Psalm 23, Part 1

Psalm 23, Part 1 will serve as an introduction and an exposition of Psalm 23:1, the rest of Psalm 23, verses 2 through 6 will be covered in Psalm 23, Part 2.

One of the things that highlight the supernatural origin of the psalms is the way they are laid out; for instance, men have attempted to put them in date order, this is a logical idea, but the continuity of the book was lost.

The reason for this is simple, some of the psalms end with a question or a statement, then the very next one picks up where the other left off.

For instance the first eight psalms are intimately connected; all are different aspects of Christ Himself.

Likewise Psalm 23 is part of a trilogy, or triptych, as J. Vernon McGee called it. This trilogy is made up of Psalms 22, 23, and 24, they are called, the shepherd psalms.

In Psalm 22, Christ is the Good Shepherd.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” John 10:11.

Some facets of Psalm 22 are briefly covered in “A Consuming Fire”, posted 2-23-19.

Psalm 23 shows Jesus as the Great Shepherd.

“Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21.

Christ is the Chief Shepherd in Psalm 24.

“…and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.” I Peter 5:4.

Psalm 22 depicts Christ as sacrifice for sin, Psalm 23 is the relationship we have with Him as our shepherd today, and Psalm 24 shows Him as King of kings and Lord of lords in His millennial reign.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Psalm 23:1-3.

Many Christians spend years going from conference to conference to learn how to live the Christian life, and it is likely that the vast majority of them just end up in frustration and decide that the mediocre Christian life is the abundant life that all the conferences promise.

There is no truth to this; it can be done, and when one sees the real thing they realize that the abundant life that American Christians claim to enjoy, is little more than poverty.

This magic bullet, this golden elixir, this secret of the ages can be reduced to one small scrap of paper, six verses, all in Psalm 23; the most beloved of psalms, which you may have memorized already.

Everything that all the hours in conferences have tried to teach you is likely right in your head!

The very first phrase in this psalm is the most important part of the lesson, if you do not get this right, you will not be able to grasp the rest. And the first two words are the most important part of this phrase, “The Lord”.

“…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.” Romans 10:9-10.

David is saying, “The Lord”, meaning, my Lord.

The problem most people today have when they accept Christ Jesus as Savior is that they do not know what they are saying when they say the Lord Jesus is my Savior. That is, they do not know what a lord is.

This does not necessarily mean that they are not saved, especially if their confession is sincere. But it is a lot like being given an expensive luxury car with no keys; you can marvel at its beauty and mechanical perfection, but it never leaves the driveway.

So, what is a lord? According to the dictionary a lord is, “a person who has dominion over others; a master, chief, or ruler.”

I think that the New American Standard Bible renders Romans 10:9 above a little clearer, “…if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord…”

As a result a person is saying that Jesus is their Lord, having complete dominion over them as their master, chief, or ruler.

It takes most Christians a lifetime to realize what they said, and until they do, somehow Jesus seems to be a person in the sky who saved them, for which they are grateful. Yet they do not understand that Jesus wants their obedience as their master, chief, or ruler.

We all have bosses, so we can know what coming under the lordship of Christ means. However, He is not fallible, mean or petty as men are, so we need not fear Him.

Let us let the Lord weigh in at this point, it should clarify things a little more.

“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” Luke 6:46.

These words were uttered while speaking to a multitude after what appears to have been the Sermon on the Mount; in it He gave the Beatitudes and a treatise on godly living.

He continued on to speak not just to Israel, but to all Christians as well.

After giving the secret to successful godly living, He asked why do we call Him “Lord, Lord”, and then ignore Him. Is He our Lord? He went on to tell the end of those who do and do not listen to Him.

“Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.” Luke 6:47-49.

Have you experienced disasters of one sort or another, debt, business failure, horrible employment, or family problems?

It may very well be a trial, they happen, you need to work and pray through them.

However, consider carefully, have you built on the foundation of the word of the Lord, or have you built upon the sand? Be brutally honest, rationalizing or lying to yourself will only prolong the agony.

Once you recognize Jesus as Lord of your life, accepting Him as your shepherd becomes easier. Remember, when you say He is my shepherd, it means that you recognize that He is able to lead you as a shepherd right here and right now.

This is not some ethereal metaphor or God principle, it is as real as when a father takes his toddler by the hand and walks him across the street.

You do not look at that and say “Gosh that is beautiful, I wish it was real” or “What a wonderful principle, I wish it could be done”. God will take you by the hand and lead you, but you must want to trust His judgment.

In Psalm 73, the psalmist speaks of his own experience of trusting God. While reading the passage below please note that the words You and Your, refer to God, as all references to Him are capitalized, here and elsewhere.

“Nevertheless I am continually with You; You hold me by my right hand. You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.” Psalm 73:23-24.

The result of reverently trusting and following your Shepherd is, “I shall not want”, the marginal in my Bible renders this, “I shall not lack”.

Perhaps you are thinking to yourself, “Well, that is interesting. I am down to my last can of beans, the rent is due, and I have a job interview tomorrow.

What kind of lack are we talking about here?”

Let us look at this from another perspective; what if everything went sideways? Would He still be your Lord and shepherd?

The prophet Habakkuk was told by God of the judgment which was about to come upon his homeland Judah, and of the horrific things which would transpire; this is Habakkuk’s reply.

“Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls – yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.” Habakkuk 3:17-19.

Yet Habakkuk was no starry eyed optimist; before he made these statements, he tells us how he felt as he contemplated the judgment to come.

“When I heard, my body trembled; my lips quivered at the voice; rottenness entered my bones; and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble. When he comes up to the people, he will invade them with his troops.” Habakkuk 3:16.

It is okay if you get knocked flat when these trials come, cry and be depressed; call out to the Lord in your distress.

But when all is said and done and your tears are dried up, your breathing is no longer labored and clear thought comes back to you, rise up and take your stand; the line needs you.

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints…” Ephesians 6:10-18.

So what does it mean to have no lack? According to Scripture, “I shall not want” would include earthly needs.

“I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread.” Psalm 37:25.

Still, the immediate context seems to mean that one would not lack the things mentioned within this Psalm, which concerns everything that matters in life, as you will see.

There is a wonderful promise that you might consider taking for your own, even though it is directed to the patriarch Abram whose name was changed to Abraham.

“After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.’” Genesis 15:1.

That is pretty easy to remember is it not; “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.”

But do not forget the “Fear not” part; it would be counterproductive to live your life in fear when God has offered Himself as a shield to you.

The “exceeding great reward” is an intimate relationship with and the companionship and knowledge of God Himself.

Psalm 23, Part 1 taken from posted on 12-20-15, updated on 7-24-19.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version, copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission, all rights reserved.

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