INTERESTING FACTS : Daniel Webster, U. S. SENATOR; SECRETARY OF STATE; "DEFENDER OF THE CONSTITUTION"
"The Christian religion ? its general principles ? must ever be regarded among us as the foundation of civil society."
Daily Reading : PSALMS 21 ? 25; 26 - 31
TEXT : Psa 23:1 A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. Psa 23:2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. Psa 23:3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Psa 23:4 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. Psa 23:5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Psa 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 for ever.
THEME : GOD'S GUIDANCE AND CARE
Sometimes referred to as the "Pearl of the Psalms," the 23rd Psalm has been the favorite of multitudes of men and women from the day it was penned. David's Psalm, though short in its 6 verses, has found a place in the history of the Bible that few other [chapters] can compare for solace and serenity.
"St. Augustine is said to have beheld, in a dream, the one hundred and nineteenth Psalm rising before him as a tree of life in the midst of the paradise of God. This Psa_23:1-6 may be compared to the fairest flowers that grew around it. The former has even been likened to the sun amidst the stars - surely this is like the richest of the constellations, even the Pleiades themselves!"[ John Stoughton, in "The Songs of Christ's Flock," 1860.]
Though brief in size, its truths have a host of comfort for the mourning soul and relief for the anxious. The sweetness of this Psalm is like the bee's honey or the first swallow of cold water on the burnt lips, arid tongue, and parched throat. The 23rd Psalm is a stirring melody to the melancholy mind, and a soothing ballad for the dejected and depressed wayfarer. This Psalm has given more encouragement to the dying, lonely, forsaken, frightened, forgotten, and broken souls of God's Church than perhaps any other.
"David has left no sweeter Psalm than the short Psa_23:1-6. It is but a moment's opening of his soul; but, as when one, walking the winter street, sees the door opened for some one to enter, and the red light streams a moment forth, and the forms of gay children are running to greet the comer, and genial music sounds, though the door shuts and leaves the night black, yet it cannot shut back again all that the eyes, the ear, the heart, and the imagination have seen - so in this Psalm, though it is but a moment's opening of the soul, are emitted truths of peace and consolation that will never be absent from the world. The Psa_23:1-6is the nightingale of the Psalms. It is small, of a homely feather, singing shyly out of obscurity; but, oh! it has filled the air of the whole world with melodious joy, greater than the heart can conceive. Blessed be the day on which that Psalm was born! What would you say of a pilgrim commissioned of God to travel up and down the earth singing a strange melody, which, when one heard, caused him to forget whatever sorrow he had? And so the singing angel goes on his way through all lands, singing in the language of every nation, driving away trouble by the pulses of the air which his tongue moves with divine power. Behold just such an one! This pilgrim God has sent to speak in every language on the globe. It has charmed more griefs to rest than all the philosophy of the world. It has remanded to their dungeon more felon thoughts, more black doubts, more thieving sorrows, than there are sands on the sea-shore. It has comforted the noble host of the poor. It has sung courage to the army of the disappointed. It has poured balm and consolation into the heart of the sick, of captives in dungeons, of widows in their pinching griefs, of orphans in their loneliness. Dying soldiers have died easier as it was read to them; ghastly hospitals have been illuminated; it has visited the prisoner, and broken his chains, and, like Peter's angel, led him forth in imagination, and sung him back to his home again. It has made the dying Christian slave freer than his master, and consoled those whom, dying, he left behind mourning, not so much that he was gone, as because they were left behind, and could not go too. Nor is its work done. It will go singing to your children and my children, and to their children, through all the generations of time; nor will it fold its wings till the last pilgrim is safe, and time ended; and then it shall fly back to the bosom of God, whence it issued, and sound on, mingled with all those sounds of celestial joy which make heaven musical for ever." [Henry Ward Beecher, in "Life Thoughts."]
TRUTH FOR TODAY : "GOD LEADS AND CARES FOR HIS OWN!"
Let us look at this magnum opus of David one verse at a time.
Psa 23:1 A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
The Scriptures say - "some trust in horses, some in chariots, but we will remember the Name of the LORD our God." [Psalm 20:7] This is the help and hope of the Christian - the LORD Himself. Others can trust in whatever they want. WE will trust in the LORD Himself!
"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." Let them say that will, "My lands shall keep me, I shall have no want, my merchandise shall be my help, I shall have no want;" let the soldier trust unto his weapons, and the husbandman unto his labour; let the artificer say unto his art, and the tradesman unto his trade, and the scholar unto his books, "These shall maintain me, I shall not want." Let us say with the church, as we both say and sing, "The Lord is my keeper, I shall not want." He that can truly say so, contemns the rest, and he that desires more than God, cannot truly say, the Lord is his, the Lord is this shepherd, governor and commander, and therefore I shall not want. - John Hull, B.D., in "Lectures on Lamentations," 1617.
Psa 23:2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
Notice how our Shepherd - Christ, "leads" us to green pastures and beside "still waters." Sheep will not drink water that is raging, violent, or turbulent. Thus, our Shepherd leads us to those places in our soul where we can refresh and nourish our spirit properly. If He did not, we would not eat or have rest at all. Thank Christ for His kindness in leading us!
"He maketh me to lie down in green pastures," etc. Not only he hath "green pastures" to lead me into, which shows his ability, but he leads me into them, which shows his goodness. He leads me not into pastures that are withered and dry, that would distaste me before I taste them; but he leads me into "green pastures," as well to please my eye with the verdure as my stomach with the herbage; and inviting me, as it were, to eat by setting out the meat in the best colour. A meat though never so good, yet if it look not handsomely, it dulls the appetite; but when besides the goodness it hath also a good look, this gives the appetite another edge, and makes a joy before enjoying. But yet the goodness is not altogether in the greenness. Alas! green is but a colour, and colours are but deceitful things: they might be green leaves, or they might be green flags or rushes; and what good were to me in such a greenness? No, my soul; the goodness is in being "green pastures," for now they perform as much as they promise; and as in being green they were a comfort to me as soon as I saw them, so in being green "pastures" they are a refreshing to me now as soon as I taste them. As they are pleasant to look on, so they are wholesome to feed on: as they are sweet to be tasted, so they are easy to be digested; that I am now, methinks, in a kind of paradise and seem not to want anything unless perhaps a little water with which now and then to wash my mouth, at most to take sometimes a sip: for though sheep be no great drinkers, and though their pastures being green, and full of sap, make drink the less needful; yet some drink they must have besides. And now see the great goodness of this Shepherd, and what just cause there is to depend upon his providence; for he lets not his sheep want this neither, but "he leadeth them besides still waters," not waters that roar and make a noise, enough to fright a fearful sheep, but waters "still" and quiet; that though they drink but little, yet they may drink that little without fear. And may I not justly say now, "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want"? And yet perhaps there will be want for all this; for is it enough that he lead them into green pastures and beside still waters? May he not lead them in, and presently take them out again before their bellies be half full; and so instead of making them happy, make them more miserable? set them in a longing with the sight, and then frustrate them of their expectation? No, my soul; the measure of this Shepherd's goodness is more than so. He not only leadeth them into green pastures, but "he makes them to lie down" in them - he leads them not in to post over their meat as if they were to eat a Passover, and to take it in transitu, as dogs drink Nylus; but, "he makes them to lie down in green pastures," that they may eat their fill and feed at leisure; and when they have done, "lie down" and take their ease, that their after reckoning may be as pleasing as their repast. - Sir Richard Baker.
Psa 23:3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
How often we need "restoration!" Our minds our wearied as frequently as our bodies. Therefore, we need to be renewed and led on the path[s] of what is right [righteousness] for His Names sake, lest we shame Him through our shabby appearance and careworn countenance.
He restoreth my soul - literally, "He causes my life to return." DeWette, "He quickens me," or causes me to live. The word soul" here means life, or spirit, and not the soul in the strict sense in which the term is now used. It refers to the spirit when exhausted, weary, or sad; and the meaning is, that God quickens or vivifies the spirit when thus exhausted. The reference is not to the soul as wandering or backsliding from God, but to the life or spirit as exhausted, wearied, troubled, anxious, worn down with care and toil. the heart, thus exhausted, He re-animates. He brings back its vigor. He encourages it; excites it to new effort; fills it with new joy.
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness - In right paths, or right ways. He conducts me in the straight path that leads to Himself; He does not permit me to wander in ways that would lead to ruin. In reference to His people it is true:
(a) that He leads them in the path by which they become righteous, or by which they are "justified" before him; and
(b) that He leads them in the way of "uprightness" and "truth." He guides them in the way to heaven; His constant care is evinced that they "may" walk in that path.
For his name's sake - For His own sake; or, that His name may be honored. It is not primarily on their account; it is not solely that they may be saved. It is that He may be honored:
(a) in their being saved at all;
(b) in the manner in which it is done;
(c) in the influence of their whole life, under His guidance, as making known His own character and perfections.
Compare Isa_43:25; Isa_48:9; Isa_66:5; Jer_14:7. The feeling expressed in this verse is that of confidence in God; an assurance that he would always lead his people in the path in which they should go. Compare Psa_25:9. This he will always do if people will follow the directions of His word, the teachings of His Spirit, and the guidance of His providence. No one who submits to Him in this way will ever go astray! [John Gill]
Psa 23:4 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.
We can be confident no matter what we are going through - even [a] valley that threatens the hazards of death that our LORD will bring us through intact - unhurt and unharmed! All that is at God's disposal - His Omnipotence, Omniscience, Omnipresence, etc. gives us comfort; for who or what can withstand our Shepherd when He leads?
"In the darkest and most trying hour God is near. the valley of the shadow of death — is a ravine overhung by high precipitous cliffs, filled with dense forests, and well calculated to inspire dread to the timid, and afford a covert to beasts of prey. While expressive of any great danger or cause of terror, it does not exclude the greatest of all, to which it is most popularly applied, and which its terms suggest. thy rod and thy staff — are symbols of a shepherd's office. By them he guides his sheep. [Jameson, Fausset, and Brown]
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death - The meaning of this in the connection in which it occurs is this: "God will lead and guide me in the path of righteousness, even though that path lies through the darkest and most gloomy vale - through deep and dismal shades - in regions where there is no light, as if death had cast his dark and baleful shadow there. It is still a right path; it is a path of safety; and it will conduct me to bright regions beyond. In that dark and gloomy valley, though I could not guide myself, I will not be alarmed; I will not be afraid of wandering or of being lost; I will not fear any enemies there - for my Shepherd is there to guide me still." On the word here rendered "shadow of death" - צלמות tsalmâveth - see Job_3:5, note; and Isa_9:2, note. The word occurs besides only in the following places, in all of which it is rendered "shadow of death:" Job_10:21-22; Job_12:22; Job_16:16; Job_24:17 (twice); Job_28:3; Job_34:22; Job_38:17; Psa_44:19; Psa_107:10, Psa_107:14; Jer_2:6; Jer_13:16; Amo_5:8. The idea is that of death casting his gloomy shadow over that valley - the valley of the dead. Hence, the word is applicable to any path of gloom or sadness; any scene of trouble or sorrow; any dark and dangerous way. Thus understood, it is applicable not merely to death itself - though it embraces that - but to any or all the dark, the dangerous, and the gloomy paths which we tread in life: to ways of sadness, solitude, and sorrow. All along those paths God will be a safe and certain guide.
I will fear no evil - Dark, cheerless, dismal as it seems, I will dread nothing. The true friend of God has nothing to fear in that dark valley. His great Shepherd will accompany him there, and can lead him safely through, however dark it may appear. The true believer has nothing to fear in the most gloomy scenes of life; he has nothing to fear in the valley of death; he has nothing to fear in the grave; he has nothing to fear in the world beyond. [Albert Barnes]
Psa 23:5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
There is no want with God, thus there will be no lack for His own sheep. How frustrating it must be for the enemies of Christ - and He has many, to see His followers eat, rest, and have no need of anything! However, would it not be better if others - who may now oppose Him, came to know Him? This is His expressed will[1
]. Yet, the choice is with men and women.
"Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies." The good man has his enemies. He would not be like his Lord if he had not. If we were without enemies we might fear that we were not the friends of God, for the friendship of the world is enmity to God. Yet see the quietude of the godly man in spite of, and in the sight of, his enemies. How refreshing is his calm bravery! "Thou preparest a table before me." When a soldier is in the presence of his enemies, if he eats at all he snatches a hasty meal, and away he hastens to the fight. But observe: "Thou preparest a table," just as a servant does when she unfolds the damask cloth and displays the ornaments of the feast on an ordinary peaceful occasion. Nothing is hurried, there is no confusion, no disturbance, the enemy is at the door and yet God prepares a table, and the Christian sits down and eats as if everything were in perfect peace. Oh! the peace which Jehovah gives to his people, even in the midst of the most trying circumstances!
"Let earth be all in arms abroad, They dwell in perfect peace."
"Thou anointest my head with oil." May we live in the daily enjoyment of this blessing, receiving a fresh anointing for every day's duties. Every Christian is a priest, but he cannot execute the priestly office without unction, and hence we must go day by day to God the Holy Ghost, that we may have our heads anointed with oil. A priest without oil misses the chief qualification for his office, and the Christian priest lacks his chief fitness for service when he is devoid of new grace from on high. "My cup runneth over." He had not only enough, a cup full, but more than enough, a cup which overflowed. A poor man may say this as well as those in higher circumstances. "What, all this, and Jesus Christ too?" said a poor cottager as she broke a piece of bread and filled a glass with cold water. Whereas a man may be ever so wealthy, but if he be discontented his cup cannot run over; it is cracked and leaks. Content is the philosopher's stone which turns all it touches into gold; happy is he who has found it. Content is more than a kingdom, it is another word for happiness. [C. H. Spurgeon]
Psa 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 for ever.
Here, David ends with the ultimate blessing - goodness and mercy now, and life forever with God in His Kingdom after. This is without doubt, the sum of every blessing promised in the Bible.
"Death is a king of terrors, but not to the sheep of Christ. When they come to die, God will rebuke the enemy; he will guide them with his rod, and sustain them with his staff. There is enough in the gospel to comfort the saints when dying, and underneath them are the everlasting arms. The Lord's people feast at his table, upon the provisions of his love. Satan and wicked men are not able to destroy their comforts, while they are anointed with the Holy Spirit, and drink of the cup of salvation which is ever full. Past experience teaches believers to trust that the goodness and mercy of God will follow them all the days of their lives, and it is their desire and determination, to seek their happiness in the service of God here, and they hope to enjoy his love for ever in heaven. While here, the Lord can make any situation pleasant, by the anointing of his Spirit and the joys of his salvation. But those that would be satisfied with the blessings of his house, must keep close to the duties of it." [Matthew Henry]