Summary: Many people know the 23rd Psalm. It is the most well-known poem of all time. But for as many as know the psalm, few really know the Shepherd.
A famous actor was once the guest of honor at a social gathering where he received many requests to recite favorite excerpts from various literary works. An old preacher in the audience asked the actor to recite the twenty-third Psalm. The actor agreed—on the condition that the preacher would also recite it.
The actor's recitation was beautifully intoned with great dramatic emphasis for which he received lengthy applause. The preacher's voice was rough and broken from many years of preaching, and his diction was anything but polished. However, when he finished there was not a dry eye in the room. When someone later asked the actor what made the difference, he replied, "I know the psalm—but he knows the Shepherd."
1. What a difference… many people know the Psalm. In fact, it is among the most well-known passages in the Bible. But for as many as know this psalm of David, few really know the Shepherd.
2. Many people can recite the psalm from memory, but still don’t know the Shepherd.
A. We hear these words in the context of salvation, and assume the Psalmist’s desire was that everyone who hears the message would experience that same salvation.
B. This is a reasonable assumption, but I believe the 23rd psalm goes beyond salvation. It is a tribute to God’s providence and love, and beautifully reflects the Psalmist’s encounter with and dependence on him; the results of which he shares with us.
C. Come with me as we take a fresh look at a most-familiar Scripture—OYBT Psalm 23.
1. If David is the author, and there is no reason to doubt it, this Psalm belongs to the time of rebellion under Absolom , perhaps when David had retreated to the wilderness of Judah. In this light, we begin to understand David’s motivation in writing.
2. His circumstances are dreadful; the outlook is grim. Yet, in this short psalm of praise he does not ask for deliverance, but praises God for the solace he finds in him.
3. David opens with a declarative statement: The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want (lit. I have all that I need), and then elaborates the benefits he receives in God’s care. As I study the psalm I see the benefit of life in the Shepherd’s care, and begin to understand the meaning it held for David.
[Many people know the 23rd Psalm. It is the most well-known poem of all time. But for as many as know the psalm, few really know the Shepherd.]
III. BENEFITS OF BEING IN THE SHEPHERD’S CARE
1. Providence (2): green pastures, still waters. The shepherd considers the needs of the sheep. Left in a pasture too long, they turn it into barren wasteland; so the shepherd must continually move them to places of abundance.
A. Sheep are easily frightened, and rushing water terrifies them. When a shepherd comes upon rushing water, he builds a dam so the sheep can drink from still (i.e., quiet) waters.
B. In the rushing waters of human experience, the Shepherd provides for his sheep. He knows exactly what we need to be healthy and content. He brings us quiet comfort in the midst of turbulent conditions.
2. Restoration (3a): He restores my soul. The Hebrew word for soul (’wPN) can also mean life. In this sense it may refer to the wandering sheep, recovered by the shepherd, spared from imminent peril from predators eager to destroy them; thereby restoring its life.
A. In our context, David compares the restoration of the sheep to the spiritual renewal of those who become the children of God.
B. No one is beyond restoration; that is the message. The Shepherd who saves, also restores. No matter how spiritually compromised you are, God brings new life. Though you are dead in sin, you are made alive in Christ, as Paul told the Ephesian believers.
3. Guidance (v. 3b): He leads me in the paths of righteousness. The well being of the sheep is in the hands of the shepherd. The right path leads to green pastures and still waters; taking the wrong path is often disastrous.
A. Sheep in the deserts of Palestine are watered three times a day. The shepherd must be certain which way to go to assure an adequate supply of water, lest the sheep die of thirst. Without his guidance, the sheep perish.
B. David exemplified one led by God. He acknowledges that he is in God’s hands, trusts him for the outcome, and stands on the assurance that God will lead him according to his purpose.
4. Protection (v. 4): I will fear no evil. In the midst of life-threatening circumstances, King David rests in the protection of his Shepherd. He does not ask God to remove him from danger (which fascinates me), but rather clings to him for safe passage. A fitting demonstration of his trust in the Shepherd.