The twenty-third psalm is likely one of the most well known and recited of all the psalms. I always wanted to write music using these words that could easily be sung and prayed.
Several years ago, I noticed it was the psalm response in the upcoming Sunday readings. As the associate music director for a parish I decided to take the opportunity to set the psalm to music and use it for Mass. That's it. That's the whole story. I sat down at the piano and played the first melody that came to mind. The process took all of an hour because the lyrics were already written.
For me, the real emotion of the song comes from the words. They are some of the most powerful words in the bible. Who can read, "even though I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm" and not be comforted? It is a popular psalm because it brings peace to the reader. It suggests security in troubled times. It makes us aware of an unconditional love that will usher us past even the lowest point in our lives.
The psalm came up again this season as I read through the readings for the fourth Sunday in Lent. I am always amazed at the way God speaks to me in new ways about some of the readings that I've read over and over again. In addition to the psalm, all the readings are incredible stories of God choosing and calling His people. In the first reading Samuel anoints David. In the second reading Paul reminds the Ephesians that they are "children of light". In the Gospel, Jesus heals a blind man who becomes His disciple. However, the psalm comes from a different angle. It reminds us that God is a shepherd to His chosen people. He doesn't just call us and then leave us on our own. Instead, we are handpicked by a loving Master who "leads us to safe waters." The profound reality is that God led Samuel and David, He led Paul and the Ephesians, He led the blind man and He still leads us today. He is a God that does not forsake His people. Psalm 23 is a reminder that we are loved and comforted by God our Creator, our Redeemer, and our Shepherd.
-- Joshua Blakesley