Our thanks go out to the Arizona Grace Bible Church for hosting this conference and all the work that has gone into setting things up. This is first of all a Bible conference, and we are going to be fellowshipping around God’s Word and we’re going to do that by concentrating on a magnificent Psalm called Psalm 23.
There is this calling in all of us that won’t stop its call. Sometimes people try to drown it out, but it remains. At the same time we have this nameless, formless, shadowy discontentedness. This can all be traced back to our beginning. GEN 3:8-11, They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
Fallen creatures, we think we can outrun our God, but we can’t. We think we can escape the atmosphere of His justice, outrun the gravitational pull of the Lord God’s love, but we can’t. We have this hole in the middle of our soul that we take with us on our runaway journey. ECC 3:11 “He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.” We have almost everything in place, or so we think, except for that one thing we lack, that one desire we can’t seem to fill, and we run and run. Just like Solomon, we try sex, drugs, fame, family, money, college and career, pleasure and parties, every kind of private indulgences, but nothing does the trick. We arrive places, but we never rest. Where has all the hustling, jostling, lusting, fighting, gotten us? Why do we feel so empty and uneasy and sad? Like a child that has opened a dozen presents, and the wanting remains an empty box, we wonder if that is all there is. It’s not that we’re greedy; it is just that something has been promised that we’ve not yet received.
The problem is that most people, Christians included, live their lives as sheep without a Shepherd. This simply means that whether they know it or not, they put themselves under the domination of the no-good shepherd. By using the word “we” it is meant as a description of the human condition apart from the shepherding of Christ, each of us must decide for yourself how much of this applies to you! So, we keep running away, farther and farther into the dark nights. More and more of the land is parched, dry and lifeless. Still we wander, still we search. We somehow can’t outrun the nighttime Caller. We know that voice, He knows our name. There is a search and rescue mission, it is searching for us. The truth is that we are lost and Someone is searching for us.LUK 19:10 “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” We must be pretty important to Him, we must have something that is valuable to Him, it’s like He has to get us and bring us back into His fold like we’re His property or something. We’re like a wounded sheep bleeding and running for help, clueless that the Shepherd is running in the night behind us, calling out to us. The one thing that has never occurred to us is to simply stop. We are going on a journey and it takes place in Psalm 23. This is perhaps the most recognized and beloved Psalm in the Bible. That is both good and bad. The bad is that we think we know it inside and out. We perhaps have even memorized it, and we think that because we can recite it we have conquered it. However, Psalm 23 is more than a lesson to be learned, it is a place to live. It is a poem you can lie down in. If someone where to ask you very simply and directly, “What is God like?” What would you tell them? The default answer may well be to lead such a questioner to the attributes of God. We could tell them that God is sovereign, that He is just, righteous, loving, and all powerful. All this would be true. All would be profitable. Yet there comes a time when something else entirely is called for. Psalm 23 was David’s something else entirely as the answer to the question “What is God like?” David’s answer: “The Lord is my Shepherd” We are going to look at this Psalm, and emerge with a fresh answer to that single question: “What is the Lord like?” Along the way, we’ll find that being with the Shepherd also tells us a lot about what we are like as well. We’re going to explore some isagogics to find out what it meant to be a shepherd in the ancient Near East. If you follow along you will end the journey refreshed, rested, and more in love than ever with the Shepherd King who bought you with His blood, and taps His foot waiting for you to let Him fill your cup to overflowing.
Let’s read the Psalm from start to finish. It’s Hebrew poetry, so let’s enjoy it as poetry from the Lord. PSA 23:1-6, A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I 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 have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalm 23 was written during the Absalom revolution, when David had fled from Absalom. David had really high highs, and really low lows. He killed the giant Goliath and became an instant hero. He became a powerful and successful king. However, he also watched his newborn baby die. Watched as two of his sons turned against him and tried to steal his throne (Absalom and Adonijah). At one point in his life, David lived as Public Enemy #1 for ten years. Absalom plotted to overthrow his father by cunning and charisma, and nearly succeeded (2SA 5:14). David had lost everything when he fled. Every phrase in this Psalm 23 has a remarkable statement of David’s deployment of the problem solving devices. This is particularly a psalm of grace orientation. David realized that believers had been distracted by prosperity. There are two great metaphors in this psalm: The shepherd and the sheep (verses 1-4) and the host and the guest (verses 5-6). The number two plays a prominent role in this psalm, and this serves to emphasis relationship between two who are utterly unlike one another, and yet enjoy sweet fellowship.
The Psalm begins and ends with Yahweh-the Lord. There is a switch from the third person “He” to the second person “You” in verses 4 and 5. As is commonly the case with Hebrew poetry, there is parallelism or couplets, meaning there are pairs of lines that go together. Finally, on the subject of structure, the 23rd Psalm is a perfect construction of the faith rest drill. Verse 1 claims a Biblical promise. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. Verses 2-5 adopt a Biblical rationale that expounds on the promise. Verse 6 draws a doctrinal conclusion that solves the problem. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalm 23 is of course between Psalm 22 and Psalm 24. It turns out that each of these 3 Psalms portrays a different work of the Lord Jesus Christ for His people. It is not really a stretch to say that for the Church, Psalm 22 is in the past, Psalm 23 is about the present, and Psalm 24 is about the future. Psalm 22 is about the Suffering Servant Savior. Psalm 24 is about the Conquering King who will come. Psalm 23 is about the Shepherd King at the Right Hand of the Father. Look at Psalm 22:1, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.”
Psalm 22 sketches a prophetic picture of the death of the Savior on the Cross. David looks down across the hills of future centuries and sees the hill of Calvary with the suffering Messiah hanging on a tree. Psa 22 therefore deals with JOH 10:11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” We need to understand what happened at the Cross before we can really benefit from the provision of the Risen Shepherd. It is only after we have read, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me!” that we come to “The LORD is my shepherd.” We must by experience know the value of the blood-shedding, and see the sword pierce the Chief Shepherd, before we can truly come to appreciate the sweetness of the good Shepherd’s care. The cup of the Cross that Christ drank made it possible for the cup of overflowing blessing with our name on it.
Psalm 23 deals with what the writer of Hebrews describes to be the great shepherd resurrected for the sheep. HEB 13:20-21,Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Psalm 24 tells of the chief Shepherd who will return to reward those who care for the sheep, as promised in 1Pe 5. This is a passage that should be closely examined by any man who has the gift of pastor-teacher. 1PE 5:1-4, “Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” If you are born again and saved, you have already put your trust in Jesus Christ as the Savior presented in Psalm 22. You may even be looking forward to His return as the King of Psalm 24. But will you experience the joy and rest of the present work of the Shepherd King on your behalf, as described in Psalm 23?
We don’t have the time to see all of the Hebrew so we will look at a bit of a corrected translation here: PSA 23:1, “A song of David. The Lord [Jesus Christ] is the one who keeps on shepherding me; I cannot lack anything.” The corrected translation clearly tells us that the Lord not only has the position of my Shepherd; He is also actively shepherding us: ruling and guiding and caring for and protecting us. You also have the believer in the relationship choosing to submit to the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ and appreciate the grace. We see right away two additional things that are noteworthy: First, we are told that the author is David. Secondly, David tells us that the Lord is his shepherd. So David answers our question right away. “What is the Lord like? David tells us his answer, He directs my life. He provides for me. He rescues me. He keeps me on the right paths. I am like a sheep, and so the Lord, He’s my Shepherd.” The trouble with us is that we have no idea what calling the Lord a shepherd would have stirred up in the heart of a Jew living in David’s time or the Lord’s time for that matter. However, Psa 23 is not some cute poem. It’s not at all easy to understand, particular for 21st century Americans living in urban or suburban culture. To appreciate the scenery 3,000 years ago and half a world away we are going to need some help to appreciate the power and significance of David’s words: “The Lord is my shepherd.” To do this, we need to travel back in time see what it meant to be a shepherd in the Ancient Near East in the times David lived. We call that Isagogics, examining the historical setting in which the scripture was written.
So we are reading a psalm of David, and so first we ought to see a little bit about who David was. David was the greatest king that Israel ever had in the Old Testament. As a youth, David had served as a shepherd (1SA 16:12-14). Here we see God’s grace policy in the promotion of David. It turns out that being a shepherd apparently was not for the faint of heart (1SA 17:32-37). All the victories David had were rehearsals for the Goliath crisis and David beginning to fulfill his personal sense of destiny. What is your attitude toward any of those rehearsals in life? LUK 16:10 “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much;” David miserably failed even after discovering his personal sense of destiny. In 1SA 21:1-10 David willfully sinned and lied and because of his lie the entire city of Nob was destroyed by King Saul and wiped out, eighty-five priests were murdered because of David’s lie. In 1SA 21:11-18, he faked madness and made the enemy believe he was crazy, and as a result hundreds died. Thousands were killed in battle because David pretended to be crazy in the city of Gath. In 2SA 6:1-13, he did not honor the word of God. David failed in his responsibility as the King in 2SA 11:1. He should have led his troops in battle but he stayed home in Jerusalem and as a result there was unnecessary disaster on the battlefield even though they won. While he was in Jerusalem in 2SA 11:2-27, he ended up in certain shocking sins. He committed adultery, got a man drunk, had him killed, and willfully lied. In 1Ch 21, David rejected the promises of God and even questioned the faithfulness of God. Joab, his chief of staff, warned him about this unbelief, but he did it anyway, and as a result 70,000 people died! Of course we have his failure to forgive completely his son Absalom. David had character and integrity, but he also failed miserably at times. There were many times that David worshiped God with all of his heart, soul, mind and strength. He was a man bursting with life and vitality. He loved God and he openly admitted his faults. When tragedy occurred, and it looked as if David and his men would never see their loved ones again, David did not cover it all up. Instead, he wept, and then he strengthened himself in the Lord (ISA 30:1-6).David had two wives, in addition to that he will have at least ten mistresses and will take on more wives mentioned in 2SA 5:13, and polygamy was forbidden by the Word of God in David’s day (DEU 17:14-17). David made mistakes, he had trouble with his children, he expressed his pain, fear, confusion, and anger with frankness and honesty to the Lord. So, what was God’s verdict on such a passionate expression of humanity? ACT 13:22 “And after He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My heart, who will do all My will.’” David’s faith in God was deep, yet he was also deeply flawed. His sins were usually as visible as his victories, but he repented, and came back to the God he served and loved. Indeed, David was open and human as few leaders in history have ever been. That is why David’s story speaks to us. It invites all of us, as suffering sinners to listen to his story, to discover fresh hope and see that in fulfilling our personal sense of destiny we should not get shocked by our sins and failures. God never gave up on David and He never gives up on us either. David’s years of toiling with the flocks of his father Jesse were great training for his eventual task of shepherding God’s flock, the nation Israel.
Back in Psalm 23: 1 “A song of David. The Lord [Jesus Christ] is the one who keeps on shepherding me, I cannot lack anything.” Since David was a shepherd in his early days, we might be tempted to start interpreting this Psalm from the perspective of the shepherd. However, the vantage point of this Psalm is not that of the shepherd, but rather of the sheep! David compares himself to a creature that is weak, defenseless, and foolish. He takes the Lord to be his Provider, Preserver, Director, and in the end, his Everything. The Lord allowed David to describe Him in terms of the office and character of a shepherd. The shepherd lived with his flock. The shepherd was everything to the sheep, guide, physician, and protector. Many of God’s men in the Old Testament were shepherds. In addition to David, we have Abel, and Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and Joseph and his brothers, and Moses, to name just a few. GEN 48:15 He [Jacob] blessed Joseph, and said, “ The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day,” Flocks were a tremendous store of wealth in the times of the Bible. When Abraham left Ur and took on a nomadic form of life, he would have turned his wealth into flocks and herds so that his wealth could travel with him. The sheep provided wool, meat, and horn containers. The shepherd had a very demanding and dangerous job. In the springtime, after the winter rains, there was plenty of pasturage near the village. However, when summer arrived, they had to seek whatever dried grass remained under the hot sun. The shepherd constantly sought out sources of fresh grass with a water supply nearby. When surface water had dried out, it was necessary to use well water for the sheep. The sheep need constant protection because there were plenty of dangers to the flock from the wild animals. Think of Samson scraping honey out of the carcass of a lion (JUD 14:8), and the 2 bears that killed the 42 juvenile delinquents who had made fun of Elisha (2KI 2:24). It was well understood that a shepherd might not return alive from his season of shepherding. Being killed by a wild beast while defending his flock was a commonly accepted occupational hazard of the shepherd profession. It was not a random statement that our Lord made when He said the Good Shepherd had to give his life for the sheep: JOH 10:11 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” The Lord Jesus Christ is the shepherd to all who believe in Him.” You become a sheep under the policy of grace by means of personal faith in Jesus Christ. You come into this relationship with God totally apart from any merit. John 10:12-15, “He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.”
Here you have this wonderful picture of the shepherd Jesus laying down His life for the flocks of His Father, as David fought bears for Jesse’s sheep. As David was anointed king, so the Father would proclaim Jesus to be the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
The shepherd had to fight back, because he had to make good any losses to the owners. Any hired help that the shepherd might have brought on did not have the same kind of commitment. JOH 10:27-30, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
The shepherd was expected to count the sheep, one by one, calling each by its own name, both morning and evening, for he had to render an accounting for any that were missing. The shepherd would name each sheep, and it was usually derived from the personality or character of that individual (JOH 10:1-3).
The shepherd was acquainted with all their ways, their peculiarities, their characteristic marks, their tendencies, their idiosyncrasies. For the most part, the shepherd’s long days and nights in the field made for a lonely life. He would talk to his sheep each day to pass the time, and it came about that they all learned to recognize his voice. It was only by this close daily contact with the shepherd that the sheep learned to trust only this one who would protect and care for them. JOH 10:5 “A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.”
When you keep in mind that Jesus Christ is the shepherd of the Father’s flock, passages like JOH 17:12 take on a new edge:“While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.”
Shepherds also had to provide shelter, medication, aid in lambing time, and provision for lameness and weariness. Without the shepherd, the sheep were helpless and in mortal danger (MAT 9:35-36). To protect himself and his flock from harm, the shepherd had weapons. He carried a heavy club, and this is what Psa 23 calls a “rod.” It was a heavy weapon, and had flints or nails embedded in it to make for a more potent defense. The rod was a weapon to ward off beasts. The shepherd was also equipped with a staff, which was not primarily a weapon although it was used as such on occasion. The staff was about six feet long and sometimes had a crook at the end of it that was used to extricate the sheep from perilous places or to restrain them from wandering away. It was normally used to help the shepherd get around easily in hilly or rough country. When the sheep were passing through a narrow entry, as for example when they entered the sheepfold at night, they were counted in under the rod or staff. When the sheep was tired or sick, the shepherd carried it on his shoulders. When it was lost, the shepherd went to search for it, which happened a lot. Look at how ISA 53:6 puts it, “All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.”
This is the scene evoked by our Lord when He told the cold hearted Pharisees that parable concerning the lost sheep (LUK 15:1-7). Often friends with their flocks would meet at a watering spot, and would keep watch at night. When they parted there was no difficulty in separating the animals, for each knew its own shepherd’s call. At night the shepherd gathered his sheep to a safe place called a fold where he kept watch. The fold offered protection against beasts, thieves, and the cold. On occasion the shepherd would lay down across the only opening to the fold, effectively becoming a door for the sheep (JOH 10:7-10). The criminal practice of the day was to climb over the wall, slaughter as many sheep as possible before detection, and throw them to accomplices outside. Shepherding was serious, demanding, and strenuous work. Nevertheless, the true or faithful shepherd was thought to have a disposition that was thoughtful, tender, gentle, strong, resourceful in times of danger, but not hot-tempered. Ordinarily he led the sheep.
PSA 23:2-3, “He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.”
There might be under-shepherds who followed the flock to encourage the weary and aid the heavy-laden as well as the newborn lambs. Interestingly, the Greek word for pastor in EPH 4:11 is poimenas, which comes from a root word meaning to protect. It means a herdsman, especially a shepherd. This is the picture Isaiah gives of our Lord who is our Good Shepherd: ISA 40:10-11,“Behold, the Lord God will come with might, With His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him And His recompense before Him. Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.” What an illustration of the Lord’s compassion for His people. What is the Lord like? He is like the good shepherd who never left his sheep alone or uncared for. They (we) are lost without Him. His presence is their assurance. The very fact that the Almighty Creator King would assume toward His people the office and character of a shepherd ought to give us a sense of awe and overwhelming gratitude. It is a supreme act of grace that God allows Himself to be compared to this keeper of flocks. This was after all a job for the poor and simple. Shepherds were servants, giving care to animals. This is how the Lord chooses to depict His own great love and care for His children.
A sheep is an object of property, not a wild animal. Its owner considers it valuable, and frequently it is bought with a substantial price (1CO 6:19-20). There is an unassuming confidence about the phrase “The Lord is my shepherd.” There is no sometimes or hopefully, no ifs ands or buts about it. Our Shepard is Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He is the Lord Jesus Christ, He is the Creator of all things visible and invisible. This is the pulse of excitement that runs throughout Psalm 23. David is saying that he (and us as believers) are but a mere speck of matter in an infinite universe, and incredibly enough, Christ, the Creator of all this magnificence, has no problem at all calling Himself his (and our) Shepherd!
The sweetest word in verse 1 has to be the two letters “my”! David did not write “The Lord is the shepherd of everyone in the world, and leads forth the multitudes as his flock, but rather, “The Lord is MY Shepherd” and He cares for ME. He watches over ME, and preserves ME. That relationship is personal! We should look at this like David, personally, the shepherd actually took on the lot of a lamb, God became man, to do this for me. He knows me by name. He knows every hair on my head. He knows my comings and my goings, my secret faults and innermost thoughts (LUK 12:6-7). He marked me as His on the very day I first believed. He inspects me every night to make sure that no harm has come to me. If I run away, if I make by bed in the most awful filth, He is going to come after me and won’t rest until He finds me and brings me back to safety. What a deal! There is a challenge for each of us: Have we exchanged our stubborn insistence on being the captain of our soul for the satisfying adventure of following Him? LUK 9:23-24, “And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.”
PSA 23:2 “He causes me to lie down in pastures of choice grass; He leads me to waters of refreshment.” This is life support for the sheep. Lying down in pastures of choice grass is a picture of tranquility that results from using the three spiritual skills for learning doctrine. The three spiritual skills are: 1) The Filling of the Holy Spirit. 2) The perception, metabolization and application of Bible Doctrine. 3) The deployment of the ten problem solving devices. The phrase makes me lie down is the English translation of the Hebrew word rabats in the Hiphil imperfect stem. It represents the subject as causing an object to participate indirectly as a second subject in the action of the verb. Here the Lord Jesus Christ causes the event of David, and by extension us, lying down in the pastures. Like the green pastures the good shepherd can always find for his flock, Bible doctrine, the mind of Christ, is always fresh, rich, and never exhausted. When we believe in the promises of the Bible, we are like the sheep that lie down in the middle of the pasture. We find at that moment both rest and refreshment. It is the Lord who graciously enables us to perceive the preciousness of His truth, and to feed upon it. So we ought to have gratitude for the ability, for example, to appropriate the promises of God! The green pastures represent the Word of God, the truth of Bible doctrine, which is the perfect food for our souls, just as tender grass is natural nutrition for sheep. When the Lord entreated Peter to feed His sheep 3 times, He was commanding Peter to preach the word, in season and out of season. The choice grass for the Church-age believer includes the unique mystery doctrines. Being led to waters of refreshment refers to the application of doctrine to your life. Metabolized doctrine circulating in your stream of consciousness is your spiritual refreshment. God the Holy Spirit teaches us how to apply doctrine. There are many things about sheep that correlate with humans magnificently. Sheep require endless attention and meticulous care, more than any other class of livestock. It is no accident that God has chosen to call us sheep. The behavior of sheep and human beings is similar in many respects. Our mob instincts, our fears and timidity, our stubbornness and stupidity, and our perverse habits are all parallels that are both uncanny and a little bit unsettling! Yet despite all that, Our Lord Jesus Christ chose us, bought us, calls us by name, makes us His own, and delights in caring for us. The strange thing about sheep is that because of their make up, it’s almost impossible for them to lie down and rest unless certain requirements are met. There must be a complete sense of freedom from fear, tension, aggravations and hunger. Only the shepherd can establish these conditions for their benefit. As long as there is the slightest hint of possible danger, the sheep stay standing, ready to flee for their lives. They have little or no means of self-defense. When one startled sheep starts to run, a dozen others will follow it. See any parallels with human flocks? A flock that is restless, discontented, always agitated and disturbed never does well, and the same is true of people. The one thing that settles and reassures the sheep is the sight of their shepherd with them in the field. The most courageous sheep in the world would be easy prey for the tiniest wolf. Sheep also need the shepherd to protect them from rivalry and cruelty within the flock itself. Sheep have what is called the butting order. It establishes the rank between sheep, who’s the boss and so forth down the line. A domineering ewe will keep her position by butting and driving other ewes away from the best grazing areas. Ezekiel actually gives an accurate picture of this in EZE 34:15-16 and Eze 34: 20-22. Again, the sight of the shepherd puts a stop to most of the butting and fighting. That was the whole gist of the Lord washing the feet of the disciples the night before He went to the Cross. The disciples were head butting to see who would be the greatest until Jesus came in and tended to His sheep and put an end to the nonsense. PSA 23:2 “He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters [or waters of refreshment and comfort]. The still waters refer to the ministry of God the Holy Spirit to the believer. Sheep require a consistent amount of water. However unlike other animals they are totally dependent on their shepherd to find this water. The human soul thirsts as well. The soul of the unbeliever thirsts for the convincing ministry of the God the Holy Spirit that makes Gospel information understandable. The soul of the believer thirsts for the water of the filling of the Spirit. JOH 7:37-38, Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” Thirsty souls can only be fully satisfied when their thirst for the spiritual life is quenched by drawing on the water from Christ. Under the principle of logistical grace, God provides the quiet waters which we need to survive. He provides the Comforter, God the Holy Spirit, as our true mentor and teacher. The still waters are plural, indicating the many functions the Holy Spirit performs to refresh our souls. The Holy Spirit makes the Bible understandable to us. He provides divine guidance and direction. He performs cleansing and refreshment, and consolation. He convicts us, and inspires us. The filling of the Holy Spirit is the water that is needed to digest the food of Bible doctrine.
PSA 23:3 “He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness because of His reputation.” One of the wonderful things about Psa 23 and Joh 10 is the revelation that the God-man Jesus Christ is our Shepherd. We tend to think that when we fall, God is angry with us and is disgusted, waiting for us to make it up to Him. In reality, the Lord has the same concern and compassion for cast men and women as the shepherd has for cast sheep. We see this in the life of Jesus, where he was so kind to the down-and-out people He met. He wept over those who rejected Him. LUK 19:10 “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” This is the principle of being renewed and refreshed through recovering from sin and its effects. Having the soul restored simply means that even though we are in the care of the good shepherd, we do have times when we need restoration. The healing and the restoration provided for the Church-age believer are much greater than what David received. It is the removal of guilt, the restoration of the filling of the Spirit, the recovery of fellowship with God, and the forward progress of the spiritual life. David had the problem solving device of rebound, but he did not have the 100% availability of the power source of the filling of the Holy Spirit. Nor did he have the opportunity to live the unique spiritual life that our Lord pioneered for us in His first Advent. Jesus Christ is revealed to us as the One shining forth from the Father. He came to answer the same question we posed at the beginning of this conference: What is God like? PSA 23:3 “He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.” Grace depends on God’s reputation not ours. The paths of righteousness speak of the pre-designed plan of God designed for us in eternity past.
Notice all the principles that we have so far: In verse 1, the Lord from logistical grace provides everything that we need so that we have no wants. In verse 2, He provides provisions for us that cause us to rest. In verse 3, He provides for us rebound for restoration and a pre-designed plan to live in. Paths of righteousness may lead to places that many would rather not visit – like the death-shadowed valley.
PSA 23:4 “In addition to this, when I walk through a death-shadowed valley, I cannot fear evil [the manner of dying];because You are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” The personal pronouns “I” and “You” now enter the poem. This means we are about to have more intimacy and deep affection with our Lord. In verses 1-3, David had been talking about the Shepherd. Now he speaks directly to the Shepherd. He had been praising the Lord, and now He is praying to Him. The valley of deep darkness to a shepherd meant a chasm among the hills, a deep, abrupt, faintly lighted ravine with steep, jagged sides, and a narrow floor. It was a dangerous place for sheep. Yet the valley too, with all its dangers and shadows, is still part of the shepherd’s plan for the sheep. It is so often in the valleys of our lives that we find the sweetest refreshment and fellowship alone with God. Under the principle of logistical grace, it is comforting to know that the Lord knows all about the difficulties and dangers that we will ever face in this life. Shepherds would not take their flock where they had not already been themselves. This is why no matter what we face in life, the comfort of logistical grace allows us to say I will not fear for You are with me. He is with us in every situation and let me reiterate, not as a blessing but as a manifestation of His logistical grace. To walk indicates the steady advance of a soul which knows its road, knows its destiny, resolves to follow the path, feels quite safe and secure, and therefore perfectly cool, calm and collected. He is with us in every dark trial, every disappointment, every distressing dilemma. This is all a part of logistical grace support.
The Lord has also provided dying grace. The shadow represents your dying. No two death-shadowed valleys are the same. Some are very short and sudden, some are long and twisting. But the same grace principle applies to all believers. The dying believer is not walking in the valley, but through the valley. We go through the dark tunnel of death and emerge into the light of immortality. Death is merely a shadow. Jesus Christ has conquered death.
Where there is a shadow, there must be light somewhere nearby. Death stands by the side of the highway in which we have to travel, and the light of God’s word shining on death throws a shadow across our path. God picks the time, the manner and the place of your dying, so you don’t have to worry about it. In fact, for those who have been consistent in the perception, metabolization, and application of doctrine, dying is the dessert of life, that time of ultimate blessing. So PSA 23:4 is David applying dying grace, occupation with Christ, and a personal sense of destiny to the problem of death or disaster. This is the unique joy of the believer. The fear principle points to the sin unto death.
PSA 23:4-5, In addition to this, when I walk through a death-shadowed valley, I cannot fear evil [the manner of dying]; because You are with me; Your rod [divine discipline] and your staff [divine deliverance], they comfort me. You have prepared a table in front of me for my benefit in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.” In verse 5 we have the hospitality metaphor. Jesus Christ is the host, and David is the guest. This is logistical grace right in the presence of our enemies. The mature believer always has hostile enemies. No one who consistently follows Lord Jesus Christ will avoid thi (JOH 15:18-21). To sit as a guest at the table of a host was to be assured of food, housing, fellowship, and protection. PSA 23:5 “You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.” In the East, people frequently anointed their visitors with an expensive fragrant oil or perfume, and gave them a cup or glass of choice wine, which they would be careful to fill until it ran over. The anointing with oil was a sign of love and respect; the overflowing cup said that while they remained there, they would have an abundance of everything. The anointing of the head with oil is a sign of promotion. Many times promotion comes from logistical grace. The antagonism and conspiracy of David’s enemies cannot cancel, destroy, or remove God’s promotion of David. God’s promotion of you is based on your spiritual life and cannot be canceled by the antagonism of others. You can destroy yourself, but the conspiracy of others cannot remove God’s promotion. Your promotion is related to what is in your soul, and your enemies cannot take that away from you. If God does not promote you, you are not promoted. You are not promoted because of what others think of you.
PSA 23:6 “Surely goodness [prosperity from our escrow blessings] and lovingkindness[grace] will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” As long as you live, logistical grace will pursue you. You will never be a day without logistical grace. The Lord is the One shepherding me. He is working hard to bring me somewhere. He is leading, providing, protecting, restoring, comforting, promoting, blessing and beckoning on this journey to somewhere. He is leading me to my destiny of becoming a spiritually mature believer. I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. He is leading me to a great forever after. Spiritual maturity. Escrow blessings for time. Dying grace. Escrow blessings for eternity.
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