THE LORD SHEPHERDS US WITH HIS WORD
Psalm 23 would be the appropriate introduction to a study of this subject. David began the psalm by stating that “the Lord is my shepherd.” Jesus explained, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (Jn 10:11). The Lord is not only our good shepherd, He is our great shepherd. He is “that great Shepherd of the sheep” (Hb 13:20). He is great, and thus, the Chief Shepherd we seek. “When the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Pt 5:4). It is this Shepherd about whom Isaiah spoke: “He will feed His flock like a shepherd. He will gather the lambs with His arm and carry them in His bosom. And He will gently lead those who are with young” (Is 40:11). What better picture could have been painted to illustrate God’s leading and feeding of His sheep through His word?
The Lord “makes me to lie down in green pastures,” therefore, we will have no lack of rest (Ps 23:2). In Him we find that grassy oasis in the middle of a desert. Our souls desire rest, but not laziness. We seek tranquility from the struggles of this life, but not escape into isolation. “There remains, therefore, a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered into His rest has also ceased from his own works, as God did from His. Therefore, let us labor to enter into that rest lest anyone fall …” (Hb 4:9-11). Our final rest will come when He comes. It will be as John wrote, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on, ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, so that they may rest from their labors, for their works follow them” (Rv 14:13). But until that time of His coming, or the end of life’s journey, we must remember the words of Paul, “And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Ph 4:7). This is the emotional oasis that Jesus promised.
Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid (Jn 14:27).
He leads us “beside the still waters,” therefore, we will not lack the direction from His counsel (Ps 23:2). God gives us tranquility in the midst of the white waters of a rushing river. He takes us through the tension of the rapids in order to bring us to quiet waters of peace. It is from these quiet waters that we, as His sheep, peacefully drink of the refreshing taste of His word.
“He restores my soul,” therefore, we will never lack His forgiveness to bring us back when we stray (Ps 23:3). He revives the fainthearted. He brings times of refreshing to the repentant (At 3:19). When we are lost, we find our way back to Him through the guidance of His inspired Road Map.
He leads us “in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake,” therefore, we will never lack His guidance as long as we trust in His guiding word (Ps 23:4). Without a guiding word from our Shepherd, we as His sheep would be tossed from one pasture of error to another. For this reason, the word of God is ministered to the sheep that they “no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of teaching …” (Ep 4:14). Our guard from being tossed to and fro by the twisted doctrines of crafty men is to walk in the light of God’s word. And “if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn 1:7). Therefore, “as newborn babes” we crave the sincere milk of the word so that we may grow up to the salvation that is in His presence (1 Pt 2:2).
And though we “walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” we can always know that He is there for us (Ps 23:4). We will go forth in our Christ-commanded mission with strength, for we know that He is with us always (Mt 28:20). We can remember the words of Isaiah,
“Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. Yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of My righteousness (Is 41:10).
“Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me,” therefore, we will never lack direction through His word because through His correction we are led to and on the right path (Ps 23:4). His word is the rod of defense and the staff of help. It is as Jude wrote,
Now to Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the Only God and Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord … (Jd 24,25).
He prepares “a table before me in the presence of my enemies,” therefore, we will never lack security and a sense of assurance (Ps 23:5). There is a great deal of conflict in this world to make us afraid, but there is more in a faith that is founded upon the word of God to make us unafraid. So in order to be free from the fear that the world presents, we must fear God more than anything of this world. This would even include our fear of death. Jesus will come to deliver “those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hb 2:15). With this promise, we can face the fear of death, for we know through the revelation of God’s word that we will be raised to walked in a new existence (See 1 Th 4:13-18). We grow in His promises of eternal life to the point that we can follow the example of Paul when he spoke to those who feared for his safety, “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (At 21:13).
He “anoints my head with oil,” therefore, we will never be far away from the joy of His comfort (Ps 23:5). “My cup overflows,” and thus, His blessings are showered upon us without measure (Ps 23:5). We have been anointed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. So “blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ep 1:3). Through obedience to the word of God we have come into a covenant relationship with the One who can do that for us which is far beyond what we can fully understand. Paul was right: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us …” (Ep 3:20).
“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life,” therefore, we will not live outside His presence, nor fail to be sustained on our journey of this life (Ps 23:6). And finally, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” because we have faithfully walked according to the guidance of His word (Ps 23:6). A life with Christ is a life with an endless hope. But without Christ, there is only a hopeless end. Our conclusion would be as Peter wrote:
For he who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil and his lips that they speak no deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good. Let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil (1 Pt 3:10-12).
Someone once beautifully explained Psalm 23 in the following unique manner:
Possession: The Lord is my shepherd.
Provision: I will lack nothing.
Position: He makes me to lie down in green pastures.
Progress: He leads me beside the still waters.
Personal: He restores my soul.
Progression: He leads me in the paths of righteousness.
Purpose: For His name’s sake.
Parting: Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
Peace: I will fear no evil.
Protection: For You are with me.
Pilgrimage: Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.
Participation: You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
Preparation: You anoint my head with oil.
Plenty: My cup overflows.
Preservation: Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.
Place: I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
(Tomorrow’s lecture: “Burn the Book”)