Psalms Through the Summer #4:
The Protected Man Psalm 23
Psalms 23 is one of the most familiar passages of in all the Bible. It is considered one of the “crown jewels” that are set apart because of their beauty and their subject. Passages like Genesis 1, Isaiah 53, John 3, 1 Corinthians 13 or Revelation 21. It is hard to get a consensus on what all the crown jewels of scripture are but in everyone’s list but Psalms 23 would be on each of those lists.
Henry Ward Beecher, the famous Civil War Preacher said of Psalm 23, "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!
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, ….
I doubt I could ever top that introduction but let me lay a little bit of a foundation and context before we look at the six wonderful verses of this Psalm. Psalm 23 is actual one of a trio of Shepherd Psalms, Psalm 22, 23, and 24. These 3 Psalms show us David’s great shepherd, His Lord and if we are saved then they show us our shepherd as well.
We see The Compassionate Shepherd Dying for His Sheep in Psalms 22:1-2 My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not;
and in the night season, and am not silent.
We see the Caring Shepherd Protecting His Sheep in Psalms 23:4 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.
And we see the Conquering Shepherd in Psalms 24:7-8 Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.
This morning in our series we are centered on Psalm 23, the Caring Shepherd. The theme of the 23rd psalms is, “I shall not want”. We see it in several places, in vs. 2, “I shall not want” for: rest and refreshment, in vs 3 I shall not want for restoration and righteousness, In vs 4, I shall not want for protection in time of trouble, in vs. 5 for provision in the wilderness, and finally in vs. 6 for and eternal home.
Warren Wiersbe points out that each of the OT names for God is seen in this psalm:
Jehovah-Jireh, “The Lord will provide” (Gen. 22:13–14);
Jehovah-Rapha, “The Lord will heal or restore” (Ex. 15:26);
Jehovah-Shalom, “The Lord our peace” (Jud. 6:24);
Jehovah-Tsidkenu, “The Lord our righteousness,” (Jer. 23:6);
Jehovah-Shammah, “The Lord is there,” (Ezek. 48:35);
Jehovah-Nissi, “The Lord our banner” (Ex. 17:8–15); and
Jehovah-Raah, “The Lord my shepherd” (Ps. 23:1).
It is no wonder why the 23rd Psalms is considered such a precious jewel of God’s Word. Let’s turn there now and read all six verses.
Satisfied With the Shepherd – Psalm 23:1-2
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.
David makes these boasts in the opening two verses. First The Lord Jehovah is my shepherd. The creator of the universe, the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, holy, just and yet loving God is the one who watches over me. No wonder he could say in his second boast, I shall want. David says, I lack nothing, I need nothing, I am fully satisfied because God cares for me.
He then gives an example of what he means in vs 2. He makes me to lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside the still waters. David is probably writing this Psalms as an older man, the King of Israel now, but he was once just a shepherd boy and his mind goes back to those times and how he as the shepherd has watched over his own sheep and now he rejoices that even in midst of all the problems of kingship, the battles with enemy nations, the family problems, the sins of his people, still he can boast that God cares for him and gives him peace. Jehovah- Shalom.
Secure in the Savior
David knew his caring Shepherd as Jehovah God, but we as New Testament believer know that in the fullness of time and as scripture was more and more revealed, it is Jesus, God the Son who is truly the Good shepherd to us.
One of the reasons we so greatly love Psalm 23 is because we see in it our Shepherd Jesus Christ. He is our satisfier, His is our peace.
In John 10, He claims the title of The Good Shepherd and he takes the theme of Psalms 23 but changes the perspective. Instead of the sheep looking to His shepherd that David wrote in Psalm 23, Jesus in John 10 looks from the shepherd to his sheep. This is another of the Crown Jewel chapters of the Bible.
In John 10:1-11 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. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. … 7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
Jesus tells us He is the good shepherd and he also tells us how we become His sheep.
Vs. 3-4 the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
If we would be secure and find safety in this life and in eternity then we must know Jesus as our shepherd and that relationship is established when “we hear his voice and he calls us by name.”
Later in John 10:27-29 Jesus makes this even clearer, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.”
That is the promise of our Great and good shepherd listen for Him to call you and respond, follow him into salvation and eternal life and no man will be able to take you from his love, care and protection. What more could anyone need or want? We have eternal protection and eternal life in Jesus.
Safe With the Shepherd – Psalm 23:3-4
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;
David is Safe With His Shepherd
The next two verses present us with the progress of the sheep in their walking with their shepherd. The first two verses show us the sheep at rest in the shady, green pastures. Now in vss. 3-4 we seen the shepherd leading through paths of righteousness and even through valleys filled with deadly shadows.
Phillip Keller wrote a book called “A Shepherd Looks At the 23rd Psalms.” I highly recommend it to be in your library and in your heart. In the book he presents the 23rd Psalms as a journey for the sheep as they travel for one year with their protecting shepherd. They begin in the valley pastures, then have to move through the dangerous narrow valley paths before they come to the high mountain tablelands. Vss. 3-4 are the description of that yearly journey.
David would have made those same journeys with his own flock. He knows that once the sheep know him, and trust him, they will follow him and for their good he leads them out of the lowlands and up into the highlands.
David as one of the Lord’s sheep knows that his soul has been restored by his time with the shepherd in the green pastures. He knows that he is now ready to follow as his shepherd leads him in righteous, true paths. As he faithfully follows wherever his shepherd leads, then the shepherds name, his reputation, his authority is clearly seen in the obedience and loyalty of the sheep who go where the shepherd leads.
Even when they come to places were predators wait to cause harm, David knows he is safe and fears no evil because the shepherd is with Him. The rod and the staff of the Shepherd will comfort him. And notice here in vs. 4 that the person of the shepherd changes from third person, He leads me, to second person, You are with me. The danger, the threats of the valley bring the sheep closer to their shepherd. David is no longer just talk about the shepherd, but is now talking to his shepherd who walks beside him in those dark paths.
Safe with My Shepherd
Jesus in John 10:11-15 says, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. -- The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
Do you know where boldness in the face of danger comes from? Do you know where you find courage while you stand in the valley of the shadow of death? It is not in us, we truly are sheep, but that boldness, that courage, that ability to say, I will fear no evil” comes from looking beside us and knowing my shepherd Jesus Christ the Son of God walks beside me.
One other thing as David found comfort in the rod and the staff, we as sheep of Jesus’ fold find comfort in our shepherd’s staff and rod. We could apply these words to many things, but I think two of the most comforting things that you and I can find to give us hope in time of trouble is God’s own word in the Bible and the gift of God in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Listen as he speaks to your mind and heart through this book and listen as he speaks to your spirit and soul with the unspeakable joy and hope of God the Spirit.
The Hymn Stand By Me was written by Charles Albert Tindley, born in 1851, he was the son of a slave, who lost his mother when he was very young, and was sent away from his family to live with an aunt in order to keep his freedom. Though he was free, he was still hired out by his family to work alongside slave throughout his youth. He taught himself to read and then taught himself the Bible and when God called him to preach he was ready. He was already a writer of hymns and including this very well know one.
He would often start his sermons by singing one of his hymns. And you can hear the voice of one of the Lord’s sheep calling out for the protection of His shepherd to be beside hims in time of trouble.
1 When the storms of life are raging,
stand by me; (stand by me)
When the world is tossing me
like a ship upon the sea,
thou who rulest wind and water,
stand by me. (stand by me)
2 In the midst of tribulation,
stand by me; (stand by me)
When the hosts of hell assail,
and my strength begins to fail,
thou who never lost a battle,
stand by me. (stand by me)
5 When I’m growing old and feeble,
stand by me; (stand by me)
When my life becomes a burden,
and I’m nearing chilly Jordan,
O thou Lily of the Valley,
stand by me. (stand by me)
Jesus stands by us and we have safety and protection in Him, while His Word and His Spirit will give us comfort and hope.
There is one location left in David’s journey with the shepherd. He has been with him in the low pastures of rests, walking beside Him in the narrow valleys of evil shadows and now they come to the high tablelands of peace.
Supper With the Shepherd – Psalm 23:5-6
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.
This journey began down in the lowland pastures but the shepherd would not leave the flock there, instead Het led them through the deep and dangerous valleys. Why would he put them at such risk? David knew as a shepherd and he expressed it as one of Jehovah’s sheep. In order to get to the high mountain tablelands they had to move, they had to leave the green pastures and brave the shadows to come to this place and the supper of serenity.
David is still speaking to his Shepherd directly, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” This is the high mountain pastures that shepherds in the Holy Land knew well. When the heat of the desert would burn up the grass in the lowlands, the sheep would have followed their shepherd to a table land, a mountain mesa, where He had prepared a place for them to find sustenance.
He rejoices in the provision of His shepherd. You have prepared the table, you have anointed my head with oil to sooth my hurts and pains. All David can say by way of thanks is, “O Lord, My cup runs over.”
Stephan Haboush, wrote a book called A Galilean Shepherd and the 23rd Psalms. In the Book, he talks about this phrase, “My cup runneth over.”
A pilgrim, having a very dear and intimate friend in a distant country, visits him. Upon his arrival, this pilgrim, though in a strange land, finds the gates and doors of the palace of his friend open and the friend standing expectantly with open arms to welcome him to his bosom. The pilgrim is refreshed wonderfully; the dust of the long and tedious journey is washed away, and he is made to feel at home. He did not dream of the wealth or of the great possessions of his friend, or of the beauty that he saw in every nook and corner of the magnificent palace. Every conceivable thing was lavished on the pilgrim. From the hour of his rising to the hour of his slumber he was entertained royally, for nothing was left undone to make his stay the richest experience of his life. Every wish, and every want was fulfilled.
The time of parting came. How will he express his appreciation to his wonderful host? If he offered gold and silver his friend would feel insulted, for he was vastly richer than the pilgrim. Would the mere words “thank you" or "much obliged" be sufficient to express his sincere appreciation of the wonderful hospitality? How, then, should he express his gratitude? The pilgrim, while visiting his friend, learned many strange customs. Time after time there came to his ears this expression: "Mamnonok-Kateerang." Upon inquiring, he learned it was the supreme expression of appreciation among true friends in the East: "My cup runneth over."
David closes by looking even higher than the table lands. He says, vs 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.
He looks past this high place of peace, past this serene supper on earth to a dwelling place for all eternity where He will be with His shepherd forever.
Supper In The Savior’s House
One day if we have heard the voice of our shepherd and answered that call. One day when we have journeyed through the paths of life where He has led us, we will come to a place in our relationship with Him, that will be like the tablelands David describes, a high place, like the Beulah land of the old hymn.
“Far away the noise of strife upon my ear is falling. Then I know the sins of earth beset on every hand. Doubt and fear and things of earth in vain to me are calling. None of these shall move me from Beulah Land. I am living on the mountain, underneath a cloudless sky. I am drinking at the fountain that never shall run dry. I am feasting on the manna from a bountiful supply, For I am dwelling in Beulah Land.”
There we may be surrounded by our enemies, but we know that we are safe and that God has provided everything we need. We are at peace in our relationship with Him. Our hurts, our pains, our sorrows are soothed by the balm of his anointing, the presence of His Spirit. And our deepest needs are met because He is with us. This is not yet heaven, but it brings us closer to what heaven will be like.
Then on another future day, we will leave behind even the high tablelands, leave behind Beulah land and go on to heaven itself and like David, dwell in the house of the Lord forever. There is so much in the phrase. the house of the Lord, to us it is heaven in the future, it is more than just a location we look forward to. The House of the Lord is protection now, it is ownership today, it is who we are and where we belong, now and for eternity. We are the sheep of his pasture, and we are also members of His mighty house.
Remember how Jesus expressed it in John 10:27-30? “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one.”
One God, One Lord, One faith, One people, One Flock, One House. We are protected under the authority and power of the House of God.
Conclusion: Crown Jewel
We began this sermon by saying that the 23rd Psalms was a crown jewel of the Bible and it truly is. So much beauty, poetry and truth in just 6 verses. But what we truly need is not to know the 23rd Psalms as a crown jewel of the Bible but as a crown jewel of my life. It should be an expression not just of David’s relationship with God but of my relationship with Jesus Christ. In its prose I should hear my own heart of discipleship, my own hopes of peace, my own heights of joy. I pray that you have heard your name called by the Good Shepherd and that you have answered that call.
Let me close with a poem inspired by Psalm 23. It is a pretty simple verse but it expresses the heart, hope and heights we’ve been talking about.
Drinking From the Saucer by John Paul Moore
I have never made a fortune,
And I will never make one now
But it really doesn’t matter
Because I am happy anyhow
As I go along my journey
I am reaping better than I have sowed
I am drinking from the saucer
Because my cup has overflowed
I don’t have a lot of riches,
And sometimes the going’s tough
But with kin and friends to love me
I think I am rich enough
I thank God for the blessings
That His mercy has bestowed
I am drinking from the saucer
Because my cup has overflowed
He gives me strength and courage
When the way grows steep and rough
I will not ask for other blessings for
I am already blessed enough
May we never be too busy
To help bear another’s load
Then we will all be drinking from the saucer
When our cups have overflowed