Friday, November 13, 2015

Thoughts from Psalm 23

Psalm 23 is probably the most well known Psalm.  Since the Psalms are, for the most part, songs then Psalm 23 would be number one on the charts.  Most people even those who have not read the Bible are familiar with Psalm 23.  It is a beautiful Psalm of comfort which depicts God as a loving shepherd to his sheep and a gracious host to his guests.  I would just like to briefly share some of my thoughts on verse 1-3.  

1. The Good Shepherd (1)

Notice David says "The LORD is my shepherd."  The first question to ask: Is the LORD your shepherd?  The rest of the depends on the answer to this question.  If the LORD is not your shepherd then these truths that follow do not apply to you.  These are for the sheep.  Unlike David we can fast forward to the time of Jesus.  We get the full story and know what Jesus says in John 10.  The Good Shepherd is none other than the God-man, Jesus Christ.  Jesus, in John 10, says, "I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep" (11).  In order to be one of the LORD's sheep you must enter the fold through his terms.  Prior to his proclamation of being the Good Shepherd Jesus declared, "I am the door.  If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture" (9).  These are the same words Jesus would speak again in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father but through me."  Jesus is the Good Shepherd because he laid down his life for sheep who were being lead astray.  We were wondering in the wilderness while Jesus was on a sheep rescuing mission.  In him we "shall not want."  This is better translated "shall not lack."  The reason we shall not lack is because the shepherd will provide for all our needs.  

2. The Gracious Shepherd (2-3b

We have already seen that the shepherd provides to the point that we lacking nothing.  David is going to continue to show us the graciousness of our good shepherd.  Notice how the next four phrases in Psalm 23 have a pattern of the shepherd doing something on our behalf.  

  A. He makes me lie down in green pastures (2a)
This speaks of the peace brought to us by our shepherd.  Sheep did not rest much because of the anxiety of attack.  But with the shepherd in their presence the sheep are able to lie down in green pastures.  Green pastures also remind us that the lot on which the shepherd gives to his sheep is beautiful and well taken care of.  Remember what Jesus said in John 10:9, "I am the door.  If anyone enters by me, he will be saved (safe) and will go in and out and find pasture."  By the Good Shepherd's grace we find peace and pleasant pasture.  "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Romans 5:1-2).
 
  B. He leads me beside still waters (2b)
Steve Lawson says, "This refers to waters that have been stilled, further expanding this peaceful scene.  Weary and worn sheep need a long, refreshing drink from the rapid streams.  But being instinctively afraid of running water, the shepherd must pick up a few large stones and dam up a place, causing the rushing stream to slow its current and create quiet waters.  Then the flock may drink with no fear.  God gives true, abiding peace to believers who abide in him and drink of his grace."  This reminds me of the peace Paul talks about in Philippians 4:7, "The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

  C. He restores my soul (3a)
When our soul is beaten by the cares of this world or we have failed to trust our Good Shepherd we read that the Good Shepherd comes and restores our soul.  Psalm 19:7 lets us know how the Shepherd restores our soul.  It isn't some magic wand waiving while calling out bippity boppity boo.  That does sound exciting but not real.  God tells us, "The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul" (Ps. 19:7).  The way the soul is restored is through the hearing of God's word.  God has given us his Word for the purpose of knowing him.  Knowing him deeply brings restoration to our soul.  

  D. He leads me in paths of righteousness (3b)
Ultimately the path to perfect righteousness is through a relationship with the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.  "For our sake, God the Father made God the Son, who knew no sin, to be sin, so that in Christ Jesus we might become the rightesouness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21).  Perfect righteousness is a gift of God's grace through imputation.  But those who have been called by God as his chosen people are called to a life of holiness.  God is not only the One who graciously justifies us but he is the One who also leads us in the path of righteousness.  He gives a new heart that seeks to honor and glorify him with our lives.  His grace saves and sustains his sheep.  

3. The Glorious Shepherd (3c)

Why does God act so graciously to his people?  His grace stems from his love for his own name.  God delights in God therefore he is good to us.  Notice in Psalm 23, David writes at the end of verse 3 that he does all these good things for us "for His name sake."  We tend to think God does everything for us because ultimately he loves us.  God does love his sheep but he loves his own glory most.  We should be grateful that this is true of God.  Why?  If God did not delight in himself above everything or everyone else than God would cease to be God.  Whatever or whoever God glorified in more than himself would be God.  In order to be the good and gracious shepherd of his sheep he must be the supreme and glorious God who delights in himself. 

"Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD" (Ps. 25:7)!

"For your name's sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great" (Ps. 25:11). 

"Do not remember against us our former iniquities; let your compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low.  Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name's sake" (Ps. 79:8-9)!

His glory equals our good.  

Grace upon grace,
JRL