The Twenty-third Psalm

THE twenty-third psalm is probably the best known of all David’s writings. While written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, it nevertheless reflects the background of David’s own experiences as a shepherd boy attending his father’s flocks. Remembering how as a shepherd he cared for the sheep, he wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” All who are truly consecrated to the Lord and who have learned to know him and to experience the abundance of his grace, are confident that they will never experience want as long as they depend upon him as their Good Shepherd. They know that he will supply all their needs, that “no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.”—Ps. 84:11

“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.” Green pastures suggest an abundance of spiritual food, and how true to this promise has been the experience of all the Lord’s people! At this end of the age particularly, the Lord has led his people into the green pastures of present truth, and how soul-satisfying has been the spiritual nourishment thus provided for them!

“He leadeth me beside the still waters.” Here the still waters are in contrast with rushing streams, from which it would be difficult for a sheep to drink. The life-giving waters of present truth have thus been readily accessible to those who “hunger and thirst after righteousness.” (Matt. 5:6) True, it is necessary to apply ourselves to the study of the Word, and to meet the conditions called for in our consecration, but all who do this find themselves daily and continually refreshed by the still waters of the truth.

“He restoreth my soul.” ‘He saveth my life’ is a more literal translation of the Hebrew text. We are all by nature members of the sin-cursed and dying human race, but through the provision of our Good Shepherd we have been, by faith, saved from death—justified to life. And not only so, but throughout all the days of our Christian life, the saving grace of our Good Shepherd is manifested toward us in his care and protection. Even when we become discouraged, and perhaps almost faint by the wayside, he is ever near, ready to extend a helping hand, thus restoring our courage and giving us strength to continue on.

“For his name’s sake.” Our Good Shepherd leads us in the paths of righteousness, not for the glory of our name, but for his own name’s sake. All glory belongs to the Lord. We should give glory to him because of the blessings he showers upon us. Let us not for a moment suppose that we are worthy of his wondrous care. All that we receive is because of his grace, therefore the glory belongs to him.

“I will fear no evil.” One of God’s promises is that no evil shall befall us. (Ps. 91:10) If our faith can lay hold firmly to this and similar promises, then we will fear no evil. And this will be true even though we “walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” From one standpoint the whole world of mankind is walking through this valley of death, for all are dying. The Lord’s people share the experiences of the dying race even though they have been justified by faith and have peace with God.

And in a special manner the Lord’s sheep of this Gospel Age are in danger of death. They have given up their hope of restitution life and are running for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, and, through failure, it is possible for them to go into the second death. Thus, not only do they need to be on the alert themselves, but they need to trust implicitly in the loving watchcare of the Good Shepherd.

For Thou art with me.” What a blessed assurance! And among the evidences of his presence are his rod and his staff. By these we are supported and directed. And we need the presence of the Good Shepherd most when we stray away from the path in which he is leading. The measures he uses to bring us back into the right way may at times seem harsh, but they are evidences of his love, and by them we can be all the more assured of his presence. And when his presence goes with us we have peace.

“Thou preparest a table.” Some commentators look upon this statement as a change of metaphor from that of a shepherd’s care for his sheep to that of a banquet table prepared by a lord for his guests. Others say that the “table” here referred to is a special provision of the shepherd to assure the safety of his sheep while feeding in close proximity to their enemies. But whichever thought is the correct one, the lesson is that our Good Shepherd is able to care for us despite the fact that we are encompassed about with enemies which are ready and anxious to attack and destroy us as new creatures whenever they can. (II Cor. 5:17) How blessed is the assurance that greater is he who is for us than all they who be against us!—Rom. 8:31; I John 4:4

The anointing of the head of tired or injured sheep was a common practice of the shepherd in ancient times, and suggests the thought of comfort in times of weariness and temporary injury. Jehovah is the Great Shepherd of the sheep, and Jesus is the chief undershepherd. In another picture he is the Head of the church, which is his body, and we might think of him as the one who is anointed, and of the fact that we receive our anointing through him. Whichever view we take of the anointing here referred to, it means that we are the recipients of the Lord’s rich blessings, hence we can truly say that “my [our] cup runneth over.”

“Surely”—that is, there is no doubt about it—“goodness and mercy shall follow me [us] all the days of my [our] life.” Thus far goodness and mercy have followed us all the days of our Christian life. This goodness and mercy represents all the many ways our Good Shepherd has been caring for us. And he will continue to manifest his love toward us. If we continue to put our trust in him, following closely in the way in which he leads, we will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Dawn Bible Students Association
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