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The Good Shepherd's Psalm
January 2011

            A Sunday school teacher asked her group of children if any of them could quote the entire 23rd Psalm.  A golden-haired, four-and-a-half-year-old girl was among those who raised their hands.  A bit skeptical, the teacher asked if she could really quote the entire Psalm.  The little girl came to the rostrum, faced the class, made a perky little bow, and said: "The Lord is my shepherd, that's all I want."  She then bowed again and sat down.  She may have overlooked a few verses, but that little girl captured the essence of David's heart in Psalm 23.

          The 23d Psalm is a psalm filled with the grace of God.  It fills our hearts with hope, peace, comfort, assurance, joy, and gladness.  Its depth and strength is its foundation.  Its peace is revealed not in escape, nor is its contentment found in complacency, but it reveals to its readers a readiness to face deep darkness and imminent danger without fear.  And its climax reveals a love which carries us not to the goal of materialism but to the bosom of the Lord our Shepherd for all eternity. 

          The shepherd psalm as it has affectionately been dubbed follows the psalm of the cross. We must by experience know the value of the blood shed on Calvary’s cross and see the sword brought against the Shepherd before we can truly know the sweetness of the Good Shepherd’s care. For without the Cross there would be no abundant care from the Good Shepherd.

Psalm 22 is the Good Shepherd dying for His sheep. (John 10:11)

Psalm 23 is the Great Shepherd caring for His sheep. (Hebrews 13:20)

Psalm 24 is the Chief Shepherd coming again for His sheep. (1ST Peter 5:4)

          This blessed and sweet psalm as said earlier follows the psalm of the cross and comes before the Psalm of His eminent return.  In other words it is a psalm that falls right where we are now after the cross and before His second coming.  The cross is behind us the second coming is before us, does that not show us that this marvelous psalm describing the Good Shepherd’s care for His flock is for us today?

          It would not do us any harm but do us tremendous good to examine this psalm in detail, memorize its content, and pray for its meanings to be instilled deep within our hearts, mind and spirit?  Now let us therefore, take a look at just some of the riches that can be found in the depth of this outstanding Psalm. 

            The main subject of Psalm 23 is the watchful care which God had extended over His child, and the same resulting complete assurance that David felt that God would watch over him, and supply all his need. The essential idea is – David’s full belief that God would provide for him, and that he would never be left alone or in want. This is the thought with which the psalm starts: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want:” and this thought is carried through the entire psalm and is exemplified by two facts:

(1)            That God was his shepherd; that He had always manifested toward him (David) the care which a shepherd takes of his flock, Psalm 23:1-3; and

(2)            That God had prepared a table before him (David) in the very presence of his enemies, or that he had abundantly provided and protected him in their very sight, when they were endeavoring to destroy him - thus giving him the assurance that God never would leave him.

 Psalm 23:1 A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. (2) He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. (3) He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake. (4) Yea, 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, they comfort me. (5) You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. (6) Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.

The Lord is my Shepherd

 That is a relationship – Jehovah Rohi – Psalm 23:1

I shall not want

 That is supply – Jehovah-Jirah – Genesis 22:13-14

He makes me to lie down in green pastures

 That is rest – Jehovah-Shalom – Judges 6:24

He leads me beside the still waters

 That is refreshment – Bread of Life – John 6:35

He restores my soul

 That is healing – Jehovah-Rapha – Exodus 15:26

He leads me in the paths of righteousness

 That’s guidance – Jehovah our Guide – Psalm 48:14

For His name's sake

 That is purpose – Our True Witness – Rev. 3:14

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death

 That is testing – Our Refiners Fire – Malachi 3:2

I will fear no evil

 That’s protection – Jehovah-Sabbaoth – Isaiah 6:1-3

For You are with me

 That is faithfulness2nd Thessalonians 3:3

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me

 That’s discipline – Jehovah our Judge – Acts10:42

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies

 That is hope – Jehovah our Hope – Titus 2:13

You anoint my head with oil

 That is Consecration – Jehovah-Maccaddeshem – Exodus 31:13

My cup runs over

 That’s abundance – Jehovah our Source – Heb. 5:9

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life

That’s comfort – Jehovah our Comfort – John 14:26

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord

 That is security – Jehovah Nissi – Exodus 17:15

 Forever

 That is eternity – El-Olam – Isaiah 40:28-31

 Amen

 That is established – God is our Amen – Rev. 3:14

        Jesus is "the Amen, the, faithful and true witness" (cf. 2nd Corinthians 1:20; John 1:14, 17; John 14:6).  He is "The God of Amen" (Amen is Hebrew for "truth, faithfulness and assurance") (Isaiah 65:16).  Putting it simply – Amen - IT’S A DONE DEAL!

       Now let us look at how to receive and maintain these blessings from the Lord. First and foremost it is what David shows Jehovah to be in verses 1-4. He shows Jehovah as a Shepherd; all the blessings of the Lord flow from that.  A Shepherd lives with His flock and is everything to it: a guide, physician, protector and provider.  In the word “Shepherd,” David uses the most comprehensive and intimate metaphor used in the Psalms.  Then in verses 5 and 6 David shows Him as his closest friend.  The intimacy of a Shepherd here is eclipsed by the intimacy of a close friend; a friend who invites David to a feast.  This is important to note because in David's time, to feast at someone's table created a bond of mutual loyalty, and could be the consummation of a covenant between parties.  It was that way in Exodus 24:8-12, when the elders of Israel "beheld God, and ate and drank"; and it was so again at the Last Supper, when Jesus announced "This cup is the new covenant in my blood" (1st Corinthians 11:25).  So to be God's guest is to be more than an acquaintance, invited for a day.  It is to live with Him!  "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

          A Shepherd is one who has a solid and personal relationship with his sheep.  Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-14).  God, our great owner, the sheep of whose pasture we are by creation, has established His Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Good Shepherd. He has all the care of His people that a good shepherd has for his flock. In His care, the true believer is secure, for the hand that was wounded and the hand of our Creator closed in omnipotent, double handed grasp upon him John 10:9-14; 10:27-29. Notice these marvelous promises the Good Shepherd is giving us – John 10:11 Jesus as our “Good Shepherd” died to save us. Hebrews 13:20 as our “Great Shepherd” He lives to guide us. 1st Peter 5:3 as the “Chief Shepherd” He is coming back to glorify us.

          Everything we have in Christ stems from the foundation of our relationship with Him.  If our relationship is strong so are our blessings.

  1.  Come unto me – Matthew 11:28-30

  2. Believe in me – John 11:25-26

  3. Hide under my wings – Psalms 91:1

  4. Abide in me – John 15:4-7

  5. Pray without ceasing – 1st Thessalonians 5:17

  6. Be commitment to His precepts – 1st Peter 4:19

  7. Have faith in His promises – 1st Peter 3:13

  8. Walk in the Spirit – Galatians 5:16-26

  9. Turn away from evil and do good – 1st Peter 3:11-12

  10. Refrain your tongue from evil – 1st Peter 3:10

  11. Sanctify the Lord in your heart – 1st Peter 3:15

  12. Give defense to anyone who asks of the Lord – 1st Peter 3:15

  13. Do not grieve the Holy Ghost – Ephesians 4:30

  14. Do not doubt in your heart – Mark 11:23; James 1:6-8

        This Psalm should be the crown of all our hopes our lives and future, and the one great lesson taught us by all the ups and downs of life. The sorrows and the joys, the journeying and the rest, the temporary peace and the frequent struggles, all these should make us sure that there is an end which will interpret them all, to which they all point, for which they all prepare us.  Note David's resolute persuasion, and consider how he came to it, by experience of God's favor during sundry times, and after sundry manners. For before he voiced this last resolution, he numbered up all the many benefits received of the Lord; that he fed him in green pastures, and led him by the refreshing waters; that he restores him and leads him in the paths of righteousness; that he strengthened him in great dangers, even of death, and preserved him; that despite his enemies, he enriched him with many benefits.

          Psalm 23 is our confident assurance, derived from this fact, that the same God who followed David with goodness and mercy all the days of his life; will also be our assurance and hope that He will do the same for us.  And that our future course would be, like David, one of always dwelling in the house of the Lord (Psalm 23:6).

            May all of you have a blessed New Year!  May the Lord bestow upon each of you all the blessings at His command and may you walk with Him daily without ceasing in love, righteousness, goodness and mercy toward others.

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