PSALM 23: THE SHEPHERD AND HIS FLOCK
It is most appropriate that we begin this study with the psalm that has, no doubt, brought more comfort and hope to people of faith than any other passage in the Bible. This profound Psalm of David speaks of God's provision, restoration, guidance, and protection for those who follow Him. Psalm 23 speaks to all who hear it, for all of us have been weary, hungry, thirsty, and afraid of the "valley of the shadow of death." The imagery of the Lord's rod and staff gives us a picture of a Shepherd who defends us and will never let us stray from Him.
In verse 5, the picture changes to that of God as Host of a great banquet, an image of abundant love (see Song of Solomon 2:4). David's banquet was prepared "in the presence of his enemies"- the last place a warrior would want to be under normal circumstances. But David was not afraid because God promised to be with him. It was customary in biblical times to anoint a dinner guest with oil, a sign of welcome. David looked forward to sharing in God's banquet, which will never end because of His chesed, the Hebrew word that speaks of God's never failing covenant love.
Psalm 23 Amplified Bible
1. The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack.
2. He makes me lie down in [fresh, tender] green pastures; He leads me beside the still and restful waters.
3. He refreshes and restores my life [my self]; He leads me in the paths of righteousness [uprightness and right standing with Him- not for my earning it, but] for His name's sake.
4. Yes, though I walk through the [deep, sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort me.
5. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil, my [brimming] cup runs over.
6. Surely or only goodness, mercy, and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life, and through the length of my days the house of the Lord [and His Presence] shall be my dwelling place.
After reading this precious Psalm, some of the following questions may have flowed from your heart:
Why is the imagery of God as our shepherd particularly comforting to us? It is comforting because it speaks of His complete care, just as a shepherd in biblical times would provide for his sheep and protect them, even at risk of his own life, so it is with our God. HE has already given His life on our behalf and HE will do anything HE can to protect us, provide for us, and care for us. This should be a great comfort to our hearts and spirits.
How is it possible to enjoy the peace and rest of "quiet waters" even when life is turbulent? It is possible because the peace David spoke of comes from within, not from outward circumstances. If you have God in your heart, and you trust Him with your life, then you can have peace knowing that no matter what you go through, no matter what you may experience, HE will help you through it and provide whatever you need to do that. HE loves you with a complete love that does not lack in any area of your life!
How can we have hope even when we are in the dark "valley of the shadow of death"? We can have hope because even when things are darkest, God is there to protect and comfort us. God always knows where we are and what we need! There is nothing that you can go through that God does not know about, and there is nothing that the enemy can do to you that God cannot protect you from. HE will help you during your darkest hour! All you have to do is call on Him, (see Jeremiah 33:3).
Why would David want to "dwell in the house of the Lord forever" (verse 6)? The house of the Lord was the place where God's Presence dwelled among His people. David was saying he wanted to be with the Lord forever, enjoying His Holy Presence. We too can say that. We too, can experience the Lord's Presence forever. All it takes is spending time with Him, seeking Him, hungering for Him, talking to Him, worshiping Him, loving Him, and longing to spend time and be with Him just as He longs to spend time just with you. Can you lift your heart to Him today? Can you find a way to express what is in your heart to Him today? May we be ever mindful of His desire for us! May we be ever mindful that HE so longingly waits to hear us speak His Name and seek His face! Take some time during your busy days to thank the Lord for His comforting and guiding Presence.
To the listening ear I speak, to the waiting heart I come. Sometimes, I may not speak, I may ask you merely to wait in My Presence, to know that I am with you. Think of the multitudes, who thronged Me, when I was on earth, all eager for something. Eager to be healed, or taught, or fed.
Think as I supplied their many wants, and granted their manifold requests, what it meant to Me, to find amid the crowd, some one or two, who followed Me, just to be near Me, just to dwell in My Presence. How some longing of the Eternal Heart was satisfied thereby.
Comfort Me, awhile, by letting Me know that you would seek Me, just to dwell in My Presence, to be near Me, not even for teaching, not for material gain, not even for a message- but for Me. The longing of the human heart to be loved for itself is a something caught from the Great Diving Heart.
I bless you. Bow your heads.
(God's Longing taken from God Calling by A.J. Russell)
I pray that this lesson and devotion has blessed and touched your heart today. Please know that you are loved, valued, and appreciated, by God and by me.
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