The Shepherd Psalm Part 1
THE SHEPERD PSALM, Part 1
We live in a world in which man, if not most, people are engulfed with fear and anxiety. Some fear the future; and they’re anxious about what’s going to happen in that future. Others fear the past and they’re anxious about what has happened. And still others fear even the present as anxiety has gripped their souls and they cannot imagine how they can cope with the ugliness of present circumstances in their lives. Thousands of people each day wake up with untold burdens to bear and anxiety with which they must deal. Are you one of these? Are you bearing secretly, a heavy burden? Are you worried about the future? Are you worried about your finances? Do you see your way of life slipping away, your children’s future, or your world around you? Do you worry about the world stage with ongoing terrorism, the failing world economy (at home and abroad) and life in general with all its trials?
You’ve gone through school, some college, got married, working hard, following what you feel God wants you to do, but you still are anxious about the future and life in general. The question then becomes, “how does God want me to respond to the anxiety in my life?” Like all the great questions of life, scripture affords us an answer. In Psalm 23, David gives us the example of how we’re supposed to trust in God. Most Christians have put to memory this “pearl” of the Psalms, but never take time to ponder its deep meaning and how it applies to our everyday life.
There is a lot of commentary on when David actually wrote this Psalm. This was a time, when written that David may have been running from Saul, who was trying to kill him, as most people feel was the history behind this Psalm. Psalm 23 then provides a model for us, a paradigm to be followed though-out our lives as we respond to all the difficulties and worries that come our way.
The Psalm has two basic divisions, each one providing part of the answer to our question about worry. The first four verses focus on God as the faithful and good Shepherd of His people. It calls us to trust Him as such. The second section made up of the last two verses, focuses our attention on God as a gracious host, preparing a splendid meal for a guest, and results in our rejoicing over His grace toward us.
Take some time and stop for a moment and read this lovely Psalm before you go on.
When I examine this lovely Hebrew song in detail, I have the firm conviction that it reaches a perfect climax in the person and the work of our Lord, Jesus Christ. I see in the character of the Shepherd, the sweet fragrance of our Savior. This Psalm may not be strictly Messianic in its prediction of the coming of the Jesus the Messiah, but it suggests thoughts that point in the direction of His coming.
Turn over to Isaiah 40:10-11:
Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.(v. 11) He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.
The Hebrew prophet Isaiah spoke of the coming day when “the Lord God will come with a strong hand and His strong right arm ruling for Him. He will come to lead us to greener pasture, and return the earth to her former pure state. There will be no need for fear, as the lamb will lay down with the lion.
Another Hebrew prophet in similar vane saw the coming of the “one shepherd, My servant David, and he will feed them: he will feed them himself and be their shepherd. And I, The LORD, will be their God, and My servant David will be prince among them: I, the LORD have spoken”. Keep in mind that King David had been dead six hundred years when Ezekiel was writing this prophecy! The prophet is speaking of a great One, greater than David, the Messiah who will come and He will shepherd His people.
JESUS IS HE GOOD SHEPHERD WHO LEADS AND GUIDES!
“The LORD is my shepherd: I shall not want”. Psalm 23:1. There is security in the presence of the good shepherd. Our Psalmist David dares to reach out and call Jehovah his very own Shepherd. It is intimately personal. Our God is a personal, loving Father. He is my, He is YOUR Shepherd.
David uses the name of the Lord who is always seen as absolutely faithful to His people. He has a vibrant, living faith in the LORD God. Therefore he can say just as God is faithful in meeting his present needs, God will also meet all his needs in the future. He will never “suffer any want.” Just as the good shepherd provides all that his sheep needs, the LORD will provide all that His sheep will need. With the LORD as his Shepherd, he confidently looks to the future.
Why if you possess the LORD, who possesses all things, then you lack nothing. David thought of God as his protector and provider, but also as his King. He also, thougt of Him as his Sheperd, with all the meaning it had in the Near East in general and in the Law, in particular. Because the LORD was David’s shepherd, he lacked or wanted nothing. A good shepherd is all a sheep needs since a good shepherd, by his very nature will always supply all of he sheep’s needs. In a similar way, a good Father will provide every need of His child.
Looking back, this troubled me as a small child. I thought that David was saying “I shall not want” as David didn’t want God as his shepherd, but I came to understand that he was in “want of nothing”.
Note that Satan has attempted to portray God as a begrudging giver who only provides when He must. Satan desires to deceive those who trust in God, and wants them to believe they are lacking and deprived of the good things in life. This is the picture Satan tries to pain in suggesting that God had withheld the fruit of every tree of the garden from Adam and Eve. (Gen. 3:1). God is also portrayed as a begrudging giver in the temptation of our Lord when He was in the wilderness for 40 days (Matt. 4:1-11).
The mentality behind David’s words is completely opposed to the Madison Avenue propaganda where we are constantly being told that we have many needs, all of which can be met by buying some new, (or old) product. We need “sex appeal” so we must buy a new toothpaste, a new kind of mouthwash and a new brand of soap. We need self-confidence and a better self-image, therefore we must wear stylish clothing determined by the garment industry. Our whole mode of thinking is “want centered”. David tells us that to have God as our shepherd is indeed to have everything we want.
As we seek God, we are not getting second best from Him. He is a faithful Shepherd to give us only what is excellent according to His own purpose and divine will. Can we trust Him for that? Listen to what Paul said the good Shepherd has done for His people. Romans 8:32:
“He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for all of us, will He not then , along with Him, graciously give us all things?”
It occurred to me, as I studied this Psalm that if God be our shepherd, then we lack nothing. If we lack anything in our lives, then God is not our shepherd. Simple as that, as there are only two options. If this world is our shepherd, then we are in want. Or if alcohol or drugs are our shepherd, or rock music, or money, sex, or pornography, then we are never satisfied.
Point being, we are sheep. It’s an analogy of a sheep going astray. Sheep get into everything self destructive, and they stray easily. Ever been around sheep or goats? Really dumb animals, but then God says I am one! Kind of hurts my feelings at first, until I realize, you know, He’s right. I am a sheep. We are all prone to wander. Isaiah said it best in chapter 53 and it’s a wonderful prophecy about the coming Messiah and a description of Him, of His suffering and why He had to take our place.
“We are all like sheep who have gone astray. We have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord hath laid on Him, the iniquity of us all.”
I know my tendency toward self-indulgent individualism, of going my own way and doing my own thing. That’s me. I’m a sheep. Ad if Jesus Christ is to be my shepherd, I have to admit that I need one. It is difficult, but that is where we must start. Once we admit that need, we discover the truth of what David is saying. “We shall not want.”
In this Psalm, David enumerates the ways in which the Good Shepherd meets our needs. The first is found in V.2 and part of V. 3:
“He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still water: He restores my soul.” Our God meets the needs of the inner man. Think a minute and picture a flock of sheep beside a still, crystal clear pool of water. There is lush green grass all around and perfect peace and harmony. The sheep are in no fear. For men, it is the feeding on His Word. We draw upon Him and we are satisfied. Pools of living water, is synonymous with the Holy Spirit that God gave us on Pentecost. And with His Holy Spirit, we should never fear.
Let’s turn to John 6:27-35:
Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.
v28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?
v29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
v30 They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work?
v31 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.
v32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven.
v33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.
v34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread.
v35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.
The Word of God does this for us. It brings us, first, to the person of Jesus Christ. “Beyond the sacred page”, as the old hymn says, “we see the LORD.” We see Him , and we eat and drink of Him, and we discover Him to be the resource that we need. Let’s now read what Paul says in II Corinthians 4:15-18:
For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.
v16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
v17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
v18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Look at verse 16, “Though the outward man perishes, the inward man is renewed day by day,”. Our souls are restored. How you say? As we feed upon Him. As we come to know Him, believe what He says, and act on His Word, we discover that the inner man is fed.
The second thing the Good Shepherd does is to give direction in our lives:
“He leads me in paths of righteousness for His names sake.” Psalm 23:3. The Hebrew word translated “paths” means “a well-defined, well worn trail.” That indicates again how easily led astray sheep are. Because even when the trail is well laid out, they still need a shepherd. They are still inclined to wander away, no matter how obvious the trail may be. The Good Shepherd knows the trail. He has been there before, and the sheep trust Him. People worry about the world’s future, the direction in their lives and where they are headed. How will it affect my family, my loved ones around me, my business, my associates. There is anxiety at every turn.
There is a classic story of a man undergoing basic training in the army. He was pulling KP and was given the assignment of sorting potatoes. There was a huge mound of them and the sergeant told him to put all the bad ones in one bin, and all the good ones in the other bin. The sergeant came back about two hours later to find the man just looking at one potato. There was nothing in the bins. The sergeant yelled, “What the matter, don’t you like the work, soldier?” The soldier said, “Sarge, it’s not the work, it’s the decisions that are killing me.”
I often feel that way and I know you do too. We are not afraid of the work, but we have to make countless decisions, day after day, which touch the lives of our children and our spouses. We need wisdom. We need a shepherd. We need someone who knows the trails, and someone whom we can trust. We must submit wholeheartedly, to the leadership of the Shepherd. That is the basic attitude we must maintain. Unless we are willing to admit that we don’t know the way through the wilderness. And to submit to His leadership, we will never find the way.
Have you put your trust in the Good Shepherd? Have you found out that you can’t do this life alone? Does the world seem like a very scarey, frightening place that leads to feeling of depression and anxiety about your state in this life?
Call upon the name of the Lord. Put your faith and trust in Him. Believe in your heart that Jesus is your answer to all your problems that you are facing. He will lead you through a crooked path and make it straight. Believe in your mind and most importantly, your heart, that Jesus is alive, right now. Repent of the way you have led your life up to this point. Confess with your mouth, that you are a sinner and in need of a Savior and a Shepherd.
In part two of this study, we will go deeper into this Psalm of the Good Shepherd that brings hope, faith, and a meaning to all of our lives…
May God richly Bless you. If you have any concerns, comments, or needs for prayer, contact me at Realteam1999@sbcglobal.net.