Psalm 23

Sun, Dec 29, 2019
Teacher: Tom Blackford
Passage: Psalm 23:1-6
Duration:33 mins 56 secs

Message text

Psalm 23

Good morning. This morning I’m going to continue our look at the Psalms. Our text is Psalm 23. I don’t think I could do sermons from the Psalms without including the most well-known Psalm in the world and that is Psalm 23. It is a very short psalm, we will be breaking it down and as we study it I believe we will see how the Psalm explains Christianity to us extremely well.

Let’s read the psalm, Psalm 23 – “1. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake. 4. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. 6. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.”

I. Verse 1 is describing a relationship. It is a relationship that we have between our self and our Lord Jesus Christ.
A. Peter tells us in First Peter 2:25 – “For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” And if that sounds familiar that is because the first part of this verse in First Peter is taken from Isaiah 53:6. In Isaiah it talks about how “we all like sheep have gone astray” “we've each turned our own way and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” In this text Peter is helping us understand that unfortunately we've all sinned. We've all left God. We've all gone our own way and done what we want to do contrary to the will of God.
B. Those who are Christians have returned to the shepherd. Those who are Christians are returning to a relationship with God through Jesus Christ and we are submitting like sheep, recognizing that Jesus is the shepherd and we are the sheep of His flock.
C. I’m turning now to John 10 and there will be a couple verses that I want us to consider in this chapter. The first is John 10:11 where Jesus says; “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” Then in John 10:14 He says; “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.”
1. The shepherd was the individual who watched out for the flock.
2. He would see to it that the flock was well fed and watered.
3. He would see to it that the flock was protected.
4. He would see to it that they were led to good pastures, and that they were cared for. The shepherd over a period of time got to know the sheep individually.
5. The sheep recognized who the shepherd was and what the Shepherd did for them. There was a connection that existed between the two, where the shepherd knew every one of his sheep and the sheep recognized the shepherd as being the one that cared for them and provided for them.
6. That describes a relationship doesn’t it?
II. At the beginning of Psalm 23 the important questions that occur to me are these:
A. Is the Lord Jesus Christ my shepherd? Do I recognize Him as being the good shepherd, who loved the sheep so much that He laid down His life for the sheep?
B. I would suggest to you that if the Lord is not your shepherd the rest that follows after this in the psalm is not going to apply to you.
1. For everything else to apply to us in Psalm 23, the first condition which needs to be met, is that we actually have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
2. A relationship where we recognize Jesus as the Good Shepherd, the one that we are to be following by faith all the days of our life, totally trusting Him, totally trusting His guidance.
C. The last part of this verse talks about how He knows those that are His. I take great comfort in that. If you are a child of God, if you are a sheep in the flock of God, God knows about you. He knows you by name. He knows everything about you even the hairs on your head. He knows everything about you and He loves you.
D. What I see in the verses which follow is scripture describing how we have this relationship with God through Jesus Christ, how that the Good Shepherd is our shepherd, and we will find benefits and blessings that come from this relationship.
III. Going back to Psalm 23:1 the last part of the verse says; “I shall not want”. This is the leading thought, the essential idea; and it is carried throughout the psalm. In the next verse Psalm 23:2 the writer says; “He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.”
A. His sheep are not going to need to wander around looking for food because they will be led to green pastures where they are blessed with good grass close at hand. Sheep will never lie down when they are hungry. Here they are well fed.
1. Green pastures to me bring the picture of lush, tender grass. It is in the green stage, not dried out. Tender, healthy grass good for grazing. Here are the green pastures where the sheep have eaten their fill and then when no longer hungry they lie down.
2. It says the water is still water. The literal Hebrew here reads "waters of rest." This entire verse speaks of the tranquility that belongs to one in fellowship with God. As far as the metaphor goes, "the still waters" would refer to any undisturbed watering place for the sheep; but the human application to a life of tranquility appears to be very much in mind.
3. Everything you're going to need is going to be provided for you by the shepherd. There is an extremely important lesson that we need to learn in our life and our relationship with God through Jesus Christ... That is God will provide.
B. That is the primary lesson of the Bible going all the way back to Genesis 22 when Isaac and Abraham were going up on Mount Moriah. You remember the question Isaac asked Abraham? Father here's the fire and here's the wood where's the sacrifice? That's when Isaac was told by Abraham - the Lord will provide.
1. When they get up on Mount Moriah, Abraham builds the altar and then he takes Isaac and is about to sacrifice him but the Angel of the Lord stopped him. Abraham looked and behind him there is a ram with its horns caught in a thicket.
2. Where did the Ram come from? Who provided the ram? God did. What is the name that place? The Lord will provide.
3. This is one of the overriding messages of the Bible. If we will just trust God, if we will just trust the good shepherd Jesus Christ, and follow him, He will provide everything we need—everything. We will have no wants physically or spiritually.
C. Let me draw your attention back to Isaiah and in Isaiah 40:11 – “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.” This is a prophecy of the Messiah.
1. He knows His sheep and He recognizes exactly where we are in our journey. The shepherd is going to feed the flock. What if you can't even walk? He’ll take you up in his arms. He’ll carry you.
2. What if it’s difficult for you to go forward? He realizes exactly where you are. He understands your emotional and physical conditions and He will see to it that you're taken care of even if you can't go further, even if you've got nothing left to give, even when you have given all. He’ll carry you.
D. It is put this way in the Sermon on the Mount. If you turn to Matthew 6:31-33 – “31. "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32. "For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33. "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
1. As I study sometimes questions come up that I have not expected. In preparing these studies of the Psalms, Isaiah and the New Testament references, some very important question occurred to me. As I thought about them, and asked them of myself, I realized these were good self examination questions for any Christian.
2. Do I believe the Lord will provide?
3. Do I believe that when I seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness that all of my physical needs will be taken care of?
4. The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.
5. Do I believe that?
6. If we answer no to questions like that then we need to consider where we are lacking.
E. In our relationship with God and our relationship with Jesus Christ, what God wants from us is absolute trust, total trust, with no doubting what so ever. That doubt is like a leak in a boat and it is the doubt that causes us to sink.
1. It is the doubt that causes us to fear.
2. It is the doubt that makes us start wondering am I going to be able to make ends meet.
3. Am I going to be able to survive? Can I pay all the bills? Can I pay my taxes? Can I cover all these things that have to be taken care of?
4. The answer is for us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Just trust the reality that the Lord is our shepherd. The Lord will provide.
F. Not only will He provide physically but look at this next verse from John. John 10:9 – “9. "I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved” We're talking about spiritual needs. If we desire spiritual salvation there’s only one way to get to it, we've got to go through the one and the only door; and that is Jesus the Christ.
1. He says we “... will go in and out and find pasture.” There are our physical needs.
2. Then in verse 10; "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, (notice the last part of this) and that they may have it more abundantly.”
3. What kind of life is He talking about in this verse? He has come that we may have life, that we may have it more abundantly. He's talking about eternal life.
4. This text is talking about our spiritual needs. If we go through the door we will be saved. If we go through Christ we will be saved.
G. Again we have come back to the concept the Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.
1. It’s the idea that in our relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, the Lord will provide everything we need physically and everything we need spiritually for all eternity.
2. The way it’s put over in John 15:5 – “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”
3. I cannot live physically without what God has provided and provides.
4. I cannot have the resurrection without God. I cannot have eternal life without God. We are totally dependent on God, it is reality. Just recognize that reality and accept it. In our relationship with God through Jesus Christ we trust Him enough to follow to seek first the Kingdom of God, His righteousness and the Lord will provide for us in this life and then when we die the Lord will provide for us in eternity.
5. All the way, for eternity, always the good shepherd will provide for His sheep.
IV. Let's go to the next verse. Psalm 23:3 – “He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.” This is the thought of the shepherd metaphor in Jesus' parable of the lost sheep. The human application is that of restoring Christians who have fallen away from duty. Some writers would soften what is said here by rendering "refresh" instead of "restore". The rendering “refresh” is unfortunate and wrong. Scholars have pointed out; "The verb used here refers to 'repentance or 'conversion.'" In this context, the "restoring" or "bringing back" of the sheep, pictures the deeper renewal of the man of God. (James Burton Coffman on Derek Kidner p110)
A. “He leads me in the paths of righteousness”. If we follow the Good Shepherd, where is He going to lead us? He is going to lead us in a path, and if we follow it, we are going to be living a life of righteousness.
1. Going back to the verse we saw earlier from Matthew 6:33 - Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness...
2. We are following the paths of righteousness when we're following the Good Shepherd, and that's exactly where Jesus is going to be leading us.
B. In John 10:4-5 – “4. "And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5. "Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.''” .
1. What Christianity basically is, would be this; Christians follow Christ by faith.
2. We trust that Jesus is telling us the truth, the truth about God, the truth about sin, the truth about salvation, the truth about death, resurrection, and eternal life. We believe He's telling us the truth.
3. He guides us and says go this way, live this way, we trust Him enough to just follow.
C. More questions to consider are; in my life who am I following? - Am I following myself and as some say; going my own way? Am I following my culture? Am I following my family? Or am I following Christ?
D. In Christianity we follow Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God.
1. We follow Him by faith all the days of our life.
2. We do not follow a stranger.
3. If a stranger calls us and tries to get us to follow him, we say, No I'm not going that way.
4. I'm not going to follow other people out there in the world, there's only one individual and I'm going to follow Him by faith and that is Jesus Christ.
5. Again, we defined Christianity as those that follow Christ by faith and if we are following Christ He is going to lead us in the paths of righteousness.
E. Psalm 23:3 again, “... For His name's sake” He restores my soul, He leads me in the paths of righteousness, For His name's sake.
1. This passage is where many commentators have missed it altogether. Why does God do this, not for His reputation and not merely because it is His nature.
2. Think about it, why does the shepherd care for the sheep? Because they are His. It is because the ones cared for are called by God's name. The prophet Isaiah gave the correct answer in Isaiah 43:1-7 - "I have redeemed thee ... thou art mine ... I have called thee by my name ... I have created thee for my glory".
3. Those persons who are the object of the kind of protection and guidance assured in this psalm, in the present dispensation, are Christians. Today those who are "called by God's name" (Isaiah 43:7) are the ones baptized into Christ. Nothing in the Bible emphasizes the exclusiveness of these marvelous promises quite as effectively as Isaiah 43:1-7.
F. Another place I would like us to look is in Second Timothy 3:16-17 where the text is explaining the purpose and the function of scripture in our lives. “16. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17. that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
1. We are to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. If we're going to be seeking the righteousness of God, we will find it in the Word of God. If we just follow the Word of God then we are following the Good Shepherd.
2. Whenever we follow the Word of God it is going to be leading us into a life of righteousness. Just trust our shepherd and follow Him by faith.
G. In First John 2:29 we read; “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.” If we practice righteousness we're following the Good Shepherd who is righteous. Living our life, practicing righteousness proves in reality that we have a relationship with Him, that we're born of God. You are a child of God.
1. How can you know that somebody is truly a Christian? We look at who they are following.
2. How do we tell who they are following? By their life. By their fruits.
V. Getting back to what the Good Shepherd does for his sheep. The Good Shepherd protects sheep. Psalm 23:4-5 – “4. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.”
A. In the shepherd metaphor we can imagine a time when the shepherd might need to lead his sheep through some dangerous, forested valley, where lions and other enemies of the sheep were lurking; but the safety of the sheep is assured by the presence of the shepherd.
B. In reading the text, try to imagine that you are in the valley of the shadow of death. Imagine that you're right down in the very center of it and death is all around. You're not on the outskirts looking in. You're down in the middle of it.
1. Then realize you are with the Shepherd and you do not need to be afraid because He is with you.
2. That is so vitally important for us to understand as sheep in the flock of God. God is with you, He will never leave you nor forsake you.
C. Isaiah 41:10 – “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'” I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Do we believe that?
1. The beginning of the verse yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil. We're not going to be afraid, not because of how strong we are, but because of how strong the one who is with us is, the shepherd is.
2. The shepherd will protect you. Let’s go and look at some versus on this.
D. John 10:27-28 – “27. "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28. "And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” What wonderful comfort! No one, including Satan himself can snatch us out of the hand of the Good Shepherd.
1. That is because we are being protected by the Good Shepherd.
2. He knows what wolves are out there after you. He will protect you. He knows you're struggling.
3. He will protect you and He will see to it that you get to the destination and the destination in the text here...eternal life.
4. The soul that trusts in the Lord will most surely pass through many a dark valleys, even that of death itself at last; but no fear will be felt because the Lord will be with His own, "Even unto the end of the world" Matthew 18:20.
5. We're going to go through life being attacked by the enemy right and left. We just keep following the Good Shepherd.
VI. Let’s consider for a few moments the text of Psalm 56:4 – “In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?” Look at the question and think, what can flesh do to me? The answer is quite a lot isn’t it?
A. They can take all of your possessions. They can put you in prison. They can torture you. They can kill you.
1. Kind of sounds scary. It does, but they cannot take your soul.
2. They may be able to take all of your physical possessions and even your physical life but they cannot take that primary gift of God that God gives you through Jesus Christ and that is eternal life. They cannot take your salvation.
3. Just trust the good shepherd that He will provide. Follow him and He will lead you in the paths of righteousness.
4. Trust the good shepherd that He will protect you. Even Satan cannot snatch you out of the hands of Christ.
B. We do need to look at another point though. It doesn't mean you can't leave.
1. If you continue to trust in the Lord, Satan cannot snatch you out of His hands but if you draw back in unbelief and you leave God, you have chosen to let go of your relationship with God.
2. You have chosen to leave and as freewill beings we can choose to leave God and depart. But as long as you are staying and trusting in God and following Christ, even Satan himself cannot snatch you out of the hands of the Good Shepherd because you’re protected.
C. The text of verse 4 continues, Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. Shepherds of the time carried both. I like Matthew Henry's comment that these are, "The rod of correction and the staff of support."
VII. Going on to Psalm 23:6 – “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.”
A. Isn’t that wonderful? If we're following the Good Shepherd in our life there's going to be goodness. In our life mercy will follow us wherever we go. We will be blessed wherever we go.
1. He will prepare a table before us in the presence of our enemies. That's the idea of people trying to harm us but they can't do any harm because the Lord is with us.
2. The Lord’s sitting at the table and giving you everything you need. Our cup is over flowing we've got so many blessings.
3. He is our shepherd and we are following Him by faith. Goodness, mercy, and blessings are showered upon us daily in our life and then in the end... I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.
B. Let's look at this in the scriptures going back to Psalm 122:1 – “I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go into the house of the Lord.''” The psalmist is describing his attitude about going into the house of Lord. You want to go down to the Lord? Yeah! Let’s do it, let's go worship God.
1. I wonder about the attitude people have today about this? Sometimes even those that are in the congregation. Exactly what is our attitude about worshipping God now, on this side?
2. For some it is wearisome, like we read about in Malachi 1:13 where their attitude was; “...'Oh, what a weariness!'...”
3. For some their attitude is “okay I'll go because if I don’t someone will bug me about it”.
4. If anyone has that attitude about coming and worshiping God I would ask them, plead with them and pray for them to change that attitude.
5. Folks, this earth is going to be a dark memory in the mist. We must keep our eye on the shepherd and follow that Good Shepherd, then when we cross the Jordon we will come out on the other side snow-white and will be in the presence of God and Jesus Christ, worshipping them for eternity.

Now I wonder, are we glad when it's the Lord's Day and we come to the house of the Lord? Folks look with me at Psalm 92:13-14 – “13. Those who are planted in the house of the Lord” Let’s stop right there. What's the idea of being planted in the House of the Lord? You're here and you’re always here. Our roots are here. There are some here today that are always here. They come here because if the doors are open they are going to be here.

This is what he had to say about those who are planted in the House of the Lord. They “... Shall flourish in the courts of our God. (Look at this.) 14. They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing,”
Guess what? Those of you that are planted, even your old age you can still bear fruit! You can still flourish because you're planted in the House of the Lord, because your roots run deep in your relationship with God.

We read not long ago in class First Timothy 3:15 – “but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” In Psalms we were talking with the Tabernacle and the temple of the Old Testament. What's the house of God today? The Church of the Living God, the congregation is the house of God. It is the temple of God today. What is our attitude when it is the Lord's Day and we gather together to take the Lord's Supper at the Lord's Table? Is it a wearisome burden to you or are you glad to go to the house of the Lord?

When the doors are open for us to worship God, and you are here because your roots run deep then your relationship with God will be strong and you will be able to bear fruit even in your old age and flourish all the way down to the close of your race.
I’m going to close with Revelation 7:14-17 – “14. And I said to him, "Sir, you know.'' So he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15. "Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. 16. "They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; 17. "for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.''”
If we follow the good shepherd, in the end we will be in heaven with God Almighty - forever. That is what the twenty third Psalm is trying to teach us about Christianity today.
I come back to my opening question. Is Jesus, the good shepherd, your shepherd? Do you recognize Him as the Good Shepherd and are you following him by faith?
If you're not, you're missing out; you're missing out on everything. If you miss heaven you've missed it all. Don't miss it. Come to God through Jesus Christ.
If you honestly believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the Living God, if you understand He died on the cross at Calvary for your sins, was buried and rose again the third day, if you believe this then be willing to openly confess that faith.
Then motivated by that faith to make the great commitment to repent and be baptized in His name for the remission of sin, and then continue to follow the Good Shepherd by faith. That is what repentance is all about, it is following the Word of God and He will lead you in the paths of righteousness.

If you're in Christ already and you've stopped trusting and you've stopped following the Good Shepherd, you need to come back home, put your trust in God, put your trust in your Shepherd, get up and start following by faith, putting off whatever sin is standing between you and your God.
If there's sin between you and God deal with it. He’s merciful. He's gracious and you know He will forgive you. Just take it to God for forgiveness, then get up and get back into following Christ.

If you're subject to the Gospel call in any way let us know while we stand and sing the song selected.

#73—The Lord’s My Shepherd, I’ll Not Want


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