God is with His people — Psalm 23
1) The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2) He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.
3) He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4) Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5) You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6) Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
(Psalm 23:1-6 ESV)
This text is meant for Gods people. Through the centuries Psalm 23 has been a comfort to many of God’s children, and it will continue to be like that for many more. We must remember that David who wrote this Psalm was a shepherd and knew what it meant to shepherd his sheep. He knew how to use his rod to guide the sheep and discipline the sheep, and he knew how to use his staff to protect the sheep against lions and bears and other dangers. He was also anointed as king over Israel and he knew how to sit amongst his enemies at the same table. King Saul wanted to kill him many times in his life, and he lived among the Philistines as well when King Saul hunted him and when he had to escape from Saul’s hand. King David lived an extraordinarily difficult life, yet adventurous life. But he also knew that God was always with him, while he was still a nobody and tending sheep. That is why this Psalm is so amazing. It tells us of God who is always with His people no matter what they go through. David knew God personally and redemptively. The Bible tells us that he was a man “after God’s own heart.” That meant that God loved David and David loved God, in that order.
In the Old Testament, many times God identified Himself as the Shepherd of Israel (Psalm 80, 100, Ezekiel 34). God identified Himself with His people, and in the New Testament, we find that Jesus Christ identifies Himself as the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. We also see that Jesus makes a distinction between the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46. The sheep are His people, His children and the goats are the unbelievers or wicked people, the cursed sons of the devil.
The pivotal thing all of us must determine in our own lives is this: are we part of God’s flock? Are we His sheep? By that I mean, are we born again? Have we been changed from being recalcitrant and disobedient and rebellious people to become obedient, submissive and believing people in Jesus Christ? If you are not a sheep, if you are not born again, born of the Holy Spirit then God is not your Shepherd and Jesus Christ is not your Good Shepherd. Jesus came to lay His life down for His sheep. He calls them out by name, and they follow Him. They know his voice, and they follow Him (John 10:1-7). So if you are born again, if you have been given a new heart this Psalm is meant for you: to comfort and strengthen you in your journey through life, but if you have not been born again, this Psalm is not for you. You will not understand it if Jesus is not your personal Savior and Lord. My prayer for you is this: That you may know God to be your Shepherd, your Good Shepherd that will never leave or forsake you.
The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not lack..
This whole Psalm is about God providing for all the needs of His sheep, his people: their physical needs, their emotional needs, their psychological needs, their spiritual needs and every other need you can think of. A human shepherd of real sheep can only do so much for his sheep. He can lead them and guide them and give them food and protect them from danger and fierce animals, but God who is his people’s Heavenly Shepherd can do so much more because He is God.
— The first phrase “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not lack” is a summary of the whole psalm and every statement that follows expounds on this statement and declaration.
— Each statement or declaration asserts what God is for His people or what His role is in relation to His people and each statement shows what we won’t lack and how God will supply our needs.
— So let’s look at verse two: God is our Provider, our Caretaker. “He makes me lie down in green pastures.”
When sheep are made to lie down in green pastures, it means they have enough food to eat. The food sheep eat is grass. In other words, God is our Provider. He is Jahwe Jireh as Genesis 22 reveals. God makes His people, His sheep to get enough food to survive. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t ever get hungry or skip a meal or two, but it means that if God is your God, your Shepherd, He will take care of you. Even the apostle Paul tells us in the New Testament that he was hungry and without food and shelter at times. However, God’s child is God’s responsibility. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all else (these things– food and clothing) will be given unto you (Matthew 6:33). My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). Note that God’s sheep will not only be guided to green pastures but that they will be made to lie down in green pastures. That indicates that God will give His sheep rest and peace. You will be safe in God’s hands, eternally save, because Jesus Christ came to break every yoke of sin by laying down His life for you when He took that cross and died for you 2000 ago on Golgatha! Jesus Christ spilled His blood to make peace with you! He absorbed and averted the wrath of God towards you so that you can have rest and peace with God! You can now lay down in God’s presence without being afraid of His wrath because of Jesus Christ! “He makes me lie down in green pastures.”
— God is our Restorer — “He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.”
I shall not lack refreshment and spiritual healing. If you live in the world and are witnessing for God and just live among unbelievers you will be battered, afflicted, assaulted, verbally insulted, cursed and even be beaten or killed. Many of these things can leave scars and cause distress and pain in our lives. To live in the world and not be of the world will leave you broken time and time again. That is why this psalm is so precious. God promises to restore us, to refresh us, to heal us of our wounds: the wounds the world gave us and gives us and what our own sins cause. God, the great Shepherd, leads us beside still or quiet waters. If you have ever been hiking in the mountains on your own or with a few friends you know how tranquil and serene the atmosphere of a stream is that flows through the mountains. It causes you to be refreshed by just listening to a water stream making its way through the mountains. By God’s presence, by God the Holy Spirit, we are healed of our wounds and of the pollution of the sin-infested society we live in. Jesus promised to give us rest when we come to Him Jesus said: “Come to Me all who are burdened and heavily laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28-30). By His wounds, we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). So God is our Restorer, we shall not lack emotional and spiritual healing from the wounds our sins and the world has afflicted upon us. We shall not lack Gods restoration through Jesus Christ. It may not be instant or come soon, but it will eventually flow through by the Holy Spirit to restore us and make us whole. “He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.”
— God is our Guide — “He leads me in paths of righteousness for His Name sake.”
I shall not lack God’s guidance. God does not only guide us to refresh us and to restore us and to grant us salvation through Jesus Christ, but God leads us in paths of righteousness. God leads us to do good works for His glory and His Name sake. Disciples are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. We were made to shine in this world and expel the darkness. We are to fight for what is right. We are to fight for the rights of the pre-born. We are to fight for justice in the courts. We are to fight for the sanctity of life, for the right for parents to discipline their children, for the sanctity of marriage and the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman, etc. We are to fight for our freedoms to proclaim the word of God in our countries and to worship God in our churches and to preach the truth from our pulpits. Psalm 23 says that God will guide us in paths of righteousness. We were saved for the good works that He has appointed for us, so that we may walk in them (Ephesians 2:10). And when God leads us, He does it for His glory, not to build our self-esteem and not to make a great name for ourselves or to get honor for ourselves or so that we can boast about our abilities, but for His Name sake. God saves us for His glory and God leads us for His glory and to His glory. God exists to glorify Himself, and that is a good thing, because if God was not committed to uphold the worth of His glory, He would be unrighteous. God is the most valuable Person in the world. He is most holy and righteous and perfect in every respect and not to glorify Him would be wrong for Him and for us. “He leads me in paths of Righteousness for His Name sake.”
— God is our Protector — “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with Me. Your rod and your rod and staff they comfort me.”
His rod comforts me. I shall not lack protection from God. A shepherd uses his rod to hit and dispel the lions and bears or any other animal that would cause them harm. The Shepherd uses his rod for the sheep’s security and safety. That is what God promises to do for us as well. Yes, we know that there have been many martyrs for Christ’s sake. Even today, every year, thousands of Christians lose their lives because they follow Christ. Many have gone through the valley of the shadow of death. Many Christians have even tasted death for God’s sake. Many have suffered and have been tortured, but that doesn’t detract anything from this promise. Jesus Christ overcame death for His people. Jesus also went through the valley of the shadow of death. Nay, Jesus even died a cruel death on a cross. Jesus took the weight of God’s anger upon Himself so that we may have life and security and everlasting safety!!! But Jesus was not permanently abandoned by God. Even on the cross, He said: “in Your (God) hands I commit my spirit.” Jesus was never permanently abandoned in His divine nature on the cross. He could not, because He was and is God. We as Christians, as believers have gone through the valley of the shadow of death maybe many times in our lives. I know I have. We have gone through affliction, we have felt the darkness of sin, and we knew how it felt to be lost and guilty before a holy and just God. There were times that we knew that we ought to go to hell for eternity because of our sins, but God came to us and gave us the new birth and since that day God has never forsaken us utterly. We don’t have to fear any evil because God is with us. Jesus promised His disciples of all ages just before He went to heaven: “I will be with you unto the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Even if we go through suffering or have an incurable disease or if we go through cancer or epileptic fits or a stroke or severe depression, God will be with us. Hear the words of the psalm, oh child of God. Do not fear evil, for Jesus has overcome evil and Satan and sins when He died and rose again!! God overcame evil in Christ Jesus! We don’t even have to fear death itself! God will protect us in our distress. We will not lack God’s protection and safety. God has struck the devil’s head (Genesis 3:15), he has a fatal blow, his power is destroyed decisively, in this life and the next. “Even though I go through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.”
— God is our Discipler/Comforter, “His rod and staff comfort me..”
I shall not lack encouragement and comfort. A shepherd of his sheep uses his staff to help the sheep when they have been lead astray or if they have wandered from the path. A shepherd will even use the rod to hit the sheep if they don’t want to listen or follow the shepherd’s leading. And so the heavenly Shepherd, the Good Shepherd uses His rod to discipline His sheep when they have gone astray. When God’s children don’t want to listen, God, has to use different means to discipline His children. Hebrews 12 goes so far as to say that if we are without corrections and discipline, then we are illegitimate children and not really God’s children. So to be disciplined by God is a good thing! All God’s children are disciplined because none of us are perfect. This text says “His rod comforts me.” Discipline from God doesn’t seem to be a thing to be enjoyed at the moment it is given, but God says that discipline produces holiness and the fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:4-10). God’s rod, therefore, makes us more like the heavenly Shepherd and that is a comforting thing. We are God’s children so that we may bear the likeness of Jesus Christ. We are in this world to become more and more like Jesus and to become mature in faith, to the measure of the fullness of the stature of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13). Thanks be to God for His rod that corrects us and helps us when we have gone astray and when we are disobedient. I shall therefore not lack the comfort of God because it is not only God’s rod that corrects us, but that comforts us as well, and God does that through His presence! This brings me to the next point.
— God is our Satisfaction and Joy. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup overflows.”
I shall not lack joy and happiness in God. I shall not lack the filling of the Holy Spirit. David was anointed by the prophet Samuel to be the next king after King Saul disobeyed God. As it was the custom to put oil on the king when a new king was anointed in Israel, the Bible says that from the time when David was anointed to be king the Holy Spirit came upon David. David prophesied on multiple occasions as we see in the Psalms we read today and the Spirit of God abided on him, although not permanently. The Holy Spirit only permanently abided in God’s people after Jesus Christ ascended to heaven and after Pentecost (John 7:37-39; Acts 2:1-10). The anointing of oil on a person always signified the presence and working of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. Now we know from the New Testament that all believers in Christ Jesus are called kings and priests and have received the abiding Holy Spirit because Jesus has been exalted (John 7:37-39; 1 John 2; 1 Corinthians 12:13). We have all been baptized into Christ, into the Holy Spirit by faith in Christ Jesus. When we have the Holy Spirit as an abiding reality, our lives are filled with joy and we can say with David “my cup overflows.” We have joy inexpressible and full of glory as Peter the apostle says in his letter. We have this joy because we know Jesus paid for our sins and that by grace God forgives all our sins. Jesus becomes our soul-satisfier and satisfaction. Moses prayed in Psalm 90, “satisfy us with your steadfast love that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” Jesus also said: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst”. We are also commanded in the New Testament to be filled with the Holy Spirit continually (Ephesians 5:18). As believers in Christ, we shall lack nothing of the Holy Spirit because God is our joy in the midst of our enemies. “You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.”
— He Is our Blesser .. Our Benefactor.. I shall not lack any spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3). When we read further in the Psalm, we see that God blesses us with more things.
He blesses us ..
— with enemies and the valley of the shadow of death. The Bible tells us in Romans 5 that we should rejoice in tribulation because tribulation produces character. We don’t always see difficulty and tribulation as blessings from God. But that is because we don’t see the final result of tribulations and trials. Difficulties, challenges, tribulations and trials wean us from the pleasures of the world and make us more like Christ. I shall not lack anything that will help me to be conformed into His image..
— with His presence. “I shall fear no evil for You are with Me.” I shall not lack His presence. The whole psalm can be summarized that God will be with us. The greatest blessing God could give us is that He will be with us as indicated in verse 4. That is the best thing of all. With Him, we can do all things. If we abide in Christ and He abides in us, we will spiritually succeed, and we will be able to sit with our enemies around a table and look death and danger in the face and triumph in God!
— with His goodness and mercy. “Surely His goodness and mercy (gesed) will follow me all the days of my life.” I shall not lack His “gesed”- Hebrew–His steadfast love.” Apart from the spiritual richness in God, God will give us our temporal necessities. No good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly (Psalm 84).
— with eternal life. “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” I shall not lack the the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus. In John 10:27-30 Jesus said: “My sheep hear My voice. I know them, and they follow Me. I give them everlasting life, and they shall never perish, and no one will pluck then out of My hand. My Father is greater than I and no one will pluck them out of My Father’s hand.” In this passage, God gives us a fourfold promise always to keep us in His hand. God has given us eternal life and that life is in His Son (1 John 5:11-13). I shall not lack the new heavens and the new earth in the age to come!
The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not lack!
The Lord is my Provider I shall not lack material and spiritual provisions.
The Lord is my Restorer I shall not lack His restoration and spiritual healing.
The Lord is my Guide; I shall not lack guidance and direction in life.
The Lord is my Protector; I shall not lack His protection and safety and security.
The Lord is my Disciplinarian and Comforter; I shall not lack His discipline and comfort.
The Lord is my Satisfaction and Joy; I shall not lack the fullness and joy of the Holy Spirit.
The Lord is my Blesser and Benefactor; I shall not lack spiritual blessings and all that works for my conformity to Christ Jesus.
The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not lack! Not In this life and the next! Praise be to