Psalm 23: Body, Soul, and Spirit

David Brandt Berg


“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” The Lord is painting a picture of a shepherd and sheep. Since the Lord is our shepherd, it says, “I shall not want.” In this case, “wants” are not desires. It means, “I’ll not lack for anything that I need; I won’t be in want.” “In want” was to be poor and hungry and starving, an old English expression. But I won’t “want,” I won’t lack for anything I need. I may want a lot of stuff I don’t need, but I won’t “want,” I won’t lack anything I really need.

“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.” A sheep lies down in a green pasture when he’s full, satisfied, and tired. In other words, it’s a picture of satisfied sheep that have had lots to eat and now they’re resting, lying down in green pastures.

“He leadeth me beside the still waters.” Still waters are waters that hold still, are quiet, like a nice lake, a pond, a part of the river that’s very smooth and flowing quietly. But troubled waters, they’re flowing over rocks and bricks and stumps and logs, until they even roar. I’ve been near the tops of falls and cataracts that roared so loud you couldn’t even be heard.

That’s roaring water, raging water. In fact, the Lord says the people of the world are going to be like that in the last days. “The sea and the waves roaring” (Luke 21:25b). Every night you look at the news and what do you see? The sea and the waves roaring. Riots, demonstrations, war, sea and waves roaring! That’s not still water; that’s terrible! But the Lord leads us by nice quiet still cool refreshing waters where we can drink.

“He restoreth my soul.” He restores your soul. Do you know what the definition of a soul is? It’s a scripture in Genesis, Genesis 2:7. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground.” As the old song goes, “God made a man out of mud.” It’s called “16 Tons.” He’s singing about this old miner who was mining coal for a company, and he says, “Sixteen tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt. St. Peter, don’t you call me, ’cause I can’t go, for I owe my soul to the company store!”

The miners would only be paid once a month, so they’d have to charge their groceries at the company store, which was run by the same coal company. And they charged such high prices that by the time he got paid, he owed his entire salary to the company store for all the groceries he’d charged. So he didn’t get paid; it all went to pay his grocery bill. Then he had to go to work for another month and charge all the groceries. This is the way they kept miners in slavery so they could never leave, because they always owed money. “Oh, I owe my soul to the company store.” That’s the way the song ends. “Sixteen tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt.”

But how does it start off? “The Lord God made man and He made him out of mud.” He made him out of the dust of the ground. His body was all there, but it was dead. Just a bunch of mud. In fact, about 73% water. You are about 73% water and the other 27% is chemicals, the dust of the earth. Some 27% of you is various chemicals and minerals from the dust of the earth, and 73% is water. Mud!

After He got the mud all mixed, then He had to shape it and make the organs and everything, all made out of mud, a mixture of minerals, chemicals, and water. Man was all there, but he lacked life. So God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” In the Hebrew they use the same word for both “breath” and “spirit”—“rouach.” So when God breathed the breath of life into him, He was really breathing into him the Spirit of God, the spirit of life. So in a way, everybody has a little bit of the Spirit of God, because if they didn’t they’d be dead. All life comes from God. All life is the Spirit of God.

So when God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, man became a living soul. The spirit is the non-material part of you; it’s the real you that lives inside that house. The body is material. The spirit is spiritual, not material. The scientists call it your psyche, and the science of the spirit is called psychology. But they think your mind is your spirit.

The Greeks had two different words: “psyche” and “pneuma.” “Psyche” meant mind or brain, but “pneuma” meant spirit, which is the same word they use for air. If you run out of air, what do you soon do? You run out of spirit. Your spirit runs out of you. So you’ve got to have air. And your spirit is just as necessary as air, because without air, you’re soon dead. Most people can only go four or five minutes without air before they die.

You can’t go very long without water; it’s very essential. You can actually go without food 30 or 40 days, as long as you’ve got water or some kind of liquids to drink. You can go quite a long time without solid food, as long as you drink liquids. But if you have no liquid to drink at all, you can’t live more than four or five days, maybe a week. Because your kidneys break down; you get self-intoxicated. Your body wastes can’t be removed by liquid and your body literally poisons itself.

But there’s one thing you can’t go without for even a few minutes, and that is air. So the Lord likened His Spirit to air, and in both the Old and New Testaments, the words used for “spirit” were the same words used for “air”—“rouach” in the Old Testament and “pneuma” in the New Testament.

Your body with your spirit is a living soul. A body without spirit is a dead body. A spirit without a body is a spirit, or a ghost. Now spirits do have a certain amount of tangible body, but it’s not the old flesh body that they used to have. But they don’t have their final bodies they’re going to have in the Resurrection.

You cannot have a soul without both body and spirit. And that’s why the Bible often speaks about “so many souls were saved, so many souls were lost, so many souls drowned, so many souls did this and that.” It means they were bodies with spirits. In other words, normal human beings. Because there’s a difference between body, soul, and spirit. But they’re not really three different things. You’ve got a body and a spirit; together they make a soul.

“He restoreth my soul.” Soul literally means a living person, including both spirit and body. So when He restores your soul, when He strengthens your soul, when He revives your soul, He is strengthening, reviving, and making alive both spirit and body. So the Lord restores your soul; He strengthens your spirit and your body.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me: Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). The shadow of death doesn’t necessarily mean death itself. A shadow of something is sort of an outline of the thing, and it’s similar to it, but it’s not the real thing. In other words, through a dangerous place where you could get killed or die. Very near to death.

But “I will fear no evil.” Even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you won’t be afraid. Even though there’s danger or dangerous enemies that could kill you, you’ll not be afraid. “For Thou art with me.” The Lord is with us. He’s with us and He has a rod and a staff.

Some people have explained that that means the Lord is going to chasten you with His rod and His staff, and that’s the comfort. But I don’t see any comfort in that, do you? No. He’s got a rod in one hand and a staff in the other and He’s going to protect you. You’re going through this deep dark valley full of danger, but you’re not afraid because the Lord is right there with you leading the way, and He’s going to protect you with His rod and His staff.

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.” The Lord not only protects you, He spreads a table for you to sit right down there and eat a nice meal. So right in the middle of it all, the Lord is taking care of us anyhow.

“Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” They did it physically, literally, but anointing your head with oil is also symbolic, and we’ve got to get both the physical meaning and the spiritual meaning. James says, “Whosoever is sick among you, let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up. And if he has committed sins, they shall be forgiven him” (James 5:14–15).

The oil specifically stands for the Holy Spirit. So when He anoints your head with oil, He’s giving you the Holy Spirit, and the effect is… “My cup runneth over.” You never run out of that kind of oil of the Holy Spirit if you have Jesus and you have His Holy Spirit.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” What’s the house of the Lord? Is it a church? Your heart is the temple of the Holy Spirit. You are the temple. You’re the house of the Lord and He dwells inside of His house—you! You’re already His house and He’s dwelling in it.


Copyright © The Family International


Author: Frederick Olson

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.

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