THE SHEPHERD AND HIS SHEEP
Psalm 23:1-6 (NKJV)
The Lord the Shepherd of His People
A Psalm of David.
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He leads 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 You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
The Lord could have compared His people to anything in the world. He could have said, “My people are like bears, they are strong!” He could have said, “My people are like lions, they are courageous, fearless and brave!” He could have said, “My people are like foxes because they are so shrewd and wise.” He could have even said, “My people are like doves because they are so peaceful and meek.”
Instead, when the Lord described His people, He called them “sheep”. As you may or may not know, sheep are not the brightest animals to ever appear on the earth. In fact, they have a reputation for being quite stupid! They are dumb and they are defenseless! They require a shepherd to care for them. They require a shepherd to protect them. They require someone who will look after their smallest needs and who will lead them to where they need to be. When the Lord called us as sheep, it may be less than flattering, but it is right on target!
Since sheep are so needy, they form a special bond with their shepherd. He is required to get to know them intimately. He knows the ones who are prone to wander. He knows the weaker ones. He knows the loyal ones too. He even knows them all by name. The sheep, despite their stupidity, becomes familiar with the voice of the shepherd. They know his sound and his smell. There is a bond between sheep and shepherd that just isn’t found anywhere else in the world of agriculture.
If you ever come to understand that, then being called a sheep isn’t such a bad thing after all! This much beloved Psalm allows us a glimpse into the unique relationship between the Heavenly Shepherd and his human sheep. We are reminded in these verses that we enjoy a special bond with our Shepherd.
Notice the blessings we can glean from this Psalm today as we think about The Shepherd And His Sheep.
I. V. 1-4 HOW THE SHEPHERD ENCOURAGES HIS SHEEP
A. V. 1 By His Relationship To The Sheep – David indicates that his relationship with the Heavenly Shepherd is very close and personal. Notice the use of “My Shepherd” in verse 1. Notice how he switches from “he” to “thy and thou” in verses 4-5. These indicate that David is speaking of One Whom he knows intimately and personally.
(Note: David knew from personal experience how close the Shepherd/sheep relationship was. He knew that the shepherd was intimately involved with every area of each sheep’s life. The shepherd lived with the sheep. He knew them by name. They were accustomed to his voice and his presence. They willingly followed him wherever he lead them and they trusted him to supply every need they had. He took this relationship and applied to that which he enjoyed with the Lord.)
(Note: This is the same relationship that every redeemed child of God enjoys with the Lord Jesus Christ today. We are in an intimate, personal relationship with Him. When He was here on this earth, He labeled Himself as the “Good Shepherd”, John 10:1-15. This passage reminds us that Jesus gave His very life to save the sheep. It speaks of the intimacy of our relationship with Him. How He knows us by name. How He calls us to follow Him. How we recognize His voice and respond in humble obedience. That is the kind of relationship we have with the Lord.)
(Note: Are you in a position to call Him “my Shepherd” today? Ill. How that becomes possible!)
B. V. 1-4 By His Responsibility To The Sheep – Using the language of the sheepfold, David describes how the Lord ministers to His sheep. David tells us what the Lord has taken upon Himself to do for all those who belong to Him.
1. He Promises Them His Provision – We are reminded that the Good Shepherd takes His sheep into places where they can feed on the best grasses, rest from their travels and find refreshment and peace beside placid (quiet) pools. In other words, David is saying that those who belong to the Lord are well tended to and have all their needs met by the Shepherd of their souls! (Ill. Matt. 6:25-33)
2. He Promises Them His Paths – The Good Shepherd always leads His sheep in the right way. Whether His path leads us through the glen (valley), as in verse 2, or into the gorge as in verse 4, He always leads us in the best path of all: His path!
(Note: No one always likes where the path of life leads them, but if they are following the Good Shepherd, they can be assured that He will always lead them in the right path, Psa. 37:23.)
(Note: The word paths comes from a word that means “circuit or orbit”. The Lord’s leadership always leads us in a path that causes us to “orbit” Him. Just as the bodies in Heaven are subject to the gravitational pull of the sun, those who are in His orbit are kept in a right path about Him at all times!)
3. He Promises Them His Presence – The presence of the Good Shepherd with His sheep is a theme that permeate the very fabric of this Psalm. From the idea of His leadership in verses 2-3 to His presence in the darkest of times in verse 4, to His intimate activity in verse 5, the Lord is seen in close proximity to His sheep. He is always there to lead them, feed them, protect them and to watch over them at all times. This is the blessed truth that God’s children should rejoice in today, Heb. 13:5; Matt. 28:20.
4. He Promises Them His Protection – David mentions the implements of the shepherd’s protection: the rod and the staff. Each of these tools had a very specific purpose in the life of the sheep. The staff was a long pole with a crook near the end. With this implement, the shepherd would correct the sheep, draw them close when they began to wander and lift them out of the crevices into which they might have fallen into. The rod was much shorter than the staff and was used by the shepherd to protect the sheep from any thing that might try to attack the flock. So too are the “born again” sheep of the Lord protected by Him both night and day! We enjoy a place of absolute protection with Him, Col. 3:3.
(Note: Our enemy may walk about as a roaring lion looking for victims to devour, 1 Pet. 5:8, but he has been chained and our Father holds the leash!)
C. V. 3 By His Restoration Of The Sheep – Just as a weary sheep is refreshed by feasting in the green pasture and drinking from the still waters and lying in a place of safety and peace, so are the saints of God refreshed by their divine Shepherd.
Think of the drought that was in your soul when you were yet in sin! Remember how the Lord came and brought life to you in that terrible condition! Remember the times since when you have neglected His house, His Word and His fellowship and you have become weary and worn and once again the cruel tentacles of the deadness and coldness began to entwine themselves around your soul.
Now, think of how He came to you in your lost condition or in your “back-slidden” condition and how He forgave you of all your sins and trespasses. How He breathed new life into your soul. How He brought back the blush of youth into the cheeks of your spiritual man.
Remember when He lifted you out of the pit of apathy and complacency and let you look into the promised land of spiritual victory! That is what He does for His sheep! He replaces their deadness with His life. He melts the coldness of their hearts with the warmness of His embrace. He transforms the spirit and revives the cold heart!
(Note: This is always accomplished through the medium of confession and repentance, 1 John 1:9. If things in your life are not as they should be, then I would encourage you to get to the Shepherd! He will restore your soul and put you where you need to be!)
Do You Know The Shepherd?
II. V. 5 HOW THE SHEPHERD ENTERTAINS HIS SHEEP
(Note: The scene has changed from a Shepherd and His sheep to a Host and His guests. David tells us that even while moving through the territory of the enemy, the Lord takes the time to treat him like a honored guest. This is seen in a couple of ways in this verse.)
A. Through His Arrangements – Usually a soldier in enemy territory would be forced to gulp down a hasty meal as best he could while he cowered in fear of being discovered, captured or killed.
However, the Lord spreads the table for His children right in the middle of the enemy’s territory and all the enemy can do is watch us as we feast and savor on the blessings of the Lord.
(Note: I do not think that we will ever fully grasp this, but there are times in life that seem almost unbearable to us as humans. It is those times when the enemy comes to us and mocks us and to question our determination to follow the Lord. But, through the ministry of the Lord, He is able to turn the worst of times into the greatest of blessings. He leaves us feasting on His grace while the enemy sulks, unable to hinder us, harm us or even touch us! That is how the Lord arranges life for His glory and our good, Rom. 8:28; 2 Cor. 4:17.)
B. Through His Anointing – When guests visited in a home, they were often anointed with oil to show them how much they meant to their host. It was considered an insult not to wash the feet and anoint the head of your guests. As we move through this life, the Lord takes many opportunities to anoint us with the oil of His grace. His goodness and blessings are all reminders that we are precious in His sight!
(Note: I don’t care what the devil may have told you, you are precious to the Lord! So precious, in fact, that He sent His Son to die for you on the cross, John 3:16; Rom. 5:8. So precious that He gave His all so that you might be saved! If you are saved, then you are His child! Adopted in His family and His heir! You are precious in His sight today! No one is more loved than you are! Amen!)
C. Through His Abundance – David tells us that the Lord’s blessings in his life are so great that he has more than he can handle! His cup has passed full and has run over into the saucer!
(Note: That is exactly how the Lord treats His precious children. If you are in a place where He can bless you, then look out, because He certainly will! If some of you were to testify this morning, you could tell us that there have been times when the Lord filled your cup to the overflowing! There have been times when His presence and the reality of His glory was almost more than you could bear! Those are the real blessings of the Lord! Thank God for the times when He fills the cup!)
Note: Some will not bring their cup to the table and as a result they are never filled with all of His blessings. Others have their cups filled with too much other stuff (worldly stuff) and there is no room for Him to put anything into their lives. Others believe that it isn’t for them!
Friends, God wants to bless your life beyond your wildest dreams. The very best thing you could do today is to bring yourself to Him and say, “Lord. Fill my cup!” If you do, and do so with an honest, hungry heart, He will fill your life to overflowing and beyond. He is looking for people who are willing and who want all that He had to give them! Is that person you?
Do You Know The Shepherd?
III. V. 6 HOW THE SHEPHERD EXCITES HIS SHEEP
(Note: The scene changes again. Now David pictures himself as a pilgrim headed to a city (CITY). This verse tells us what He will do for us along the way home.)
A. He Provides Them With His Grace – The pilgrim is assured that goodness and mercy will be his constant companions along the way home. These are the components of grace and remind us that as we travel we will always be blessed with grace sufficient to the need, 2 Cor. 9:12.
We need to know that there is nothing in life that we can face that will be greater than His ability to see us through. You see, we are following the One Who plans and knows the way we take, Psa. 37:23; Job 23:10. He also goes with us along the way to ensure us a safe passage through this violent and harsh land. With Him near, there is nothing to fear!
(Ill. The great Scottish preacher John McNeill told that during his childhood he had to walk a long distance home every evening, and his route led through a forest with a large ravine. Reports said that wild animals and gangs of robbers were often seen in that area. Great fear would seize his heart as he made his way past the spooky looking trees. He recalled, “One night it was especially dark, but I was aware that something or someone was moving slowly and quietly toward me. I was sure it was a robber. When a voice called out, its eerie tone struck my heart with fear. I thought I was finished. Then came a second call. This time I could hear the voice saying, ‘John, is that you?’ It was my father. He had known of my fear and had come out to meet me.”
It was a word from John McNeill’s father that brought peace to his fearful heart that night. What we fearful humans need is a word from our Heavenly Father. A word from Him who is able to expel our fears and eliminate our worries. We have such an assuring word before us this morning.)
B. He Promises Them His Glory – David concludes this Psalm with a precious reminder that this life down here will end some day, but that those who know the Lord will move to a new realm to live for eternity. Some people believe that David is referring to the Tabernacle in this verse. I like to think that he is looking a little farther away than that! I think he is looking forward to a time when he will be in the presence of the Lord is Heaven. That is the destiny of every child of God today! (Ill. John 14:1-3; Rev. 21:4; Rev. 22:3-4!)
(Note: If the thought of His grace here and His glory there don’t light your fire, then your wood must be wet (WET WOOD)! There is something about knowing that He is going to see me through this life and usher me into that glorious, eternal, sinless life in Heaven that just stirs my heart! Thank God our Shepherd knows how to thrill His sheep!)
Do you know the Shepherd? If you do, then I invite you to look at your relationship with Him today. Is it all it should be? Is it all it could be? If not, then this altar is open to receive you. If you will confess your shortcomings to Him, He will restore your soul!
If you do not know the Shepherd today, then I invite you to come meet Him today. He loved you enough to die for you and He will save your soul for now and eternity if you will come to Him (JESUS) today.