Psalm 23 is likely the most well known passage in all of Christendom. However, it is often viewed in an entirely individual, objective, and shallow way. In order to have a proper appreciation of Psalm 23, we need to see what the goal, the end-product, of this psalm is.
In the last verse David declares, ” I will dwell in the house of Jehovah for the length of my days.” The entire experience of David—being led to the green pastures and restful waters, being shepherded through the valley, and feasting on the battlefield—culminates in one thing: dwelling in the house of Jehovah.
It is true that this psalm is largely a matter of our individual experience, founded on experiencing the Lord as our everything and all-sufficient one (v. 1), knowing Him as our enjoyment, rest, and path (vv. 2-3), abiding in His presence (v. 4), and participating in His anointing (v. 5). However, all of these experiences of Christ should lead us to something corporate: His house and a desire to dwell there for the length of our days.
The divine and mystical meaning of this psalm is that all of our experiences of Christ should bring us to have a heart for the church, which is the house of the living God (1 Tim. 3:15). The Lord as the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4), the Shepherd of our souls (2:25), and the good Shepherd (John 10:11) does not shepherd us for our own well-being and building up alone. He also shepherds us so that we may shepherd others, so that we may nourish and cherish those in the church.
For example, after the Lord shepherded Peter through a multitude of situations and failures, He gave Peter one commission: “Shepherd My sheep” (John 21:16). After Peter had been brought through many “valleys,” fought on many “battlefields,” and was being brought to “waters of rest” on the seashore in John 21, the culmination of the Lord’s shepherding of Peter was that he would shepherd others, particularly those in the house of God—the church.
The experience of David and Peter should be our experience as well. The Lord’s dear shepherding through all of our situations should bring us into a life in which we shepherd others, a life in which our only desire, our “one thing” (Psa. 27:4), would not be to have an individualistic, week-to-week, traditional Christian life but that we would dwell in the house of Jehovah—the church—all of our days.