The LORD is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil:
For thou art with me;
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
Thou anointest my head with oil;
My cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
God is so magnificent. Throughout His entire inspired Word, He gives true Christians hope, certainty, protection, assurance of love and a promise of life in His Eternal Kingdom. Words we express through our articles can never describe the joy that is waiting for us, but as we grow in Christ, we not only look forward to the Kingdom but gain strength and confidence in the Word of the Lord and His Commandments. We also gain a greater understanding of our journey through life and its hills and valleys.
There is no better Psalm than Psalm 23. Indeed, these words written by King David under inspiration from the Lord God Almighty give us a glimpse of life and they can strengthen us through including the Psalm in our daily prayers.
We have broken the Psalm down in seven different parts and will touch on each separately.
The first is, “The LORD is my shepherd”. Remember, before he became king, David was a shepherd or sheepherder and as such, he was responsible to watch over, feed and protect his flock of sheep, ensuring that none strayed. So, here, David is identifying himself as a sheep, with the Lord as Shepherd. In many passages in the Scriptures the people of Israel are identified as “sheep”. Just consider these two verses, “My people hath been lost sheep” (Jeremiah 50:6) and “Know ye that the LORD he [is] God: [it is] he [that] hath made us, and not we ourselves; [we are] his people, and the sheep of his pasture”. (Psalm 100:3)
And, of course, the LORD referred to here is none other than Jesus Christ. How do we know? Well, Jesus Himself said, “I am the door of the sheep” and “I am the good shepherd …” (John 10 7&11). And there are many other references, including when He instructs Peter to “Feed My sheep”. (John 21:15-17.
Then, we come to those beautiful verses, “I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters”. Just as David provided for his flock, the Christian is in the care of Jesus Christ. And to the extent the Christian adheres to His Laws and Commandments, then blessings will flow accordingly; blessings like success, health, abundance, happiness, friends, respect and a life led by our precious Saviour. In short, Jesus will provide for our bodies, mind and soul.
“He restoreth my soul”. That is, “He forgives my sins”. David was a sinner but he understood and felt truly blessed that Jesus had forgiven him. He knew also that repentance would cover future sins. At our study, we chose Psalm 51 as a great example of repentance and verses 2&3 in particular, “Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me”.
So after forgiving our sins, Jesus then counsels the sinner through David’s words, “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake”. It is not always easy to follow His righteous commandments but we must do our very best to follow the example of our Saviour. Fortunately, we do have the added blessing of the Holy Spirit directing our steps, helping us to keep to the right path. And when temptation rears its head, we should remember Paul’s words to the Philippians (4:13), “I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me”. And we must always keep in mind 1 Corinthians 10:13, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able…”
Solomon wrote, “To everything there is a season …. A time to be born and a time to die …..” and this leads into the all-important words, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: For thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me”. When we are born, we begin a journey through life that will progress to and end at the time of our death. So, this is what David referred when he wrote that he walks through the valley of the shadow of death. Now, much happens through life, some high spots when blessings seem to flow endlessly and some rough spots on the road, some even extremely perilous. David had complete confidence in the Lord God Almighty and knew that he had nothing to fear from the pitfalls in life or temptations from Satan. Coming under the Blood of Christ, Christians too need not fear. This is why the Apostle was inspired to write, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind”. (2 Timothy 1:7) As we wrote earlier the Comforter is with us to guide us and Christians live daily with Christ in our hearts. When David wrote that “thy rod and thy staff they comfort me, this was an analogy based on when he would use these things to lead his sheep, but the Christian has God’s Laws and Commandments to guide the path ahead.
We now come to a most important phrase in this Psalm, perhaps the least understood and explained by scholars in different ways. “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; My cup runneth over”. One well renowned scholar simply said “David had complete confidence, as he understood the promises of blessings and protection”. The Wycliffe Commentary sees David as an honoured guest at God’s house … under God’s protection. These are interesting comments and certainly can’t be argued against. However, we see more in this passage and offer it to you as food for thought. Obviously, as we journey through life we have our enemies, perhaps akin to the perilous rough spots mentioned under the walk through the valley of the shadow of death. And for the Christian, God will come to our aid. But let’s look at this passage in light of, say, the past 100 years. Esau is our enemy and with the dominion promised him in Genesis 27:40, he has influenced great changes to our Christian faith that has the result of watering down the true faith. Likely this is why Christ was to say, “…. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)
Because of this watering down, sadly, a huge percentage of the population of the Israel nations no longer study the Scriptures, or believe or even know anything about Jesus’ teaching of the Kingdom; they scoff at prophecy, the Divinity of Christ and Christians in general. True Christians on the other hand seem perplexed that they cannot convince doubters and seem to try, try and try again. But, on the table, has God placed his antidote for this when He said in Matthew 10:14, “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet”. You see, God must be disturbed that these apostates will convince the Christian to accept a false doctrine instead. Sadly, too, Jesus’ referral of “the house” can be referred to most Christian churches and ministers who have fallen for the new reality and falsely minister to their flock. Think of your minister as you read Jeremiah 8:20, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them”. Or Jeremiah 5:31, “The prophets (pastors) prophesy falsely …. And my people love to have it so …” God’s Word is on that table for protection and further wise advice to the Christian appears in 2John 7-11. Verse 10 in particular is worthy of note, “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed”. And finally for this external application of the protective advice on this table, the Apostle Paul, has this to say in Galatians 1:9, “As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you [as most conventional church ministers do today] than ye have received, let him be accursed”.
But there is also an internal ill or temptation that needs nourishment from the table God prepared for the Christian. Remember, the greatest enemy of all is Satan and he is constantly working through our minds to promote his evil agenda. Included in the six things the Lord hate is, “An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations …” (Proverbs 6:18) There is an old expression that “Thoughts are Things” and dwelling on evil thoughts can bring them about. God has suggested different antidotes to be on his table for protection but one that is worth mentioning is in James 4:7 when the Apostle was inspired to write, “Submit yourselves to God, Resist the devil, and he will flee from you”.
Fortunately, we have help in this as well, he anoints the Christian head with oil”. This was a practice to honour a person, that the Christian will be cared for in the presence of enemies. This caring for, with its accompanying blessing, certainly relates to “My cup runneth over”.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: And I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. To conclude, David knew, as do all true Christians, that as long as we follow the Lord Jesus Christ, that goodness and mercy would follow us throughout that walk through the valley of death and that our ultimate destination will to be with Him when He returns to take up the Throne of David and establish His Kingdom.