I am going to use this psalm of soul consolation, by God’s grace, to build us up in Christ. Now I do not intend to go verse by verse as I would ordinarily do, in ordinary times. We are not in ordinary times. (LORD – YHWH, covenant God, aseity of God)
I want to look at this prayer or this praise song and unpack the general benefit espoused which is, the LORD is our Shepherd. Or as David the Believer puts it, the Lord is MY Shepherd. And then he goes on to describe the goodness of belonging to God in a reconciled relationship.
This is a God-ward prayer. Beloved, very basically one benefit of the hard times associated with the virus is to wean us from self and self seeking and being man centered and world centered and compel us to be God seeking and God focused and heavenly minded and to put no confidence in the flesh nor in princes – only in our Good Shepherd. (Ps.71:5, Ps.78:7, Ps.107:40-43, Ps.118:8-9)
This is a thanks or praise of the LORD. This is a human being absorbed with the Lord. And the Lord who is for the Believer. This is why this psalm is so universally loved. It looks away from a troubled world to the Creator of heaven and earth, and especially to the Redeemer of God’s elect.
The great blessing, we enjoy is God Himself, belonging to Him, and being cared for by Him according to all His infinite perfections. His wisdom to lead us. His goodness to provide for us. His power to save and keep us. That is what this psalm is teaching.
At the outset, this is a Believer’s prayer. These words can only truly be said by one that believes that the LORD, the covenant God of the Bible, is their Shepherd. I know the Lord. I believe in the Lord. I belong to Him. He belongs to me (by covenant). (I Cor.12:3)
Only the true Believer in the Triune God of the Bible enjoys this goodness of God with us, the Good Shepherd and all of the blessings we see here.
David is believing in God in Christ – the Mediator. Look at verse four.
V.4. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
Beloved, God is with us in Christ. Christ is God with us – Immanuel. (Mt.1:21-23, Isa.7:14, Isa.9:1-7, Isa.11:1-10, Ps.101:6)
And Christ says to those that love Him, and lo I am with you always even top the end of the age. (Mt.28:18-20)
David the Believer is writing about Christ. He is praying to Christ. He is singing to Christ. This is a messianic psalm. The Lord is my Shepherd. God the Holy Spirit in 1,000 BC inspires David to look forward to the coming of the Promised Seed of Abraham, indeed, even the Promised seed from David’s own loins. David’s son and David’s Lord. (2 Sam.7:11-29, Lk.20:41-44, Ps.110:1-7, Ps.2:1-12) David speaks of being reconciled to God in Messiah in Psalm 32 as Paul records it in Romans 4:6-9.
The prophet Ezekiel says this,
Ezekiel 34: 11.For thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out.12 “As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day.13 “I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries and bring them to their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the streams, and in all the inhabited places of the land.14 “I will feed them in a good pasture, and their grazing ground will be on the mountain heights of Israel. There they will lie down on good grazing ground and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 “I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest,” declares the Lord GOD.16 “I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick; but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with judgment. (Gen.49:24, Isa.40:11, Ezek.37:24, Zech.13:7, Jn.10:11-14, Heb.13:20, I Pt.2:25, 5:4)
The same Holy Spirit inspires the apostle Peter to say this about David looking forward to the Christ to come, the Good Shepherd of our souls.
Acts 2:25. For David says of Him, ‘I SAW THE LORD ALWAYS IN MY PRESENCE; FOR HE IS AT MY RIGHT HAND, SO THAT I WILL NOT BE SHAKEN.26 ‘THEREFORE MY HEART WAS GLAD AND MY TONGUE EXULTED; MOREOVER MY FLESH ALSO WILL LIVE IN HOPE;27 BECAUSE YOU WILL NOT ABANDON MY SOUL TO HADES, NOR ALLOW YOUR HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY.28 ‘YOU HAVE MADE KNOWN TO ME THE WAYS OF LIFE; YOU WILL MAKE ME FULL OF GLADNESS WITH YOUR PRESENCE.’29 “Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.30 “And so, because he was a prophet and knew that GOD HAD SWORN TO HIM WITH AN OATH TO SEAT one OF HIS DESCENDANTS ON HIS THRONE, 31 he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that HE WAS NEITHER ABANDONED TO HADES, NOR DID His flesh SUFFER DECAY.32 “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. (Ps.16:1-11)
See how intensely personal faith in the Lord is – David uses the first-person personal pronouns, I, me, my, and mine. This is a spiritual relationship with a personal God, The LORD, HE makes, HE restores, the God of the Bible.
V.1. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
V.2.He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.
V.3. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
V.4.Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
V.5.You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.
V.6.Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Now from here beloved let’s use Psalm 23 this morning to remind us of some of the amazing privileges that belong to us as sheep who belong to our Good Shepherd, Who is the Lord of Glory, Who is the Lamb of God who takes away our sin. (Jn.10:1-18, 1:10-13, 1:29, 36)
My desire then is to take a brief break from our fears and our cares and listen to God’s word – which is the holy Bible. (I Cor.3:22-23, Rom.8:28-32, WSC 36-38)
And what I will do is this. David is obviously using figurative language for the spiritual privileges that Believers enjoy. The presence of God, the guidance and care of God. I will show you what constitutesthe goodness and the loving kindness (hesed) that will follow you all the days of your life.
As believers in Jesus Christ, the Bible says that God has not given us a spirit of fear or timidity or cowardice, but of power and of love and of discipline, and of sound mind. (2 Tim.1:7)
Think on that. Get that into your mind and your spirit. The Lord is your shepherd you shall not want or lack any good thing, not anything necessary for salvation and for holiness. All God’s promises are yes and amen to you because He is your Shepherd.
God also tells us in His word, that the Holy Spirit casts out of us a spirit of slavery leading to fear, and gives us a spirit of adoption, assuring us that we are God’s beloved sons and daughters in Christ. And that same Holy Spirit assures us that the sufferings of this present life cannot compare to the glories of the future eternal unchangeable perfect life that awaits us in Christ. (Rom.8:14-18, I Cor.4:9-14, I Pt.1:11, Phil.3:10-11)
The Scripture defines true Believers in Jesus Christ as born again, no longer natural men and women (Rom.8:7), but spiritual men and women, who have the mind of Christ, we can think rightly about God, Christ, the Bible, law, gospel, heaven, hell, and everything related to faith and moral life because of our spiritual union with the Triune God. (I Cor.2:10-16, I Jn.2:20-26)
He who is in you is stronger than anything against you. (I Jn.4:1-6) No weapon formed against any believer will be eternally successful. Even the virus. Even economic hardship. Nothing shall separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
The gates of hell will not prevail against any elect person in the church of Christ. You can do all things through Christ Jesus who gave Himself for you, to save you, to marry you as His Bride. And He will not lose His holy Bride. Christ does not lose any sheep. (Phil.4:4-13, Eph.5:14-33, Isa.54:17, Mt.16:13-18, Rev.21:1-4)
The virus cannot separate any sheep from the Good Shepherd. Nor can the virus rob any believer of any spiritual privileges and abilities which Christ has purchased for us. In fact, painful things only make true Christians more like Christ. Which is Beloved, God’s true purpose for us in this life. (Rom.8:29, 2 Cor.12:5-10) Whatever the evil one means for our evil, God means for our good. (Gen.50:20) Think of the Cross. The devil sought the death of Jesus. And by His death He shamed the powers of evil and set the captives free. (Col.2:9-15, Jn.12:31-32)
Oh Beloved, our Good Shepherd’s ways and thoughts are infinitely higher than man’s. (Isa.55:9)
Now given these heavenly privileges and spiritual abilities, for us as Christians we should observe all of life, whether in times of tumult as we are experiencing now, or in times of peace, through the lenses of faith in God, faith in Christ, and faith in His word.
The English Puritans would say that God reveals Himself to Man in two books, the book of providence and the book of Scripture. Providence is what occurs. Providence is God governing all His creatures and all their actions. (Eph.1:11, WSC 11) In providence God reveals that He is, that He is all knowing and all powerful.
Scripture is God revealing Himself in Christ as a merciful Savior to sinners, bringing us into a reconciled relationship with Himself.
And we should be studying all of this, all of life though the lenses of Scripture. What is our Lord teaching usin light of ‘The Troubles’, to use a phrase from the Irish people (1968-1998), as we look at Psalm 23?
To acknowledge that God exists. To walk by faith.
The LORD is my Shepherd. I shall not want.
We are called to live by faith and not by sight. (2 Cor.5:7) This virus is God providing us with an opportunity to do just that. To test and refine and grow our faith in God.
The fears of the virus are meant by God for us to stop walking by the flesh, and living by the reasoning of man, and once again pick up the Bible and to pray and to praise.
And more than just pick up the Bible as a lucky rabbit’s foot (as if there were such a thing). But to pick up the Bible and to seek God’s face in it. To say, the Lord is MY Shepherd, therefore I shall not lack any good thing. The Good Shepherd plans good for His sheep. Life. And not death.
And to believe it. And to walk or to live accordingly.
To acknowledge we are sheep.
The Holy Spirit inspires king David to refer to himself as a sheep. Amazing. Unconverted man is not a humble creature. Earthly kings with power and wealth are anything but humble creatures. Fallen man is an exceedingly proud creature. But what is amazing is fallen man is a dependent worm that pretends like he or she is the lord of their life, the master of their destiny.
Oh beloved, has not the virus struck a great blow to the pride of man? It should. But it hasn’t.
And most of us are very much creatures of habit. We have certain structure to our lives. Sleep till this time, eat this or that, go here to work, for this length of time, do such and so for our shopping and recreating, travel here and there to see family and friends. And then also for us as Christians, we mark time by the Sabbath. We work six days, and then we meet with God in corporate worship. And all of that has been turned on its head. Isn’t this the case beloved?
And our routine life has been completely upended by forces and circumstances beyond our control. Stop and think about that. In the blink of an eye daily life for almost the entire planet is changed. We are learning new terms, which I am sure are old terms, like lock down and quarantine, and of course,death tolls.
Man is a blade of grass. Man is not in control of his or her life. The mortality rate is 100%.
All men are dependent creatures to God their Creator. But in their enmity, they reject Him.
But David, as the prototypical believer, shows us that by God’s grace we love His Lordship over us. We own ourselves as His weak and dependent and needy lambs. We look to Him. And not to self. It is not by our power or our might or our wisdom that we navigate this life. But by His.
Oh Beloved, I read something the other day that said, the virus is causing a great spiritual awakening. I wish I believed that.
True spiritual awakenings the kind that Jonathan Edwards experienced in the 1700’s were accompanied with the preaching of the Law of God wherein men and women were brought under great conviction of their sin and they cried to Christ to free them from their sins. They owned they were sinning sheep and they returned to the Shepherd of their souls; they were being guided in paths of righteousness (holiness). (Ps.23:3, I Pt.2:25, Isa.53)
Is that what we see is going on around us? This is what we hear;Stay positive. Mother Earth is mad with us. Look within, practice being present in the moment, look to the government to save you. Man, Man, Man. No repentance. No faith. No holiness. Beloved, as a sheep, look to your Divine Shepherd. Then you can truly say, I shall not lack anything good and necessary for me.
To experience the goodness of God in the pilgrimage.
V.4, 5. The next thing that we see is that the Believer can experience the goodness of God in and through the hardness of life. There are enemies within and enemies without. And there is the constant threat of death.
But look at David, light a contented happy safe lamb, lying down in a lush green pasture, drinking cool sweet water, all is well with his soul.
And all of this before he goes to heaven. Beloved, in this life there will be much trouble, much suffering. But we always have the peace of Christ. Always. God Himself is our food and our drink and our life and our health. God is all that we need. God takes care of you. Christ has defeated all of your enemies. Christ has defeated Sin and Satan for you. (Col.1:13)
And I will say, when our belly is filled with the world, then we do not enjoy the green pastures or the sweet waters of our reconciled relationship with God in Christ. A divided heart is not a heart that can enjoy God. Often times of material prosperity are times of spiritual poverty. And in times of material and physical lack are (by God’s grace) times of spiritual prosperity.
Hard times cause us to know and to experience the goodness of God. You rod, Your staff, You prepare a table for me. Jehovah Jireh! God, the LORD provides for us. God alone can be our true and lasting happiness. (Exod.15:26, Ps.119:176)
We are to acknowledge death and eternity. And we are safe in God in Christ.
V.4. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.V.5. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.V.6. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Unconverted man, having a quarrel with holy God, also tries his best to deny the truth of death, especially his own. Death is such a sad thing. It is the wages of man’s sin against a holy God. Unconverted man does what he can to pretend that death will not come for them. But it will. And sadly, the better part of humanity is not prepared to die and to meet God. (Mt.7:13-14)
As believers we acknowledge the reality of death. And we think often about our own death and going to be with the Lord who died for us that we will live for Him. In Christ we have eternal life. In Christ our Sin-Bearer and Reconciler Lamb, the sting of death has been removed.
Hebrews 2:14. Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.
I Corinthians 15: 49. Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed,52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory.55 “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?”56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law;57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
Those who walk with the Lord here, are those who dwell with Him forever; at whose right hand there are pleasures forever more.I will close with the words of Jonathan Edwards. Lord stamp eternity on (our) eyes.
- What are the names and the titles and the attributes for God used in Psalm 23? What do you learn by this? (Ps.23:1-6, Exodus 3:4-7, I AM statements of Christ – Jn.10:1-14, Ps.71:5, Ps.78:7, Ps.107:40-43, Ps.118:8-9)
- What is saving faith? And how do we see saving faith manifested in this psalm? (Eph.2:1-9, Jn.3:16, Jn.1:10-13, Heb.11:1-40, 2 Cor.5:7)
- How do we see Christ in Psalm 23? Titles, names, works, and worship of Him?(Mt.1:21-23, Isa.7:14, Isa.9:1-7, Isa.11:1-10, Ps.101:6, Mt.28:18-20, 2 Sam.7:11-29, Lk.20:41-44, Ps.110:1-7, Ps.2:1-12, Ps.32:1-2, Romans 4:6-9, Ezek.34:1-16, Gen.49:24, Isa.40:11, Ezek.37:24, Zech.13:7, Jn.10:11-14, Heb.13:20, I Pt.2:25, 5:4, Acts 2:25-32, Ps.16:1-11)
- What are some of the privileges, benefits and abilities that Christ has purchased for you by His blood? (2 Tim.1:7, Rom.8:14-18, I Cor.4:9-14, I Pt.1:11, Phil.3:10-11, I Cor.2:10-16, I Jn.2:20-26, I Jn.4:1-6, Phil.4:4-13, Eph.5:14-33, Isa.54:17, Mt.16:13-18, Rev.21:1-4)
- How can enemies, pain, privation, and even the threat of death work to your spiritual benefit in Christ? What lessons does Psalm 23 teach you on these things?(2 Cor.5:7, Ps.23:3, I Pt.2:25, Isa.53, Col.1:13, Exod.15:26, Ps.119:176)
- In light of these real hardships, what are the real spiritual pleasures and gifts you enjoy? What is your green pasture and your cool water? Where do you find these pleasures?
- How should the Believer think about his or her death? How should we prepare for it? How should we think of eternity with God in heaven? How should thoughts of death and eternity and the safety we enjoy in Christ change the way we think, speak, and act in this life? (Ps.23:1-6, Heb.2:14-15, I Cor.15:1-58)
- Extra credit. What are some quotes by Jonathan Edwards on: sin, Savior, life, death, heaven, hell, eternity, etc.? You may use the internet. 😊
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