloud" and "glory" Divine truth. (That "cloud" is Divine truth, see above, n. 36; and "glory" the like, n. 33.)
 In Micah:
Many nations shall go, and say, Come and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, and to the house of our God; that He may instruct us of His ways, and that we may go in His paths; for from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the Word out of Jerusalem (Micah 4:2).
"Mountain of Jehovah, and house of God," signify the church, likewise "Zion" and "Jerusalem;" "to be instructed of His ways, and to go in His paths," is to be instructed in Divine truths; it is therefore said, "From Zion shall go forth instruction, and the Word out of Jerusalem."
 In Isaiah:
A voice of a tumult of Jehovah 3 from the city, the voice of Jehovah out of the temple (Isaiah 66:6).
"City" means the doctrine of truth; "temple" the church; and "the voice of Jehovah out of the temple" Divine truth. In Revelation:
There came forth a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying (Revelation 16:17).
Here, likewise, "voice" means Divine truth.
And the temple of God in heaven was opened, and there was seen in the temple the ark of His covenant; and there were lightnings, voices, thunderings (Revelation 11:19).
"Lightnings, voices, thunderings," signify in the Word Divine truths out of heaven (see Arcana Coelestia 7573, 8914).
The temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened; and there came out from the temple seven angels, having the seven plagues. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from His power (Revelation 15:5-6, 8).
Here seven angels are said to have come out from the temple in heaven, because "angels" signify Divine truths (see above, n. 130, 200). What is signified by "smoke from the glory of God" will be seen in the explanation of these words further on. It should be known, moreover, that the temple built by Solomon, and also the house of the forest of Lebanon, and each particular thing pertaining to them (as described in 1 Kings 6, 1 Kings 7), signified spiritual and celestial things pertaining to the church and to heaven.
1. The Hebrew has "His," as found in Apocalypse Explained 587; Arcana Coelestia 643 Arcana Coelestia 643[1-4].
2. It was not Belshazzar but Nebuchadnezzar who was changed into a beast.
3. "Of Jehovah" is not found in the Hebrew.