BY REV. JOSEPH MAY — JOY FELLOWSHIP IN MILFORD
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of
righteousness for his name’s sake. Even 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
– Psalms 23:1-6 ESV
A simple Psalm with a weighty theology. Written by David as he expressed his love for the Lord, Psalm 23 offers a lot insight into our own life and begs the question are we satisfied with God. So, let’s look at together.
David being a former shepherd himself understood the firm hand it took to lead and the gentle touch it took to care for the sheep properly. David may have written this Psalm later in his life because as we read on you can hear how David had learned from past experiences how God had taken care of him. Imagine the King of an entire nation proudly saying he is a sheep not a shepherd. He is being led and not just leading others. It is David’s admittance to his inferiority to Someone far superior than he. In short, the king bows his knee.
David can see over the years how God has taken care of him and lead him. David sees the Lord’s provision, David has surrendered himself to God fully and he has need for nothing. Not only does the Lord provide for His Sheep He is all the sheep need.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
– Psalms 23:2 ESV
Notice how The Lord causes His sheep to lie down in green pastures and leads them besides the still waters. This is important because we see a miraculous thing about the Lord, He causes us to rest (lie down), nurtures us (green pastures) and gives us peace (leads me beside still waters). This is all done by the Lord, think about it rest amid chaos because you trust in Him to provide what you need both physically and spiritually all the while you are at peace. This is who God is too us as our shepherd. Man, that is a beautiful thing.
He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
– Psalms 23:3 ESV
I think of how life itself is difficult; striving for holiness by faith, trails of life, temptations to sin, disappointments, sanctification, maturing in Christ, relationships, etc., can leave us utterly broken and somewhat wrecked. Strength is zapped and feelings of weakness over take us, nothing we seem to do works. Our favorite song is on repeat but it has now become white noise, we can’t workout enough to get rid of the stress, our memory lapses, and emotionally we are depleted to where we just feel numb. But during this God promises that He will restore, repair, or refresh us (Charles Auguts Briss, 2016).
This act of restoration is real, absolute, and certain that comes from the Lord. We can rely on it and trust wholly in this for certain. Next, he tells us that God leads us in the path of righteousness for his name sake. The Lord leads us in the way that pleases Him, grows us, matures, and causes us to be more like Him (James 1:1-2, Romans 8:28-30). He does this so He may be proven to be the God whom He proclaims Himself to be. The way in which He leads us, takes care of us, grows us, etc., proves God to the be God He proclaims himself to be. We become a witness to the world of Whom we serve.
Even 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.
– Psalms 23:4 ESV
Comfort and protection. Think of these as two basic things we all desire when we are placed in situations that are less appealing than others. David was a man who was accustomed to others wanting or trying to kill him. He was used to having enemies that had a blood lust for him, he was under the grim shadow of death. We may not have fully experienced this and then again some may have. Whether it is a bad doctor’s report, legal action from some poor mistakes, a consequence of sin, persecution, fear itself, etc., we all have experienced some sort of valley where we longed for protection (rod), rest, and guidance (staff) while trying to navigate through chaos. The Lord right here promises that He will provide and be those things and better yet He our protection and comfort.
I know we have yet to finish Psalm 23 but I want you to notice this from the first 4 verses: "The Lord is" … "He makes me" … "He leads me" … "He restores" … "He leads me" … "for his name’s sake." "Even though I walk … you are with me; your rod … your staff."
Did you notice it is the Lord who is doing all this? The Lord is not merely the source of our peace, comfort, rest, provision, guidance, restoration and hope, He is literally our everything. God is all sufficient, it is not that God is selfish it is that only God satisfies. Therefore, He wants all the glory because only God satisfies us, nothing else will. No matter how we swing it or try to look at it Psalm 23 makes it very clear only God can gives us what we need and can bring us to a place of ultimate contentment no matter the situation.
We are most satisfied when God is most glorified because He is all we need (shout out to John Piper for that statement!). If we were to try and find our source of contentment somewhere else, we would find ourselves sorely disappointed and not satisfied in what we are seeking. We would seek to bring a person or a thing glory but we could never get enough of them, we would always come up lacking. It would not be enough love from them, enough laughter from them, enough attention from them, enough money, enough time, enough accomplishments, everything would fall short and we would be left feeling worthless and without hope.
Those who make someone besides the Lord their shepherd are left wanting. We can make the pastor our shepherd and want him to get our life back on track when we veer off instead of pursing the Lord yourself, we can make the church our shepherd and want them to fix everything that is wrong in our lives instead of learning to bear our burdens we want to be a consumer in the church and not server, we can make our parents our shepherd and want them to protect us from everything regardless the consequence that may come instead of maturing we continue to regress and become more immature, we can make our kids our shepherds and do whatever makes them happy because we believe if they are happy we will be happy instead we are raising irresponsible children who perform adult actions but expect childlike consequences, etc., the list goes on and on.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
– Psalms 23:5-6 ESV
Notice here, God’s Will to bring glory to Himself in your life is not impeded, halted, or altered by your enemies. There is an abundance of grace awaiting you and an eternal life that cannot be shaken, taken, or stolen. In the presence of those who would say nay against you (whether the devil or not) it will not fail. Despite the situation, God pursues you with His Goodness and Mercy, they do not run low or run out. The pursuit of His loving kindness is ever present and His unmerited favor is everlasting. In the end our heart desire of being with Christ forevermore will be found complete in Him. This is what we want people to know and understand. This is what we teach them and help them find their hope in.
We must realize that God is who we need and what we should desire. Our hearts should burn for Him to be our Shepherd. So, my friend I encourage you to take the time and ask yourself, “Is the Lord your shepherd?” or are you pursuing someone or something else to completely satisfy you?