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Summary: A study on the 23rd Psalm

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The Shepherds Song

Keith Harms

livingWORD Assembly of God

Tonight’s message is titled "The Shepherd’s Song". I have mentioned before that my father raised sheep while I was growing up. He’s since retired and moved into town, but for my entire childhood, Dad was always working with sheep.

Despite the fact that he daily attended to their needs, he was not really a shepherd. Sheep were his hobby, not his life. My Dad enjoyed his sheep, but it’s one thing to keep an animal in a pen or fence, and it’s quite another to live with and for that animal. And that is exactly what is demanded of the shepherd.

The Biblical writers often describe a king or spiritual leader as a shepherd of his people because of the way a true shepherd closely identifies with his flock.

David was a shepherd over his father Jesse’s sheep. However in Psalm 78 verses 70-72 we see that God transforms David from the shepherd of sheep to the shepherd of people.

Psalm 78: 70-72: He chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds: from following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance. So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart: and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.

God also often describes himself as the shepherd of His people and he describes his people as the flock of his pasture. For example let’s read

Psalm 100:3 - Know ye that the Lord He is God: it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves: we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Another example is

Psalm 80:1 - Give ear, O Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock: thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth.

Here and in many other verses of the Bible, God speaks of Himself as our shepherd. But when we think about God as our shepherd and we as His sheep, we inevitably find ourselves drawn to what is probably the most well memorized and well loved chapter of the whole Bible.

Psalm 23 is the Song of the Shepherd.

Quite fittingly, David is the author of this Psalm. I don’t think David wrote this psalm while out tending sheep. Most likely, he wrote it as a mature leader of Israel, reflecting back on the experiences of his youth as well as the demands of his office as King of Israel. And all the while the model of God as the Good Shepherd overwhelms him.

In turning to Psalm 23 we find that the theme of the poem is given in the first verse.

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.

We speak of God in many ways. He is our Rock, our fortress, the creator of all things, the Holy One, Emanuel, Majestic Lord, and so on and so on. But to speak of God as our shepherd is a bold statement. It demands a personal relationship.

As the shepherd, the Lord must identify with his flock.

As the shepherd, the Lord must always be near his flock.

As the shepherd, the Lord must fight for his flock.

As the shepherd, the Lord must even be willing to die for his flock.

THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD, I SHALL NOT WANT. Or God is my shepherd I shall not lack. As the shepherd, the Lord must provide, he must take care of my needs!

This psalm is a psalm of confidence. It is a psalm of unwavering trust. The Readers Digest version of this psalm wound say "God is good to me!"

Now if verse one is the theme to the chapter, then the remaining verses elaborate on that theme.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of rightesness 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.

Let’s stop here and look these verses over.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures:

We used to have our pasture divided into several fenced areas. Every so often we would lead the sheep to a different area where the grass had grown green and tall so the sheep could eat and ruminate. The good shepherd leads his sheep to a place where they can eat to their hearts content.

This sounds great, but let’s not allow ourselves to only think in the physical. Yes God is good and will give us everything we need physically: however, God also leads us spiritually into green pastures, places where we can eat spiritual food and then "lie down", and digest what we’ve eaten.

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