This Psalm opened with the proud, joyous statement, “The Lord is my shepherd.”
Now it closes with the equally positive affirmation, “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Here is a sheep utterly satisfied with its lot in life, so fully contented with the care it receives, so much “at home” with the shepherd that there is not a shred of desire for a change.
Conversely, on the shepherd’s side, there has developed a great affection and devotion to his flock. He would never think of parting with such sheep. Healthy, contented, productive sheep are his delight and profit. So strong, now, are the bonds between them that it is in very truth — forever.
The word “house” used here in the poem has a wider meaning than most people could attach to it. Normally we speak of the house of the Lord as the sanctuary or church or meeting place of God’s people. In one sense David may have had this in mind. And, of course, it is pleasant to think that one would always delight to be found in the Lord’s house.
But it must be kept in mind always that the Psalmist, writing from the standpoint of a sheep, is reflecting on and recounting the full round of the year’s activities for the flock.
He has taken us from the green pasture and still waters of the home ranch, up through the mountain passes onto the high tablelands of the summer range. Fall has come with its storms and rain that drive the sheep down the foothills and back to the home ranch for the long, quiet winter. In a sense, this is coming home. It is a return to the fields and shelters of the owner’s home. During all seasons of the year, with their hazards, dangers, and disturbances, it is the rancher’s alertness, care, and energetic management that have brought the sheep through satisfactorily.
Actually what is referred to by “house” is the family or household or flock of the Good Shepherd. The sheep is so deeply satisfied with the flock to which it belongs, with the ownership of this particular shepherd, that it has no wish to change whatever.
There is one other beautiful and final sense in which the Psalmist was speaking as a sheep. It is brought out in the Amplified Old Testament where the meaning of this last phrase is “I will dwell in the presence of the Lord forever.”
It is the sheep owner’s presence that guarantees there will be no lack of any sort; that there will be abundant green pastures; that there will be still, clean waters; that there will be new paths into fresh fields; that there will be safe summers on the high tablelands; that there will be freedom from fear; that there will be antidotes for flies and disease and parasites; that there will be quietness and contentment.
In our Christian lives and experience, precisely the same idea and principle applies. There is the awareness of God all around me. I live surrounded by His presence. He is conscious of every circumstance I encounter. He attends me with care and concern because I belong to Him. And this will continue through eternity.
I shall dwell in the presence of the Lord forever. Bless His Name.
An excerpt from A Shepherd Look at Psalm 23