Thinking Out Loud

May 25, 2009

Confessions of a Psalm 23 Fan

Filed under: bible, Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:05 pm

I devoted an entire blog post to Psalm 23 back in January, which was actually an encore of a post from the July previous.   I guess I’m a fan.

Truth is, I have major sleep deprivation issues.   I fall asleep okay, but then I wake up after only three or four hours and simply can’t get back.    So I try various techniques — except for just taking a few deep breaths, which always works,  which I forget to do until about an hour has passed — including reciting memorized scriptures in my head such as The Lord’s Prayer, various Psalms and the chorus Paul quotes in Philippians which talks about Christ humbling himself, taking on the form of a servant.  (And last night, a new one, the five points of James MacDonald’s Downpour book and CDs.)

This of course raises the issue of the lost art of scripture memorization.   But we’ve dealt with that before here, also:

You’ve heard the saying, “A generation that does not impart its sacred texts to its children is one generation away from extinction.”  People are seeing this truth playing out in some communities and recognizing the need for some fine tuning.  Keep the media.  Keep the interactives.   Keep the cool music.   But we’ve got to bring back the memory verse, the memory chapter, and the memory Psalm.

The last few days however, I’ve been struck by the incredible complexity of the best known among the Psalms, the one we call number 23.    At three or four in the morning, there are little phrases of this psalm that seem to be nested in such a way that it’s hard to believe that so few verses can contain so many golden nuggets.

If I were not a Christian, I would still have to marvel at these short lines of lyric poetry for their intricacy and beauty.    How can they possibly be ignored?

It’s also the only passage in the Bible — longer than a single verse — that I have memorized two completely different ways.   I once thought that the music piece I knew as “The New 23rd” was taken from the Living Bible, but I now know it was actually written in 1969 by Ralph Carmichael.

Consider the original if you were fortunate enough to memorize it, and then enjoy “The New 23rd” variation.   And try to get some sleep tonight, okay?

Because the Lord is my Shepherd
I have everything that I need.
He lets me rest in meadows green
And leads me beside the quiet stream.
He keeps on giving life to me
And helps me to do what honours Him the most.
Even when walking through the dark valley of death
I will never be afraid
For He is close beside me.
Guarding, guiding all the way
He spreads a feast before me.
In the presence of my enemies
He welcomes me as His special guest.
With blessing overflowing
His goodness and unfailing kindness
Shall be with me all my life
And afterwards I will live with Him
Forever and ever
In His house.


  1. Wow! How timely is this!

    I just recommended reading/memorizing this psalm as an antidote for depression.

    And I do a teaching for women’s groups on four principle from verse four. You are right. This is a rich field to mine for God’s truth.

    Thank you for bringing it to our attention once again.

    Comment by Judith — May 26, 2009 @ 7:22 am

  2. Nice.

    I like that.

    As an aside Paul I have a new email address!

    Comment by Rick Apperson — May 26, 2009 @ 10:12 am

  3. We sang that in my high school choir. :o)

    But isn’t the last word supposed to be “home”?

    By the way, I found the 23rd to be very helpful during labour, particularly the “He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me by still waters.”

    Comment by Janet — May 27, 2009 @ 9:25 pm

    • You’re probably right about house/home. I typed it from memory — eliminating some of the repeated phrases which wouldn’t make sense to people just reading it off the blog — and then checked it later. I was probably thinking of John 14; “In my father’s house are many mansions…”

      Did you go to a Christian school or a secular school that had an eclectic choral repertoire?

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — May 27, 2009 @ 9:36 pm

      • It was a Lutheran school. It was in the news last year, when that young gunman held the student body hostage with what turned out to be a BB gun.

        The choir director was a hire from the Alliance Bible College in town. I suppose the choir did mainly religious music; that’s all that comes to my mind anyway, other than the Broadway musicals we put on.

        Comment by Janet — May 27, 2009 @ 10:15 pm

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