The Twenty-Third Psalm

By: Gary L. Rodgers

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1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth 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 thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth 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 for ever.

A number of years ago I listened to a message preached by an Evangelist by the name of Walter Burrell on the 23rd Psalm and it so blessed my heart that today I wanted to share that wonderful message. I have met and talked with this dear brother several times and I am pleased to have had him sign my Bible. Brother Burrell has graduated from this life into the next some time ago and no doubt that Heaven was made a little richer by it.

The 23rd Psalm has been one of those Psalms that has been memorized by so many. It has carried many a distraught soul through some of the darkest days of their life, and even has given strength to those in the face of death. The message that this dear brother preached has come to mind on many occasions and has helped me to appreciate the fruit of the Word that the Lord has given to us. I like what J. Vernon McGee once said. He said that he had a professor that told him that it was ok to graze upon another man’s pasture, but that we should give our own milk. So today we will graze in other pastures and we hope to produce the sweet taste of the milk of the word that we may grow thereby. 1 Peter 2:2

A PARALLEL TO THE WAY THAT SHEPHERDS CARE FOR THEIR FLOCK; AND PSALMS 23

THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD; I SHALL NOT WANT.

In the first verse we clearly read that the LORD is our shepherd. The way that LORD is spelled tells us something about its meaning. In this case LORD is referencing the sacred name Yahweh. So as we look at it, the first verse is telling us that the God of all creation is our Master and our Shepherd. Jesus said in John 10:27 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:” And again we are told in Psalm 100:3 “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.” So we see in scripture that we are likened to that of sheep, and we are told in John 10:11 and 15 that Jesus the Good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep. What greater blessing than to have our God love us so much to willfully lay down His life for all of us! So why sheep, why didn’t He liken us to something bigger, something more fierce, something stronger? We could have been likened to a Lion? No! That wouldn’t be right, because Satan is likened to a roaring Lion that “walketh about seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) I know what! How about a donkey or a mule? After all a donkey spoke to Balaam in Numbers 22:28 and I know that I have spoken to a few mules in my lifetime. But no, that wouldn’t work! Mules are stubborn and if you put two of them in the same stall someone will get kicked. He chose to liken us as sheep. Sheep are a gentle, timid lot. Sheep need a shepherd, someone whom they can follow and serve; someone who will watch over and protect them and meet their needs.

HE MAKETH ME TO LIE DOWN IN GREEN PASTURES: HE LEADETH ME BESIDE THE STILL WATERS.

A good shepherd will always seek areas of good pasture for his sheep. One thing that sheep do well is eat and I can give a hardy amen to that. The Lord longs to feed us and if we come and dine we will grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 3:18) Another thing about sheep is that they spook easily. The sheep know the gentle voice of the shepherd and they are comforted by that, and knowing that the sheep frighten easily the good shepherd will not bring them to rushing water. Sheep need to drink from the calm still waters of God’s Word so that they can be refreshed by it. If a shepherd cannot find any still waters close by he will often take his staff and dig a small trench long enough to get away from the rushing waters. He will stand there and watch as the water backs up in the trench until it is clear, and then he will call his sheep to come and drink from the still waters. God is not loud and boisterous when it comes to training His sheep; if He was it would frighten the sheep. It’s that still small voice that the sheep hear and obey. (1 Kings 19:11-13)

HE RESTORETH MY SOUL: HE LEADETH ME IN THE PATHS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE.

One of the great blessings that the Lord bestows upon us as His children is that He restores our soul.

Psalm 51:12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.

13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.

He does not leave us, nor does He forsake us. (1 Kings 8:57) When we get saved we do not become perfect, we will commit sin; but when we do the Lord does not cast us away from Him as though we were not one of His children. He will restore us! This is beautifully illustrated in the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 starting with verse 11. Now this doesn’t mean that we can go out and deliberately commit sin and get away with it. If you do you are only fooling yourself into believing that you have that right, or that freedom. You cannot walk in the things of the flesh and please God. You will not get away with it! (Number 15:30-31) We need to be careful as to how we view sin, and we need to guard against the snares of sin, and be protective of our own souls. (Proverbs 22:5)

After a period of time a shepherd becomes familiar with his sheep. He knows which ones will disobey his commands and will in turn also influence other sheep to do the same. So what he will do is mix a red dye and dip the end of his staff into the red dye and mark those unruly sheep by smiting them across the shoulders with the dye. Once he has gone through and marked those that will not heed to his voice, he will separate the flock and take those unruly sheep back home. (1 Corinthians 5:5)

Sometimes a shepherd will deliberately break one of the legs of the sheep (church discipline) so that it cannot run off. What he will do then is make a sling so that he can carry the sheep and keep it close to him (Galatians 6:1), so that the sheep becomes more acquainted with the shepherd, all the while speaking to him in a still soft voice and caressing him so that the sheep will know the gentleness of his master. The Lord our God loves us and is gentle and longsuffering towards us, and we as Christians need to be careful not to have the red dye of disobedience smitten across our shoulders, thus marking us to be the next one taken home before our time! Lord, lead us in the paths of righteousness.

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.

Someday if the Lord should tarry His coming; the brightness of His glory will shine upon me and I will cast a shadow in the valley of death. But I will fear no evil! For the Lord himself shall be with me and guide me every step of the way. Blessed Jesus hold my hand!

There were two things that a shepherd would carry, one was a rod which was basically a club, and the other was a staff that had a hooked end. The rod was used to protect the sheep, while the staff was used to train and guide the sheep. Sometimes sheep will put themselves in some very dangerous situations, like standing right on the edge of a cliff. So what a shepherd would do is gently, and ever so slowly reach out with his staff and slide the hook of the staff around the sheep’s neck and pull the animal over onto its back to get it away from danger. How many times have we stood on the edge of sin, only to have the gentle loving staff (the Holy Spirit) of our Savior to reach out and pull us back into the fold, back to safety, back from the clutches of sin? (1 Corinthians 10:13) O the peace of knowing that our Lord will go to great lengths to protect us from sin and its penalties. I am so thankful that whenever I got off into sin that my LORD came and searched for me, found me, and brought me back to where I belonged. We do serve a wonderful God and Savior. And He is the reason why we can be comforted in the time of trouble. I once lived in great fear and no matter how much I tried to ignore it the fear was always there. Praise God the Lord has delivered me from the fear of death, hell and the grave.

THOU PREPAREST A TABLE BEFORE ME IN THE PRESENCE OF MINE ENEMIES: THOU ANOINTEST MY HEAD WITH OIL; MY CUP RUNNETH OVER.

God prepares us to maintain our testimony of Him before our enemies. He prepares His children for the battle, to stand firm in the face of overwhelming odds and death. David was an example of that when he went up against the giant Goliath. (1 Samuel 17) God prepared David for the battle in verse 40 where it says “And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine.” Remember what we said in the above verse about the staff being used to train and guide the sheep. The bible says in Proverbs 22:6 that we are to “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” David was being led and prepared by the Word of God all the days of his life, and this particular day as he took the staff of his training, and being led by the Spirit of God he chose five smooth stones. Five in scripture carries with it the meaning of grace. By the grace of GOD David confronted the Giant that stood against Israel and defied the God of Israel.

1 Samuel 17:45 Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied.

46 This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.

The world needs to understand that when they challenge Israel that they challenge God as well.

Genesis 12:3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

That tiny nation of Israel has not gotten to where it is today on its own. It has and will ever be under the protective hand of God Almighty.

PREPARING THE TABLE

When a shepherd would take his sheep to new pastures he would often get down on his knees and search through the grasses to pull out a particular weed that was referred to as the enemy of the sheep. This weed would make the animal sick, so the good shepherd would do what he could to prevent this enemy from hurting his sheep. Do you know that the Lord also prepares a table for us? He has a spiritual diet for us that will help us to grow and mature in His Word. And as we feed upon His Word we will be strengthened before our enemies. In 1 Samuel 17:17-18 we find that Jesse the father of David gave David parched corn, ten loaves and ten cheeses to take to his brothers and the captain of their thousands. Symbolically I believe that the Lord was trying to get the children of Israel to see that they needed to be fed and strengthened of the Lord before going up against Goliath and the Philistine army to give testimony to the world that there is a God in Israel. Ten in scripture carries with it the meaning of testimony, law and responsibility. We have a responsibility to our God to obey His laws of righteousness and give testimony before all men that they too should come, to taste and see that the Lord is good. (Psalm 34:8)

In the Holy lands there is a fly that will attack the eyes of the sheep and the shepherd will take and pour oil on the head of the sheep and around its eyes to protect it. We as the sheep of His pasture will be anointed by the Spirit of our GOD who will protect us and open our eyes to truth and righteousness, and therein will our cup of blessing be overflowing as we hear and obey the voice of the Good Shepherd.

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.

This word follow in the Hebrew carries with it the meaning of chasing after, or to pursue. The Psalmist is telling us that God’s goodness, grace, mercy and love will pursue us all the days of our life. And we that are the sheep of His pasture will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (John 3:16)

CLOSING REMARKS

It is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. (Romans 2:4b)

If you are ready to trust in the Lord, then I ask that you follow along in prayer and repeat after me. Dear Jesus, I know what sin is, and I know that I am a sinner. I ask that you would please forgive me and wash away all of my sin with the blood that you shed for me. Please send the Holy Spirit to come too live in my heart to teach me and guide me in righteousness. I know that you personally died for me, and that you were buried in a tomb and rose from the dead for me. I believe that you are now seated at the right hand of the Father in Heaven. I put my complete trust in you alone as my Lord and Savior and I am trusting in you only to get me to Heaven and I accept your free gift of eternal life. In your Holy and Precious Name I pray. Amen!

If you made a decision to pray and ask Christ to forgive you, and to save you, then we praise God for you.

Romans 10:13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

You should write down the:

Date: _______________________

Time: __________________________

Place: _______________________________________________________

of your decision. Record this information in your Bible as a record of that decision. It is part of your testimony.

Please contact us through Myerstown Baptist Church, 59 N. Ramona Road, Myerstown PA. 17067 to let us know that you have made a decision for Christ so that we can pray for you and rejoice with you. We would like to send you some information to help you get started in your Christian walk.

Thank you, and may the Lord richly bless you!

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