“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.
In “Psalm 23, Part 1” posted here on 7-24-19 there are some remarks on the psalms in general and a close look at, Psalm 23:1, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” We shall now finish by looking at the rest of Psalm 23:2-6.
“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.” Psalm 23:1-2.
To gain any benefit from passages likes this, you have to realize that sheep are helpless. Sheep need constant care, even to leading them to water or keeping them from wandering off.
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him [Jesus] the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:6.
Once we reckon ourselves as helpless sheep and seek the Lord to lead us, then we will start to make progress in our lives.
Sheep include Army Rangers, policemen, firemen, fishermen, and barroom brawlers. Not just the women folk, the dweebs, and assorted losers.
“No king is saved by the multitude of an army; a mighty man is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a vain hope for safety; neither shall it deliver any by its great strength. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.” Psalm 33:16-20.
“He makes me to lie down in green pastures…” Psalm 23:2a.
Sheep will not lie down if they are hungry, so lying down means that they are full and relaxed.
Now here is the interesting part; while they lie there they chew the cud, which is to say that they regurgitate part of their meal and chew on it to further the digestive process.
While this may be a bit disgusting to city folk, it is a necessity to the sheep’s health.
When they chew the cud, it is called rumination a word that is also used to mean meditate, muse, to ponder; so this rumination is the same idea as meditation.
Here is the application to the Christian, after studying the Scriptures, perhaps in the morning, they will set aside a quiet time somewhere away from distractions, if possible, and meditate on the things that they have read.
This process not only increases your knowledge of God, it also internalizes the things that you have learned, changing what you have learned from head knowledge to heart knowledge.
It is important to comprehend what this last statement means.
The idea is kind of like this, head knowledge is what you get from college, heart knowledge is what the college graduate gets from beating his brains out for a few years on the workforce. Some never learn by the way.
Still, the Bible says this.
“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12.
Being supernatural, the word of God does far more for the student than any college textbook; but real growth comes from meditation on it.
“So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11.
The word meditated upon and internalized brings us to the second half of our verse.
“He leads me beside the still waters.” Psalm 23:2b.
Sheep do not like turbulent waters, nor do they like dirty or algae covered water, so this really is a place of calm repose and refreshment.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7.
Do you see the progression here? Recognizing the Lordship of Jesus Christ, makes us want to follow Him as a shepherd.
This gives us a hunger to hear what He says to us. And meditating on His word brings us to a place of abiding peace.
But the water may be deeper than it appears.
“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” Psalm 42:1-2.
“On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” John 7:37-39.
God likens Himself to water, which of course, cleanses and purifies as He is, and God the Holy Spirit is pictured as a river of living water and a fountain welling up in the heart of the believer.
“Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.’” John 4:13-14.
So a deeper understanding of the word of God not only brings peace and repose, it brings a greater knowledge of who God really is.
“He restores my soul…” Psalm 23:3a.
All of us have been radically changed by our childhood or as youth. Some have been horribly abused; many well meaning souls will counsel them to forget the past, get on with their life.
But for the victim it is not that easy and the advice only isolates them all the more, because no one seems to understand. My advice to you is to lend a sympathetic ear and let the advice be given to them by those of similar background, or at least those who are trained at counseling.
Things like this are often like someone with a broken leg; you do not tell them to get up and walk, because you know that the bone will have to mend. Just as God mends the bone in His own good time, so He mends the heart.
As mentioned before, all of us have been radically changed from the humble innocence of childhood to self-centeredness and a clamoring for our own needs, whether simple or perverse. This is the restoration that is needed.
“He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Psalm 23:3b.
Jesus leads us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake, first and primarily that God might be glorified, and a people of righteousness do glorify God.
One of the reasons that God’s name is continually blasphemed is that His followers do not exhibit the characteristics of God but rather act the hypocrite, thereby showing God to be weak and ineffective among His own people, who should be a reflection of His image.
Paths of righteousness are also good for the believer because it is the path of the abundant life. But you have to follow Christ.
“Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed”, Hebrews 12:12-13.
Simply put, a life of righteousness has fewer perils and is far more satisfying than one lived on our own.
“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly”, John 10:10b.
“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.” Psalm 23:4.
This passage is indeed a comfort for those who are dying, but the truth is, from conception to old age we are in the valley of the shadow of death, and this is the comfort, Jesus is with us always, for He has said.
“…I will never leave you nor forsake you” Hebrews 13:5b.
This too is the abundant life, being able to live life under the protection of Jesus, and when evil comes, being able to withdraw under His wing of protection.
Then when the end comes to know that He will be there to welcome you into His eternal presence.
Until that time we are free to smell the flowers, enjoy our bread, and hug our families, free of inordinate fear.
The photograph of police chief Loan executing the leader of a Viet Cong death squad in Saigon always reminds me of the fear that the ungodly must have as they are hurled into eternity without Christ.
Christians step into eternity with confidence knowing.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23.
“Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4b.
The rod is a club with which the shepherd fended off predators and the staff is the shepherd’s crook, used to tend the sheep by pulling them into line or rescuing them out of a ditch.
Many feel that the rod is used to correct the sheep. I disagree, the rod is a weapon, and I do not believe a weapon is a metaphor for correction.
The rod is a comfort to me because I know my protector is armed, willing and able to protect me.
There is correction though so do not be at all surprised when correction comes, it will be because we deserve it, God is fair minded in all things.
“If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons…Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but grievous; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:7-8 and 11.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…” Psalm 23:5a.
Though surrounded by enemies the believer is at peace knowing that God is in control. And in peace, while chaos swirls all around us.
“You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.” Psalm 23:5b.
Oil refers to the Holy Spirit. How desperately we need the comfort that the Holy Spirit brings to the life of the believer, and He is called the Comforter.
“And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but Ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” John 14:16-18 KJV.
In all this, “my cup runs over”, this is the cup of joy that the believer has when he truly sees the reality of Christ in his life.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” Psalm 23:6a.
This has been the experience not only of the psalmist, but of millions of Christians down through the millennia; it will be your testimony too, and in the end – “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6.
Psalm 23, Part 2 taken from godisrevealed.com posted on 12-20-15, updated on 7-26-19.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version, copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission, all rights reserved.