Today: [Psalms Twenty-Three] The Mind Blowing Goodness of God. In Psalm 23 David is writing at a point of maturity in His life. He is king. He isn’t a shepherd boy on the back side of his father’s sheep ranch anymore. Goliath’s head is over the mantle above David’s fire place. The crown of his kinship is secure. His wife is sitting across from him with that sweet smile on her face. The children are playing in the next room. Life is good. The Lord is His shepherd. He pens the 23rd Psalm.
[Psa 23:1-6 KJV] 1 [[A Psalm of David.]] The LORD [is] my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
The 23rd Psalm along with John 3:16 is one of the most recognized passages in the bible. It is most commonly used at graveside services as a means of comfort in times of bereavement. It is both sublime in its emotional context and also informative in nature. By studying Psalm 23 we learn something about David, about ourselves and about who Jesus is as the Good Shepherd.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd. If Jesus had not presented Himself as the shepherd of lost humanity Psalm 23 might not be so well known. There are eleven references to Jesus as shepherd in the gospels, 3 in Matthew, 1 in Mark and 5 in the gospel of John. 2 of these verses refer to Jesus and 7 are direct quotes from Jesus Himself. Most notably in the regard let us cite John 10:1-5:
[Jhn 10:1-5 KJV] 1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. 2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. 4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. 5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
The first thing we learn about Jesus as our shepherd is that we shall not want. The Hebrew word used by David very simply means “I will not lack…” It is astounding in the face of declarations like this about Jesus that the vow of poverty could ever have made it successfully into Christian culture. 2 Cor. 8:9 tells us that Jesus became poor so that we could be rich. Poverty is one of the consequences of the fall. God places no premium upon lack or poverty. Your financial condition is so important to Jesus that He addressed it on the cross as one component of the salvation that His death, burial and resurrection.
Many people decry what the scorn as the “prosperity gospel” to which I answer “are you volunteering to be poor?” James 2:5 says that the poor are rich in faith. They have to be because faith is the substance of things hoped for. When you are destitute the only substance you have any hope of gaining is by exercise of your faith. When you are struggling with lack Jesus engages with you as your shepherd. If you will be sensitive to His leading and His teaching as the shepherd of your soul the end result will be that you will not be in lack or poverty. As David you will NOT LACK.
Verse 2 says that Jesus as your shepherd will MAKE YOU LIE DOWN. How many times have those that cared for you MADE YOU sit down and rest? In Matthew 4:19 Jesus said “follow Me and I will MAKE YOU…” In our society those are fighting words. We usually respond with “you aren’t going to MAKE me do anything…” Jesus the shepherd manifests His character in the ministry of a pastor. How many pastors would have a job on Monday if they announced on Sunday they were going to embark on a campaign of MAKING their members do thus and so – as Jesus said in Matthew 4:19? Does that make us SHEEP or GOATS?
The Good Shepherd MAKES us lie down. Hebrews 4:10 calls upon us to cease from our own labors and enter into rest. What does this mean? It means that for all our efforts and agonies in this life, being a believer means that there is an unseen benefit at work in our life that brings change and blessing that doesn’t originate in us but in the unseen hand of God. This is what God’s favor is all about. You are not left to yourself. God is working behind the scenes. Things will get better if we “let go and let God” as the old folks often say.
The Good Shepherd also leads you beside still waters. My father often remarks that some people live their life reeling from one crisis to the next. The note the demarcations of their life by the milestones of suffering, chaos and upheaval. Listen to the voice of the shepherd. His sheep hear His voice. Goats reject the green pastures and still waters. There is something in a goat that will wander off and get in a situation that is completely unnecessary to its care and feeding. Learn to live out of your sheep nature. His sheep here His voice. They will not follow another. If you live out of your sheep nature you don’t have to worry about being deceived. People that get deceived and get in trouble and those who are bored with green pastures and still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth 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 thou [art] with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
The Good Shepherd works to restore your soul. Did you know that it needs restoring? The opposite of restore is neglect. How often do we see in the scriptures “I will never leave you. I will never forsake you”. We often accuse God of neglect. We suffer and struggle and ask the question “where is God in all of this?” He is right here. He is as close as the breath of your nostrils. You are not neglected. You are not excluded or left out of God’s plan. Check your spirit? Are you living out of your goat nature or your sheep nature? Be capable of repentance. Goats butt everything. They are objectional in all things. They always have a better idea. They constantly criticize that which they are not in control of. They are the epitome of contrarianism. Can you be led? Are you willing for God, or God’s representative to MAKE you do something? As you lie down in green pastures and get still beside the waters of His spirit – restoration and recovery will take place in your life.
The Good Shepherd will lead you in the paths of righteousness. This gets interpreted in many ways. Remember that as a believer – Jesus is your righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30). Your righteousness is not a moral code or a standard of spiritual excellence. Your righteousness is a person – His name is Jesus. How are we led in that path? Jesus said He was the Way, the Truth, the Life. How do we implement that on a daily basis? In John 5:19 Jesus gave the example: “I only do what I see the Father do…” He also said “as I hear I judge (or decide)”. What rules the decisions that you make? In making decisions Jesus did not consult the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He did not simply make His best effort and hope things worked out. No – He did what the Father revealed to Him to do even if it didn’t make sense. He made His decisions based on the leading of the Father from within His own human spirit. Your spirit has an intuition so you can hear the voice of God and do what He says. This is the key to getting where you want to be in life. Every other basis for decision making leads to failure.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth 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 for ever.
The next time you find yourself surrounded by enemies on every hand and nothing is going right just think of this verse. Close your eyes and see Jesus standing beside you at a table with a white cloth on it. “Would you like the appetizer now, or the main course?” Do you see the astounding composure of Christ within your own heart? In the midst of great conflict He looks at you and says “I’m hungry – do you want something to eat? Let’s go get a burger!” What composure is available to us in Christ even in the midst of battle.
The Good Shepherd anoints your head with oil. If shepherds don’t use ointments on their sheep they become infested with fleas, ticks and other vermin. Notice where the ointment is needed most: Your eyes. Your ears. The enemy wants to attach himself to your organ of spiritual vision. He wants you to see what he wants you to see. He wants you to hear what he wants you to hear. What is the answer? The anointing that comes from the hand of the shepherd. Can you imagine how good that feels to a sheep to have the oil soaked hand of the shepherd rubbing ointment around their ears and eyes? The oil of God brings comfort and sets us at ease. It causes us to breathe a sigh of relief and just enter into rest. God isn’t interested in us being stressed out for Jesus as many choose to be.
The Good Shepherd is the God of more than enough. He makes your cup run over. Can you see the humor in this? You are sitting at a table in the midst of your enemies. Your plate is full and the hand of Jesus is pouring into your cup. It begins to overrun. It spills over onto the table and runs off into your lap and onto the floor. Startled you look at the Master and He is smiling. In fact He is giggling. He loves spending time with you. He loves the response you have when good things happen. He is going to go overboard in blessing you. You don’t have to talk Him into it. He is conspiring in His sovereignty to bless you and He is going to enjoy Himself doing it! That is our Shepherd. That is our God. He is a Good God and He loves us that much.
Verse 6 speaks of goodness and mercy follow you all the days of your life. Are you constantly looking over your shoulder? Are you always waiting for the other shoe to drop in a good thing that God is doing in your life. Do you find yourself bracing for the next trial or difficult situation? That isn’t the plan that God has for you. If you will look with the eye of the Spirit you will see 2 guys following you. Go ahead and ask them who they are:
“I am goodness. God told Me to follow you in case you needed some…”
“I am mercy – my job is to keep tabs on you on a regular basis because you being who you are – God knows you are gonna need what I can do for you …”
Is this your idea of God? Or do we constantly deal with seeing God as the Ogre of Heaven waiting to hurl a lightning bolt upon us the moment we get out of line? Goodness and mercy are not only going to follow you – they are going to follow you all the days of your life. They were there when the doctor spanked your bottom and they will be standing there with your loved ones when you die. The last thing you will see before you draw your last breath is goodness and mercy standing there giving you a smile and a long slow wink!
This is your portion as the sheep of God’s pasture. You are not in the house of man or the house of the enemy. You are in the house of the Lord. He is a good host. He is going to anticipate your every need. There is nothing to fear. You are going to enjoy spending this time on earth with Him. You will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!
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