The 23rd Psalm

Bible Book: Psalms  23
Subject: Shepherd, The Lord My; Psalm 23; Sheep of Christ


Psalm 23

I. Have the Lord, and You Have It All

Three thousand years have come and gone since the 23rd Psalm was written, yet it is as fresh as tomorrow newspaper. It has been called "Everybody's Psalm" because it meets everybody's need. Whatever the want on the part of the sheep, there is the wealth on the part of the Shepherd. It is written, "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want."

Do you want rest? "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures."

What about forgiveness? "He restoreth my soul."

"I want guidance," you say. "He leadeth me."

Lonely one, do you want companionship? "Thou art with me."

And comfort? "Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me."

What about food? "Thou preparest a table before me."

Oh, I shall not want anything here, for "goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." And I shall not want anything hereafter, for I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

The Lord who is our Shepherd is Omniscient. He knows our weaknesses and our wants. And he is Omnipresent. He is ever by our side. But He is also Omnipotent. What His wisdom knows to be the best for us, what His love plans for us, His power produces for us.

A lady said to an evangelist, "You have something I lack. What is it?" "It is not something," he replied, "but Someone." Do you have Him?

II. My Shepherd

Christianity is personal. It is not a mere profession, but an actual possession of Christ. That is why the Psalmist said, "The Lord is MY Shepherd."

In Scotland one day a minister asked a shepherd boy, "What is the first clause of the 23rd Psalm?" "The Lord is my Shepherd," he answered. "Hold up your left hand," said the minister. "Now take the second finger of your right hand, put it on the fourth finger of your left, hold it over your heart and say with me, 'The Lord is MY Shepherd."

"Laddie," counseled the man of God as they parted, "the Lord is A Shepherd. But if you receive His as your personal Savior you can say, 'The Lord is MY Shepherd.'"

That winter was a hard one, and after a severe snowstorm neither the boy nor his sheep came home. A search was made, and their bodies were found buried in the snow. But the boy was lying on his back. A smile was on his face, and his right hand was clutching the ring finger of his left hand.

It is good to say, "The Lord is A Shepherd." But it is far better to say with sincerity, "The Lord is MY Shepherd."

Just now, pray, "Lord Jesus, I open the door of my heart. Come into my heart. I receive Thee as my Shepherd." Since our Lord said, "If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in," He has come into your heart. Now you can say with certainty, "The Lord is MY Shepherd."

III. Do You Know the Shepherd

A little girl was asked to quote Psalm 23:1. She said, "The Lord is my Shepherd; I have all that I want." How true. Have the Almighty and you have all. What a wealth of meaning is wrapped up in the word "Lord.". The Lord who is all powerful, of whom it is written, He "is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think."

"Is my Shepherd."

The Lord who is all faithful, of whom the Bible says, "hath He not promised and shall He not bring it to pass,"

"Is my Shepherd."

The Lord who was tempted but did not transgress, who died but did not stay dead, who is wiser than the wisest, richer than the richest and kinder than the kindest,

"Is my Shepherd."

With such a Shepherd, we can say with the little girl, "I have all that I want."

Nothing is too hard for the Lord. There is no prayer too hard for Him to answer, no need to great for Him to give, no problem too difficult for Him to solve, no passion too strong for Him to subdue, no temptation too powerful for Him to overcome, no sorrow too deep for Him to relieve, no backslider too wretched for Him to restore, and no sinner too sinful for Him to save.

The Lord is equal to every situation. Trust Him, and He will turn your fear into faith, your remorse into radiance, and you trials into triumph.

IV. Fleeing or Feeding

The last infantry officer to leave Bataan asked a group of ministers, "Do you know why we were defeated at Bataan?" "No," I replied, "Why?" "We had the foe," he answered, "but we did not have any food."

The Bible is food for our souls. Before we can defeat Satan we must digest the Scriptures. It is written in Psalm 23:2, "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures." The "green pastures" refer to the spiritual nourishment we receive as we read the Bible. And the word "maketh" signifies compelling action.

A tourist saw a Syrian shepherd take food into the sheepfold every morning. On inquiry he was told that one of the flock had a broken leg. "What happened?" he asked. "I broke it," answered the shepherd. Startled, he demanded, "Why?" "Because," explained the shepherd, "this was a wayward sheep. In going astray, others were led astray. I broke the leg and reset it to teach this one obedience."

The Psalmist was fleeing when he should have been feeding, and he went astray. The Shepherd had to wound his body to heal his soul. He confessed, "Before I was afflicted, I went astray."

Fleeing or feeding - which? Daily and diligently read the Bible, watch and pray, stay close to your Shepherd in every way, so it will not be necessary for Him to make you "lie down." Feeding and following helps you to walk fearlessly, run confidently, and live victoriously.

V. Resting Or Raging

One day our Lord said to His disciples, "Come ye apart and rest awhile." If we do not rest awhile we will come apart. It is no wonder that it is written in Psalm 23:2, "He leadeth me beside the still waters."

Today man is driven to destruction in making a living before he learns that the Lord loves him and longs to lead him in making a life.

A tourist in the land of the Bible was amazed to see a man driving his sheep. "I thought," he said, "that the shepherd always leads his sheep."

"He does," was the reply.

"But I and not a shepherd. I am a butcher."

The Shepherd loves His sheep, and whom He guides He guards. With His protection there always comes His peace. For He leads His sheep, "beside the still waters." How vast and how varied are these "still waters" of God's grace. They are in plural number to cleanse and to calm, to refresh and to rest.

The needle of the compass does not rest until it comes to the North Pole. So the heart of man remains restless until it finds rest in God through Christ. It is only as we appropriate His salvation that we can appreciate His "still waters." He can guide only those whom He governs. And He gives rest only to those who leave everything with Him. Are you resting or raging?

VI. Restored

A stranded ship, a bird with a broken wing, a church in ruins - these are sadsights. But a backslider is the saddest of all sights.

Backsliding usually begins by being Bible-less. Salvation without service always leads to stagnation.

And you cannot be strong in the Lord if you are weak in prayer. David backslid. But the same hand that first rescued him from his sin reclaimed him from his straying. It is he who wrote in Psalm 23:3, "he restoreth my soul." You may be lost to the holiness and happiness, the peace and the power that once was yours. But if you return to the Lord in repentance you will rejoice in His restoration.

A tramp went to the home of a church member and said, "Lady, I'm a Christian, but I am hungry. Will you please give me something to eat?" "How do I know that you are a Christian?" she asked. "Just look at the patches on my knees," he replied. "I have worn out my trousers praying." Because of the patches she gave him a big dinner. But as he got up to leave she noticed even bigger patches on the seat of his trousers. "How did you get the patches back there?" she demanded. "Lady," he explained, "that is where I wore them out backsliding before I wore them out praying."

Where do you have your patches?

VII. Groping Or Guided

When a child comes into this world, he knows nothing and no one. And he has but one life to live. He does not have the chance to live over his life.

Since it is impossible to relive a second or retrace a step, it is important to have a plan and a path. But the Bible says, "It is not in man to direct his steps." If it is not in man, where is it? In the Lord.

It is written in Psalm 23:3, "He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness." He does not want us to wander in the ways that will lead to despair and destruction, so He leads us in right paths, if we let Him.

His name is at stake in our lives. For the Bible says, "He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake." Because of us His name is adored or abhorred.

Alexander the Great said to one of his soldiers, "Your name is Alexander. But you are bringing disgrace to my name. Either change your name or change your way of living."

If we bear the name of Christ, in that we are called Christians, we must be Christlike. Too many claim to be Christians who do not aim to be Christlike.

What must be changed - the name of the way of living? Why not accept His government? Then you will have His guidance.

VIII. Dark Valleys

It takes the darkness of the night to bring out the beauty of the stars. And in the glen of gloom we see the glory of God. It is written in Psalm 23:4, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me."

There are valleys of deep darkness that each one of us must pass through. But there is an exit as well as an entrance. He who leads us in will always lead us out.

"The valley" may take the form of solitude. There are many who have no one to stay with them except the One who said, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." They have no one to pray for them except the One who said, "I pray for them." They have no one to care for them except the One of whom it is written, "He careth for you."

A boy left home for his first job in the city. All week he worried about the deep ravine he had to go through. He came to the edge and was so frightened he cried. But he heard a voice saying, "Son, I came to meet you." With his father he walked fearlessly and happily through the dark valley for home.

The Lord wants to walk with you, and He comes to you just now.

Pray, "Lord Jesus, I receive Thee." Then He will be with you all through life and at death. For He promises, "Fear thou not; for I am with thee; be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will uphold thee with My right hand of My righteousness."

IX. The Shadow Of Death

There is nothing more certain than death, and nothing more uncertain that the time of death. Since it may come at any time, it is wiser to be prepared for it at all times. David was. He said in Psalm 23:4, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me."

"I walk through," said the Psalmist. Death is not a period, but a comma. It is not a termination but a thoroughfare that leads us Home to heaven. It is well called, "the shadow of death." Just as the shadow of a sword cannot cut, so "the shadow of death" cannot hurt. Why, then, be afraid?

A bee has but one sting. When it stings a person, it leaves the sting in the wound. It cannot hurt another. Death has but one sting. "The sting of death is sin," says the Bible. Death stung Christ on the cross when He suffered for our sins. Now death cannot hurt a Christian, for it left its sting in Him. Where there is a shadow there is always a light. So we hear the Psalmist saying, "Thou are with me." And as we draw close to Him He comes close to us.

As a Christian grew older, he grew happier, and the beauty of the Lord was upon him. A friend asked, "Why are you getting happier?" "I can't explain it," he said; "but as I come nearer to death, Jesus and I get nearer to each other."

X. Our Constant Companion

If you fear God, you will have nothing to fear. Confessed David in Psalm 23:4, "I will fear no evil." Why? Meet his companion, and examine His club and crook. What a Companion is Christ. He does not love us and leave us. He companies with His converts. He who is our Savior becomes our Shepherd, and He stays with His sheep.

But look at His club. It is called a "rod." It was made of oak. One end was rounded off into a ball, and into it were driven iron nails. It meant security for the sheep.

"The devil," declares the Bible, "as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." He is mighty, but the Shepherd is almighty. As we stay in His presence we will have His protection. They are well protected whom he protects.

Now lets look at his crook. It is called a "staff". It was a strong stick and it had a hook on one end. By means of the staff the straying sheep were rescued and reclaimed.

It is easy to stray. David did. Peter did. But they did not stray beyond the love of the Shepherd. With His staff He rescued David to pen the most glorious psalms and Peter to preach the greatest sermons.

Character can be changed. The Lord can turn your trials unto triumphs. He cannot suffer defeat, nor can they who trust Him. Trust Him and go in from victory to victory.

XI. Victor or Victim?

A little girl had been bad, and her parents punished her by ordering her to eat dinner alone at a small table in the corner of the kitchen. Before eating she prayed aloud, "I thank Thee, Lord, that 'Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.'" But that is not the meaning of Psalm 23:5.

This could be. One day a storm arose, and Charles Wesley went to the window to close it. Suddenly a little bird, seeking shelter from his foes and the fierce storm, flew to his breast. Taking his pen, Wesley wrote, "Jesus, Lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly." He is a "hiding place," says the  Bible "and a refuge from the storm."

It could mean this. In David's day, when a king won a victory, a feast was made for him. His royal captives were brought to the banqueting hall not to feast but to be fettered. He delighted in his food in the presence of his defeated foes.

Are we not make to triumph? Victory is ours for the taking: it is in the Son of God.

Coming to Christ is not coming to a famine, but a feast. He does not find fault, He forgives. He does not enslave, He emancipates. Did not the Psalmist say, "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies!" The Lord wants you to grow, not to grovel; to overcome, not to be overcome; to soar, not to sink. Why be a victim when you can be a victor?

XII. The House of the Lord

The Lord has hands that give and a heart that forgives. This is seen in Psalm 23:6, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." Goodness is the Lord giving us our wants. Mercy is the Lord forgiving us our wickedness. His goodness provides and His mercy pardons not only today but every day of our lives.

How good it is to know that the Lord goes before us. His arms are underneath us. His angels are round about us. His goodness and mercy follow us. "And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

Druggists will be there, but they will have no prescriptions to dispense. Doctors will be there, but they will have no operations to perform. Morticians will be there, but they will have no funerals to conduct. Policeman will be there, but they will have no lawbreakers to arrest. Revenue agents will be there, but they will have no taxes to collect. There will be no disease or death, no tears or trials, no wants or worries in heaven.

The ancient city of Troy had only one gate. There was only one way to get in. So heaven has only one gate. Our Lord said, "I am the door," But there are two sides: inside and outside. On which side are you? The door is open. Come in now by receiving Jesus as your Savior, won't you?