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Written by: Pullen, Barksdale M. III    Posted on: 05/12/2003

Category: Bible Studies

Source: CCN

                          PSALM 23:1-4                       ****ROUGH DRAFT****                                 by                     Barksdale M. Pullen, III


.    A few months ago my father passed away rather suddenly at the age of 43. It was one of those experiences where emotions run high and mixed, feelings of sadness, and loss; and also happiness and joy for our Christian family, because we know he is in heaven in the presence of the Lord.  My father left me many things, but one I have grown to appreciate was his Bible, full of notes and markings.  Next to the twenty-third Psalm in his Bible is an asterisk, and the word 'good'.  For my father, and our family, this Psalm brought great comfort in the face of death, as it has for so many saints down through the centuries. It brought comfort because we knew that God was in control of every situation, even death.  We have confidence that my father is in heaven in the presence of God, with all the saints, because Christ has defeated death; and that one day, we too will also be with him.

.    This Psalm is a favorite to many people, because it is such a personal Psalm. 'The Lord is my shepherd..He makes me lie down...He leads me beside...He restores my soul...He guides me in the paths...I will fear no evil.' This truly is a beautiful, and personal Psalm.  But this morning I would like us to look at this Psalm, from another point of view, with God as our emphasis, trying to read the Psalm with the perspective that David had when he wrote it.  Please turn again with me and follow along as I re-read verses one through four, and notice what part God plays in the Psalm:

    1  The Lord is my shepherd,           I shall not want.     2    He makes me lie down in green pastures;           He leads me beside quiet waters.     3    He restores my soul;           He guides me in the paths of righteousness           For His name's sake.     4    Even though 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.



.    Let us take a few moments for a brief history lesson about the human author of this Psalm, David.  David was a man chosen by God, anointed by Samuel, to be the king of Israel.  Do you remember the story of David and Goliath? When all the army of Israel feared the mighty Goliath, David did not fear him. Why? In I Samuel 17:47, David says, "...it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give all of you into our hands."  David had a confident trust in the Lord; David knew that the Lord was in control of the situation.  From a young age David had a strong faith, and trust that the Lord was in control of everything.  Later in David's life when he was wandering around the wilderness, one step in front of Saul, the man that was trying to kill him, David still had confidence.  David knew that Saul would not kill him, because the Lord had promised to make David king over all Israel, and he believed God.  David had developed from experiences in his own life, from his simple beginning as a shepherd boy to his exalted position as king over Israel, a deep undoubting trust in God.  That God was in control of every area of life.  With that background, David is able to compose the twenty-third Psalm, knowing from experience that God is faithful.  Let us now look at this Psalm, with this same confidence that God is faithful.

    1. God provides(over-arcing principle) v. 1

    1  The Lord is my shepherd,           I shall not want.

.    Who is my shepherd?  It is the Lord! The true and living God.  David is able to say with pride and confidence that the Lord is my God.  It is not the weak god(s) of these Philitines, but the true God.  Who is your God?  What is the nature of your God?  Is it the omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscience (all-knowing), omnipresence (all-present), God of the Bible?  Or is the God you worship, a less than powerful God.  I believe that at times we want to take God and put in Him in a box.  We corner God up in our minds, and only bring Him out when it is convenient, or we really need Him.  We need to let God out of the box, and start thinking in terms of the real nature of God.  A God that really is omnipotent, omniscience, omnipresence, a God that can handle anything, from the creating of a universe by His Word, to the the needs of a small child. There was a tradition in the church we previously attended, before the Pastoral Prayer, if anyone had any requests, or praises he would speak up.  One Sunday a little boy, about 3 years old, spoke up and asked the preacher to pray that the people who stole his sled would bring it back.  This little boy had an undoubting trust in the God he worshipped, no problem was too big or too small for his God.  To us that boy's problem may have seemed small, but to him it was the biggest problem that he had. We have the privilege of worshiping the true God.  We must understand the nature of the God we worship, so that we can take to Him every concern we have, big or small.  So faithful is He, that we 'shall not want.'  Surely each of us has wanted something. I know that I have, especially around Christmas and my birthday.  What does David mean?  One of the characteristics of our being, is wanting to know the unknowable.  We each wonder,  "What will happen tomorrow, next week, or next year?", or "What is there after this life? What is heaven like?", or "Will I have food next week? A place to live?"  These are questions that sometimes plague us, but we need not fear.  Why?  Because God has provided for our every want our every need, and given us the answers.  We can know that God has prepared a place for us in heaven, and therefor we need not fear.  We know that God will provide for our every bodily need.  We need not fear what is going to happen tomorrow, because we know that God is in control, and we are promised in Rom 8:28, "...that all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."  God has given us that inner peace of our heart and mind, if only we take hold of it. The Lord God almighty is our God.  We need not want once we realize whom we serve, and cast all our cares upon Him.

    2. God makes v. 2

    2    He makes me lie down in green pastures;

.    The Lord is the one who makes us lie down in green pasture.  What are these 'green pastures' that God makes us lie down in?  What purpose do the green pastures serve for the sheep? The provide food, abundant & plentiful; they provide comfort, the reassurance of safety nestled in the grass; they also provide rest for the sheep.  The green pastures are always fresh, rich, and are never exhausted, for they are the Lord's pastures.  What source provides these same characteristics for us?  The Word of God.  The Word is fresh, rich, and never exhausted.  It is only because the Lord makes us, or allows us, to see the truth in His Word that we are able to.  The writer of the book of Hebrews encourages us to get into the meat of the Word. Why? Because by studying and living out the truths in the Word of God, we are able to know God in a more personal way.  If you feel that you are not as close to God as you would like to be, get down on your knees and ask God to make you lie down in the green pastures.  Ask Him to open up His Word to you, as you study His Word so that you may have a deeper relationship with God.  The pastures also provide rest.  Rest is very important for us in today's hectic world.  Have you taken time to rest with the Lord?  To rest with the Lord means that we stop all we are doing, and turn to the Lord in prayer and study, so that we may come away refreshed and rested by God.  Take time to stop, and rest with the Lord.

        3. God leads v. 2

          He leads me beside quiet waters.

.    Now we journey from green pastures to quiet waters.  The Lord leads us beside the quiet waters. An unusual characteristic of sheep is that they will not drink from running or moving water, only quiet or still water.  The Lord knows we have troubles in our lives, and the Lord will lead us through these troubles, at His timing, to rest.  David who was chased by Saul certainly had his troubles, but David knew that God was faithful.  He knew that God would lead him through this trouble to a place of rest and refreshment. We too must also have this trust, that God who is in control of all, we lead us through our troubles to a place of rest.  Not only should we take time to rest with the Lord, we must also take time to be quiet with the Lord. How will you every know that God is in control of this world, and cares for you personally, if you never take the time to stop, be quiet and listen to God.  I do not mean that you wait for a loud voice from heaven to say 'hello', but reflect on what you have studied, reflect on your life, reflect on what Christ means to you, and your commitment to Him.  Remember the words of Psalm 46:10, "Be still and know that I am God."

    4. God restores v. 3

    3    He restores my soul;

.    He restores my soul? Who does? It is the Lord almighty, this personal God who is in control of all the world, including our life.  The Lord is with us every step of the way.  He was with David from his early childhood to his accenting of the throne and during his reign.  Whenever David was alone, or even when he was full of joy, he turned to the Lord.  Doesn't it only make sense?  By turning to God through prayer and the living out of His Word, we are able to draw closer to God.  We can be strengthen by God, our Creator.  The one being in all the universe who knows us better than we ever will know ourselves. It only make sense that it would be He, that is able to fully restore our soul.  Again, how can we be restored by God, if we are too busy to take the time to fellowship with Him?  These are wonderful promises from God, but they are requirements for those promises.  Take the time to rest, and be quiet, with the Lord, so that you can be restored.

    5. God guides v. 3

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

.    Have you ever been on a vacation in a foreign land, and been at the mercy of the tour guide to get you back to the hotel? Or been on a scout outing, and depended on the Scoutmaster or SPL to lead you back home?  You know the feeling of having to depend on someone else to lead you back to safety, of having to put your trust in someone else.  Or perhaps you have been the leader, and know the feeling of pressure as you guide the group back.  You know that your reputation depends on you ability to lead.  Christ will take on this responsibility for us.  Christ leads us through the paths of life, only if we allow Him to lead.  Why does He lead?  Not for us, but for His name's sake.  His reputation depends on His ability to lead us to His Father.  At times we may not understand the path, but we can have confidence that the perfect Son of God is in control.  He will not guide us astray, but along the path which guides us home. Submit yourself to Christ, and allow Him to lead your life. And finally we come to verse four, a verse which brings so much comfort and joy to the believer and their families, when they are near death.

    6. God is with me v. 4

    4    Even though 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.

.    We have seen that the Lord God almighty is our shepherd.  We have seen that He is in control of every area of our life.  He has been with us through the journey of discovering Him, and now we see the Lord with us, and in control, even in the face of death.  We notice that the believer is walking through the valley of the shadow of death.  Because God almighty has defeated death, we need not fear this event.  In order to have a shadow there must be light.  Who is the light that casts a shadow over death?  It is Christ who is the light.  The light of Christ is cast upon the evil of death, and we but pass through it's shadow, for there is life in Christ.  We need not fear.  Why should we not fear?  Because Thou are with me, the Lord God almighty is with me.  The Creator of this universe, my Creator, the ruler of the universe, my ruler, my God is with me through this experience, and I will be with Him for all eternity!  His rod and is staff, they comfort me.  The rod and the staff, why should they comfort me?  The rod is used for protection for the wolves and snares of this life.  We have confidence that God is protecting us.  The staff the instrument of caring.  Hebrews 12:10 reads, "Our fathers disciple us for a while; but God disciples us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.  No disciple seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."  Because God loves us He disciples us.  We can find comfort in that because if God did not care, if He did not love us, He would not disciple us to bring us closer to Him.  When we look back over our lives we can see how God has used everything that has happen to us, to bring us closer to Him.  We can see that God is real, that He is in control, that He loves us, and He will not dessert us even in the face of death.


.    We can be thankful for the example of David in the Old Testament. David was a man who from his early childhood saw the present of God in his life.  Over his lifetime he saw God working, and using him to accomplish bigger and better deeds.  David trusting in the Lord, and believing that the God whom he worshiped, was true, real, living, and in control of every area of life developed confidence not only in his belief in God, but also saw the nature and power of God.  David learned to trust God, he learned faith in God, and he learned how to worship God, because he had learned from his live that God was in control over all of his life, every aspect of it. Where are you in your walk with God?  Who is the God you worship?  Have you given God the chance to show His greatness?  The more you allow God to take control of your life, the greater your understanding of God becomes, and the greater your own assurance of salvation becomes.  Look over your life and find the places where God is at work in your life.  It should be your entire life.  Take time to get to know God, study His character, pray that He will give you the confidence you require to trust Him, so that you can believe that the God whom you worship is truly the One who is in control of all. Have you learned to trust God, to have an undoubting trust in God, and to worship God in the manner that is fitting for the Creator of all?  Remember God is in control and He has promised us in Deuteronomy 31:6, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid of terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."

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