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For nearly thirty centuries the twenty-third Psalm has been one of the most beloved passages in the whole Bible. There are only 118 words in this great Psalm yet these 118 words go to the very depths of our beings and form a rock foundation to sustain us in hours of difficulty and trial. Let me read these familiar words to you again.
"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want,
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures;
He leadeth me beside still waters,
He restoreth my soul;
He guideth me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
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.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
Thou hast anointed my head with oil;
My cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
To the 20th century city-dwellers the figure of the shepherd and a flock of sheep may not be particularly meaningful nor inspiring, yet I do not believe that we have had many generations of time in which mankind has been more like a flock of sheep needing a shepherd, When you think of the troubles of our world and the problems that we individually and collectively face, then truly we are like a flock of sheep, which needs the Shepherd of shepherds. Nearly 500 times the Bible refers to the idea of a shepherd and his sheep. It is a favorite figure of speech in the scriptures. This passage takes hold of us because it is a positive, faith-filled, hope-filled approach to life. It is constructive, optimistic and confident, and it is full of faith. Let me hold up some of the phrases so that we may look beneath the words at the meaning that David intended.
I Shall Not Want
That opening line says, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." Mankind has sought for security down through the ages. A child stands close to his mother and finds in her security. All through life we strive for security in so many different ways. We guard our health; we save for old age; we take out insurance. We long for security, but this passage emphasizes that God is our real security.
"The Lord is my shepherd," therefore "I shall not want." How true, how very true that is. Even before we began to exist, God was aware of our needs and provided for them. He knew we would be hungry, so he provided the seasons of the year and the productivity of the soil to make possible the growth of food. He knew that we would be cold, so he caused to be embedded in the earth great areas of coal and vast storehouses of gas that we might heat our homes and our bodies.
We are reminded of the passage in Matthew 6:8 where Jesus says, "Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him." He provided for our needs, even before we asked him. There is another passage in the Psalms in which David says, "I have been young, and now am I old; (Yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his seed begging bread.") (Psalm 37: 25). That is another way of saying that God will take care of us. We believe it.
In the great Sermon on the Mount Jesus deals with so many things that we need to know about and among them he deals with our anxiety. "Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your
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