Biblical Research Monthly
Dr. David L. cooper
November, 1950

Psalms 23:1-6

(1) A Psalm of David. Jehovah is my shepherd; I shall not want.
(2) He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside still waters.
(3) He restoreth my soul: He guideth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
(4) Yea, thou 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) Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou hast anointed my head with oil; My cup runneth over.
(6) Surely goodness and lovingkindness shall follow me all the days of my life; And I shall dwell in the house of Jehovah for ever.

Though most of us have been able to quote Psalm 23 from childhood, it is quite possible that we do not understand its full import. As a matter-of-fact, I doubt seriously whether any mortal has ever fathomed the depths of the truth involved in this simple statement of the special relation that exists between Jehovah and His faithful followers.

In the first four verses David compared the bond existing between God on the one hand and the believing, trusting, redeemed soul on the other to that which obtains between a shepherd and his sheep. In the last two verses this same relation is set forth in a different figure--that of a host who prepares a sumptuous feast and invites the psalmist as his guest to partake of His bounties.

The first consideration in approaching the study of this marvelous passage is for a person to determine whether or not he can truthfully speak of himself as one of the Lord's sheep. Jesus said that His sheep hear his voice and follow Him. A person's hearing and following, or his refusing to do so, settles the question, whether or not he is one of the Lord's sheep. If anyone has responded to the call of Christ and is following Him, the Lord has accepted him as a sheep. Everyone who has thus heard the voice of the Son of God has been regenerated, and the Spirit of God has taken up His abode in the heart and is bearing the fruit of the Spirit in the life.

The Lord promises to play the part of a shepherd to each of His sheep. In Palestine the shepherds care for their sheep, putting them in the folds in the evenings and allowing them to spend the nights there. In the mornings the shepherds lead them forth to green pastures and then to still waters, where they may lie under the shade of the trees during the heat of the day. They lead them from one place of rich pasturage to another and finally guide them back through the dark valleys to the fold for the night. It is the shepherd's responsibility to make all provisions for the sheep and to protect them. Thinking in terms of the shepherd's care of the sheep, then, David was led by the Spirit to express, in terms of the shepherd's caring for his flock, God's provision for and care over all who accept Him. The Good Shepherd leads them through every difficulty and protects them as they pass along the journey of life and will lead them into the fold of eternal rest and security throughout the ages of the future.

The Lord, the gracious Host, prepares a banquet for even the least of his guests--His children. This bountiful provision is expressed in terms of the running over of the banquet cup. The honor heaped upon the guest is set forth by the host's anointing the head of the guest with oil--a mark of great distinction. The Lord graciously provides a sumptuous banquet for His guests in the presence of their enemies. In, other words, He vindicates His people who, are trusting Him, and who may be assailed by enemies.

David, moved by the goodness of God, declared that He would dwell in the house of the Lord forever, or so long as he lived. In other words, he made a vow that he would never absent himself from the house of God, where be could go and worship in the beauty of holiness. May we follow his example!

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