Godís Faithful Provisions for His People Psalm 23

Dr. Jerry A. Collins

 

The essence of this Psalm is a meditation on all that the Lord does for the one who trusts in Him. Each individual sheep can claim the care which is promised to the whole flock. In the Psalm David meditates upon several significant ways that the persistent loyal love of the Lord provides for his spiritual and physical well-being. This faithful provision of the Lord draws David toward full communion with God in His house.

 

THE LORD SUPPLIES OUR SPIRITUAL NORISHMENT Verse 1-2

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures.

The Psalm begins with the metaphor the Lord is my shepherd. The stress is on my shepherd or my feeder. The image of God as a shepherd presents the Lord as spiritual provider for His people. God is not literally a shepherd and we are not literally sheep, but both are like that. As a shepherd of His people, the Lord feeds them by providing spiritual nourishment for their spiritual development. Often, this is done through His servants, who also have the responsibility of shepherding. Jesus instructed His disciple Peter, and later an apostle, to feed my sheep (John 21:16). Peter called elders to feed and care for their flock shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily (1 Peter 5:1-4). So, one image of the shepherd encompasses teaching.

PT: The description of leadership as shepherding, reveals that the ministry of spiritual leaders, disciplers, and teachers is a shepherding responsibility, not one of spiritual authority.

 

The metaphor continues with an announcement about the quality of this provision, namely, I shall not want or I lack nothing. What is being affirmed here is that there is no deficiency in the Lordís provision. The result of this provision is that it habitually supplies everything essential for the spiritual nourishment of His people. But not only that, itís quality is the best possible He makes me lie down in green pastures. Itís the rich and abundant grass of springtime. The image is that of grassy meadows where a shepherd regularly leads his sheep to lie down for refreshment from the journey, possibly after eating or during the heat of the sun.

PT: The lesson is that the Lord meets our spiritual needs and in the process supplies us with the very best provision of spiritual food at any time and anywhere we are in life.

 

THE LORD SUPPLIES OUR SPIRITUAL REFRESHMENT Verse 2-3

He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul.

The shepherd refreshes his sheep with cleansing and rest. Two things Godís people need relief from are guilt and shame, and anxious restlessness. The waters to which the Lord leads are quiet or restful. The Lord leads me beside these pools. Godís sheep are not taken to rushing streams or raging rivers, attempting to cross their currents or navigate their waves, but to still, calm pools of refreshment. While here, the sheep not only guzzle cool water, but the placid waters provide cleansing of soiled spots and washing of wounds from their travels.

PT: The Lord brings spiritual refreshment to His people. The Lord cleanses his people from sin and shame while providing spiritual renewal from the chaos of life.

 

The image beside quiet waters is an emblem of a spiritual reality He restores my soul. The Lord restores, rebuilds, repairs, and renews the life of His sheep. He brings their lives back to their original state of being, before chaos interrupted. God restores us to our proper spiritual and physical condition by forgiveness and personal renewal. Why would we need this kind of provision? One reason is our tendency toward spiritual waywardness. Sheep tend to wander, get lost, and endangered. An example is Jesus the shepherd retrieving the lost sheep who needed to repent. What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing (Luke 15:4-5).

PT: This spiritual healing and refreshment can come to us through prayer, teaching, and our own meditations upon the Scriptures. Our spiritual restoration is an essential component to living a righteous life.

 

THE LORD SUPPLIES US WITH APPROPRIATE GUIDANCE Verse 3

He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.

Here is affirmation that the Lord leads as a shepherd He guides me. This guidance is from the Lord effected through circumstances in life, or through the revealed Word of God, or by means of spiritual guides and teachers. Ultimately, God has sovereign control over the lives of His sheep to direct them as to where to go. The guidance is always in the paths of righteousness. These would be the right tracks, oneís that can be followed in order to find the way home safely. The fact that they are paths of righteousness makes them appropriate avenues to traverse.

PT: The most important question we can ask about ourselves in every decision we make is Ďhow righteous do I want to be?í That is always where our shepherd would lead us to go.

 

God, the shepherd, never leads His sheep in any other path but the righteous one. He does so because Godís nature is to do so, and Godís reputation is associated with His nature for His nameís sake. The life of the sheep is never jeopardized by following the Lordís guidance. If the Lord lost the sheep, or the sheep lost their way home, the Lord would gain a bad reputation as a worthless shepherd. But this is not possible for this shepherd, or for His sheep who follow Him.

PT: The people of God will experience conflicted messages from the world that can lead them astray. Godís guidance through His Word will always be appropriate righteous paths.

 

THE LORD SUPPLIES US WITH NECESSARY PROTECTION Verse 4

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

The idiom of walking through the valley signifies the dangerous way that the life of Gods sheep might take them. This image of difficult terrain to maneuver pictures some type of life-threatening experience for the sheep. This idea is suggested by the use of the shadow of death. It is a combination of two words meaning Ďdeathly darknessí or Ďdarkness of deathí. It is a figure that describes terrors in the valleys which stretched all over the wilderness terrain of Israel. It is a vivid description of the dangerous places where the threats to life is like death casting its shadow over the traveler.

 

Even traversing these valleys, Gods sheep need fear no evil. David, of course, had often found himself in such dilemmas. But the reason for no fear was because You are with me. The Lordís presence makes all the difference in the outlook of Gods peopleóeven if its as dangerous as the terror of the valleys of life. The Lord is with His people in those dangerous places. This protection is associated with the Lordís rod and staff. These images refer to the care and the defense the Lord bring to us in such vulnerable situations. He says they comfort me while traversing that dark valley. The rod prods us along while the staff lends us support where and when needed.

PT: When Jesus gave the disciples the Great Commission, Jesus promised and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). Peterís comforting words to us were to cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). Sometimes the Lord is with us through the valley like Job. At other times the Lord is with us delivering us from the valley like Noah. We can trust our Shepherd.

 

THE LORD SUPPLIES US WITH OUR PHYSICAL SUSTENANCE Verse 5

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.

With this verse we shift from the pasture and shepherd, to a banquet host. The Lord provides for His guests the way a banquet host does You prepare a table before me. It is the Lord who supplies all good gifts to us. James said every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow (James 1:17). Honored guests are safe because the host is obliged to supply for their needs even in the presence of my enemies. Sitting down to eat and drink in the midst of personal danger is a picture of sustenance and security the Shepherd supplies in life. God is always meeting our needs even Ďin the face ofí those who oppose or harass us.

 

The image You have anointed my head with oil is another gratifying provision of hospitality for an honored guest. The oil or perfume would be a welcome reprieve to freshen up before banqueting after a weather-beaten journey. Modern lotions and soaps would be equivalent to this refreshment, joy, and comfort provided before dining at a friendís home. Jesus acknowledged the woman anointing Him as an example of this refreshing hospitality. You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume (Luke 7:46). The final exclamation my cup overflows captures the idea that the Lord has filled His sheepís life with many, many good things. So good, in fact, they are abundant and magnanimous in nature.

PT: Ascribing this type of lavish treatment to God as a host is saying that our God in heaven welcomes us to His table of bounty, which is a perpetual provision of abundant joy and personal refreshment for His people. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33).

 

THE LORDS PROVISIONS ENCOURAGE OUR PRAISE AND WORSHIP Verse 6

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The word surely marks the conclusion to this meditation. There is a change from God as shepherd and host, to the focus on the Lord exclusively in his holy house on the house of he Lord. The entire mediation culminates in a desire for more communion with the Lord. Specifically, that communion is upon the goodness and lovingkindness of the Lord that will follow me in life. This combination of attributes is a way to fixate upon Godís faithful love for each of His sheep. God keeps His promises to His people. It is God who will pursue us and extend His loyal love every single step of the way all the days of my life!

 

Based upon this reality, Godís sheep are drawn to the place of praise and worship as they reflect upon the Lordís provision throughout life and in the very moment of need. For the Old Testament believer that meant returning to the Temple of God, the sanctuary. Here they would be taught the Word of God, pray and praise, and find forgiveness and provision through the sacrifices and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. It is in the sanctuary they could avail themselves of divine provisions where the presence of God would be realized.

PT: Christians now focus on the heavenly temple, the eternal dwelling place of God from where our God hears or prayers and supplies for our needs. This is the place of unbroken fellowship with our Lord.††

So What?

         We should meditate often upon the manifold provisions of the Lordís faithful love to each of us throughout our lives. Praise your Father in Heaven every time He supplies.

         We are always in the presence of the Lord today, and so we can walk in perpetual unbroken fellowship with Him as we are taught His Word, find spiritual restoration, guided into righteousness, reminded of His abundant provision, receiving from His bounty on life, and then spurred on to joyfully praise and worship our Lord.

         Like our Father, take on a spiritual shepherding responsibility for those believers around you, in your sphere of influence, by providing for their spiritual renewal.