Lucia's Blog: MY CUP RUNNETH OVER - PSALM 23
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

MY CUP RUNNETH OVER - PSALM 23

“Jehovah is my shepherd; I shall not want.  2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside still waters.  3 He restoreth my soul:  He guideth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  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.  5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:  Thou hast anointed my head with oil; My cup runneth over.  6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness shall follow me all the days of my life; And I shall dwell in the house of Jehovah for ever.”  
Psalm 23


No Psalm is more beloved than the 23rd. We find special strength in its poetry when we are beaten down and at a loss to know what is going on. We cry out, "I need you, Lord," and He answers with Psalm 23. Let me walk with you again through the verses that comfort me in my times of weakness.

The last two weeks have been tough for us since the passing of our little Guiovanella, the daughter of my niece Zailin.  She was only 10 years old.  Guiovanella lost her battle with brain cancer and is now in heaven.  She is at rest and feels no pain.  Her joys now will have no end.  Her mother Zailin is in deep mourning over the death of her sweet little angel.  I can't imagine the pain of a mother who has lost her little girl to whom she was devoted for 10 years.  As I reflect on Guiovanella’s pain and suffering because of brain cancer, I cannot help but be deeply moved.  We weep together for a little girl who worried as much about her mother and her well-being as her mother did for her.  The remarkable love between a mother and her child!  I am reminded that suffering is necessary so that we as Christians may be transformed into the image of God.  No matter how righteous a Christian may be, he is not exempt from suffering and we must learn to accept our trials and sufferingsAll our trials and sufferings refine our faith and mold us into what God wants us to be that we might be faithful to Him until we die.  In all our sufferings and difficulties, our Lord Jesus Christ is honored.  And no matter what happens in our life, our Lord and Savior must be honored, for He is worthy of all honor and praise.   We must continue with joy and confidence in our eternal home.  Our faith must remain strong, that we not become bitter, sour and ungrateful

Our pain grows our faith to the salvation of our soul.  Our faith helps us to endure all of life’s difficulties.  God uses afflictions to perfect our faith for our good.   Indeed, it is difficult to have a positive and peaceful mindset when we are going through trials and pain.  But there are so many disguised blessings when we are enduring the pain and struggling to survive and keep afloat.  Our expectations are debilitated and shattered.  We forget what God can accomplish through our painOur fervent love for Christ must not be hindered by our trials and sufferings.  Often in our pain, we stop reading and studying our Bibles. We stop praying and begin forsaking the assembly of those who have the same precious faith.  Our desire to honor Christ must compel us to pray, praise, study and have fellowship with Him and with one another during the days of suffering.  God allows suffering for a reason. It is for His glory.  Suffering with hope and praise honors Christ, for He alone is our solid Rock in Whom we find refuge and strength.  

All faithful Christians must be ready for hardships, difficulties, discomfort, and afflictions. Satan uses our afflictions to move us away from God.  He wants us to abandon and compromise our faith.  His goal is for us to give up because of our sufferings.  He delights in striking us from every angle so that we give up on God.  Satan wants to hear us say, “It’s too much and it is too hard!”  Satan wants to wreck our lives so badly that we give up on God.   And it does not matter if we lose everything in this life, we must learn to live for God, that is, honor, serve and worship Him.  We must surrender to Him whatever He gives us in life. We must trust God while suffering, (1 Peter 4:19).  Our suffering demonstrates our genuine faith and continues to do good.  In doing this, we will defend the hope we have in Christ and will help others to come to Christ.  We will motivate unbelievers by the way we behave in the face of suffering.  When we continue steadfast in our service to God in the face of suffering, we are opening doors for unbelievers to come to Jesus.  This is how we honor Jesus as holy in our lives.  Honoring Jesus is rejoicing even in our massive trials.  We must be like Job who said, “Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive adversity.”  (Job 2:10).  “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away’ blessed be the name of the LORD.”  (Job 1:21).  Amen to that!!

Therefore, I am resolved not to be moved by my afflictions.  I must be ready to suffer and carry Jesus’ cross no matter what may come my way in this life.  I am ready for trials and sufferingsI will take joy in Christ who gives me the strength necessary to bear all of life’s pain and trials.  He is our Comforter and the Father of all mercies who comforts us in all our afflictions, (2 Cor. 1:4).  Pain has taught me that we must share the comfort of God with those who are afflicted and need it most.  God’s comfort does not end with us.  God has taught me to comfort others with the same comfort I have received from Him.  God comforts us in our afflictions, that we may be His conduits of comfort to others who are also suffering.  You see, our suffering has a divine purpose.  God’s purpose is that we may understand compassion toward another.  Suffering is not a competition about who is or has suffered the most.  I often hear people who are suffering say that their suffering is so much worse than anyone else’s.  This is na├»ve. It hinders us from being a channel of real comfort.  We must not wallow in self-pity seeking the attention of others, but rather lift our eyes and see the ways that we can comfort others in our afflictions. 

I have learned that suffering and pain are good for me.  And no matter how intense is my affliction, God will find a way to provide what I need to comfort me.  I am happy to be sharing in the sufferings of my Lord Jesus.  Through pain and suffering, I have come to know the power of God.  Suffering grows my faith in Christ, for it compels me to rely on His power and not my own.  And though we might find ourselves utterly burdened beyond strength, God is able to deliver us.  But we must depend on Him for deliverance.  God can strengthen and comfort us so that we might endure our afflictions.   God’s comfort is not intended to make us comfortable but rather comforters.  Our pain and trials must be used to help others who are enduring the same.  May we learn to comfort those who are suffering and be the means of God’s comfort to them, (2 Cor. 1:3-4).  I'm so glad to have Zailin and her son Angelino with us during this time of bereavement and to be allowed to be part of their family.  I hope to provide support, love, and comfort for them.  I need to demonstrate the sincerity and reality of my faith and love to them.  

The Psalms have become my best and most loyal companions in the valleys of despair. I go to them for guidance, comfort, refreshment, and healing.  They teach me to trust in God despite my circumstances.  When my heart is overwhelmed, and my world is upside down, they guide me and force me to discern and accept that God's ways are not my ways and that I must hold on to Him even when it seems like He is not holding on to me.  They help me understand God more and more.  As I read and meditate on them, I see that I must walk with Him faithfully in a real world of pain and suffering.  They teach me to trust in Him, for He is working behind the scenes and behind the real screen of the great unknown.  He is with us even when our mind and heart are clouded by the hopeless mist of struggles.  They help me to trust in Him even when I cannot see His obvious works, His great deliverance.  Indeed, they strengthen my petitions to God for help.  O how I long to immerse myself in His Word when my heart is distressed!  It is the only antidote that heals my heart.  In a few words, the Psalms, the Word of God, help me to face tragedy, for it keeps me focused on the unseen,  and acknowledge God (trust Him, His Word and His providence). 
  1. The Psalms help me to cast my burdens upon Him, for He will sustain me and carry me through suffering with strength and hope. 
  2. The Psalms motivate me to search the Scriptures diligently when tragedy strikes, for His Word strengthens us and helps us to examine our faith and walk with Him.
  3. The Psalms cause me to number my days that I may gain a heart of wisdom, turn away from evil and do righteousness with zeal.
  4. And finally, the Psalms teach me to give thanks for all things whether I am high on a mountain peak or deep in the valley of despair.

I have selected Psalm 23 because of its beautiful confidence, trust, and satisfaction in our Jehovah God.  This magnificent Psalm exalts God's goodness toward us, His care and grace for us.  This Psalm describes the beautiful relationship between David and God.  This intimate relationship makes it indeed the “He/me” or the “I/LORD” Psalm.  Throughout this Psalm, David acknowledges that true peace is found and rooted in our unwavering faith and communion with God.  It is a Psalm about the Great and Good Shepherd who loves us. He cares and provides for all our basic needs in life.  Our Jehovah God is the Shepherd who provides rest, guidance, protection, food and fellowship.  As we read this Psalm, we notice what the Shepherd does for His sheep.  This Psalm pictures God as our sustainer, guide, teacher companion, protector, comforter, encourager, and host.  This Psalm is about the LORD.  David begins by expressing his satisfaction in God (comfort, joy, contentment) and his relationship with God.  It ends with David's expression of confidence in God's gracious goodness toward him both in the future as past.


I.   THE FAITHFUL SHEPHERD:  (23:1-4)
“Jehovah is my shepherd; I shall not want.  2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside still waters.  3 He restoreth my soul:  He guideth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  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.”
  • “Jehovah is my shepherd; I shall not want.”  (Verse 1)
    • “Jehovah is my shepherd.”
The first line is the greatest expression of contentment in the entire Psalm.  It portrays a sustaining relationship between the shepherd and his sheep (God and Christians).  God is the faithful Shepherd who provides, guides and restores His sheep, His faithful followers. The Good Shepherd takes good care of His sheep. As a Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ gave His life for His sheep and arose from the dead.  David was a shepherd.  He was known as the “Shepherd King” of Israel.  Kings were usually described as shepherds, (1 Kings 22:17; Jeremiah 23:1-4; Ezekiel 34:1-10; Song of Songs).  The Lord is our leader, teacher, and king.  David saw Jehovah, the God of Israel as his Shepherd.  He speaks of the Shepherd as his owner and manager.  He says, “Jehovah is my shepherd.”  It is a confession of faith, for no one leads us like He does.  The Shepherd is good, for He invites us to come and taste of His goodness.  In John 10:11, our Lord describes Himself as the Shepherd who is good, genuine and perfect.  As the faithful and good Shepherd, He never misleads His sheep, for He loves us and knows what is best and what is good for us.  Nothing escapes His presence, for He is not only good but also an all-powerful Shepherd.  He is the I AMJesus our Lord is the perfect fulfillment of all the Old Testament Law.  The Good Shepherd laid down His life for the sheep and then He took it up again, (John 10:11, 15, 17, 18).   The Shepherd knows His sheep, (John 10:14) and they likewise know Him.  No one knows the sheep like the Good Shepherd, (John 10:28).  The sheep must trust and obey their Shepherd.  He leads them to green pastures and still waters.  He knows what pastures are best for His sheep.  Isn't it wonderful that God in all His glory, wonder and power is our Shepherd!
    • “I shall not want.”
The word “want” in the Hebrew means “lacking.”  It expresses more the idea of lacking nothing and finding fulfillment in God.  Our God is our sufficiency.  As one who had authority over his sheep, David writes about himself as the shepherd who lives with sheepOur God supplies our every need and not our every want.  As Paul told the Philippians, “And my God shall supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:19).  The same God who sustained the children of Israel, and fed Elijah by the brook, also provided for the needs of His disciples who were sent out without staff or shoes. He is the same God who has promised to provide for both our physical and our spiritual needs.  He does this because He loves His faithful sheepHe wants to see His faithful sheep be well fed, satisfied, safe and flourishing under His care.  Our Good Shepherd provides shelter, a refuge from the storms of life.  He likewise provides protection from our enemies and everything that can harm His sheep.

On the other hand, Jesus calls Satan, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”  (John 10:10).  Jesus says of Himself, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  Notice the two voices that call the sheep to follow them:  one is a butcher, thief, and destroyer of sheep.  The other one is a shepherdSatan knows your name, but he calls you by your sin.  On the other hand, Jesus knows your sin, but He calls you by your name.  You see the butcher will slaughter us when he fattens us.  The Good Shepherd wants us to have an abundant life

When we surrender our will to the will of God, we are putting our lives in His hands (the relationship of the sheep with their shepherd).  In doing this, we will lack nothing.  Our relationship with the Shepherd is sufficient and there is no deficiency, for He provides what we need.  That does not mean that our lives are going to be free of difficulties, but rather that all our needs will be supplied.  Our satisfaction must be the Lord and nothing else.  True contentment is found in God Himself as our ShepherdWhat we have in the Lord is much greater than what we don't have in life.  God is all we need, for He provides His children what they need.  Therefore, there is nothing else that we need but Him.  When we trust our Shepherd, we lack no good thing... ever!!  There is nothing to be afraid of or worried about because He is with us all the way until the gates of heaven.    Truly, “Jehovah is my shepherd; I shall not want!” 
  • "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside still waters."  (Verse 2)
    • “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”
 Indeed, it is difficult to get sheep to lie downThey refuse to lie down unless they are free from all fear, tension, flies or parasites and hunger.  The good shepherd must make sure that his flock is free from disturbances or turmoil.  You see sheep are easily frightenedBut nothing quiets the sheep like seeing their shepherd in the field with them.  Isn't that a beautiful picture! Like sheep, we also are easily frightenedWhy?  Because life is uncertain.  Often the unknown and the unexpected is what frightens us the most.  But nothing quiets our souls better than knowing that our Good Shepherd is near to protect us from all harm.  Whenever our Shepherd is near, we find rest for our weary souls.  His presence puts an end to all our fear, tension and worry.  Our Good Shepherd provides us with the spiritual food that our souls desperately hunger for.  Our Shepherd has promised us that He will satisfy our hunger and thirst, that is, if we seek after His righteousnessIsn't that marvelous!  Indeed, Christ our Lord meets all our needs.  That is why He “maketh us to lie down in green pastures.”

In Matthew 11:28, our Lord, the good and faithful Shepherd, invites us to “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  He also declares, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  (Matt. 11:29-30).  God wants us to lie down and trust Him; to listen to Him and follow Him.  We can rest assured that He is able to take our burdens and cares upon Himself, for He has promised us that He will carry them.  So why is it that so many Christians prefer to be burdened with life's worries, anxieties, cares, struggles, guilt and many other troubles that come our way instead of trusting Him to carry them for us?  We must learn to trust Him and have faith in Him to help us carry them.  We lack faith when we refuse to believe that He will provide for our needs.  We are rejecting the rest He has promised to give us.  In Jesus, we find the rest our weary souls need so desperately. 
    • “He leadeth me beside still waters.”
The Good Shepherd also leads us beside still waters.  The quality of God's provisions is the best.  In the Bible, churning turbulent waters represent distress, (Isaiah 43:2; 28:2; 2 Samuel 5:20).  On the other hand, calm or still waters represent spiritual cleansing, (Leviticus 11:32; 16:4; 17:15; Numbers 19:7; Exodus 30:18).  God cleanses us from sin and provides spiritual restoration, refreshment and renewal to lives in turmoil.  Sheep need water to survive, but they will not drink from turbulent waters, for they require “still waters.”  Our Lord has told us that our thirsty souls can only be satisfied when they come to Him and drink His water.  He said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, from within him shall flow rivers of living water.”  (John 7:37-38).  Our Shepherd indeed leads us beside still waters.
  • “3 He restoreth my soul:  He guideth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (Verse 3).
    • “He restoreth my soul.”
He leads us beside still or quiet waters to refresh our souls as we walk life's journey.  Still waters represent spiritual cleansing.  Our Good Shepherd can restore our souls, for we cannot fix ourselves alone.  We cannot restore our broken lives using the wisdom of this world.  We need our Shepherd to heal and restore us from the weight of sin.  Our Good Shepherd can restore our broken lives, for He leads us to His paths of righteousness when we are hopeless.  His paths are perfect.  His path of righteousness is His Word, For His Word is a lamp to our feet and Light to our path.  (Psalm 119:105).  Our Good Shepherd wants to lead us in His path of righteousnessHis guidance and leadership provide just what our souls need to be satisfied.  But we must seek His path of righteousness and walk in it, that we might find guidance and lack nothing in life.  When we walk His path of righteousness, we can rest assured we will not lack restoration, healing, and refreshment.  Our Shepherd restores His sheep before they die.  God puts us back on our feet and He picks us up when we fall over.  We need the Lord our Shepherd to set us on our feet.  This same sentiment is found in Psalm 18:16-19: “He sent from on high, he took me; He drew me out of many waters.  17 He delivered me from my strong enemy, And from them that hated me; for they were too mighty for me.  18 They came upon me in the day of my calamity; But Jehovah was my stay. 19 He brought me forth also into a large place; He delivered me, because he delighted in me.”

Don't we often find ourselves spiritually like these sheep?  We seem to be spiritually on our backs, for we find ourselves helpless and hopeless.  But God in His goodness and steadfast love (grace) has come to us when we were spiritually lost.  He has set us back on our feet when we stumbled and fell, because of His mercy and grace through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  God can restore us with compassion when we fall downOur merciful God restores us back to Himself when we cry out to Him for help.  Isn't He a patient and tender God? Is it not marvelous how He helps us and puts us back on our feet when we stumble and fall!!
    • “He guideth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”
Sheep often wander away.  In Isaiah 53:6 we read of this concept.  “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and Jehovah hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”  Like sheep, we have gone astray and have turned to our own way.  But our merciful God and Good Shepherd leads us down the right path of righteousness.  Our God wants to help us by guiding our footstepsSadly, we often reject His guidance and His path of righteousness, the right path.  We forget that He can give us direction through His revealed Word and answered prayers.  But we must let the Good Shepherd lead us in the right direction to save our souls.

“For His name's sake” means that He is concerned about His name, for He wants His name to be protected as holy.  This is who He is.  He wants to lead us in the paths of righteousness because He is holy and right.  He loves His sheep and wants to lead them.  Remember, it is His reputation that is on the line and not that of the sheep.  If the sheep are lost, it is their own fault.  But if they prosper and grow, it is the Shepherd's success.  As His sheep, we must represent Him well and honor Him in all aspects of life.  Therefore, God's reputation must be honored, and His glory must be revered.  His name must be glorified, for it is not just a name but His very being and character.  Often, we deny the glory that He deserves when we wander off His path of righteousness and choose to reject the guidance that He is offering us.  "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'"  (John 14:6).
  • “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.”  (Verse 4).
    • “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me.”
This verse is often used to comfort the dyingEven though it expresses such hope, the central concept is that the Shepherd is protecting His sheep from harm and danger.  A good shepherd leads his sheep from the high pastures during the summer to the valleys of lowlands during the winter.  But despite all this, there are times when the sheep will pass through dangerous places.  For God's children, there are times when we seem to be lying down in green pastures and other times when we are led through the valley of the shadow of death’s dark valleys.  Our God is tenderly leading us in either case.

Our Father in heaven knows quite well exactly when we are going to need His strength and provision. He will supply the strength we so desperately need, just in time. David acknowledged that though he walked through the valley of the shadow of death, he would fear no evil. (Psalm 23:4). He knew what it was like to be in the dark valley of mourning. For many of us, the darkest valley of all is the one we dread the most to cross.  David describes this valley as one of deep darkness. It speaks of our dark experiences in life.

In Psalm 23, David reminds us that our world is not ideal, but full of dark valleys, (verse 4); with the presence of evil enemies, (verse 5). David did not feel safe in this environment. He was marred and scarred spiritually and in great danger. And although he had struggled through many difficulties, he remained faithful and confident that God would be with him in the many dark and somber times. David applied the Word of God in his own life. Did you know the words “The LORD is my Shepherd” were spoken by Jacob first? Toward the end of his life, Jacob gives his patriarchal blessing to Joseph's sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, saying:
“The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,  the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, 16 the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys; and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” (Genesis 48:15-16).
God's children go through many dark valleys in life.  Some of us have deeper valleys than others. Some have fewer valleys.  Our journey is not always tranquil and easy, for we must go through difficult and trying times.  We must pass through these valleys to reach our green pastures.  We must pass through these valleys to strengthen and develop our character and grow in our faith.  These valleys are good for us, for they strengthen our faith and confidenceWe must confidently trust Him to work things out for our good, for He will do what is right and best for us.  Sadly, many do not have such hope or confidence because they do not have GodOur Good Shepherd walks near His sheep, His children, to steer them past dangerous places, narrow and slippery paths.  It is during these harmful and trying times, the deep valleys of life that distress us and make us afraid, that our God moves us along-side of us with His rod and staff to help us and encourage us.  Without God in our lives, our trials, traumas, and sufferings will make no sense and have no value. We will not have God's deliverance to overcome them.  For us Christians, we have the confidence and hope that He is working on our behalf to do what is best for us.

Indeed, Jacob was a man who walked through many dark valleys both morally, spiritually, emotionally and physically. He was brought up in a family where there was favoritism (Isaac loved Esau and Rebekah loved Jacob more, Genesis 25:28). He likewise had plotted with his mother to cheat his foolish brother Esau of his birthright, Genesis 25:29-34). He deceived his father, (Genesis 27). In a similar twist, he found himself deceived by his uncle, Laban. He found himself married to the wrong woman, Leah, rather than Rachel, the one he loved, (Genesis 29:15-30). Jacob had known fear and loneliness, but God's grace met him at Jabbok where he wrestled with Him. God fashioned and modeled Jacob into a great man, a prince, (Gen. 32:22-32; Hos. 12:4).

Though God had fashioned the broken Jacob into a great man, he still made mistakes later in his life. Mistakes he apparently imitated from his own parents: “Now Israel (Jacob) loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors.” (Genesis 37:3).

Jacob had struggled with God and with men, (Genesis 32:28). But toward the end of his life, Jacob could look back and rejoice that Jehovah God had been his Shepherd, seeking him like a lost sheep, rescuing him, healing him and providing for him. Here is beautiful beyond words!!

David shared similar experiences. He too wandered in the darkness. He also discovered that “the LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.” And that His God had been with him and was still with him. David acknowledged that God shepherded him through the darkest valleys of his life with His presence and strength and that God was all-sufficient to keep him strong and firm

The word “evil” in this context means disaster and danger rather than moral evil.  The phrase “shadow of death” implies disaster and danger, (Psalm 44:19; 107:10; 10, 14).  The picture that the Psalmist paints is that of death casting its shadow over us the travelers.  And though the Shepherd leads us in the paths of righteousness, the right paths, at times those paths seem to be “the valley of the shadow of death.”  Why?  Because since we are with the Lord, we feel that He should lead us away from or around the valley of the shadow of death.  However, the sheep must trust the Shepherd when walking through this valley.  And even though we are led through such a valley, we must not fear disaster, harm, and danger, for our Shepherd is with us to take care of us and provide what we need.  His presence is all we need, for it makes all the difference in this world.  Our merciful and loving God is our comfort in our valleys of pain and sorrowWhat a wonderful Comforter is our God who empowers us to fear no harm!!  We can confidently trust Him to help us handle the valley of the shadow of death, for He is with us.
    • “Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”
God's presence and power can free us from our fears when we are traveling through our dark valleys of difficulty and trials“For thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” Such precious words of comfort! David recognized that God is present in our lives and that He is leading us through these valleys.  He is there to protect us and see us through these difficult circumstances.  Our Good Shepherd uses His Shepherd’s staff to work with us His sheep. The rod is like a club.  The shepherd learns early in life how to throw it with speed and accuracy.  The rod becomes his main weapon of defense for both him and his sheep.  He uses it to drive off predators like coyotes, wolves, cougars or stray dogs.  It is also used to beat away snakes.  The rod is also used to disciplineWhen the sheep wander away or near any danger, the rod is thrown to send it back to the flock.  On the other hand, the staff is a long, slender stick that usually has a hook on one end.  The shepherd uses his staff to guide his sheep along a new path or through a gate.  He does not beat the sheep but nudges them alongSometimes, the staff is used to get the sheep out of trouble, pull them from the water or protect them from thorns.  We, God's sheep, are comforted by His authority, power, might, and guidance, for His rod and staff comfort us while we travel our pilgrim journey.

Thus, the Good Shepherd, our Lord, directs, retrieves, and disciplines us. His rod or cudgel hangs from His belt and is ready to defend and protect us.  We the sheep look on these things to remind ourselves that the Shepherd will protect us well, for He cares for us.  His rod and His staff will comfort us, for He is with us to help us overcome our difficulties and trials, as we pass through the fearsome valley of death.  David confidently said, “I fear no evil (danger or harm), for Thou art with me.”  I cannot fathom how people in this world can get through their trials and difficulties in life without God!!  Our loving and merciful God is our surety and strengthen during the darkest times.  He works things out for our good and will do what is best for us, His sheep and His children.  You can trust in Him to get you through the darkest valleys.


II.   THE GRACIOUS HOST:   (23:5-6)
“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:  Thou hast anointed my head with oil; My cup runneth over.  6  Surely goodness and lovingkindness shall follow me all the days of my life; And I shall dwell in the house of Jehovah for ever.”  
  • “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:  Thou hast anointed my head with oil; My cup runneth over."   (Verse 5)
    • "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies."
We have come to the conclusion of a beautiful Psalm.  We began with a shepherd and his sheep and have shifted to a king sitting with his guests and feasting at the table.  The shepherd is the king.  The Psalmist moves from the shepherd and his sheep to the figure of a host and his guests.  In this scene, we picture a well-set table, a feast, for the invited guests.  The guests are given a place at the king's banquet table.  They indeed can enjoy the king's provisions and rest even amid their enemies.  Our God takes care of us in the presence of our enemies.  Our High Priest has been tempted in all points like we are.  He has known our sorrows and struggles and has endured them so that He can help us.   The LORD is our host.  Our enemies can do nothing but gaze at the banquet table.  God provides His faithful children a banquet of blessings even though the table of blessings seems to be surrounded by harmful circumstances.  

God has promised His faithful followers that He will bless them.  God will make provision for His sheep, His faithful followers, even in the presence of enemies.  God will glorify and honor us even amid our enemies who eagerly try to ruin and discredit our reputation. They want to destroy us.  God's splendid blessings are more than we can imagine.  He is the source of our joy, comfort and revival, our refreshment.  His refreshment is great and overflowing.  He fills our life the same way he did David.  Notice that David exalted God when his life was painful and very difficult.  Our hope in the LORD is not to avoid pain and the difficulties in life but rather to have a full and satisfying life through our pain and trials.  Our cup is full, for we are completely satisfied. We are filled and overflowing with God's blessings that help to settle and calm our lives.  To sit at the banquet table of our Shepherd King portrays our ultimate communion or fellowship with God.  
    • “Thou hast anointed my head with oil; My cup runneth over.”
This oil is not the oil that was used to anoint the king or priest.  Rather this oil is the perfumed oil used to show hospitality and to express favor and happiness.  This is the same oil that Mary poured on the head of Jesus, (John 11:2).  To Anoint the head expresses the highest and greatest joy that is offered by the host.  A shepherd also provides the sheep with healing oil for cuts or bruises.  He tenderly cares for each of his sheep.

In the Bible, the image of oil and wine usually represents joy and prosperity from God, (Job 29:6; Jeremiah 31:12; Joel 2:24).  The Lord as our Shepherd chooses us for service.  When a king or priest was anointed, they were chosen by God for service.  In the same way, God chooses us to be His sheep that we may serve Him according to His will and thus receive His blessings.  His blessings to us are so abundant that our cup overflows.  His blessings are so abundantly poured out upon us that we cannot comprehend all that we have in God. Our God truly cares for us, like a Good Shepherd.  No matter what may come our way, we know that His goodness and mercy will follow us.  Our cup runneth or overflows, for God is not a stingy host.  He gives abundantly and not sparingly.  So, what more could we want!?  He instills in us worth, overflowing peace and confidence as we faithfully commune with Him.  We are His chosen ones, His peculiar people, and most prized possessions.

Our God gives us everything we need and even more.  Paul expressed this sentiment in Ephesians 3:20. “Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.”  
  • “Surely goodness and lovingkindness shall follow me all the days of my life; And I shall dwell in the house of Jehovah for ever.”  (Verse 6).
    • “Surely goodness and lovingkindness shall follow me all the days of my life.”  
God's goodness and faithfulness toward His children, His sheep are present every day.  He shows His full goodness and covenant love to us all the days of our lives.  His goodness and lovingkindness are all that His children need in this life and the life to come.  What we have with God now will continue in all our tomorrows.  Only covenant love, grace and goodness will follow His righteous children wherever they go.  Although our future here on earth is unknown, we know He who leads us through it all.  The word “follow” in this context means “pursue.”  God's mercy and goodness pursue us with faithful and loyal love and loving deeds.  Our LORD is after us, for He is pursuing us just as the shepherd leaves his 99-other sheep to pursue one more.  This is what our Shepherd King does for us.  His goodness and mercy pursue us faithfully.
    • “And I shall dwell in the house of Jehovah for ever.” 
The concept here is that of abiding “in the house of Jehovah for ever.”  It is that continual fellowship with God that His faithful children have.   He is the owner of the house.  The word “forever” means “to length of days.”  It refers to all the days (known and unknown) that are ahead of us.  David walked with God in the past.  He made the commitment to dwell with Him all the days of his life, for He will forever be satisfied with God.   His faithful love brings us into His house to enjoy God forever and enjoy His table all our days.  In Psalm 27, David declares that the only thing he would ask of the LORD was to dwell in His house all the days of his life.  Our God is pursuing us with His steadfast love so that we can dwell in His house forever.  All His faithful children have a home with the LORD, our Shepherd.  A home that is full of goodness and faithful love from God all the days of our lives.

In the Old Testament the phrase, “The house of the LORD,” refers exclusively to the Tabernacle or the Temple of God.  The Old Testament was filled with commands about the priests going up to the house of the LORD for worship as they would enter and offer sacrifices on behalf of the people.  The house of the LORD was His dwelling place.  Just as David desired to dwell in the house of God forever, so also we are at home with God now and will continue to experience it forevermore.  Such a hope is beautiful beyond words!

A home with God represents safety, protection, provisions, joy, security, rest and a family.  Indeed, we have all these abundant blessings in God.  His children have a dwelling place with Him as His heirs and servants.  In God, we find our identity and purpose in life.  Since home is where we long to return to, we must make our home with God forever.  He is the one who is always with us and to whom we can confidently return.  Our Shepherd Lord died for His sheep and we shall meet our Shepherd in heaven! 
“For the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them unto fountains of waters of life: and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes.”  (Rev. 7:17)

CONCLUSION:

When the LORD is our Shepherd, we can indeed receive many great blessings.  In John 10:1-18 Jesus declared that He was the Good Shepherd who lay down His life for His sheep.  As His faithful sheep, we will never go after a stranger or follow other paths that are not HisHis faithful sheep hear His voice and obey Him in everything He commands them to do.  
“I am the good shepherd; and I know mine own, and mine own know me, 15 even as the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and they shall become one flock, one shepherd.”

Jesus is our Shepherd King.  With Him, we lack nothing, for He brings us rest and guidance in the paths of righteousness.  Our Shepherd King restores and refreshes our souls and brings the perfect healing that we so desperately need.  He is with us and will lead us through the valley of the shadow of death.  He will give us serenity, tranquility, and comfort during this journey.  He is also our sustenance, direction, companion, protection, and acceptanceThere is nothing in life that we lack when we follow Him.  Only goodness and mercy will follow His faithful children all the days of their lives and in the next life.  

Living or dwelling with Him implies that we submit to Him.  That is, that we obey Him as sheep who follow their shepherd.  Dwelling with God means that we walk His path of righteousness, wanting to do His will.  Dwelling with Him means delighting in Him, praying to Him, doing His will and worshipping Him with all our heart and mind.  This boils down to knowing Him.

“The LORD is my Shepherd” is a two-word affirmation in the Hebrew.  Indeed, this is a mighty declaration!  The word “shepherd” says it all, for God is our Shepherd who looks after us, provides for us, sustains us and encourages us until we reach our destination, heaven.  God in His lovingkindness and mercy can do so much for us if we humbly surrender to Him and trust Him.  Jesus is the way to God and the way through whom we live with God.  Our walk with Him is perpetual, for we live every day in His presenceAs we walk with Him faithfully, we can confidently partake of His provisions.  God has a storehouse of abundant blessings for us if we remain faithful to Him.  We can indeed find contentment in Him when we humbly come to Him, walk with Him and partake of His bountiful blessings.

Righteous and holy living springs from righteous and God-fearing hearts.  “For as he thinketh within himself, so is he:  Eat and drink, saith he to thee; But his heart is not with thee.”  (Proverbs 23:7).  Thus, our transforming process must begin with the renewing of our mind, (Rom. 12:2).  When we change the way we think, we can indeed change the way we live.  True repentance or conversion is a spiritual, mental and internal change rather than a physical one.  When my heart and mind are transformed, then my way of living changes too.  Thus, the mind is renewed by the Spirit of God.  Transformation is a process that takes time.  Our mindset must be daily transformed so that the Truth of God might become the way we think and live having the mind of Christ. 

And though God's sheep can go through times of distress, disturbance, and bewilderment, they can rest assured that the good Shepherd will care for them to find rest and peace.  God, the Author of life can satisfy our hunger to find contentment.  Our Good Shepherd is merciful and forgiving and puts life back into us.  When we walk with our Good Shepherd doing His will, we confidently know that in the end all wrongs will be made right.  You can be sure of that!  God provides for His children as kings.  As in the words of Paul, “Wherefore let no one glory in men. For all things are yours; 22 whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; 23 and ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.”  (1 Cor. 3:21-23).

Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we will not fear the dark times of life because God is with us, the Good Shepherd, walking with us.  He is on our side.  And though we do not know what death is like, we know for sure who will walk with us in it and through it.  Our God, the Good Shepherd provides for us spiritual food and spiritual rest, “green grass” and “quiet or still waters.”  Jesus is with us as He leads us through the valley of the shadow of death.  He gives us tranquility and comfort during the journey.  He is preparing a banquet table for us where we can enjoy His blessings overflowing our cup.  He is pursuing us all the days of our lives.  He laid down His life to rescue us.

David experienced God's presence in his life as He shepherded, protected and saved him. Yet David's view of God cannot compare with the revelation of the Lord as our Shepherd:
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11).
“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21).
“For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:17).

We as Christians have enough reasons to rejoice. Why? 
  1. Because Christ is our Shepherd who died for our sins. 
  2. Our Shepherd became our sacrificial Lamb, accepted by God, that we may be made alive, (Luke 24:46; 1 Cor. 15:20-22; Romans 6:3-4; Gal. 3:13). 
  3. Our Shepherd brought peace and reconciliation to God by taking the guilt of sin away. 
  4. We, Christians, have been raised from death because of sin to newness of life in the Spirit of Christ. In Christ, we have abundant life, which He shares with His flock, (John 10:10). 
  5. Our Shepherd came to this world that we might go to heaven. What an incredible hope! Deity left heaven and came to this ugly world of darkness so that mankind might have the chance to go to heaven. This is marvelous beyond our comprehension! This beautiful story of redemption shows our God's love for us. “15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”   (1 Timothy 1:15).  Jesus, our Lord, was born of a woman that we may be born of God, (Galatians 4:4-5; Isaiah 7:14; 1 John 5:4; John 3:3-5; 2 Cor. 5:17; 1 John 3:1). 
  6. Jesus was rejected as our Shepherd that we might be accepted of God, (John 1:11-12). We know that Jesus was despised by men during His ministry here on earth. So much so, that He was nailed to a cross! It was all according to God, the Father's plan, (Colossians 1:19-21; Acts 10:35). 
  7. Jesus, our Shepherd, became the Man of sorrows that we might rejoice and be glad, (Isaiah 53:3).
  8. Our Shepherd accepted sorrow and sadness that we might have a reason to rejoice. We have so much to be thankful for! We were like lost sheep without a Shepherd. Let us keep in mind that His sorrow and grief make our joy and gladness possible. 
  9. Our Shepherd accepted poverty that we might enjoy riches in heaven, (2 Cor. 8:9; Luke 9:58; Eph. 2:6-7). Jesus became poor so that we might be able to inherit eternal riches! 
  10. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, was made sin for us that we might be righteousness for Him, (2 Cor. 5:21, Isa. 53:6; 1 Peter 2:22-24). Through His blood, we are justified and made righteous.  "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

Like David, we must realize that our God is with us at every stage of our life, in every circumstance, there and then, in glory, but also here and now. His “goodness and love,” will follow us throughout our lives.  Since we have God's provisions, pardon, presence, protection, and peace, what else could we want or ask for?  So, what is your main goal in life?  Is it to dwell in the house of Jehovah God forever?

May we submit to and walk with our Good Shepherd all the days of our lives.  May we trust our Shepherd King to find total contentment as we partake of His provisions toward us.  May we use His storehouse of blessings to serve and glorify His name.  May we live a life that reflects His righteousness and holiness all the days of our lives.  May we allow our Shepherd King to transform and renew our heart by obeying His teachings faithfully.  May we continue steadfastly renewing our mind by adopting the mind of Christ, our King, and Good Shepherd.  May we never fear evil, for He is with us during the darkest times of our life.  May we never forget that our good Shepherd is walking close by our side.  May we always long for His spiritual food and rest.  May we always grow abundantly, for He supplies us with everything we need to walk life's journey.  May He always prepare a table of good things in the presence of our enemies so that we may enjoy His bounty.  May we have the confidence that He will surround us with His goodness and mercy.  May we show gratitude for His provisions, pardon, presence, protection, and peace by living a godly and righteous life.  May we trust in our Lord with all our heart, mind, and soul, who loves us enough to let us face our challenges that we may grow and enter His kingdom. May we find rest, serenity and calm in His loving arms from life's valleys. May we find refreshment for our weariness. May we find hope and healing in Him alone. And finally, may we find contentment, acting out our faith despite our pains and sufferings.  May we dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Luci