Live can be overwhelming, but millions have found solace in the 23rd Psalm. David had seen it all, yet he remained anchored. Here is what he learned experientially as he learned to trust God through the ups and downs of life.
“The LORD is my shepherd”- RELATIONSHIP
Relationship with God is the heart and soul of what it means to be a Christian. The shepherd cared for the sheep 24/7. Do you want the constant care of and actual relationship with the Creator in your life?
“I shall not want” -PROVISION/SUPPLY
Have you ever been amused by the child on a family road trip who is worried about everything, then they finally breathe easy when they figure out that Mom and Dad have the situation under control?! When we realize that God will provide for everything we need to accomplish our mission on earth we can relax. We, the sheep, can approach life with a sense of freedom, expectation and adventure knowing that He has it all under control.
“He makes me to lie down in green pastures: -REST
On the tiered rocky hillsides there was little rain, but some condensation on rocks produced tufts of grass. It may not have looked to the sheep like there was enough provision there, but the shepherd know exactly where to lead them so that they would have enough. I love the way the Message expresses this verse- “You let me catch my breath”. God values us for more than what we can produce for him- he values us for who we are. He provides rest so that we will have strength for the journey.
“He leads me beside the still waters” -REFRESHING
God wants to lead us to the places where we can be refreshed- a quiet place to pray, a life-giving friendship, a tranquil place or an invigorating worship service. He wants us to find places of nourishment and the means of grace that we need to thrive in each season of life.
“He restores my soul” -EMOTIONAL HEALING
The trials of life can leave your soul depleted. God’s will is that our souls would flourish, be fully alive and constantly renewed. David had found that God restored his soul in many ways, including refreshing time with supportive people (Jonathan, the mighty men), worship times (this is where many of the Psalms come from), seeing God’s beauty in the created world, releasing people who hurt or betrayed hime, etc. Are you positioning yourself to allow God to restore your soul?
“He leads me in the paths of righteousness” -GUIDANCE
We are in constant need of knowing what the good and right paths are that we should take in life. Receiving God’s direction is one of the top issues that Christ followers concern themselves with. Years ago, when I was seeking God’s direction about who I should marry, a mentor gave me the following simple yet helpful grid to run decisions through: (1) The Word of God- what does the Bible say about this?, (2) The Wisdom of Godly Counsel- what are trusted advisers saying?, (3) The Working of Circumstances- what open and closed doors are before me?, and (4) The Witness of the Spirit- how may God be supernaturally confirming His will?
“For His name’s sake” -PURPOSE
The highest and most enduring purpose for our lives is to bring glory to His name. One of the best questions to ask ourselves is “Which course of action will bring the greatest amount of glory to God?”
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” -TESTING
There will be times in each of our lives when our faith is tested. In this case the ultimate testing is to trust God even when going through a place that is filled with death.
“I will fear no evil” -PROTECTION
David could have had many reasons to live in fear as he lived as a fugitive, was betrayed by those who should have supported him the most, and was slandered. Instead of looking at the size of the threat he learned to look at the size of his God!
“For You are with me” -HIS FAITHFULNESS
The companionship of God is perhaps the greatest gift we have in life and the greatest reason we can live a less anxious life.
“Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” -COMFORT
Apparently, shepherds at this time carried a club to defend against wild animals and a long pole to guide and control the sheep. They had a weapon in each hand! David comforted himself knowing that he was going to be safe.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” -SECURITY/CONFIDENCE
We should not be so naive at to think there are not enemies in our lives. At times we will encounter people working in cross-purposes to the purposes of God in our lives or saying the opposite of what God would say to you. Fear not. The situation is so secure that you can feast on while your enemies stand and watch helplessly.
“You anoint my head with oil” -REFRESHING
Barnes says that anointing with oil is indicative of divine favour, prosperity, and joy. This is why Eugene Peterson in the Message chooses this wording: ‘You revive my drooping head’.
“My cup runs over” -ABUNDANCE
When David focuses on the work of God in his life and not on situations that may be discouraging, he can exclaim that his cup is not empty it is full! He has more than enough for himself and for sharing with others.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” -BLESSINGS
While life is not always good, God is always good. Every day there will be an indication of God’s goodness and lovingkindness. They will chase him down and overcome him every day.
“And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” -FELLOWSHIP
The Lord here is Yahweh- first disclosed to Moses in Exodus 3 and is used thereafter in the Old Testament more than 4,000 times. The name literally means “I am who I am.” It is an inexhaustible name, like its bearer. It points to God’s timelessness on the one hand and His self-sufficiency on the other (James Montgomery Boice Psalms Vol.1, pp. 207). It is with this Lord that eternal fellowship is promised!
Some years ago at a drawing-room function, one of England’s leading actors was asked to recite for the pleasure of his fellow guests. He consented and asked if there was anything special that his audience would like to hear. After a moment’s pause, an old clergyman present said: “Could you, sir, recite to us the Twenty-third Psalm?” A strange look passed over the actor’s face; he paused for a moment, and then said: “I can, and I will, upon one condition; and that is that after I have recited it, you, my friend, will do the same.” “I,” said the clergyman, in surprise. “But I am not an elocutionist. However, you wish it, I will do so.” Impressively, the great actor began the psalm. His voice and his intonation were perfect. He held his audience spellbound; and as he finished, a great burst of applause broke from the guests. Then, as it died away, the old clergyman arose and began the psalm. His voice was not remarkable; his intonation was not faultless. When he had finished, no sound of applause broke the silence, but there was not a dry eye in the room, and many heads were bowed. Then the actor rose to his feet again. His voice shook as he laid his hand upon the shoulder of the old clergyman and said: “I reached your eyes and ears, my friends; he reached your hearts. The difference is just this: I know the Twenty-third Psalm, but he knows the Shepherd.” (http://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-stories-shepherd-7263.asp)
The LORD is your shepherd!