By Ps. Qui Lin
Psalm 23 is a beautiful psalm which has brought much comfort to many. It is a psalm that we would probably use in times of desperation. King David was acknowledged to be its writer and very often, we make the mistake of thinking that it was written when he was a shepherd boy. No, it was not written by a youth. It was written by one who had weathered much in life, a man who had been broken, but in spite of it all, he never wavered in his love for God.
Verse 1 reads, The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Do you know that in the Bible there are 200 references to sheep? So the role of a shepherd was very important in biblical times. In John 10:11, Jesus declares of Himself, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” He is not the hired hand, who on seeing the wolf would abandon the sheep and flee. In other words, Jesus is saying, “I will never leave you no matter what because I love you so much.” God has made this covenant with you the day you accepted Him as your Lord and Savior. When you go through trials, or times of confusion, you are often told that you should be faithful to God. But remember that God is faithful to you even before you are faithful to Him.
In the Bible Jesus told a parable of a man who found a pearl of great price. To obtain the pearl, he sold everything he had because that pearl was worth it. For us, that pearl is Jesus. Life sometimes requires a trade-off. When you want Jesus in your life, you have to give up some things because they would not align with Him. You might have tried to fill up the emptiness in your life by looking for love and meaning in different faces and places, but finally you realize that there is only one person who can complete you and His name is Jesus. St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the early church fathers had said, “Thou hast made us for thyself O Lord and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” Some of you may never have really allowed the Lord to enter your life. You have never really put yourself before the Lord because you are afraid. You feel that you are not good enough or there is something that is holding you back. Just take the step of letting Jesus complete you and you will never thirst again. Yes, you will still have issues and challenges, but you will have God before you.
Verses 2-3 reads, He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul. When does a soul need to be restored? It is when we have sinned against God, walked away from His principles and as a result messed up our lives, not once but repeatedly. We condemn ourselves and we wonder will God ever forgive or love us again? We should never think that God will ever walk away from us or that we can sin so greatly that He cannot forgive us. The word of God says that where sin abounds, grace abounds even more. You just need to come humbly before the Lord and say, “Lord, I have messed it up” and He will forgive you. Don’t ever let the devil tell you otherwise. Green pastures and still waters speak of peace and tranquility. Allow the Lord to put that inside you. There may be a raging storm outside but know that He goes before you. This is the faith we need to have, that God knows everything that is going to happen and it is all under His control. In the midst of heartache or discouragement He can bring joy, not happiness because the latter is dependent on the happenings around us. Look into the Bible because it is God’s love letter to you.
Verse 3 continues, He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. God wants you to continually advance in your Christian walk. You will never come to a point where you can say that you have arrived. God desires to change us so that we can be like Jesus. Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ,” and the Lord Himself has said that we are to walk in His steps. Yes, we can have people who guide us, but we should only have one role model, and that is Jesus. Because He is righteous, He leads us in paths of righteousness. At times, it will be hard. You may have to give up something you hold dear, but remember with God, you will never lose out. Any sacrifice that you have to make is always for your benefit. God is into things that are new and fresh. He desires us to be open to development, change and growth. We are meant to keep learning, becoming more like Jesus and discovering new truths.
Verse 4 says, Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Shadows speak of darkness and when we are there, we are unsure of where to go. In life, we always go through times of uncertainty, but with God going before us we need not fear. Trusting God changes everything, even in the most difficult circumstances. When our hope is in God and knowing that our life is in His care will sustain us when we otherwise can be devastated. Verse 4 continues to say, Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. In our context, what is this rod and staff? It is the Word of God. It provides principles which keep us in check and lead us. In this world we are constantly bombarded by all kinds of voices, doctrines and theologies. We can only know the truth by checking them with the Word of God. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Verses 5-6 of the Psalm reads, You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. When I am surrounded by difficult circumstances, the Lord will give me success which will also be seen by others. The Lord will anoint my head with oil. The word ‘anointing’ actually means making fat. In ancient times, a cow has a yoke around it, but the fatness of its neck will make the yoke easier to bear under. So, the anointing of the Lord makes me fat with Him, fat with the Holy Spirit. Finally, when I walk in His ways then I am assured that goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.
If you do not know the Shepherd who stands before you and if you do not have an intimate relationship with Him, you will never really know who you are and what you have. Look into the word of God and you will see a God who loves you so much that nothing can ever separate you from His love. Therefore, recognize who stands before you. He is the shepherd of Psalm 23. Let Him lead you.