A Brief Update
For those of you who are unable to gather corporately with us this Sunday, you are loved and missed! If this is you, we are providing the songs we are singing together this morning and a devotional based on the sermon being preached.
Songs We are Singing Together
Devotional on Psalm 23
The events of the last few months, and that which continues to unfold, are beyond what I could have ever imagined. What we need more than anything, is not more commentary on the events taking place around us, but to hear from God in His Word.
We believe that God is who he says he is and that his word is true like he says it is. When the Bible says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God” we know this means that every word in this book is from God. And when it says that these words are “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work,” we believe this too.
What we need to be complete and equipped this morning is not analysis or news, but God’s revelation to us. We need his perspective on our lives. And we are going to seek to gain that by looking to Psalm 23.
[Read Psalm 23:1]
If you have no awareness of the character of this Lord, then we will have no appreciation of the fact that he is our shepherd.
When David writes the LORD, he is referring to the creator, sustainer, and ruler of all things. The one who spoke all things into existence. The one whose word never returns to him without doing exactly what he purposed it to do.
But more than that, he is the one who has made a covenant with his people. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is Yahweh. He is “the Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin” (Exodus 34:6-7).
David writes that this LORD is his Shepherd. If you are in Christ, he is your shepherd. The Lord wasn’t your shepherd only at some point in the past. The Lord isn’t your shepherd only at some point in the future. The Lord is your shepherd right here and right now, today. Whatever place you find yourself in today. Whatever questions you’re asking about life, whatever unknowns you face, the LORD is your shepherd, even now. And because of this blessed position, David writes, I shall not want.
Take a look at the world around you and it is filled with people who “want.” People want safety. People want security. People want to know that their money is going to be there for them when they need it. People want to know that they matter. People want good health. What is it that you find yourself wanting?
But if the Lord is my Shepherd, then I shall not want. To say, “I shall not want,” is to say that I have everything I need now and will have everything I need in the future with and in the Lord who is my Shepherd.
Next, David turns to meditate on the Shepherd’s provision.
[Read Psalm 23:2-3]
He makes me lie down in green pastures. The shepherd guides his sheep to green pastures. These are rich pastures which have no lack, where the sheep have no need.
He leads me beside still waters. These are quiet waters for the sheep to drink without being hurried or in danger. Here, the sheep find refreshment and rest.
He restores my soul. This means that he both brings back straying sheep – he goes after the one to bring them back into his care. It also means that he brings refreshment to the weary soul, hope to the downcast, comfort to the suffering. It points us to the call of Jesus who bids us to come to him and find rest because he is gentle and lowly of heart, eager to welcome and restore you.
He leads me in paths of righteousness. This is literally “the right paths.” This is how the shepherd cares for his sheep, by leading them in the right paths, rather than crooked paths.
This means that for you, as your life takes an unexpected turn, or you feel like you’re moving backward, or you feel like you’re taking the roundabout way to your destination, the Lord, your shepherd, is leading you on the right paths, the straight paths.
And then David gives us the reason for this: for his name’s sake. Meaning he does all of this because it is a reflection of who he is. Because of his name, this is how he deals with his people. He is the LORD who goes with his people, who keeps every promise to his covenant people.
Next, David meditates on the Shepherd’s presence
[Read Psalm 23:4]
In verses 2 and 3 the Shepherd is leading and guiding, he is out in front, ahead, of his sheep. David writes as one who is observing the Shepherd work.
But in verse 4 there is a change. Now, the Shepherd comes beside his sheep. And David writes as one who is talking with his shepherd. No longer is it “He” who does this, but it is “you” the one who knows me and is with me.
And the Shepherd doesn’t come into the valley of the shadow of death unprepared and unarmed.
You are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
The shepherd’s rod is that which he uses to beat back the enemies. It is a weapon for defense and protection. I will fear no evil for you are with me to protect me.
The shepherd’s staff is that which he uses to direct his sheep, to keep them on the right paths. It is a staff for security, for control, for discipline. I will fear no evil for you are with me to guide me.
We have a Shepherd who goes with us in the valley of the shadow of death. He is the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction (2 Cor 1:3-4).
In verse 5, David continues to think on the presence of the LORD, but he uses a new metaphor: the LORD as host.
[Read Psalm 23:5]
Notice the remarkable location and timing of the banquet that David describes
It is located in the presence of enemies. David had many enemies throughout his life, from Goliath to Saul to Absalom. There were many days where he was the recipient of hatred and opposition, even to the explicit point of people wanting him dead. Even in spite of all of these enemies, this is where the banquet is being held.
It is being prepared in this very location—in the presence of enemies. If there was ever a time to eat quickly, to be rushed, to not have a feast, surely it’s in the presence of enemies. But this is exactly where the LORD prepares his banquet.
You anoint my head with oil refers to how a host would welcome and bless his guests as they come into the banquet. In some ways this represents the new mercies we receive every morning. It highlights the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives which works in us and renews us day after day after day.
My cup overflows points to the Lord’s abundant grace. He doesn’t just give us a full cup, but one which runs over. We should have hearts that sing with joy of the goodness and grace of God.
Finally, David’s meditation on the Lord as shepherd and host leads to trust and confidence in the Lord’s promise.
[Read Psalm 23:6]
In view of God’s character and work, we have a promise given to us. His goodness and mercy will constantly be with us every day of our lives. As we journey each day, we are not chased by our enemies, but are followed by his goodness and mercy. God’s goodness gives us everything we need. God’s mercy forgives us of our sin.
David concludes with the promise of everlasting life with this Shepherd and Host. The Lord is not a shepherd who will one day sell off his sheep. He is not a host who will later dismiss his guests. He is a Father who welcomes his children home forever. All that we experience in this life is but a foretaste and pointer to what we will one day experience in the presence of God.
May God give us grace to live in the peace and goodness of this blessed truth.
A Song of Response
Numbers 6:24-26 – “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make us face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance on you and give you peace.”