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Psalm 23

posted Nov 4, 2014, 9:45 AM by Steven Vaughan   [ updated Jul 2, 2015, 3:12 PM ]
The LORD is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. In green pastures he makes me lie down; to still waters he leads me; he restores my soul.
He guides me along right paths for the sake of his name. 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 comfort me.
You set a table before me in front of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me all the days of my life; I will dwell in the house of the LORD for endless days.
Perhaps the best-known of any psalm, tradition ascribes its authorship to King David, who was said to have been a field shepherd himself in his youth. For Christians, its image of God as a shepherd is further evoked when Jesus is described as "the Good Shepherd" in the Gospel of John.

In Jewish tradition it is sung at the third Shabbat meal on Saturday afternoon; during the Yizkor service of “remembrance” and at a cemetery funeral service during Jewish holidays. It became associated with Christian funeral liturgies during the 20th century, and is often alluded to in death scenes in popular media, including television episodes of The Twilight Zone and Lost, and the films The Elephant Man; Titanic; True Grit and War Horse.

It has been set to music many times: in a Bach cantata; as the hymn tune BROTHER JAMES' AIR; in Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms; John Rutter’s Requiem and famous versions by Randall Thompson; Ralph Vaughan Williams and Charles Villiers Stanford. Hymns based on it include Come To Me; The King of Love My Shepherd Is; Shepherd of Souls; Curtis Stephan’s Pastures of the Lord and Marty Haugen’s Shepherd Me, O God. Popular songs based on it have been recorded by Duke Ellington; Pink Floyd; Judy Collins; U2; Bobby McFerrin; Kanye West and Jay-Z.

Whether it’s sung, heard or recited, millions of people through time have found solace and peace in its words.