Is Psalm 23:1 a command? Or is it a result of being a Christian?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture

Question: Is Psalm 23:1 a command? Or is it a result of being a Christian?

Answer: Psalm 23 does not command us to do anything… just read it!

“A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23, ESV)

… but it does commend an action… resting in God… and we’d be foolish not to. But to address your question, the benefits described in Psalm 23 are much more the result of being a Christian than they are the result of being told to do anything.

(A word of caution: Christians were unknown to David. But for the purposes of your question, we’ll understand the word “Christian” to mean “believer” in whatever time and place we find them.)

Psalm 23 tells us why we should rest in the Lord… but it stops way short of commanding us to do so. Instead, it gives us reasons: the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, he leads me, he restores me, he comforts me — and there is not a command in sight! There are just these reassurances.

It is important to note, however, that although believers can expect these comforts from God, we will likely still endure the valley of the shadow of death. Life on earth is hazardous, after all… and we live our lives with an abundance of enemies.

So, Psalm 23 is not some spiritual pablum reserved for funerals; it applies to our real lives as we live them. The point is that he will go through the valleys with us… and that the valleys are the places we grow.

You could make an argument that there is an implied command in the phrase “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” When a believer finds himself in a position of forced rest, it’s as if God said, “Lie down!” But that’s not the tone of the psalm… so I wouldn’t go there… and at this point, I’m out of ideas… but I pray this helped.

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