May 21st 2020 – Psalm 23

"A Psalm of David.

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name's sake.

Even 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.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

Psalm 23

This is a Psalm whose words have formed the creed and the comfort of countless numbers of God's people down the ages, yet very familiarity with it is apt to conceal from many its real message and import and make them miss the teaching of the Psalm as a whole. Like many Psalms, it presents a series of pictures - some think three, the Shepherd, the Guide, the Host, and some only two, the Shepherd and the Host. On any interpretation, however, the first and second are linked anyway, although the ideas are dis- tinct - first rest, peace and satisfaction, then through righteousness into the valley of the shadow, then the feasting in the presence of the enemy. First of all, we should bear in mind that this is the second of three Psalms which belong together, and we need to notice that this wonderful utterance, depicting the blessedness and fulness of the life of trust, follows the picture of the Cross. It is on the other side of the experience of the Cross that the sweetness and satisfaction of the green pasture can be known. The awe- some words that open Psalm 22, 'My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?' are the true basis of those in Psalm 23, 'The Lord is my shepherd'. It is because of the one that the other can become real and true in our experience. In this regard we need to see that the very first verses of the Psalm contain by implication a wonderful evangelistic appeal, and that in two ways: on the one hand, they proclaim that the heart of true religion lies in a personal relationship with the Lord. It is no second-hand knowledge that is spoken of here, but a personal relationship that has been entered into. Furthermore, it is with the Shepherd of souls, and this can only mean that it is through the death He died on the Cross. It is only when the message of the death He died touches our lives and we become related to it and conquered by it that we can enter that relationship with Him. On the other hand, the Psalm proclaims the good news of the gospel in the sense that it tells out the blessings that await those who come to a personal knowledge of Christ. And nothing could show forth the winsome attractiveness of the gospel and the Christian life more tellingly than this lovely Psalm, for in almost every phrase in these first verses it tells out the answer of peace to the deep cravings and anxious restlessness of our modern, distracted age.