Wednesday, November 8, 2017

23rd Psalms Christians: Going Places with God. Psalms 23:1 The LORD My Shepherd

23rd Psalms Christians: Going Places with God

Text: Psalms 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.



            In this study of the 23rd Psalms we will journey with the shepherd as he leads us from green pastures and still waters through valleys of death’s shadow and finally to the eternal house of the Lord.  In this journey we will learn the lessons that David learned as a shepherd leading his own sheep and as a sheep himself following God his shepherd. In only six verses can be seen the cycle of the seasons and ultimately of life for a shepherd and his flock. In this cycle we will also see the seasons of our spiritual life and if I can follow and learn, I will be able to say with David, "I will not want, I will not fear and I will dwell forever in God's house."

You can’t understand the 23rd Psalms without know about its author, David the Shepherd who wrote it.
            We are first introduced to David the future King of Israel as a young boy, the least of all his brothers, tending his father Jesse's sheep.  When Samuel came to anoint the next king, David is so unimportant in the eyes of those around him that he is not even summoned to the meeting with the prophet of Israel. 
            Perhaps it is the experience of being a shepherd that helped to make David the great king he would become.  In the writing of the most famous Psalms of all, David, probably writing later in life when he was a king or perhaps when he was fleeing for his life as an outlaw from Saul, shows that his time with the as a shepherd must have been among the fondest memories and greatest learning experiences he ever had. It is our prayer that such will be our case as we share David's inspired words almost 3000 years after they were written.

The Book of Psalms

The Psalms is a collection of hymns, accumulated and organized over several hundred years.  They range from the earliest, Psalms 90 which was written by Moses, to those written after the Israelites returned from Babylonian Captivity. 
            With study you can see that the book is actually 5 smaller books, each division reflects the five books of the law, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and Numbers, these are also called the "Torah."  Many believe that Ezra, the scribe who returned from Babylon to help rebuild the Temple and wall with Nehemiah put the Psalms in its present arrangement. The following chart is taken from Irving Jensen's Study Book on the Psalms by Moody Press.

Book 1
41Psalms 1
Book 2
31 Psalms
Book 3
17 Psalms
Book 4
17 Psalms
Book 5
44 Psalms
107        150

Doxology at












Topical Likeness



Leviticus sanctuary

Numbers Moses & Wilderness

Deuteronomy    Law and land

Mainly David and Korah
Mainly Anon.
Mainly David


by Henry Ward Beecher

            "The TWENTY THIRD PSALM is the nightingale of the Psalms. It is small, of a homely feather, singing shyly out of obscurity; but, oh, it has filled the air of the world with melodious joy, greater than the heart can conceive! Blessed be the day on which that psalm was born!
            What would you say of a pilgrim commissioned of God to travel up and down the earth singing a strange melody which, when once heard, caused him to forget whatever sorrow he had? And so, the singing angel goes on his way through all the lands, singing in the language of every nation, driving away trouble by the pulses of the air which his tongue moves with divine power.  Behold just such an one!  This pilgrim God has sent to speak in every language on the globe. It has charmed more griefs than all the philosophy of: the world. It has remanded to their dungeon more felon thoughts, more black doubts, more thieving sorrows, than there are sands on the seashore. It has comforted the noble host of the poor. It has sung courage to the army of the disappointed. It has poured balm and consolation into the hearts of the sick, of captives in dungeons, of widows in their pinching griefs, of orphans in their loneliness. Dying soldiers have died easier as it was read to them: ghastly hospitals have been illuminated; it has visited the prisoner and broken his chains, and, like Peter's angel, led him in imagination, and sung him back to his home again. It has made the dying Christian slave freer than his master, and consoled those whom, dying, he left behind, mourning not so much that he was gone as because they were left behind and could not go too.
            Nor is its work done. It will go on singing to your children and my children, and to their children, through all the generations of time: nor will it fold its wings till the last pilgrim is safe, and time ended; and then it shall fly back to the bosom of God, whence it is issued, and sound on, mingled with all those sounds of celestial joy which make heaven musical forever."

Outline of the Psalm:

The Places We Walk With the Shepherd
#1 My Shepherd.
 1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

#2 In Green Pastures, Beside Still Waters
  2  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

#3 In Paths of Righteousness
  3  He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

#4 Through the Valley of Death's Shadow
  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.

#5 To the Table (tablelands)
  5  Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

#6 In the House of the Lord
  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 23rd Psalm is an poem based on the of the travels of the shepherd and his flock over the course of a year. It is told from the perspective of the sheep. Though the Psalm is quite short it is the most famous and possibly the most well know scripture in the world.  It is said that many people know the 23rd Psalms, but not enough know the Shepherd of the 23rd Psalms.  This message will introduce us to the Shepherd that David knew and sung of in this famous Psalm.

The Lord

David's Lord

The first verse of Psalms 23 takes place in the spring when the lambs are being born. In the safety and plenty of the lowlands, the lambs are born and they learn very quickly of the love and safety in knowing their Shepherd. David says in the voice of one of those lambs, The Lord is my Shepherd.
The King James Bible shows the word Lord in two ways. You will notice in Psalms 23:1 that it is spelled in all capital letters, LORD. This shows that the word used by David in the original writings was the word Jehovah or Yahweh. Whenever you see the word spelled Lord, with only the first letter in caps, it is translating the Hebrew word Adonay. The word most often associated as Lord.
Look at Psalms 8 where both words are used in the same verse. 
Psalms 8:1 O LORD our Lord, how excellent [is] thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.

The Hebrew word, Jehovah or Yahweh was first used of God about Himself when he spoke to Moses from the burning bush. 

Exodus 3:14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. 

It is God's answer to Moses request for a name to place with his authority; I am that I am.  This phrase is the literal translation of the word Jehovah.  It is the personal name of God.

The Jewish scribes of later times held the name in such reverence that they would not speak it. The scribes who would copy the scripture into new scrolls would stop before they wrote this name, change into clean clothes, wash and select a new quill before writing the name of God.  As soon as the word was written the quill was destroyed.  

When David used this name, he showed that he understood and believed God to be a person he could know, a person he could love and be loved by. God to David was not an idea, a concept or a myth but an almighty being who could be known on a personal, even intimate level.

My Lord

What is your understanding of the Lord? 
Is he real? 
Is he a person, not a human being, but a being with feelings, thoughts and plans? 
Is he capable of watching you and watching over you?

Read the following passages and list how they describe the Lord.
Ps 8:3 As Creator
Ps 7:1 As Savior
Ps 7:8-11 As Judge
Ps 50:7 As God, our God.
Can you relate these descriptions to your own life? 

Is God only a concept, or an idea to you?
Can a concept save you?  Can an idea hear you call for help?
You can only really know God if you know Him personally.  Only know Him, if you have a personal relationship with Him, only if you have walked and talked and trusted Him in the experiences of life as David records in Psalms 23.

Illustration: Knowing parenting before and after having kids.

Have you ever heard singles or perhaps even young married couples talk about raising kids? They have all the answers. They know exactly what to do and how to do it. You can hear them say, "My kid will never act like that."

I remember one newlywed couple in our church that when observing my kids or other kids in the church would of say, “My kid will never misbehave like that.” Years went by and they moved but we visited them at their house now with kids of their own. While were visiting I noticed that the family cat had some really odd shaped ears, they were notched. I said something about the cat must get in lots of fights to tear up its ears like that. One of the parents looked sheepishly smiled and said, “Well actually our son got a hold of some wire cutters and decided to work on the cat’s ears with them.”  I immediately began looking for where my kids were playing with their kids.

It turned out, as it always does, that they thought they knew parenting but parenting can’t really be known until you are a parent.

The same is true about God. I thought I know God before I come to God.  But when He touched my heart as Creator to creature, when he spoke to my soul as Lord to servant, when He struck me down as Judge to guilty, when he cradled me in His love as the Guardian of my soul, then I really knew the Lord as David knew His Lord and Shepherd.

My Shepherd

David knows the Lord as his Shepherd.

When David calls God, "My Shepherd" he is expressing not only knowing who God is in creation, but also knowing God on an intimate level.  This is the sheep looking up to his loving shepherd.
The shepherd is everything to the sheep. 

He protects the flock, provides food, leads them to water and grass, guards them against predators, doctors their wounds, comforts them in time of fear and searches for them when they stray. 
Together the sheep and his flock would walk for many miles and share great peace and great danger. No matter what was encountered it would always be together. 
This was David's relationship with the Lord, his shepherd.

How can you know that the Lord is our shepherd?

John 10:22-27 And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon’s porch. Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

What did Jesus say is the mark of His sheep? They hear his voice and they follow me. The Jews were not His sheep because they did not believe in Him. They would not respond to his call. They did not believe.

To be a sheep of Jesus' fold means I must believe in Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, I must hear His voice and I must come to Him and I must follow Him.

Each action requires a surrender on my part for Jesus to be my Shepherd.
To believe on Jesus is to surrender my sin and my soul to Him who died for me. To hear His voice is to surrender my unbelief and doubts for His surety and forgiveness. To follow Him is to surrender my way for His way, my dreams for his plans, my desires for His will.

Illustration: The Shepherds at the watering holes.

Phillip Keller, in his book “A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalms, talks about the call of the shepherd to his sheep. He uses the illustration of the watering holes where the shepherds would often meet together and draw water for all their flocks. The shepherds would visit and the flock would mingle and mix but when they would leave the shepherd would call and his sheep would follow only Him.  No matter how many shepherds called, the sheep knew His voice.
What shepherd's voice are you following? There are only two, the shepherd of heaven and the shepherd of this world.  One wishes to save you, to protect you to bring you joy and peace. The other shepherd of this world desires only to feast upon the misery of your misdirected and lost life. You must follow one or the other, there is no other choice.

I Shall Not Want

David is content in his Shepherd's care.

The shepherd knows his sheep's needs and meets them. 
He provides good food, good water, good rest. In the shepherd’s provision they know peace and contentment.
He also knows the sheep's mistaken and foolish needs and will work to curb them. 
If left on their own, the sheep will drink polluted water, eat poisonous plants or wander away from the safety of the fold. 
These actions would be fatal and so the shepherd will gently, or if need be forcefully, redirect the sheep to safety and good pastures.

Do you know the contentment of Jesus care?

Your contentment in life will be decided by which shepherd is meeting your needs.
If you believe your needs are possessions, popularity, money or status, then Satan, the shepherd of this world, will find a way of supplying your wants He, as a false shepherd, will allow you to drink from polluted pools and eat from fields of poisonous plants. There is no contentment with the Shepherd of this world just more wants that are never really satisfied.

However, if your needs are fellowship, love, friendship, comfort in the midst of life’s harshness, and if you need the assurance of someone who will always be with you, from today even to eternity then listen to the call of Jesus, the good shepherd.

Listen to his invitation in Matthew 11:28-30  
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Have you heard the call of the "Good Shepherd?  If you listened to the passage we just read then you can hear it right now.  It is as real and fresh today for us as it was for those who first heard it from Jesus lips 2000 years ago. Perhaps you’ve heard it many times before, but have you responded?  Have you come at the call to the good shepherd? And I must ask, will you come before it's too late?
If you have given yourself to Jesus as Lord, then are you following where he leads?  Or are you wandering in places where He is not?  If you wandered from his fields and pastures isn't it time to turn around and let the Shepherd take you home?


The following account is taken from the booklet, "My Shepherd Life in Galilee" by Stephen A Haboush.  The author spent his years as a boy tending his fathers' sheep in the Galilean hills around Nazareth.  He relates his relationship to Christ in his experiences as a shepherd boy.

            "It was not long before I got the first experience in seeking a lost sheep. It came about at the end of the third week. After counting the sheep as they entered the door of the fold, to my surprise and dismay I discovered that Untar one of the old members of the flock was not there. Twice I thought I had made a mistake in the counting, but the third time brought the same result he was nowhere about. What must I do?

            With pride in my pocket I called to my Uncle and told him about it.  At first I thought he was going to be angry with me for allowing such a thing to happen, but his kindly smile set me at ease. He drew me to his side and said: "Too bad, my boy, that you should have an experience like that. I, too, feel about it as you do, but our duty is not only to care for and feed the sheep, but to see that no harm comes to them; and so, my boy, go out where you were today and seek Untar until he is found. Take one of your cousins to help you, and I will stay awake, waiting for your return."

            It seemed that night that sky and earth were set against our purpose. The whole heavens were covered with the blackest of clouds, and when we approached the hills we could not see ten feet ahead of us except for the lightning that flashed before our faces. Here and there in the darkness, now and then, we could see some of the wild beasts with eyes gleaming like jewels of fire. First it was a young wolf that ran across our path, then another flash of lightning and to our left a fox was seen running toward the valley, and a little later against the skyline stood a fierce looking hyena. With well aimed stones from our shepherd slings at the latter, it scurried into the darkness, flashing at us death dealing teeth.

            Ascending and descending those hills that night, calling and calling for the lost sheep, we repeatedly stumbled and fell, bruising our hands and faces against the sharp flint rocks. Suddenly the storm broke upon us, drenching us to the skin, and in addition, lightning nearly blinded our eyes and thunder almost deafened our ears. Cousin and I became discouraged after several hours of seemingly futile search for the lost sheep. So I turned to him and told him that it was no use to go any farther, for I was at the end of my strength, and that Untar was no longer alive or he would have heard my call and answered. Cousin touched my arm gently and reminded me of Uncle's command, "Seek him until he is found." With that ringing in my mind, I put all my remaining energy into the call I gave a moment later. To our waiting ears, as the echo of my voice died in the distance, there came a faint answer of a sheep that seemed in trouble. The answer came from a little valley just below us. Hurriedly we descended, and in our haste rolled many feet down the hillside, the thorns piercing our flesh: but we did not care, for the sheep was still alive. A moment later he would have been killed, for a few feet away there stood a wolf with eyes gleaming like diamonds, with open jaws, ready to spring upon the helpless victim.  Seeing the wolf, I uttered a loud cry to cousin to use his rod.  After many minutes of struggle (I was attacked by the wolf and still bear the mark upon my brow) the wolf was driven into the underbrush and Untar was saved. But where had he been? Why did he not remain with the rest of the flock? What was his reason for straying away? We came to the conclusion that in the afternoon of that day, while he was eating the tender grasses on the hillside with the rest of the sheep, he had got the notion into his brain  -what little he had - that he could find more grass elsewhere and that he could find more satisfaction by being away from the shepherd and the rest of the sheep. While I was not looking he had drifted into a field of brush down in the valley, where his old long horns had become entangled in the branches. There he had remained all that afternoon and night as if hands had tied him. 

           You ought to have seen him! Poor Untar He looked so worn and ragged out!  I believe he must have tried to extricate himself, and the more he tried the more he became entangled. We released him, and could you have looked into his eyes, you would have seen a look of deep gratitude, for he seemed to know we had come just in time to save him from the wolf. We started back to the village, and as we approached we saw the lights still burning in the windows of our home. I suggested to Cousin to call, and Uncle, with relatives and friends, upon hearing his voice, met us at the entrance of the village. When they saw us secure and the sheep safe and sound between us they set up shouts of rejoicing and singing, not only for our own safety, but also for the sheep that was found.

           At other times we went out to seek the lost sheep, but instead of finding them alive we would discover, to our sorrow, that they had been killed, the flesh torn and the bones broken. Too late!"
How will you be found?  Ready to come home or ripped apart by the evil of this world?

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