Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Psalm 23: The Great Shepherd (A Commentary Note)

Psalm 23: The Great Shepherd
                           (A Commentary Note)
             By William MacDonald
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
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.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

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. (King James Version)

The Twenty-Third Psalm is probably the best-loved poem in all literature.  Whether sung to the stately measures of Crimond or recited in a Sunday School program, it has a charm that is perennial and a message that is deathless.  “Blessed is the day,” wrote an old theologian, “when Psalm 23 was born!”

J. R. Littleproud’s outline is hard to improve upon:

The secret of a happy life—every need supplied.
The Lord is My Shepherd; I shall not want.
The secret of a happy death—every fear removed.
Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for You are with me.

The secret of a happy eternity—every desire fulfilled.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Verse 1.  Despite its world wide popularity, the Psalm is not for every9one.  It is applicable only to those who are entitled to say, ‘The LORD is my Shepherd.”  It is true that the Good Shepherd died for all, but only those who actually receive Him by a definite act of faith are His sheep.  His saving work is sufficient for all, but it is effective only for those who actually believe on Him.  Everything therefore hinges on the personal pronoun my.  Unless He is my Shepherd, then the rest of the Psalm does not belong to me.  On the other hand, if He is really mine and I am really His, then I have everything in Him!

Verse 2. I shall not lack food for my soul or body because He makes me to lie down in green pastures.

I shall not lack refreshment either because He leads me beside the still waters.

Verse 3.  I shall not lack vitality because He restores my soul.
I shall not lack moral direction because He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

We smile at the youngster who panicked when reciting this Psalm and came up with the novel version, “The Lord is my shephered: I should not worry.”  But he was more right than wrong.  He missed the exact words but caught the exact sense.  If the Lord is our Shepherd, we need not worry!

Verse 4.  And we need not be afraid of death.  In the valley of the shadow of death there is no need to fear, because the Shepherd is right there with us.  The sting of death is sin—sin unconfessed and unforgiven.  But Christ has robbed death of its sting for a believer.  He has put away our sins once for all.  Now the worst thing that death can do to us is really the best thing that can happen to us!  Thus we can sing:

 O death, O grave, I do not fear your power;
The debt is paid.
On Jesus in that dark and dreadful hour
Our sins were laid.
—Margaret L. Carson

It is true that Christians may have a certain foreboding about the suffering that so often accompanies death.  As one old saint was overheard to say, “I don’t mind the Lord taking down my tent, but I hope He takes it down gently!”
It is also true that we usually do not get dying grace until we need it.  But the fact still remains that death has lost its terror for us because we know that dying means going to be with Christ—and this is far better.

“To die is gain.”

The Shepherd’s rod and staff are source of comfort, protection, and guidance.  Whenever necessary He may use the rod for correction also.  Most sheep need this ministry from time to time.

Verse 5.  In the meantime, the Shepherd prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies.   On the table are spread all the spiritual blessings which He purchased for us with His precious blood.  The table pictures everything that is ours in Christ.  Though surrounded by enemies, we enjoy these blessings in peace and security

J. H. Jowett illustrates:

Eastern hospitality guarantees the security of the guest.  “All the hallowed sanctions of hospitality gather around him for his defense.  He is taken into the tent; food is placed before him, while his evaded pursuers stand frowningly at the door.”

He also anoints our heads with oil.  Shepherds anoint the heads of their sheep to soothe the scratches and wounds.  For priests the anointing oil speaks of consecration to their work.  For Kings the anointing oil is associated with coronation.  Every believer is anointed with the Holy Spirit the moment he receives the Savior.  This anointing guarantees him the teaching ministry of God the Spirit.

When we think of all the riches of grace which we have in Christ Jesus, we burst forth with the grateful acknowledgment, “My Cup runs over!”
His love has no limit,
His grace has no measure,
His power has no boundary known unto men:
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again
—Annie Johnson Flint

Verse 6.  Finally there is the secret of a happy eternity.  Escorted through all of life by God’s goodness and mercy, we reach the Father’s house at last, our eternal dwelling place.  As we think of it all, we have to agree with Guy King when he said, “What lucky Beggars we are!” CL

(An adaptation from “BELIEVER’S BIBLE COMMENTARY” 

by William MacDonald.)

This commentary is now available from the office of Back to the Bible, Secunderabad  for a donation of Rs. 1300/-(Including Packing and Postage) 

To Read an article by the same author please click on the below link:  The Temple of God

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