WALKING IN THE OLD PATHS
The Shepherd Psalm--Part (ii)
The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He restores my soul;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
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
In Part (i) of our studies on the wonderful Shepherd Psalm, we looked a little at the character and saving work of the One to whom David referred as "My Shepherd". Before we proceed to examine some of the amazing benefits of being one of His sheep, we shall consider the marks which the sheep carry upon them.
Phillip Kellar, writing in his book, "A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23", tells how upon purchasing his first little flock of thirty-five ewes, the former owner handed him a large sharp killing knife and remarked, "Well, Phillip, they’re yours. Now you’ll have to put your mark upon them." This would be a painful experience for each sheep, for it meant parting with a chunk of its ear, cut with Kellar’s own chosen design. This peculiar cut would thereafter mark each individual member of the flock out as the shepherd’s own property.
The person who hears the voice of the Good Shepherd and trustingly follows Him must forever bear the Master’s Mark. This mark is described for us in Romans 6. We really should read the whole chapter, but for the sake of space, we will quote only a few verses.
"Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now, if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all: but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:6-12)
Death to self is demanded and can be a very painful process but it is very necessary. You see the Devil has his own flock, which bares his mark of rebellion and sin. When Christ redeems us He expects to mark us out with His own characteristics of love, obedience and holiness. As we read in II Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new." As someone has said, "We are not saved by our works, but if we are truly saved our works will declare our new relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ."
We must realize the kind of sheep we once were and remember the flock to which we belonged; "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:6.). If we also understand the tremendous price He paid for us, then we will not wonder that he demands that we bare his likeness.
Despite what we were, guilty and lost, wandering on the desolate crags of Satan’s domain, He redeemed us, called, us, and made us the sheep of His pasture if we are His by faith. In all His own he takes delight and tends them with loving care. Even in the midst of their trials and difficulties, the Good Shepherd leads His lambs with gentleness and grace. We may sometimes feel that He no longer watches over us, but if we wait upon Him the dark clouds of doubt will dissipate to reveal the sunshine of His tender love.
Before we begin looking at the blessings of Psalm 23, let us emphasize the Shepherd’s mark upon us. In Ephesians 2:8 & 9, we learn that salvation is by grace (unmerited favour) accepted by faith. It is God’s gift to us and it is "Not of works lest any man should boast". But that is not the end of the saga, because in verse 10, we read, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."
As James tells us in James 2:26, "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."
What kind of faith do I have? What kind of faith do you have? If nothing has changed since we first professed faith in Christ, a thorough self examination is called for. There are those who believe, or at least appear to believe, that we can trust in the Saviour and continue to live unrepentant lives. The Word of God emphatically teaches otherwise.
Friend, do you and I have the Shepherd’s mark engraved on our hearts? If we can honestly say, "Yes, I have trusted Him and I love Him and seek to follow Him", then we can also truly say, "The Lord is my Shepherd" and from our hearts we can sing:
The King of love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am His
And He is mine forever.
Where streams of living water flow
My ransomed soul He leadeth,
And, where the verdant pastures grow,
With food celestial feedeth.
Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
But yet in love He sought me,
And on His shoulder gently laid,
And home rejoicing brought me.
In death’s dark vale I fear no ill
With Thee, dear Lord, beside me;
Thy rod and staff my comfort still,
Thy cross before to guide me.
And so through all the length of day
Thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd, may I sing Thy praise
Within Thy house for ever.
"The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want" (Psalm 23:1). "I shall not want". Reassuring words but what do they mean? David had known poverty, heartache and rebellion in his own family. He had been a fugitive and a refugee. Warfare was fairly constant throughout his reign. Friends and loved ones had been unfaithful on more than one occasion. Few if any of us have experienced more difficulty and more troublesome times than David the sweet singer of Israel. Yet he could confidently declare, "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want".
If David’s eyes had focused only on the things of time, he could have found no solace, no place of rest, no shady green pastures for his soul. David had found that place, where none but the redeemed of God can enter. The place of His presence, the place of peace. "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress. My God; in Him will I trust." (Psalm 91:1, 2).
If we are dwelling in the secret place of His presence, then we can experience the comforting words of the Psalmist "I shall not want." Perhaps one who is experiencing a difficult situation is asking, "Where is this place of His presence and how can I find it?"
The answer is not tedious or difficult , "that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height--to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:17-19).
If we, by faith, are conscious of the presence of Christ abiding within our hearts we will soon begin to realize the immensity and the immutability of His love for us. Spiritually we need nothing more, and since Christ in us is our hope of glory (See Colossians 1:27), we can truly say, "I shall not want."
I shall not want peace and joy if I realize His inward presence. If I lose my peace and joy, even in the midst of tribulations it is because, for the moment I have ceased to abide in Him and forgotten His abiding presence in me.
Although the blessings of the Psalm are relevant to our spiritual state and our spiritual pilgrimage, it is also true that He meets our physical needs as well.
Our daily provision for food, health and shelter are from His bountiful hand. He may not always give us what we desire, but in grace He meets our needs.
What a gracious Shepherd He is!
"Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen." (Hebrews 13:20,21).
Jack Scott loved his Lord! He passed away on January 10, 2001 after a lengthy illness.
He is missed greatly by his family.
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