(The following texts highlighted in this color of blue is taken from

The Treasury of David by Charles Haddon Spurgeon that in

black is from the King James Version and from the Pulpit Commentary) 

 

The position of this psalm is worthy of notice. It follows the twenty-second, which

is peculiarly the Psalm of the Cross. There are no green pastures, no still waters on

the other side of the twenty-second psalm. It is only after we have read, "My God,

my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" that we come to "The Lord is my

Shepherd." We must by experience know the value of blood shedding, and see the

sword awakened against the Shepherd, before we shall be able truly to know the

Sweetness of the good Shepherd's care.

 

It has been said that what the nightingale is among birds, that is this divine

ode among the psalms, for it has sung sweetly in the ear of many a mourner

in his night of weeping, and has bidden him hope for a morning of joy. I

will venture to compare it also to the lark, which sings as it mounts, and

mounts as it sings, until it is out of sight, and even then is not out of hearing. Note the

last words of the psalm—"I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever; " these

are celestial notes, more fitted for the eternal mansions than for these dwelling places

below the clouds. Oh that we may enter into the spirit of the psalm as we read it, and

then we shall experience the days of heaven upon the earth!

 

 

 

                                                            Psalm 23

 

THIS little psalm is an idyll of great beauty, describing the peace and calm

delight which dwell with one whose trust is wholly in God. David’s

authorship is asserted in the title but we cannot fix the poem to any special

period in his lifetime; we can only say that he is beyond the days of boyhood,

having already enemies (v. 5), and that he has known what it is to be in danger

of death (v. 4).  But, when he writes, he is experiencing a time of rest and

refreshment  (vs. 1-3), nay, of prosperity and abundance (v. 5). His thoughts

are happy thoughts – he lacks nothing; he has no fear; God’s mercy and

goodness are with him; and he feels assured that they will continue with him all

the days of his life (v. 6); he has but one desire for the future, viz. to dwell in the

house of God -  i.e. in the presence of God, for ever.

 

To have written this short psalm is one of the highest honors ever put upon man.

What libraries have these few lines survived? Yet they are as fresh as if written

yesterday. They make themselves at home in every language. They touch,

inspire, comfort us, not as an echo from three thousand years ago, but as

the voice of a living friend. The child, repeats them at his mother’s knee;

the scholar expends on them his choicest learning; the plain Christian loves

them for their simplicity as much as for their beauty; the Church lifts them

to heaven in the many-voiced chorus; they fall like music on the sick man’s

ear and heart; the dying Christian says, “That is my psalm” and cheers

himself with its words of faith and courage as he enters the dark valley.

Mere poetic beauty could not confer or explain this marvelous power. The

secret of it is twofold. These words are the language of human experience

and Divine inspiration. 

 

  • Human Experience.  God could have given us a Bible written, like the tables

      of the Law, written “with the finger of God;” (Exodus 31:18) but He has

      spoken through the minds and hearts and personal experience of men of like         

      passions with ourselves, making their faith, penitence, sorrow, joy, prayer,

      thanksgiving, the mirror and pattern of our own. This is the voice of personal        

      experience. David is better known to us than any Bible hero except St. Paul.

      This psalm leads back our thoughts to his youth; but it is no youthful

      composition — it bears the stamp of deep experience. The young shepherd

      might have sung of the famous past, or of the glorious future; but the veteran        

      king, looking back to his youth, sees in it a meaning he could not have seen

      then, and a light shining all along his path.

 

  • Divine Inspiration.  Sweet and deep as are these echoes from the depth of the

      past, they would never have reached us had they been no more than the words

      of a man, though a hero, a poet, a king; they are the voice of God’s Spirit in        

      him. Hence, with that continuity which is one principal note of the inspiration

      of Scripture, we find this image taken up again and again, especially in five           

      passages of signal importance — two in the Old Testament, three in the New.

 

ü      In Ezekiel 34. God is seen as the Shepherd of His people — the

      nation and Church of Israel. Hence the similitude passes on to the

      New Testament. Christ is the chief Shepherd, who employs under-          

      shepherds to feed his flock (John 21:15-17; 1 Peter 5:2-4).

 

ü      In Isaiah 40:11 (as in the psalm) Christ’s tender care of individuals,

                        even the youngest, is represented.

 

ü      In Luke 15:3-7 and  John 10:1-16 our Savior appropriates this

      similitude to Himself, as seeking and saving the lost, ruling and

      feeding each one who follows Him, laying down His life for the

      flock, gathering “other sheep” into “one flock.”

 

ü      In Revelation 7:16 -17 we see the Divine Shepherd gathering His

                        whole flock in the safety, rest, and joy of heaven.

 

CONCLUSION. Can you say, “The Lord is my Shepherd”?  If not, the

gospel has not yet fulfilled its mission in your heart and life. Observe, the

warrant is not in yourself, but in your Savior; not, “I am one of Christ’s

flock,” but, “He is my Shepherd.” If you can say this, then you may

fearlessly cast all your care on Him, and finish the verse, “I shall not want.”

(1 Peter 5:7, Matthew 6:25-26).

 

v. 1 – “The Lord is my Shepherd” – this metaphor (word picture) is used

frequently in scripture:  (Isaiah 40:11; 49:9, 10; Jeremiah 31:10; Ezekiel 34:6-19;

John 10:11-19, 26-28; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter. 2:25; 5:4; Revelation 7:17;

 Psalm 74:1; 77:20; 78:53; 79:14; 80:1.  It is an idea especially consecrated to us by

our Lord’s employment and endorsement of it (John 10:11-16).  The imagery here

is that of the shepherd opening the well-guarded fold and walking at the head of his

own flock, calling now one, now another, by its name, while the sheep willingly

follow, for they know and love their shepherd’s voice; see him in dewy morning

choosing their pasture, at hot noon leading them to some tranquil pool or hidden well,

ever on the watch; ready, like David, to do battle with lion, bear, or wolf, in their

defense; rather laying down his life than leaving them to perish (John 10:11).

What condescension is this, that the infinite Lord assumes towards His people the

office and character of a Shepherd! It should be the subject of grateful admiration that

the great God allows Himself to be compared to anything which will set forth His

great love and care for His own people. David had himself been a keeper of

sheep, and understood both the needs of the sheep and the many cares of a

shepherd. He compares himself to a creature weak, defenseless, and

foolish, and he takes God to be his Provider, Preserver, Director, and,

indeed, his everything. No man has a right to consider himself the Lord's

sheep unless his nature has been renewed for the scriptural description of

unconverted men does not picture them as sheep, but as wolves or goats.

A sheep is an object of property, not a wild animal; its owner sets great

store by it, and frequently it is bought with a great price. It is well to know,

as certainly David did, that we belong to the Lord. There is a noble tone of

confidence about this sentence. There is no "if" nor "but", nor even "I hope

so"; but he says, "The Lord is my shepherd." We must cultivate the spirit

of assured dependence upon our heavenly Father. The sweetest word of

the whole is that monosyllable, "My." He does not say, "The Lord is the

shepherd of the world at large, and leadeth forth the multitude as His

flock", but "The Lord is my shepherd" - if he be a Shepherd to no one else,

He is a Shepherd to me; He cares for me, watches over me, and preserves

me. The words are in the present tense. Whatever be the believer's position,

he is even now under the pastoral care of Jehovah.  The next words are a sort

of inference from the first statement—they are sententious and positive—“I shall

not want” - I might want otherwise, but when the Lord is my Shepherd He is able to

supply my needs, (Philippians 4:19) and He is certainly willing to do so, for His heart

is full of love, and therefore "I shall not want”.  I shall not lack for temporal things.

Does He not feed the ravens, and cause the lilies to grow? How, then, can He leave

His children to starve? I shall not want for spirituals, I know that His grace will be

sufficient for me. Resting in Him He will say to me, "As thy day so shall thy

strength be."  (Deuteronomy 33:25) -  I may not possess all that I wish for, but "I

shall not want."  Others, far wealthier and wiser than I, may want, but "I shall not."

 "The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall

not want any good thing."  (Psalm 34:10) -  It is not only "I do not want, "but "I

shall not want." Come what may, if famine should devastate the land, or calamity

destroy the city, "I shall not want." Old age with its feebleness shall not bring me

any lack, and even death with its gloom shall not find me destitute. I have all things

and abound; not because I have a good store of money in the bank, not because I

have skill and wit with which to win my bread, but because "The Lord is my

shepherd." The wicked always want, but the righteous never; a sinner's heart is far

from satisfaction, but a gracious spirit dwells in the palace of content.

 

 

Human Experience and Divine Inspiration (v. 1)

 

“The Lord is my Shepherd.” The few verses which compose this psalm

would leave but a small blank on the page, if blotted out; but suppose all

translations which have been made of them into all languages, all references

to them in literature, all remembrance of them in human hearts, could be

effaced, who can measure the blank, the void, the loss? To have written

this short psalm is one of the highest honors ever put upon man. What

libraries have these few lines survived? Yet they arc as fresh as if written

yesterday. They make themselves at home in every language. They touch,

inspire, comfort us, not as an echo from three thousand years ago, but as

the voice of a living friend. The child, repeats them at his mother’s knee;

the scholar expends on them his choicest learning; the plain Christian loves

them for their simplicity as much as for their beauty; the Church lifts them

to heaven in the many-voiced chorus; they fall like music on the sick man’s

ear and heart; the dying Christian says, “That is my psalm” and cheers

himself with its words of faith and courage as he enters the dark valley.

Mere poetic beauty could not confer or explain this marvelous power. The

secret of it is twofold. These words are the language

 

(1) of human experience, and

(2) of Divine inspiration.

 

  • HUMAN EXPERIENCE. This is the utterance of weakness and of trust.

In the Bible, as in the Person of our Saviour, the human and the Divine are

found, not apart, but in closest union. God spake not merely by the lips or

pens of the prophets, but by the men themselves (II Peter 1:21). Were

an angel to say, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” this would bring no assurance

to a frail, sinful human heart. A voice from heaven might declare, “The

Lord is a Shepherd,” or as promise, “The Lord is your Shepherd;” but only

the voice of a brother man, weak and needy as ourselves, can speak this

word, the key-note of the whole psalm, “my Shepherd.” God could have

given us a Bible written, like the tables of the Law, “with the finger of

God;” but He has spoken through the minds and hearts and personal

experience of men of like passions with ourselves, making their faith,

penitence, sorrow, joy, prayer, thanksgiving, the mirror and pattern of our

own. This is the voice of personal experience. David is better known to us

than any Bible hero except Paul. This psalm leads back our thoughts to

his youth; but it is no youthful composition — it bears the stamp of deep

experience. The young shepherd might have sung of the famous past, or of

the glorious future; but the veteran king, looking back to his youth, sees in

it a meaning he could not have seen then, and a light shining all along his

path.

 

  • INSPIRED WORDS. Sweet and deep as are these echoes from the

depth of the past, they would never have reached us had they been no more

than the words of a man, though a hero, a poet, a king; they arc the voice

of God’s Spirit in him. Hence, with that continuity which is one principal

note of the inspiration of Scripture, we find this image taken up again and

again, especially in five passages of signal importance — two in the Old

Testament, three in the New.

 

Ø      In Ezekiel 34. God is seen as the Shepherd of His people — the nation

and Church of Israel. Hence the similitude passes on to the New

Testament. Christ is the chief Shepherd, who employs under-shepherds

to feed his flock (John 21:15-17; I Peter 5:2-4).

 

Ø      In Isaiah 40:11 (as in the psalm) Christ’s tender care of individuals,

even the youngest, is represented.

 

Ø      In Luke 15:3-7 and John 10:1-16 our Saviour appropriates this similitude

to himself, as seeking and saving the lost, ruling and feeding

each one who follows Him, laying down His life for the flock,

gathering “other sheep” into “one flock.”

 

Ø      In Revelation 7:16-17 we see the Divine Shepherd gathering His

whole flock in the safety, rest, and joy of heaven.

 

  • CONCLUSION. Can you say, “The Lord is my Shepherd”? If not, the

gospel has not yet fulfilled its mission in your heart and life. Observe, the

warrant is not in yourself, but in your Saviour; not, “I am one of Christ’s

flock,” but, “He is my Shepherd.” If you can say this, then you may

fearlessly cast all your care on Him, and finish the verse, “I shall not want.”

(Matthew 6:25-26; I Peter 5:7).

 

v. 2 – “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures” - literally, in grassy

homesteads — “ the richer, oasis-like spots, where a homestead would be fixed in a

barren tract of land”.  The Christian life has two elements in it, the contemplative

and the active, and both of these are richly provided for. First, the

contemplative.  “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures”. What are these

"green pastures" but the Scriptures of truth—always fresh, always rich, and never

exhausted? There is no fear of biting the bare ground where the grass is

long enough for the flock to lie down in it. Sweet and full are the doctrines

of the gospel; fit food for souls, as tender grass is natural nutriment for

sheep. When by faith we are enabled to find rest in the promises, we are

like the sheep that lie down in the midst of the pasture; we find at the same

moment both provender and peace, rest and refreshment, serenity and

satisfaction. But observe: "He maketh me to lie down." It is the Lord who

graciously enables us to perceive the preciousness of His truth, and to feed

upon it. How grateful ought we to be for the power to appropriate the

promises! There are some distracted souls who would give worlds if they

could but do this. They know the blessedness of it, but they cannot say that

this blessedness is theirs. They know the "green pastures", but they are not

made to "lie down" in them. Those believers who have for years enjoyed a

"full assurance of faith" (Hebrews 10:22) should greatly bless their gracious God.

The second part of a vigorous Christian's life consists in gracious activity.  We not o

nly think, but we act. We are not always lying down to feed, but are journeying

onward toward perfection; hence we read,  He leadeth me beside the still waters” - 

rather, waters of refreshment; ἐπὶ ὕδατος ἀναπαύσεως - (Septuagint).  What are these

"still waters" but the influences and graces of His blessed Spirit? His Spirit attends

us in various operations, like waters—in the plural—to cleanse, to refresh, to fertilize,

to cherish. They are "still waters", for the Holy Ghost loves peace, and sounds no

trumpet of ostentation in His operations.  Still waters run deep. Nothing more noisy

than an empty drum. That silence is golden indeed in which the Holy Spirit meets

with the souls of His saints. Not to raging waves of strife, but to peaceful streams

of holy love does the Spirit of God conduct the chosen sheep. He is a dove, not an

eagle; the dew, not the hurricane. Our Lord leads us beside these "still waters" –

we could not go there of ourselves, we need His guidance, therefore it is said,

"He leadeth me."  He does not drive us. Moses drives us by the law, but Jesus

leads us by His example, and the gentle drawing of His love.

 

v. 3 – “He restoreth my soul” -  i.e. revives it and reinvigorates it when it

is exhausted and weary (see the comment on ch.19:7, where the same verb

occurs - Converting [rather, as in the margin, restoring] the soul” - The word

employed, meshibah, is used of restoring from disorder and decay (Psalm 80:19),

from sorrow and affliction (Ruth 4:15), from death (1 Kings 17:21-22). The Law,

by instructing men, restores them from moral blindness to the light which is theirs

by nature (Romans 1:19), and, as a further consequence, in many cases, restores

them from sin to righteousness.  When the soul grows sorrowful He revives it;

when it is sinful He sanctifies it; when it is weak He strengthens it. "He" does it.

His ministers could not do it if He did not. "He restoreth my soul." Are any of us

low in grace? Do we feel that our spirituality is at its lowest ebb? He who turns the ebb

into the flood can soon restore our soul. Pray to Him, then, for the blessing— "Restore

thou me, thou Shepherd of my soul!"  “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness

Which are also “paths of pleasantness and peace” (Proverbs 3:17) – “for His

Name’s sake” - to magnify His Name as a gracious and merciful God.  The Christian

delights to be obedient, but it is the obedience of love, to which he is constrained

by the example of his Master. "He leadeth me." The Christian is not obedient to some

commandments and neglectful of others; he does not pick and choose, but yields to

all.  Observe, that the plural is used—"the paths of righteousness." Whatever God

may give us to do we would do it, led by His love. Some Christians overlook the

blessing of sanctification, and yet to a thoroughly renewed heart this is one of the

sweetest gifts of the covenant. If we could be saved from wrath, and yet remain

unregenerate, impenitent sinners, we should not be saved as we desire, for we

mainly and chiefly pant to be saved from sin and led in the way of holiness. All this

is done out of pure free grace; "for his name's sake." It is to the honor of our great

Shepherd that we should be a holy people, walking in the narrow way of righteousness.

If we be so led and guided we must not fail to adore our heavenly Shepherd's care.

 

v. 4 - “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” - A

sudden transition and contrast, such as David loved. The quiet paths of righteousness

and peace remind the poet of the exact opposite — the dark and dismal way through

the valley of the shadow of death. Divine shepherding means more than green

pastures and still waters; it sometimes means “the valley of the shadow of death.”

“Paths of righteousness” may be taken to include both the way of duty and the

leading of God’s providence. In both, the right path must be, in the highest

sense, the safe path, but it may be the path of deadly peril and anguish (Psalm 34:19).

Our blessed Lord’s own path led through Gethsemane to Calvary. “The valley of the

shadow of death” must not be limited to mean only the actual approach and

experience of death; it may stand for any crisis of danger, suffering, or weakness,

bodily or spiritual.   Travelers tell of a desolate gorge near Ispahan, “the valley of

the angel of death.”  Through such a ravine, trackless, waterless, gloomy with

overhanging precipices, where in every cleft wild beasts or robbers may lurk, the

psalmist imagines himself led. This unspeakably delightful verse has been sung on

many a dying bed, and has helped to make the dark valley bright times out of mind.

Every word in it has a wealth of meaning.  “Yea, though I walk”, as if the believer

did not quicken his pace when he came to die, but still calmly walked with God.

To walk indicates the steady advance of a soul which knows its road, knows its end,

resolves to follow the path, feels quite safe, and is therefore perfectly calm and

composed.  The dying saint is not in a flurry, he does not run as though he were

alarmed, nor stand still as though he would go no further, he is not confounded nor

ashamed, and therefore keeps to his old pace. Observe that it is not walking in the

valley, butthrough the valley.” We go through the dark tunnel of death and

emerge into the light of immortality. We do not die, we do but sleep to wake in

glory. Death is not the house but the porch, not the goal but the passage to it.

The dying article is called a valley. The storm breaks on the mountain, but the

valley is the place of quietude, and thus full often the last days of the Christian are

the most peaceful of his whole career; the mountain is bleak and bare, but the

valley is rich with golden sheaves, and many a saint has reaped more joy and

knowledge when he came to die than he ever knew while he lived. And, then,

it is not "the valley of death”, but  “the valley of the shadow of death”, for death

in its substance has been removed, and only the shadow of it remains. Some one

has said that when there is a shadow there must be light somewhere, and so there is.

Death stands by the side of the highway in which we have to travel, and the light

of heaven shining upon him throws a shadow across our path; let us then rejoice that

there is a light beyond. Nobody is afraid of a shadow, for a shadow cannot stop a

man's pathway even for a moment. The shadow of a dog cannot bite; the shadow

of a sword cannot kill; the shadow of death cannot destroy us. Let us not, therefore,

be afraid.  “I will fear no evil!”  The Divine Shepherd is with him: this forbids  

fear. In Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress  the valley is placed midway in Christian’s

journey — the image of fierce spiritual conflict (Psalm 18:5). The hardest trial that

can befall the believer is, when tempted to doubt God’s goodness, to deem himself

forsaken. The answer to all doubt is, “Thou art with me” (Isaiah 50:10). The same

trials are not appointed for all God’s children. Faithful, whom martyrdom awaited

in Vanity Fair, had sunshine all through the valley. But there is a point to which all

paths converge. If we must not limit the figure, still less must we exclude that one

application common to all, that experience in which we must he absolutely alone,

unless we can say, “Thou art with me.” He does not say there shall not be any evil;

he had got beyond even that high assurance, and knew that Jesus had put all evil

away; but "I will fear no evil "as if even his fears, those shadows of evil, were

gone for ever. The worst evils of life are those which do not exist except in

our imagination. If we had no troubles but real troubles, we should not have

a tenth part of our present sorrows. We feel a thousand deaths in fearing one,

but the psalmist was cured of the disease of fearing. "I will fear no evil", not even

the Evil One himself; I will not dread the last enemy, I will look upon him as a

conquered foe, an enemy to be destroyed,  “for thou art with me”. This is the

joy of the Christian! "Thou art with me."  The little child out at sea in the storm

is not frightened like all the other passengers on board the vessel, it sleeps in its

mother's bosom; it is enough for it that its mother is with it; and it should be enough

for the believer to know that Christ is with him. "Thou art with me”; I have, in

having thee, all that I can crave: I have perfect comfort and absolute security,

for thou art with me."

 

Death.  Here, again, experience wonderfully varies. To some the approach of death is

a valley of sunshine, not shadow, or only such as falls from a summer cloud; to some, a

momentary passage — through before they know it; to some, dark and rough with long

suffering; to a few (even real Christians), gloomy with spiritual conflict. Here, then,

above all, we need (both for ourselves and others) that highest application of this

comforting image taught by our Lord himself (John 10:1-18, 26-29)   Above all, in the

hour and moment of death, Christ has passed through it; He has “the keys;” (Revelation

1:18) – He alone can be with us. Gentle and tranquil often is the actual approach of

death; weakness and unconsciousness prevent fear; but take away the gospel, take away

Christ, and who in health and strength can calmly face death, and say, “I will fear no

evil”? You may be an unbeliever.  But the believer has a right to say this and knows

what is beyond (John 14:2-4; Revelation 7:15-17). Even when so situated, he does

not, he will not, fear.  I will fear no evil,” he says.  And why? “For thou art with me

-  The same Protector, the same gracious and merciful God, will be still with him —

eading him, guiding his steps, shepherding him, keeping him from evil. Thou art with

me, “thy rod and thy staff” -  i.e. thy shepherd’s crook, and thy staff of defense —

“Rod,” the shepherd’s crook, the received emblem of authority, guidance, and discipline.

“Staff,” that on which one leans,emblem of Divine strength and support. (Only one

word would be used of a real shepherd; the two are employed for the full spiritual

meaning.)  they comfort me.”  They make me feel that, however long and however

dreary the way through the dark vale, I shall still have thy guidance and thy protection. 

Thy rod and thy staff- by which you govern and rule your flock, the ensigns of your

sovereignty and of your gracious care - “they comfort me.” I will believe that thou

reignest still. The rod of Jesse shall still be over me as the sovereign succor of my soul. 

Many persons profess to receive much comfort from the hope that they shall not die.

Certainly there will be some who will be "alive and remain" (I Thessalonians 4:17)

at the coming of the Lord, but is there so very much of advantage in such an escape

from death as to make it the object of Christian desire?  A wise man might prefer of

the two to die, for those who shall not die, but who "shall be caught up together

with the Lord in the air" will be losers rather than gainers. They will lose that actual

fellowship with Christ in the tomb which dying saints will have,

and we are expressly told that they shall have no preference beyond those who

are asleep. Let us be of Paul's mind when he said that "To die is gain", and think of

"departing to be with Christ, which is far better."  (Philippians 1:21-23) This

twenty-third psalm is not worn out, and it is as sweet in a believer's ear now as it was

in David's time, let novelty hunters say what they will.

 

 

                        The Shepherd of Israel (vs. 1-4)

 

To a countryman of David, an ancient Israelite, the shepherd with his flock

was no poetical figure, but a most familiar object. From Carmel to Gilead,

from Hermon to the pastures of the wilderness of Paran, the green hills of

Canaan were covered with flocks. On these same hills and plains the

forefathers of the nation — Abraham, Isaac, Israel — had pitched their

camps and fed their flocks, when as yet they could not call a rood of land

their own. With us the shepherd’s trade is a very humble calling. The

shepherd, though he may tend the sheep as faithfully as if they were his

own, is a hired servant, “whose own the sheep are not.” (John 10:12) We must

dismiss all such associations if we would understand either the poetry or the

parables of Scripture. Abraham and his descendants were not the only

wealthy chiefs who fed their own flocks and herds. In Homer’s poetry,

princes and princesses are seen tending their flocks, and kings and rulers

are called, as in Scripture, “shepherds of the people.” Rightly understood,

it is an image of as great dignity as tenderness by which the Lord is spoken

of as “the Shepherd of Israel  and each believer is encouraged to say, with

David, “The Lord is my Shepherd.”

 

  • DIVINE OWNERSHIP. (Psalm 100:3, Revised Version.) This is a

sublime contemplation, full of comfort, but also of awe. “I belong to God.”

God is the only absolute Owner. “The earth; etc. (Psalm 24:1; 95:5;

115:16). (For a conception of what we are talking about I recommend

Fantastic Trip on the Internet – CY – 2017)  We talk largely about our

possessions My money, business, home; my time, labor, life.” All well

enough — for He giveth us richly all things to enjoy!” (I Timothy 6:17) —

if only we never forget that all is His, that we belong to Him. “Despotism “

 q.d. absolute, unlimited, lordship — is a word of terror and degradation

among men, because of the cruel, selfish, tyrannical use men have made

of it. Doubtful if there lives a man who could safely be trusted with it.

But in Divine lordship is no shadow of terror, except for the willfully,

wickedly disobedient, no taint of degradation, no suggestion of tyranny

or arbitrary caprice. It would be absurd to suppose there can be a right to

do wrong with God any more than with man. God’s wisdom, love,

righteousness, are a law to Himself.  THAT HE IS LORD OF ALL

is our safety, glory, joy. God must cease to be Himself before He can

inflict the lightest wrong on the weakest or unworthiest of His creatures.

 

  • DIVINE GOODNESS, COMPASSION, TENDER AND WATCHFUL

CARE. Religion, worthy of the name, cannot subsist on the bare relation

of Creator and creature, any more than flowers and fruit on granite; it must

be “rooted and grounded in love.” (Ephesians 3:17)  The assurance that God

cannot possibly inflict wrong might free us from the slavery of fear, which

otherwise the thought of His absolute ownership might bring with it, but

would not suffice to fill our life with Brightness and joy, our heart with

trust and courage. To feel in any measure the force and beauty of the

similitude, and get into sympathy, with the soul of the psalmist, we must

get rid of all that is mean, hard, mercenary in our modern English notions,

and dress our thoughts in the bright colors of Eastern life; we must see

the shepherd opening the well-guarded fold and walking at the head of his

own flock, calling now one, now another, by its name, while the sheep

willingly follow, for they know and love their shepherd’s voice; see him in

dewy morning choosing their pasture, at hot noon leading them to some

tranquil pool or hidden well, ever on the watch; ready, like David, to do

battle with lion, bear, or wolf, in their defense; rather laying down his life

than leaving them to perish (John 10:11). “The Lord is my Shepherd,”

etc. (vs. 1-2). In vs. 3-4 the spiritual meaning shines through the

figure, as in vs. 5-6 it is laid aside altogether; yet still the psalmist speaks

of the “rod and staff.”

 

Ø      “Rod,” the shepherd’s crook, the received emblem of authority,

guidance, and discipline.

Ø      “Staff,” that on which one leans, emblem of Divine strength and

support.

 

(Only one word would be used of a real shepherd; the two are employed for

the full spiritual meaning.) All is not ease and brightness in the lives which

God has in His wisest, tenderest care. Divine shepherding means more than

green pastures and still waters; it sometimes means “the valley of the shadow

of death.” “Paths of righteousness’ may be taken to include both the way of

duty and the leading of God’s providence. In both, the right path must be, in

the highest sense, the safe path, but it may be the path of deadly peril and

anguish (Psalm 34:19). Our blessed Lord’s own path led through

GETHSEMANE to CALVARY!  “The valley of the shadow of death”

must not be limited to mean only the actual approach and experience of

death; it may stand for any crisis of danger, suffering, or weakness, bodily

or spiritual Travelers tell of a desolate gorge near Ispahan, “the valley of

the angel of death.”  Through such a ravine, trackless, waterless, gloomy

with overhanging precipices, where in every cleft wild beasts or robbers

may lurk, the psalmist imagines himself led. But the Divine Shepherd is

with him: this forbids fear. In Bunyan’s glorious dream the valley is placed

midway in Christian’s pilgrimage — the image of fierce spiritual conflict

(Psalm 18:5). The hardest trial that can befall the believer is, when tempted

to doubt God’s goodness, to deem himself forsaken. The answer to all doubt

is, “Thou art with me” (Isaiah 50:10). The same trials are not appointed

for all God’s children. Faithful, whom martyrdom awaited in Vanity Fair,

had sunshine all through the valley. But there is a point to which all paths

converge. If we must not limit the figure, still less must we exclude that

one application common to all, that experience in which we must be

absolutely alone, unless we can say, “Thou art with me.” Death. Here,

again, experience wonderfully varies. To some the approach of death is a

valley of sunshine, not shadow, or only such as falls from a summer cloud;

to some, a momentary passage — through before they know it; to some,

dark and rough with long suffering; to a few (even real Christians), gloomy

with spiritual conflict. Here, then, above all, we need (both for ourselves

and others) that highest application of this comforting image taught by our

Lord Himself (John 10:1-18, 26-29).

 

  • THE SAVIOUR’S CONSTANT PRESENCE AND REDEEMING

GRACE. (compare vs. 1-2 with John 10:9; 7:37.) It is His to restore the

soul, to reclaim the lost sheep (Luke 15:3-7), raise the fallen, refresh

the weak, to lead in the path of duty (John 8:12). But especially in

times of urgent need is His presence to be claimed and felt. With Paul and

his companions it was a veritable valley of the shadow of death, when “all

hope… was taken away” (see Acts 27:20, 23; again II Timothy 4:16-17).

Above all, in the hour and moment of death He has passed through it; He has

the keys” (Revelation 1:18). He alone can be with us. Gentle and tranquil

often is the actual approach of death; weakness and unconsciousness

prevent fear; but take away the gospel, take away Christ, and who in

health and strength can calmly face death, and say, “I will fear no evil”?

You may be an unbeliever. Suppose the gospel not true, it does not follow

there is nothing beyond death. But the believer has a right to say this —

knows what is beyond (John 14:2-4; Revelation 7:15-17).

 

 

 

 

God’s Providential Care (vs. 1-4)

 

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want” etc. God’s care and providence over

man are denoted by the following things.

 

  • HE GIVES REST TO THE WEARY. Maketh me to lie down in green

pastures.” Man is a combatant; he has a fight to maintain, a work to do;

and he shall have seasons to rest from his exhaustion. He is a pilgrim

traveler.  He has rest from bodily toil. So also rest from spiritual work. But

the rest is spiritual in its kind. Not mental inactivity. But a clearer

perception of those grand truths which afford the truest relief from the

distraction of the conflict. Composure amidst distractions. The blessed end

we aim at, and the certain issue of it.

 

  • HE RENEWS THE EXHAUSTED STRENGTH OF MAN. (vs. 2-3.) Religious strength consists in the power to do and the power to suffer

or courage and fortitude. This power to do — to conquer sin in

ourselves and in the world — is strengthened by unshaken faith in Gods

truth, and by the power of self-denial. These are God’s gifts, not by any

direct act of His, but as the consequence of striving to do His will.

 

  • GOD WILL AFFORD PROTECTION IN THE DARKEST AND

MOST DIFFICULT TIMES. (v. 4.) Death is not always dark or difficult

to good men. But the general tendency is to view death as dark and evil,

and to fear it on those accounts. Darkness creates a feeling of uncertainty

and a desire for guidance. God has removed the uncertainty and affords us

guidance. The evil of death is the sense of guilt. Christ gives us the victory

over that evil by proclaiming the forgiveness of the Father, and the removal

of our sin. All who submit to God’s guidance may claim Him for their

Shepherd. Jesus Christ fulfils the character of man’s true Shepherd.

 

v. 5 – “Thou preparest a table before me” - When a soldier is in the presence of

his enemies, if he eats at all he snatches a hasty meal, and away he hastens to

the fight. But observe: "Thou preparest a table" just as a servant does

when she unfolds the damask cloth and displays the ornaments of the feast

on an ordinary peaceful occasion. Nothing is hurried, there is no confusion,

no disturbance, the enemy is at the door, and yet God prepares a table, and

the Christian sits down and eats as if everything were in perfect peace. Oh!

the peace which Jehovah gives to His people, even in the midst of the most

trying circumstances!  - in the presence of mine enemies”- another transition.

The danger of death is past. David reverts to the thought of the tranquil, happy, joyous

time which God has vouchsafed to grant him. He has “adversaries,’’ indeed, but they

are powerless to effect anything against him. The good man has his enemies. He would

not be like his Lord if he had not. If we were without enemies we might fear that we

were not the friends of God, for “the friendship of the world is enmity with God.

(James 4:4) Yet see the quietude of the godly man in spite of, and in the sight of, his

enemies. How refreshing is his calm bravery!  They have to look on with ill-concealed

annoyance at his prosperity, to see his table amply spread; his condition such as men

generally envy; his wealth typified by abundant oil – “thou anointest (or, makest fat,

marginal rendering) my head with oil” - great, his whole life full to overflowing with

blessedness. May we live in the daily enjoyment of this blessing, receiving a fresh

anointing for every day's duties. Every Christian is a priest, but he cannot execute the

priestly office without unction, and hence we must go day by day to God the Holy Ghost,

that we may have our heads anointed with oil. A priest without oil misses the chief

qualification for his office, and the Christian priest lacks his chief fitness for service

when he is devoid of new grace from on high.  My cup runneth over” - he declares —

is not only full to the brim, but runs over the brim — an expressive metaphor, indicative

of a state of bliss rarely experienced in this life.  He had not only enough, a cup full,

but more than enough, a cup which overflowed. A poor man may say this as well as

those in higher circumstances. "What, all this, and Jesus Christ too?" said a poor

cottager as she broke a piece of bread and filled a glass with cold water.  Whereas

a man may be ever so wealthy, but if he be discontented his cup cannot run over;

it is cracked and leaks. Contentment is the philosopher's stone which turns all it

touches into gold; happy is he who has found it. Content is more than a kingdom,

it is another word for happiness.

 

 

 

A Table Prepared (v. 5)

 

First we may apply this saying to our daily bread. Every “table” needs

preparation. There is the material food, which may have come from far;

and there are the kind hands that have made it ready. But besides this, there

is love of God. We recognize that God has to do with our “daily bread.” It

is a matter between Him and us. “Thou” and “me.” How greatly is every

blessing enhanced, when it is taken as from the hand of God! (“Thou openest

thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.”  Psalm 145:16)

Then circumstances may give a special significance to our commonest mercies;

difficulties are overcome, and wants are supplied, in a way that surprises

us, and that leads us to confess with grateful hearts THE LOVING-KINDNESS

OF THE LORD!  Again, we may apply this to our social pleasures. We are not

made to live alone. We crave fellowship. How graciously does God

provide for our needs! We have:

 

Ø      not only the joys of home,

Ø      but the pleasures of society.

 

There are some who forget God amidst the stir and the seductions of life. They

conduct their business and enjoy their pleasures “without God” (Isaiah 5:8-12).

But it is not so with the righteous. They desire to set the Lord always before them,

and especially to acknowledge HIS GOODNESS AND MERCY in the manifold

social blessings which they enjoy.  But chiefly should we apply the text to our

religious privileges. The Word of God is as a “table” prepared for us. Think how

much had to be done and suffered before we could have the Bible as a book free

to every one of us!  Think also how much there is in this blessed book to refresh

and bless our souls! a “feast of fat things.” (Isaiah 26:6-9)  Public worship is

another “table” spread for us. When the Lord’s day comes round, what multitudes

come together, and there is bread enough and to spare (Luke 15:17) for them all!

More particularly it may be said that the Lord’s Supper is a “table” prepared by

God for His people. Here we see His wise forethought. He saw what was needful,

and designed this feast for the good of His people. Here we see His loving care.

His hand is seen in everything from first to last. The table is the Lord’s

table. The “bread” is His “body;” the wine is “His blood;” the voice that

says, “Come, eat,” is His voice. There is not only preparation of the table,

but of the guests. When we think of what we were and what we are; of

what we deserved and of what we have received, — it is with wonder,

love, and praise that we say, Thou preparest a table before me.” We have

enemies,” but they have not prevailed. We can think of them with pity,

and forgive them; we can even pray for them, that they may be converted

into friends, and, should they continue alienated and hostile, we can face

them without fear, because “greater is he that is with us, than all they that

are against us.” (I John 4:4)  The future is for us bright with hope. The dark

valley is behind, and the power of God before. The table below is THE EARNEST

OF THE TABLE ABOVE!

 

v. 6 - Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me”– The past is an earnest of the

future, as God’s “goodness and mercy” have always followed him hitherto, David

has no doubt that they will continue to cling to him while his life continues – This is a

fact as indisputable as it is encouraging, and therefore a heavenly verily, or "surely"

is set as a seal upon it. This sentence may be read, "only goodness and mercy"for

there shall be unmingled mercy in our history.  These twin guardian angels will

always be with me at my back and my beck. Just as when great princes go abroad

they must not go unattended, so it is with the believer.  (Take for instance all the

ostentation that has gone on in New York City this week with the delegations of

nations at the United Nations – and to think – OUR ESCORTS ARE GOODNESS

AND MERCY – CY – Sept. 24, 2009)  Goodness and mercy follow him always  

all the days of my life” - the black days as well as the bright days, the days

of fasting as well as the days of feasting, the dreary days of winter as well as the

bright days of summer. Goodness supplies our needs, and mercy blots out our sins –

“and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” –(comp. Psalm 27:4, “One

thing have I desired of the Lord, that I will seek after;  that I may dwell in the

house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and

to inquire in His temple”).   These words express the longing of the soul for a

sense of the continual presence of God, and a realization of constant communion

with Him.  "A servant abideth not in the house for ever, but the son abideth ever."

(John 8:35)  While I am here I will be a child at home with my God; the whole world

shall be His house to me; and when I ascend into the upper chamber, I shall not change

my company, nor even change the house; I shall only go to dwell in the upper story of

the house of the Lord for ever. May God grant us grace to dwell in the serene

atmosphere of this most blessed Psalm!

 

 

The Good Shepherd and His Flock (vs. 1-6)

 

This is one of the sweetest of all the psalms. That it was written by him

who was raised from having care of a flock to be the king on Israel’s

throne, there is no reason for doubting, spite of all that destructive critics

may say. No amount of Hebrew scholarship can possibly let any one into

the deep meaning of this psalm. No attainments in English literature will

ever initiate any student into the mysteries of a mother’s love, and no

attainments in Oriental learning will help any one to learn the secret of the

Lord which is here disclosed. (see also Psalm 25:14)  There is nothing to equal

it in the sacred books of the East; for none but the Hebrews have ever had such

a disclosure of God as that in which the writer of this psalm rejoices. Every

clause in this psalm is suggestive enough to be the basis of a separate

discourse; but in accordance with our plan in this section of the ‘Pulpit

Commentary,’ we deal with it as a unity, indicating the wealth of material

for perpetual use therein contained. We have presented to us — Four

aspects of the Shepherd-care of God.

 

  • GOD’S SHEPHERD-CARE DISCLOSED IN REVELATION. For the

Scripture doctrine of God’s relation to His people as their Shepherd, the

student may with advantage study and compare the following: Psalm

74:1; 77:20; 79:13; 80:1; 95:7; 100:3; 119:176; Isaiah 40:11; 53:6;

Jeremiah 23:1-3; 31:10; Ezekiel 34.; Micah 7:14; Zechariah 11:16; 13:7;

Matthew 10:6; 15:24; 18:12; Luke 15:4-6; John 10:1-16, 26-29; 21:16;

Acts 20:28; Hebrews 13:20; I Peter 2:25; 5:4. These passages summarize

Bible teaching on this theme for us. We may set it forth under the following heads:

 

Ø      God is related to men as their Shepherd. A purely absolute Being out of

relation does not exist. To whatever God has made He stands in the relation

of Maker. And when He has made man in His own image, after His likeness,

He stands to such a one in a relation corresponding thereto; and of the

many names He bears to express that relation, few more tenderly illustrate

His watchful care than this word “shepherd.”

 

Ø      This relation is manifested in Jesus Christ. (John 10:1-16; Hebrews 1:1-3.)

He claims to be emphatically “the good Shepherd.” The apostle speaks of

Him as “the Shepherd and Bishop of... souls.” (I Peter 2:25)

 

Ø      As the Shepherd, Jesus came to seek and save the lost. His mission on

earth was emphatically for this. He regards men as His wealth, in which He

rejoices; and if they are not under his loving care He misses them — He is

conscious of something lacking (Luke 15:4-6).

 

Ø      He has risen and ascendent up on high as the great Shepherd of the

sheep (Hebrews 13:20).

 

Ø      He now appoints under-shepherds to care for the flock. (Acts 20:28.)

 

Ø      As the chief Shepherd, HE WILL AGAIN APPEAR!   Then He will gather

in and gather home all the flock (I Peter 5:4).

 

Ø      Only as He gathers men to Himself as their Shepherd, do they find safety

and rest. (I Peter 2:25.) Till then they are homeless wanderers,

perpetually in danger of stumbling “over the dark mountains.”

 

Ø      When men return to Him they find all they need in His Shepherd-care.

(Psalm 23.)

 

Ø      This Shepherd-care is for EACH as well as for ALL. Each one may say,

He loved me, and gave Himself for me; (Galatians 2:20)  “The Lord is

my Shepherd.” Let us not forget to note the Shepherd’s individualizing care.

 

  • GOD’S SHEPHERD-CARE EXERCISED IN ACT. The points of

detail are set forth in this psalm with exquisite tenderness and beauty,

 

Ø      Repose. “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.” In such a

RESTLESS AGE AS THIS, there is no thought which a believer has greater need to appropriate than this (see Mark 6:31). As physically we must find

time for sleep, however severe the pressure of work, so spiritually we must

find time for repose. And God’s gracious arrangements are planned with a

view to this. “He maketh me,” etc. The good Shepherd says, “I will give you

rest.” (Matthew 11:28) When he gets back the wandering sheep he lays it on

his own shoulders (Greek, see Luke 15:5). The Master never expects His

servants to be always on the stretch. He tells them to “rest awhile;” and if

they are heedless of this kind monition, He will Himself call them out of the

rush into the hush of life. It would be well if some Christians thought more

of rest in Christ; their work would be richer in quality even if less in

quantity.

 

Ø      Refreshment. “Still waters;” literally, “waters of rest,” or refreshment.

The believer has no craving thirst: he can ever drink of the living stream,

and therewith be refreshed (see John 4:10; Revelation 7:17).

Dropping the figure, the truth here conveyed is that there shall be a

constant supply of the grace of Christ, and of the Spirit of Christ

(compare John 7:37-39).

 

Ø      Restoration. (v. 3.) This may either mean renewing the strength when

worn down, or bringing back after wandering. We need not omit either

thought, though the latter seems principally intended.

 

Ø      Leadership. (v. 3.) “Paths of righteousness,” i.e. straight paths. This

follows on the restoration. Having recalled him from “by-paths,” the good

Shepherd will lead him in the right way. The sheep can wander wide easily

enough, but if they are to be kept in the right way that can be only through

the Shepherd s care. God guides by

 

o        His Word;

o        His providence;

o        His Spirit.

 

Sometimes, indeed, the way may be dark, even as death itself; still it is the

right way (Psalm 107:7; Ezra 8:21-23).

 

Ø      A living presence. “Thou art with me’ (v. 4). This means, “Thou art

continually with me,” not merely with me in the darkness, but with me

always. The sunshine of the living presence of a Guide, Help, Friend,

Saviour, is always on the believer’s path; and if the mingling of unbelief

with faith did not dim the eyesight, he would always rejoice in it.

 

Ø      Discipline. (v. 4.) The rod and staff are special emblems of the

Shepherd’s care in tending and ruling the flock. The Shepherd chides us

when we rove, and uses sometimes sharp measures ere he recalls us. And

this comforts us! Even so. The disciplinary dealings of our God are among

our greatest mercies.

 

Ø      Ample provision. (v. 5.) The riches of God’s love and life are the

provisions on which we feed, and on which souls can grow and thrive; and

these supplies are ministered to the soul through the invisible channels of

God’s grace, even while enemies prowl around. Yea, we are entertained as

guests at the Father’s board. The anointing oil is the token of the right

royal welcome which the Host delights to give! So rich, so abundant, are

the mercies and joys which are vouchsafed, that our “cup runneth over”!

 

  • THIS SHEPHERD-CARE OF GOD IS ACCEPTED, AND IN IT

THE NEEDY ONE GLORIES. We can but hint.

 

Ø      Here is appropriation. “My Shepherd” (see John 10:11, 27-28).

 

Ø      Here is satisfaction. “I shall not want.”

 

Ø      Here is loyalty. The psalmist not only consents to but delights in this

Divine care, and has no wish but to follow where the Shepherd leads.

 

Ø      Here is joy. This thought is (perhaps intently, but really) in the

expression, Thou art with me.” The presence of God is life’s

exceeding joy.

 

Ø      Here is fearlessness. “I will fear no evil.” Not even the darkest shade

can make him fear, for God is with him there.

 

Ø      Here is recognition of the infinite grace of the Shepherd. (v. 3.) “For

His Name’s sake.” Not for our sakes, but for His own; having

undertaken to be the Shepherd, He will for His own glory’s sake

do all that a shepherd’s care demands.

 

  • THE SHEPHERD-CARE OF GOD IS CELEBRATED IN SONG.

The song has a threefold significance.

 

Ø      It is a song of gratitude. “Goodness and mercy” mark every feature of

the Divine treatment, and they will, to LIFE’S END!

 

Ø      It is a song of hope. The psalmist looks forward, without a moment’s

fear of the Shepherd ever leaving him (v. 6).

 

Ø      It is a song and vow of consecration. “I will dwell in the house of the

Lord for ever.” To what extent David thought of a future state when he

wrote these words, we cannot say. Yet his meaning is clear.  The house

of God was the place where God made His home and manifested

Himself to His people (see Psalm 132:13-16). And the writer says,

“Where God makes His home, there shall be mine. He and I will never part company” (see Psalm 48:14; 61:4; 73:24-26). It was not the house

of God, but the God of the house, that was to be David’s home — and

the home of all the saints — for ever and for ever! 

 

 

 

                                                Goodness and Mercy (v. 6)

 

These two words, “goodness and mercy” are to be taken together, yet they are not

mere synonyms. Goodness is the stream, mercy the fountain; goodness the

open hand of God’s bounty, mercy His loving heart. “Mercy” is not to be

taken in the restricted sense in which we often use it, as contrasted with

justice — goodness to the unworthy, pardon to the guilty. It is (in the

Hebrew) the same word often beautifully Anglicized as “loving-kindness”

(e.g. Psalm 107:43 – reader, one of the most profound statements to me

personally, in all of Scripture is “Because thy loving-kindness is better than

life, my lips shall praise thee” – think of it!  THE LOVING-KINDNESS OF

GOD IS BETTER THAN LIFE!!!!!!!!  I have never known anything better

or greater than life – GOD IS TRULY GREAT – CY – 2009)  “Goodness” reminds

us that our nature is a bundle of wants; “mercy,” that our deepest, highest need can be

satisfied, not by all God’s gifts, BUT ONLY BY GOD, HIMSELF! Faith here

employs the great law of experience, and. from the past infers the future. Consider:

 

  • THE WEALTH OF HOPE.  “All the days of my life” — days to come, as in

      days past. The course of thought in this psalm reminds us of a path which,

      after crossing peaceful plains and narrow gorges, climbs the mountain, and

      from its top beholds the wide, glorious prospect bathed in sunshine. This is

      the privilege of faith; only faith can see goodness and mercy in all God’s past       

      dealings, and foresee them in all to come; “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.”  (Romans 8:28)  One great feature of

      God’s loving-kindness, implies a great mixture of rough with smooth, dark

      and bright. The “restoring of the soul” implies wandering, and means

      chastening as well as forgiveness. The “rod and staff” are needed in the

      dark valley; the table is spread in the desert and amongst foes. A child can see

      that a cricket-ball is a globe; but it needed much philosophy to convince men

      that this great world, which to ordinary vision is flat, is a globe too. So any eye     

      can see goodness and mercy in health, wealth, prosperity, joy; but in sickness,       

      poverty, bereavement, private or public calamity, we are ready to ask Gideon’s     

      question  “if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us?  and

      where be all His miracles which our fathers told us? ” (Judges 6:13).  It

      needs strong faith to be sure that “all the paths of the Lord are mercy

            and truth” (Psalm 25:10). To have David’s bold hope, we need David’s

            experience, submission, and unreserved trust.  “And I will dwell… for ever.”      

            This cannot mean the earthly tabernacle.  David could not dwell there; even a       

            priest or Levite could not dwell there “for ever.” He means the heavenly

            temple (Psalm 11:4). How bright or dim his faith was we know not. But for

            us the way into the holiest is made plain (Hebrews 9:8, 24; 10:19-20).

 

  • A GLORIOUS EMPHASIS OF CERTAINTY. “Surely;” “all

            the days;” “I will dwell,” or “I shall dwell;” not simply “I choose and

            desire,” but “I expect assuredly to dwell in my Father’s house for ever.”

            Beyond the rough, weary, winding path lies rest; beyond the conflict,

            peace. The mysteries and seeming contradictions of God’s dealings,

            compared with His promises, cannot last long. Faith sees them vanish in

            the light of eternity. Whence this calm, exulting security? How can one

            whose life is “a vapor” (James 4:14), standing on a point which crumbles

            beneath his feet, ignorant what the next hour may bring, thus boldly

            challenge the hidden future of earthly life, the boundless future beyond?

            The answer comes from the Divine Shepherd, the faithful Witness —

            “Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:1-3, 19; 12:26;

            II Corinthians 5:1; Romans 8:35-39).

 

 

The Good Shepherd (vs. 1-6)

 

Dr. Arnold said that “amongst Christians, all looking upon the Scriptures

as their rule of faith and life, there are particular passages which will most

suit the wants of particular minds, and appear to them therefore full of an

extraordinary measure of comfort and of wisdom.” This is true. Most

people have their favorite passages of Scripture. But it may be said of this

psalm that it holds a peculiar position. It has for more than three thousand

years been one of the most precious possessions of the Church. Jews and

Christians alike hold it dear, and there are few, if they were asked, but

would thankfully confess that of all the psalms, it was to them the sweetest

and most precious. It is among the psalms what Daniel was, compared with

other men, “greatly beloved.” Why is this? Much, no doubt, depends upon

association; but apart from this there are reasons, in the psalm itself, to

account for the high place which it holds in all hearts. Three may be

mentioned.

 

  • BECAUSE IT BRINGS GOD BEFORE US IN SO ENDEARING A

CHARACTER. He is here represented as a Shepherd and a Host. The

better we understand what this means, the more will our hearts go forth

to Him in love and trust. HE IS ALL, AND IN ALL!   Yea, each of us

may say, “He is mine.”

 

  • BECAUSE IT GIVES US SUCH A BEAUTIFUL PICTURE OF THE

BLESSEDNESS OF GOD’S PEOPLE. They are the sheep of His pasture,

and the guests of His table. Here in this world they are ever under His good

and gentle keeping, and when they depart hence, it shall be to dwell in His

house for ever. “The psalmist describes himself as one of Jehovah’s flock,

safe under His care, absolved from all anxieties by the sense of His

protection, and gaining from this confidence of safety the leisure to enjoy,

without satiety, all the simple pleasures which make up life — the

freshness of the meadow, the coolness of the stream. It is the most complete picture of happiness that ever was or can be drawn. It represents that state

of mind for which all alike sigh, and the want of which makes life a failure to most; it represents that heaven, which is everywhere, if we could but enter it,

and yet almost nowhere, because so few of us can” (‘Ecce Homo’).

 

  • BECAUSE IT IS ASSOCIATED SO CLOSELY WITH OUR

RELIGIOUS LIFE. Though much of Scripture may be neglected, and

almost unknown, this psalm is known and loved by all. We learned it at our

mother’s knee, and we have cherished it fondly ever since. To young and

old, to the rich and poor, to the people of various lands and tongues, it is

equally dear. At home and in the sanctuary it is in constant use. In the time

of our joy it has been the vehicle of our gladness, and in days of darkness it

has brought us comfort:

 

Ø      when weary it gives us rest;

Ø      when lonely it gives us company;

Ø      when oppressed with sin and care it leads us to Him who can

restore our souls, and guide us safely through all difficulties

and dangers, onward to the bright future.

 

In itself it is exceedingly precious, but in the light of the gospel, and as

interpreted by our dear Lord and Saviour, its value is infinitely enhanced.  

Jesus “the Good Shepherd” is here, and His sheep hear His voice, and

follow Himto glory, honor, and immortality.

 

 

 

The Power of Reflection (vs. 1-6)

 

The psalmist looks back over his life, and sings with grateful heart of

God’s love and care. We may use the psalm as bringing before us some of

the changes and contrasts of life.

 

  • YOUTH AND AGE. This psalm breathes the air of youth. It is the echo

of the shepherd-life among the hills of Judah. But the psalmist was now

old. Still, he cleaves to God. Happy are they who have sought God early,

and whose days from youth to age are linked together by natural piety!

 

  • HELPLESSNESS AND SECURITY. What creatures are, when left to

themselves, more weak and silly than sheep? But under the shepherd’s care

they are safe. So it is of the soul. Christ is the good Shepherd, and cares

for His sheep. From first to last, and through all changes and dangers, they

are safe under His loving guardianship.

 

  • SORROW AND JOY. How sweet the picture of the flock feeding in

the green pastures,” and by the “still waters”! But there is another scene

brought before us — the dark and terrible “valley of the shadow of death.”

So there are alternations in the Christian life. If there are lights, there are

also shadows. If there are times of sweet rest and comfort, there are also

times of struggling and of fear. Mark the order — God does not at once

call us to face the dark valley. It comes not at the beginning, but near the

end of the Christian’s course. Christ’s disciples who have been with Him in

the green pastures,” and whose souls have been “restored,” when they

have fallen into sin, by His gracious discipline, are the better fitted for

meeting with trial, and for treading with fearless step even the dark valley

itself.

 

  • WANT AND SATISFACTION. Always there is want on our part,

and always there is supply with God. He who has God, the Possessor of all

things, HAS EVERYTHING!  God is not only our Shepherd, but our Host,

and the supplies of His table NEVER FAIL!

 

  • TRANSITORINESS AND IMMORTALITY. All things here are

fading. Sheep and shepherds pass away. Joys and sorrows come to an end.

Our life is but as a vapor. (James 4:14)  But we look to the things that are

unseen and eternal. God’s two angels, “goodness and mercy,” not only

abide with us here, but will bring us to the everlasting habitation. WE

SHALL DWELL IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD FOR EVER!

 

 

 

Fullness of Joy (vs. 5-6)

 

The psalmist has hitherto spoken of the care of the good Shepherd in

removing the miseries, pains, and sufferings which this life brings — of the

rest, refreshing, and protection he had received. Now he rises higher into

the rich fullness of joy he receives, and the good things of God’s house.

Four principal ideas here.

 

  • THAT THERE IS AN ABUNDANT PROVISION FOR EVERY

WANT. (v. 5.) For all outward and inward want. A feast or banquet is

spread for us by a royal Host. There is a feast provided for the senses and

appetites in outward nature — if we do not turn it into a riot and a

debauch. The enjoyment of it arises from and depends on laboring for it

and the moderate use of it. There is also the greater feast provided for the

mind and heart, in finding the truth and responding to the love which God

has set forth, as the means of building up the true life. Christ is the Bread

and Wine of life. David’s honor as God’s guest was the greater, that it

was witnessed by those who had been his enemies.

 

  • HIS HEART WAS FULL OF SOLEMN THANKFULNESS AND

JOY. (v.5 -  Thou hast anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.”)

He had a most vivid perception that the feast, the anointing, the fullness, all

came from the Divine hand This sense of God in our lives makes a whole

world of difference to our experience. No gratitude possible Without it. No

sense of the glory of life without it.

 

  • OUR ASSURANCE OF THE CONSTANCY OF THE DIVINE

LOVE AND GOODNESS. (v. 6) What God had been to him in the

past, He would continue to be in the future. He had suffered, had been

weary, been persecuted, had had battles to fight, had been bewildered in his

path; but God had been his Guide and Deliverer, and would continue to be

all through the remainder of his life.

 

  • HE WOULD BE BLESSED WITH THE FELLOWSHIP AND

FRIENDSHIP OF GOD FOR EVER. (v. 6.) This is the meaning of

“And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever,” so as to be near Him

and have constant intercourse with Him. It includes all kinds of interaction

with God:

 

Ø      worship,

Ø      communion,

Ø      sonship,

Ø      obedience,

Ø      guidance,

 

so as to fill the whole life of thought and feeling and action. “For ever”

looking onwards, perhaps, dimly, to the life beyond, which was not so

clear to him as it is to us.

 

 

 

                                    All the Days of My Life.(v. 6)

 

Life is made up of “days.” Confidence in God gives:

 

  • STRENGTH FOR LIFE’S WORK. “I shall not want.” God is able to

meet all our needs. “As thy days, so shall thy strength be”

(Deuteronomy 33:25; Philippians 4:13).

 

  • SUPPORT UNDER LIFE’S TRIALS. There will be changes. The

green pastures” may give place to the dark valley. There may be loss of

health, of property, of friends; there may be unknown trials. “Thou art with

me.”

 

  • FULFILLMENT OF LIFE’S GREAT HOPES. It is a great thing to be

one of Christ’s flock, ever under the Shepherd’s tender care. But more is

promised. There will be the going in and out, and finding pasture — all

through; but the end is not here, but above. THE BEST IS TO COME!

The perfection of manhood; the “rest that remaineth (Hebrews 4:9),

the “fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11), the glorious fellowships that know

no break, and that bring no pain, are in our Father’s house.

 

“For ever with the Lord!

Amen, so let it be;

Life from the dead is in that word,

Tis immortality.”

 

 

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