This is a psalm David wrote full of comforts, expressing delight in God’s great goodness and dependence upon him. He represents Christ dying for his sheep and Christians receiving the benefit of all the care and tenderness of that Great and Good shepherd.
Verse 1). “The LORD is my shepherd and I shall not want”; shows the great care God takes of believers. David himself a shepherd, knew by experience the care and tender affections of a good shepherd towards his flock. He knew what need the sheep has of a shepherd, and what a kindness it is for the sheep to have a skilful and faithful one. Here he illustrates God’s care of his people, and to this, the Word refers in Jn. 10:11; “I am the shepherd of the sheep; the good shepherd”. If God is a shepherd to us, we as sheep must be inoffensive, meek, and quiet, silent before the shearers, and before the butchers too, useful and sociable, we must know the shepherd’s voice and follow him.
The second part of this verse shows the great confidence believers have in God. “If the Lord is my shepherd, my feeder, I may conclude I shall not want anything that’s really necessary and good for me.” If David penned this psalm before coming to the crown, though destined to it, he had as much reason to fear wanting as any man. He inferred that he needs not to fear any evil in the greatest dangers and difficulties he could be in. Hence “I shall be supplied with whatever I need; and, if I have not everything I desire, I may conclude it is either not fit for me or not good for me or I shall have it in due time.
Verse 2). He maketh me lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside still waters.”
To all intents and purposes, believers just like David, find the comforts of the living saints in the all-sufficient God. In God’s green pastures, they are well placed and laid. They have the support and comforts of this life from God’s good hand; their daily bread from Him as their Father. God’s ordinances are the green pastures in which food is provided for believers. The Word of life is the nourishment of the new creature. It’s milk for babes, pasture for sheep, never barren, never eaten bare, never patched, but always a green pasture for faith to feed in. God makes his saints lie down; he gives them quiet and contentment in their own minds, whatever their lot is; their souls are at ease in him and make every pasture green. Are we blessed with the green pastures of ordinances? Let’s not think it’s enough to pass through them, but let’s lie down in them, abide in them; this is our rest forever. It’s by the constancy of the means of the grace the soul is fed.
The second part of this verse shows that those that feed on God’s goodness must follow his direction; he leads them by his providence, by His Word, by His Spirit, disposes of their affair for the best, according to His counsel, disposes of their affections and actions according to his command, directs their eye, their way, and their heart, into his love. God provides for his people not only food and rest but for refreshment and pleasure. The still waters by which he leads them to yield them pleasant prospects, a cooling draught, and an ever-reviving relationship when they are thirsty and weary. God’s consolations, the joys of the Holy Ghost, are these still waters, by which the saints are led. Streams which flow from the fountain of the living waters that make glad the city of our God, the silent purling waters; still but running waters agree best with those spirits that flow out towards God and yet do it silently.
Verse 3). “He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the parts of righteousness for his name’s sake”. Believers are well kept when anything ails them: You will agree with me that no creature will lose itself sooner than a sheep. Sheep have the tendency to go astray at any time and so unapt to find their way back. Even the best saints are sensible of their proneness to go astray like lost sheep. They miss their ways and turn aside into by-paths; but when God shows them their error, gives them repentance and brings them back to their duty again, he restores the soul. And if he does not do so, they would wander endlessly and be done. Remember David and how many times God restored his soul. Though God may suffer his people to fall into sin, he will not suffer them to lie in it. Many times we would have fainted, and it was the Good Shepherd that kept us from fainting.
The second part of this verse shows that God leads us in the way of our duty. By His Word, He instructs and directs our conscience and providence. These are the parts in which all the saints desire to be led and kept and never turn aside out of them where they are led by the still waters of comfort that walk in the paths of righteousness. It is peace – the work of righteousness. In these paths, we cannot walk unless God leads us into them and lead us in them. David further recommends to us that have had such experience of God’s goodness all the days of his life, he will never distrust God not even in extremity because all He has done for him was not for any of David’s merit but purely for His name’s sake, in pursuance of His Word, in performance of His promise, and for the glory of His own attributes and relations to His people.
Verse 4). “Yea, 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.” “Death” is one word which sounds terrible to many. We must all count upon this as there is no discharge in this war. Believers though are under the arrest of death, have received the sentence of death within themselves, and have all the reason in the world to look upon ourselves as dying men, yet are at ease.
But even in the supposition of the distress, there are four words which lessen the terror;
1. Supposed imminent danger;
a). It is but the “shadow” of death; there is no substantial evil in it after all the shadow of a serpent will not sting nor the shadow of a sword kill.
b). It’s the “valley of the shadow” of death, deep indeed, dark and dirty but the valleys are fruitful, and so is death itself fruitful of comforts to God’s people.
c). It is but a walk in this valley, a gentle pleasant walk. While the wicked are chased out of the world, and their souls are required; the saints take a walk through this valley of the shadow of death to another world as cheerfully as they take their leave of this.
d). It’s a walk-through it. Saints are not lost in this valley but get safely to the mountain spices on the other side of it.
2. The danger has been made light; secondly, death is the king of terror but not to the sheep of Christ; Believers tremble at it no more than sheep do that are appointed for the slaughter. None of these things moves them. A child of God may meet the messengers of death and receive its summons with Holy security and serenity of mind, bidding Holy defiance to death as Apostle Paul declared; “O death! Where is thy sting?” For there is enough ground for this confidence. Because there is no evil in death to a child of God, death cannot separate us from the love of God and cannot do us any real harm. It kills the body but cannot touch the soul. The saints have God’s gracious presence with them in their dying moments. The Good Shepherd not only conducts the convoy and comforts his sheep through the valley with His presence, His Word and His Spirit. God knows his people and takes cognizance of them. He guides them with his rod and sustains them with his staff.
Verse 5). “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies: thou anointest my hair with oil; my cup runneth over.” Here, David acknowledges God’s great goodness to him; “Thou has provided for me all things pertaining both to life and godliness, all things requisite both for body and soul, for time and eternity.”
He further declared the following:
1). That he had food, a table spread, a cup filled, meat and drink for his thirst.
2). That he had them carefully and readily provided for him. His table was well prepared even before him.
3). That he was not stinted, neither straitened, but had abundance; “My cup runs over, enough for his myself and friends too”.
4). That he had more than necessary. He was favoured and blessed with plenty. He looks at himself as “the poor man’s ewe-lamb” that did eat the man’s meat and drank of his cup while nobly and tenderly lying in his bosom. So are the children of God looked after? Plentiful provision God has made for their bodies, souls, life that now is and for that which is to come. It is our own fault if this plentiful providence God has made available to us in our natural life is not made to us also in spiritual blessings.
Verse 6). “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever”.
Comprehensively, David’s hope rises and his faith is strengthened. He confidently counts on the continuance of God’s favours.
1). By faith he claims for himself goodness, pardoning mercy, protecting mercy, sustaining mercy, supplying mercy, all the streams of mercy flowing from the fountain of God.
2). God’s manner of conveyance of this goodness and mercy is made clear; as the water out of the rock followed the camp of Israel through the wilderness, David declares by faith it shall follow him always, into all places and in all conditions.
3). He affirmed its continuation even to the last; for whom God loves He loves to the end.
4). “All the days of my life”, as duly as the day comes; it shall be new every morning like the manna that was given to the Israelites daily.
5). By faith, he declared its certainty. Surely it shall. It is as sure as a promise of the God of truth in whom we believe.
6). “Goodness and mercy having followed me all the days of my life on this earth, I shall remove to a better world, to dwell in the house of the Lord forever, in our Father’s house above, where there are many mansions. With what I have I am pleased much, with what I hope for I am pleased more”.
With all this, and heaven too, David resolutely determines to cleave to God and his duty. He made a covenant with God: “ I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (as long as I live), and I’ll praise Him while I have my being.”
Conclusively, believers must dwell in God’s house as servants, that desire their ears bored to the door-post, to serve Him forever. If God’s goodness to us be like the morning light which shines more and more to the perfect day, let not ours to Him be like the morning cloud and the early dew that passeth away. Those that would be satisfied with the fatness of God’s house must keep close to the duties of it. Amen!
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