A Psalm of David. THE LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake. 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.
Psalms 23 NKJV
Have you ever really stopped to think of how nice a life sheep have? It may seem strange to consider, but since the Bible is full of verses telling us we are like sheep, are compared to sheep, should be like sheep, and best of all God is our shepherd, don't you think we should spend a little effort examining sheep? If I were to write a book called something like “your best life now”, it would be pretty short because after all, according to the Bible all we have to do is be like sheep!
As I shared last week, many, many of us are starting to feel as if we are being persecuted and are beginning to experience things that up to this point in our lives, we seem to have been spared from. Invariably when believers begin to experience trials in their lives, they also begin to question the reasons for them with the attitude that as believers we should somehow be immune to troubles. As we talked about last week, trials are to be expected yet we need to also understand that even though God will allow these events to occur we also have His promise to deliver us.
David is just one of the figures in the Bible who, like us, experienced trials in his life. Yet he also had a habit of writing Psalms about what he was feeling when going through hardships much like many of us keep a diary. The book of Psalms is a window to David's feelings about God during different times in his life, and it is from one of his most famous Psalms that we find all we need to know about being comforted during trials. Even though most people, both believers and non-believers, are familiar with the 23rd Psalm I think many have never really looked at it point by point and really thought about what David is telling us. So let me try to share just a few of my thoughts about this passage for you to consider, and you too spend this week thinking and praying about what God might want you to learn from His words.
THE LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. So we get the best one first; God will provide all our needs. Since I'm sure most of us spend a considerable amount of our daily lives worrying about tomorrow, God has already promised to take care of our needs. If so, why do we worry? Is it because we don't believe God, or is it because what we think we need is somewhat different than what God thinks we need?
He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.
Ever lie down in a pasture and just stare up at the clouds? It may sound funny but I did that a lot as a kid, and let me tell you from experience that there is nothing so peaceful as that. The word for restore in the Hebrew means to return or go back, and I often find myself looking up at the clouds today and thinking back to those times when I had not a care in this world. Why still waters? Did you know sheep won't drink from a running stream? They need still waters in order to drink. God says He will lead us to green pastures and still waters but the real question is do we follow where He leads or do we insist in going our own way?
He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me. The Hebrew word for paths is “ruts” or a very well worn path. If you have ever driven on a dirt road with ruts you know what it is like to try and turn out of them. It's pretty difficult and takes some effort to get the wheels to turn and then get enough grip to ride up and out of them. On the other hand, if they are well worn and deep you can actually take your hands off of the wheel and just let the car go and the wheels will stay straight and follow wherever the road takes you. Here we are told that the paths of righteousness are like that. It should be easy for us to do what is right, and hard to turn towards evil. Even though we might be tempted to turn because we see ourselves being led towards what appears to be the “valley of the shadow of death”, remember two things. One, we are being led by God and two, it is just the “shadow” and not the real thing. If we keep our eyes on God He promises us we will walk “through”, which means we come out the other side!
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. Now here is the part we are all interested in. In times of trouble we all have one thing in common, and that is looking for something to comfort us. Here we are told by David that in these situations we can be comforted by God's rod and staff. If you look closely into the life of a shepherd, you will find that he normally carries two things with him at all times when leading his flock, a rod and staff. The staff of course, is the long branch with the hook on the end which the shepherd uses to direct those sheep who tend to want to wander, in the direction he wishes to take them. The rod, on the other hand, is used to defend the sheep from anything that might seek to do them harm.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. God wants our enemies to see how He chooses to take care of us, so He blesses us in such a way as for others to see that He is providing for us. The Hebrew phrase to anoint literally means to grow fat or prosper, so the picture here is that God goes out of His way to make sure that those who might wish us harm see that He is providing us with all that we need. So much so that He uses the picture of a cup running over to illustrate His generosity.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life. I have often heard mercy defined as not getting what we deserve, so when I read this part of the Psalm I get the feeling that we are being told that getting what we don't deserve, goodness, and not getting what we do deserve, mercy, follows us all our lives if we but choose to allow God to direct our path. I think the reason this verse says “follow” is that these two benefits are a result of making the right choice, and not trying to go our own way and pursue things that God already says He will provide us.
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever. Are you familiar with the song that says better is one day in Your house than thousands elsewhere? Our promise is that we will spend eternity with God in His house, and that promise is one that should give us all the comfort we need when the going gets tough. Eternity with God is the very best gift we could ever receive, and it is available to anyone who chooses to allow God to come into their lives.
As I said, these are but just a few of my thoughts on this Psalm, and my hope is that you spend your week considering these verses and enjoy the comfort God promises us when we follow after Him, the Great Shepherd. Be like sheep, it's a great life.