Psa 23:1-6 NKJV A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. (2) He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. (3) He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. (4) Yea, 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 runs over. (6) Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.
Is the Lord YOUR shepherd, do you talk with him, walk with him and live as one who loves?
I ask that question, because this psalm applies to specific persons, if the Lord is not the one you follow 7 days, 12 months, 52 weeks of every year, then this psalm doesn’t really fit you. The first line of the psalm says it very clearly, “The Lord is MY shepherd, I shall not want.” So if you can say that line, then the rest of the psalm fits you.
Now, one problem some folks have with this idea is that a sheep, will actually walk off a cliff if that sheep is busily engaged in grazing a tasty bit of turf. I say this from experience. I was driving from Camp Wood to San Antonio where Yvonne and I lived at the time. We were on the “Leakey Highway” which is a really bad road near Camp Wood. Twists and turns are normal, and there is one section of that road that climbs up into the hills and then proceeds around this cliff. On one side it is 50 or so feet high, on the other side it is probably 100 feet down at one point. That one point is a 10 mile an hour curve, believe me, they mean 9 miles an hour.
As we came into this curve and began to traverse it, there in the middle of the road was a sheep. Baah, and shake its head as if asking, how did I get here. The ranch above us had no fence simply because who was going to walk off the edge of the cliff. He saved a few dollars by not building a fence, however this sheep and the rest of the flock had been grazing on the edge of the meadow. This one grazed its way right over the edge of the cliff. Have to admit, I am still surprised that the sheep survived the fall. We had no idea how to get to the owner, so we hoped that the sheep would be found by someone who knew the owner.
People, sometimes can be like that sheep, we get tangled up in the things that are going on around us and walk into the strangest things. However, if we are people who follow the Good Shepherd, then the next verse applies to us. “He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.” The Lord supplies those things that I need, not the things necessarily that I want, but rather that which is needful for sustaining my physical and spiritual life. Just as a sheep needs good grass to fill it with sweetness so too do I need food to sustain my physical body, and the word of God to sustain my spiritual body. I know that I need to watch what I spend on things, but I also know that I have enough to be able to put food on the table. At the same time I also know that I have to be aware of the things I let into myself from TV, Radio, Books etc., and so I spend time at Bible study, keep my friends to those who are also Christians and try to always be involved in those things that are good for my soul. Then too we find, “He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.” As we do those things that help us to know His will for our lives, He will sustain us and restore us when we need that.
Righteousness – His word leads me in the path of morality, of right living, His Spirit keeps my mind on the prize so to speak, of looking to the end of the race. Winning as we think of it is not the object, it is running the race rightly. Living our lives in moral ways, ways that are pleasing to God, and bring us to be seen as living uprightly. Others who see us in this light will hopefully want to emulate that way of life, and will want to know our motivation. We can then introduce them to our Lord.
This next one is a tough one for some of us: “Yea, 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.” We don’t like to think of that valley being a part of life, but it is and we shall each face it, maybe more than once in our lives. I remember my first brush with this valley. It was in 1986, Yvonne and I had just married and were going on our honeymoon. We were packing to go and as I was loading stuff in the trunk of our car, the trunk lid came down and knocked me out. Only for a few minutes but still, I probably should have gone to see a Doctor right then. Well we went on our honeymoon and had a great time.
When we got back and went back to work a few weeks later I developed a really bad headache. After a week of taking massive doses of aspirin, I went to see my Doctor, he tried some therapy that he thought would help, if didn’t. He went on vacation and another Doctor saw me, and sent me to get a cat scan. The put me in the hospital immediately. I insisted on a second opinion, the Dr. that came in to give me that 2nd opinion told me I had two choices: Don’t have the surgery or have it as soon as possible. I asked the question, what if I choose no surgery. His answer was, we will bury you in about a week.
I had a massive blood clot on my brain, and without surgery would die.
Needless to say, I had the surgery. About 10 years later I had my first and so far only heart attack. Scared me big time, got on a tread mill and lasted about 30 seconds. Woke up with a headache and a nitro tab under my tongue. Surgery a week later. Never want to do that again either. In both cases the Lord sustained me and brought me through and I have never forgotten that the results could have been very different. You see, both of my doctors were praying men, they prayed before the surgeries, during the surgeries and yes they praised God with me afterwards.
The next part of our journey: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.” This is an interesting verse, in the Holy Land and the surrounding areas if you were visiting with someone and they offered a meal, once you had eaten with them you were under their protection. If an enemy of yours showed up, they could not attack you in that camp, or they would have to fight your host and his men. “He also anoints our heads with oil”. Shepherds anoint the heads of their sheep to soothe the scratches and wounds. For priests the anointing oil speaks of consecration to their work. For kings the anointing oil is associated with coronation. Every believer is anointed with the Holy Spirit the moment he receives the Savior.” (Believers Bible Commentary, eSword version). Our cups run over because we are, as Annie Johnson Flint says: “His love has no limit, His grace has no measure, His power has no boundary known unto men: For out of His infinite riches in Jesus, He gives, and gives, and gives again.”
Finally: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.” As we have lived in His grace for all the years we have known Him, we shall finally reach our Heavenly Home. As the goodness and mercy of our Lord has been with us in this place in which we presently live, when we reach the end of our days on earth, when we step through the door into the presence of our Father, we shall realize the true measure of His grace, we shall be bathed in full measure of His glory, and receive that which is our homecoming.
One truth of this verse that we tend to skip over is that the psalmist is thinking not so much of heaven, but more of being in the temple every day, which was being in the house of the Lord, here on earth. I think though that as we no longer have the temple, but rather we are the temple of the Holy Spirit of God, that we can appropriate this verse to mean we shall indeed be in the heavenly house of the Lord forever.
I have tried to make this psalm a picture of my own journey with our God, I hope that you too may take this psalm as your song of journey as well.