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"THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD"
By Jon W. Quinn
Certainly the best known Psalm in the Bible is the twenty-third Psalm which was written by the second king of Israel, David. Its purpose is to proclaim the calm assurance experienced by the one who has put his or her trust in the Lord. The Lord is everything one needs to live a successful life and enter into a happy eternity. Even in life's most distressful circumstances there is security and peace.
It is important to note that this Psalm was not written by a man who was a retiring sort, laid back and relaxed, seldom getting involved in the more exciting aspects of life. The serenity which is spoken of here is not the result of living in isolation from the world, but rather success at dealing with it. David's life was certainly one of excitement, upheaval, victories, defeats, joy and sorrow. It was a very full life. Certainly David was not bored or sedimentary. Someone who would object to the ideas of peace and calmness because they equate it with being a wallflower and they want more out of life has missed the point. God wants your life to mean more than that as well. It was Jesus who said that His purpose in coming was so that His disciples might live abundantly.
FOLLOW YOUR GUIDE
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. (PSALM 23:1). The word translated "Lord" in the first verse if "Jehovah." Jehovah Himself is the Psalmist's shepherd. In the person of the Son of God, Jehovah would one day come to reclaim His lost sheep. Isaiah refers to spiritually adrift Israel as "sheep who have gone astray" and foretells of the coming Messiah (ISAIAH 53:6). Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost." In describing His relationship with His disciples, Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for His sheep." (JOHN 10:11). This is exactly the length that Isaiah had predicted that the Messiah would go to in order to save His people.
This relationship is further described by Jesus: "I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me." (JOHN 10:14). The twenty-third Psalm was written by one who well knew the Lord. Because of this, he had a confidence in life that would otherwise be impossible. He knew what was expected of Him and what he could expect from the Lord in return. Jesus also said, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand." (JOHN 10:27,28). Under what circumstances can one of Jesus' disciples be sure that he will never perish and that no one will snatch them out of (His) hand (vs. 28)? We can be sure if we hear (His) voice and follow (Him) (vs. 27). Please note that these assurances are not made to the one who ceases believing, hearing or following! (cf. vs. 26; JOHN 6:66-69).
ALL NEEDS ARE MET
"He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake." (PSALM 23:2-3). The Shepherd is abundant in His gifts, strong to defend, and pleased to assist those who walk by faith. We can think of many people in need in the Bible. But these people are not what we might typically think of as needy. Pharaoh, who refused to obey God, was a very needy man as he mourned over his son. The rich man who decided that he needed to build bigger barns but was not rich toward God was a needy man. Who was most needy when the mob gathered up stones and stoned Steven to death? It wasn't Steven! In Christ he had everything he needed. It was the mob. If they did not follow the example of their ring leader and repent and obey the gospel, they would leave this world unprepared for eternity. They would be as sheep on a dark night in a wilderness full of terrors with no guarding shepherd.
The Lord provides green pastures. There is plenty to nourish and sustain us as we abide in His care.
The Lord provides still waters. We are calm within, assured of our hope by Jesus.
The Lord restores the soul. In times of turmoil when we begin to falter in sorrow, temptation or doubt, He takes the steps necessary to guide us back to where we ought to be and comfort us in our affliction. But please note that He restores by calling, seeking, reminding and leading, not by coercion. We are free to leave Him behind at any time, but who would want to? He guides us in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
FEAR AND DOUBT ARE GONE
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me." (PSALM 23:4a). There are valleys through which we all must tread. The Bible never promises otherwise. It is never promised that if one will be a Christian then God will assure that no valleys will be experienced. What a lie has been told by some preachers in the effort to use the religious longings and insecurities of other that if they will support the preacher's ministry that God will see to it that the valley of poverty, illness or death can be avoided.
What is promised is that whenever we enter the valley, that the Lord will be with us. Because of this, we can live above fear and doubt. In this often mixed up world where ideals, principles and morals seem to shift as sand, it is gratifying to know that there is a rock solid Helper upon whom we can depend in every circumstance. It is as Jesus said, "Fear not, I have overcome the world."
AWARENESS OF GOD'S PRESENCE
"Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me." (PSALM 23:4b). The Shepherd's figure is easily recognizable as He stands, holding His rod and staff in hand. With the rod He protects against those who would seek to do us harm. He defends us. With His staff He walks before us, leading the way, showing us the path to take.
Jesus is not pushing down the path; He is leading us. He does not merely tell us how to meet and defeat Satan; He shows us. He tells us to live honestly, being honest Himself. He tells us to love others, as He loves. He tells us to take courage in the face of death, facing death Himself. He tells us of the power of our resurrection, having risen from the grave. We are not walking down the path of life blindly; we are following the Shepherd. In this way we have found rest for our souls. (MATTHEW 11:28-30).
THE BLESSINGS OF GOD
"Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; Thou hast anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows." (PSALM 23:5).
Even now, a table is being prepared for me. I am in fellowship with the Shepherd, and even if enemies surround me, the fellowship and the comfort it brings are not diminished. The day will come when the enemies will witness the victory given by the shepherd to His sheep, but will be denied access to the table. It has been prepared for those who love God. We must be careful not to permit our adversaries to cause us to forget the richness of the prepared table. We have been anointed with oil. This reminds us of the Lord setting us apart by the gospel of His grace. We have been consecrated unto His service. Our lives fulfill a nobler, higher purpose. There's the old saying; "Is your cup half full or half empty? "Our cup is neither; it is overflowing.
NOW AND FOREVER
"Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." (PSALM 23:6). The Lord has blessed us and will continue to do so. Our lives here have been enriched with purpose and meaning. The forever ahead is filled with bright promise. Jesus the Shepherd has said, "Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again to receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." (JOHN 14:1-3).
Reprinted From the Bradley Banner Bradley Church of Christ Bradley, Illinois August 28, 1994