Psalm 23 is a passage of scripture that holds great encouragement and comfort for the believer in Christ. It is a passage that reminds us of God's unfailing love for His children. Psalms 23 reminds us of God's promises to protect us, provide for our needs, and guide us through the journey of this life. After all Jesus said, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
The Bible says in Psalms 23:1, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." In King David's day, the sight of a shepherd leading his flock of sheep from pasture to pasture and protecting his flock from wolves and lions and bears, would have been a very common sight. David himself was a shepherd of sheep for many years. He understood all to well the stupidity of sheep. And how easily they could be frightened, wander away and become lost, or devoured by wild animals. And we humans are just like sheep. Without the Lord's tenderly guiding hand we easily become lost and fearful of the unknown, fearful of the uncertainties of tomorrow. We are weak and helpless. When the storms of life pass our way, O, how quickly we are drowned in the flood. We are but weak and sinful men. We are but dust. O my God, what is man; that Thou art mindful of him? When the wolves of this world come to devour us with their false teachings, their materialistic attractions, and lusts: how easily we fall prey to them. It is no wonder the Bible says in Isaiah 53:6, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all."
Thankfully, the Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. The word "want" literally means to lack. If you do not have Christ, then you have nothing. But if Jesus is your shepherd; then you posses the greatest riches of this world, and God shall make you like a tree planted by the rivers of water that bringeth forth its fruit in its season.
Jesus said in John 10:11, "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep." Life is a spiritual journey through the valley of temptation and over the mountain of praise. Because Jesus is the good shepherd He will provide for our needs physically, emotionally, and most importantly, spiritually. Jesus died for our sins so that we might experience the eternal blessings of heaven. He laid His life down for His sheep. Therefore He will certainly help us to live for Him in this life, so that we might experience the blessings of God in this physical realm. Aside from dying for our sins, the second most important thing that He has done for us is to give us His Word. Mark 6:34 says, "And Jesus, when He came out saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and He began to teach them many things." All the wisdom that you will ever need in this life spiritually and practically can be found in the Bible. Don't make the mistake of relying on what other people say or what other books say, but search the scriptures for yourselves to see whether these things be so. Just as Jesus taught the people of His day, there are many things He would teach you about Himself; so that you're relationship with Him will grow closer and sweeter day by day.
Verses 2-6 of Psalms 23 goes on to tell us in detail of the different ways in which God will provide for us, and protect us as His children. Verse 2 says, "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters." This verse is very symbolic of God's provision and protection both physically and spiritually. God's eye is on the sparrow and His eye is on you. When we face the challenges of life, the challenges of working for financial security and providing for a family materially; we can be certain that God will provide what we need to stay alive. Many a man has spent his life seeking material security, a bigger house, a better car, and a new set of clothes. How many countless millions have wasted their lives with such vain pursuits? There is not a rich man or a middle-class man in the world that has found security and satisfaction in their material possessions. But it is possible to have nothing save the clothes on your back, and be secure and satisfied; if the Lord is your shepherd. God will provide for our physical needs. He certainly does not want us to worry about such worthless and vain things. But rather He would have us seeking to magnify the name of Christ to the lost people of the world, in both word and deed. Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
The last half of verse 2 says, "He leadeth me beside the still waters." When you think of water, there are probably two kinds that you think of; a body of water that is calm and peaceful, and that which is like a flood bringing destruction to everything it touches. Until the day that Christ returns there will be disappointments, sorrows, physical pains and diseases, there will be wars, there will be death, and for the Christian there will be persecution. These results of the fall will touch all of our lives. I Peter 4:12 says, "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you." But because the Lord is our Shepherd, He will guide you through all of these circumstances. When such sorrows and trials occur it will not be easy; but because of the grace of God, if you cling tightly to the promises of God; you will emerge unscathed. Isaiah 43:2 says, "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." Spiritually speaking there is a place where the waters are always calm, where there is always peace for your soul, and rest for your mind; despite the outward physical circumstances. Psalm 91:1-2, says, "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of The Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust." Faith in the promises of God reveals the presence of God in your heart, in your mind, and there by your side, holding your hand as a father would his child. Beneath the shadow of God's wings life is calm and there is safety, because the Lord is my shepherd. Jesus said, "peace be still," and the stormy seas were calmed. That's the power of the Word of God.
Psalms 23:3 says, "He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake." Whenever we seek to praise and thank God for His blessings, there will always be much more to thank God for than we will ever be able to think of. Psalm 34:1, "I will bless the Lord at all times: His praise shall continually be in my mouth." First and foremost, He sent His only begotten Son to die for our sins. Jesus suffered, bled, and died. He, the humble Lamb of God, placed Himself in the dark pit of separation from God. Jesus drank the cup of our pride, hatred, lies, murders, fornications, and all our abominations. But God is a giver, and the generous provision of God will only be measured by each drop of God's blessings in the sea of eternity. "Count your blessings one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done." II Corinthians 5:21, "For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."
Verse 3 says "He restoreth my soul..". Sin is like leprosy. It will eat away your personality until eventually you will no longer find yourself transforming into the image of God but the image of the devil. But because of the power of the blood of Jesus, there is restoration for the soul that repents. God will restore the blessings that the locusts have eaten, if you only repent. II Corinthians 5:17-18 says, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new. And all things are Gods, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation." There is a joy and peace no words can express. There is a spiritual beauty that blooms from having the love of God shed abroad in your heart because "He restoreth my soul..."
There is a reason why God is patient, merciful and ever willing to bless our lives. Psalms 23:3 says, "…He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake." Everything that God does is for the purposes of His glory, His just judgment for sin, and His gracious transforming of us into the image of Christ. Alas, there are too many in this world who seek their own glory. If you're not seeking the will of God, if you're not allowing the Lord to lead you as your Shepherd; then your heart is filled with pride, and you are seeking your own glory. That fallen Cherub Lucifer hath sought his own way and the Bible says of Him in Isaiah 14:12-15, "How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit." There is a way that seemeth right unto a man but the end thereof are the ways of death. If you think that you don't need God, then you're a fool. But He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
Psalms 23:4 says, "Yea, thou 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." There are times when the night is filled with gloom. There are times when the fears of life seek to cloud our vision. There are times when our unfulfilled desires leave are hearts broken. There are times when the fiery darts of the wicked burn our flesh. And there are times when that last great enemy of mankind, death, takes from us the ones we love.
There are 3 reasons God has given us, in this verse; to fear none such evils as those mentioned. First, God is with us. Jesus said in Hebrews 13:5, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Believing the promises of God will reveal to you the mighty presence of God in your heart and in your mind. Fear no evil, because God is with you. The next two reasons for us to fear no evil is given in the symbolism of the rod and the staff. There are two different Hebrew words used here. The rod of God is symbolic of the fact that God is in control; He is the great authority of this world, and He is the one who will fight for us. We know that God will fight for us because He hath said vengeance is mine. And we know that God is in control because the Bible promises in Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." The staff of God is symbolic of the fact that God is our support. The Hebrew word used here for staff means a walking stick. God is our walking stick. Psalms 53:22 says, "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee: He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved." Some through the waters, and some through the flood, some through the fire, but all through the blood, some through great sorrow but God gives a song, in the night season, and all the day long. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil. And of all the evils in the world, we certainly need not fear death, because Jesus said in John 5:24, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My Word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." Psalms 23:5 says, "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over."
There certainly are many challenges in the Christian life. Perhaps one of the greastest challenges is to love your enemies. II Timothy 3:12 says, "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." If you live for Christ, there are plenty of people in the world that will despise you because of your testimony. The world is filled with people that are jealous and bitter and those that will simply hate you, because they are children of the devil. Perhaps it can be hard to love the thorn that pricks your flesh. But it was not hard for Christ to love him whose hand held the spear that pierced His side. Jesus said in Matthew 5:44, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Do you have enemies? The secret is to forgive them and to pray for them.
Psalms 23:4 says that God preparest a table before us in the presence of our enemies and He anointest our heads with oil. Oil is symbolic of the Spirit of God. When there is persecution, tribulation and temptation: it is through faith in the Word of God and through fervent prayer; that the Spirit of God will fill your soul with the fruits of righteousness and the peace of God, like a cup that runneth over. Romans 12:12 says, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing instant in prayer." Psalms 23:6 says, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."
Look into the future with your mind's eye. You will see that there are two paths in this life to follow. One path is marked by the footprints of Jesus Christ. The other path is the way of the world: that of following your own will instead of the will of God. You have two choices; you can live for yourself or you can live for God. If you live for yourself this life will hold nothing for you but loneliness, fear and vexation of spirit from the Spirit of God. Jesus sends the rain on the just and the unjust. But only those Christians who live for God day by day will experience God's blessings in this life. The phrase "surely goodness" refers to all that which is good, beautiful, pleasurable, and bountiful.
Psalm chapter 23 is such a great Psalm because it reveals to us the wonderful and eternal results of going God's way, instead of our own way. Jesus said, "I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly." And Psalms 23:6 says, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." I challenge you today to search your heart. Can you honestly say, the Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want?
Copyright; 2002 by Charles F. (Rick) Creech
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