Summary: In the 23rd Psalm, David describes God’s providential care in providing refreshment, guidance, protection, and abundance, and in so doing provides grounds for confidence in His everlasting kindness.
Today, we are going to look at one of the most comforting, and definitely one of the most well known psalms in the Bible-the 23rd Psalm. It was written by David, who presents us with the scenes of pastoral life, which he was familiar with, since he wandered the hills and valleys of Israel as a young shepherd boy. In it, he describes God’s providential care in providing refreshment, guidance, protection, and abundance, and in so doing provides grounds for confidence in His everlasting kindness.
David is someone whom most of us can relate to very well. He knew what it was like to be a lowly peasant, because he served as a shepherd for his father’s sheep. He knew what it was like to be on top of the social ladder, because he became king of millions of Israelites. He knew what sin was all about-having committed murder and adultery. He was a brilliant fighter and an excellent musician as well. Maybe that’s why most of us know the story of David so well; we can relate to him in some way. He was a man with a vast amount of experience, but the best thing that can be said about him, was said by God, Himself-He called David a man after my own heart. David wrote this psalm, but he wrote it by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Let’s look at the first two verses.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. (v. 1 and 2)
What a peaceful picture! David, the shepherd of the sheep said that God was his shepherd. If you had your Bible, you would see that LORD is spelled in capital letters. This stands for the ever constant God-the one who had consistently been there for the Israelites-mercifully saved them from slavery to the Egyptians-led them for forty years through the wilderness-and brought them to the Promised Land. Jesus identified Himself to be that shepherd. David knew that this LORD was his shepherd. He is also the shepherd of Israel, the shepherd of the whole church in general, and the shepherd of every individual believer. He is my shepherd and I hope He is yours too. We couldn’t ask for a better shepherd. And when David says that the Lord is his shepherd, what a comforting thought that is. Our Lord is a living and personal God-one who caries us in His arms-searches for us when we are lost-and takes a personal interest in us.
How does this shepherd provide for us? He lets us lie down in green pastures and leads us beside quiet waters. For a natural sheep, nothing can be better than when his shepherd feeds him in pleasant green pastures, and near fresh water. When that happens to it, it feels like nothing on earth is blessed more than it is. Notice what the shepherd allows us to do. We do not just graze on green pastures, but we lie down in them. The picture that I get is of a dog that lies down in the grass and rolls in it. It is a picture of complete rest and relaxation.
What are these green pastures symbols of? It can be nothing else than the Word of God. As 1 Peter 2:2-3 says, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” Hearing the Word of God is like eating a great dinner. The first time it gets between your teeth, your mouth waters, and you want more. You can’t wait to chew it, swallow it, and get some more. And after you eat that first meal, you plan to eat it again and again.
Is that the way you look at the Word of God? As something you can rest easy in? Something that gives you comfort? Unfortunately, this is not the case with many. Why? Because Christ is not their shepherd. They are led by a man, who leads them in the wrong direction. Their shepherd may even claim to be a man of God, but he doesn’t teach the truth of God’s word, so his leading is poor.
If Christ is as a shepherd to us, we must be like sheep, inoffensive, meek and quiet; we must know the shepherds voice and follow him. And when Christ is our shepherd, He leads us to springs of living water. We can hear Jesus tell us, that our thirst has been quenched. He says to us, “Your debt has been paid in full! You are righteous in God’s sight, because of my righteousness!” When we hear that, it brings rest to our souls. That’s what the Word of God is supposed to do. It is only in the Gospel of God-the good news that Jesus has paid for your sins, that you can find rest. When you hear that God has punished Christ in your place, you realize that you have a merciful God, who loves you very much.