On today’s Wednesdays on the Word, we are looking at Charles Spurgeon’s thoughts on Psalm 23. His expositions on the text of scripture is beloved by millions. His teaching on Psalm 23 is filled with references to Christ and the believer’s walk with their God. For more by Spurgeon, be sure to check out the Spurgeon Sermon Archive, also located in any Baptist Base Package from the Silver level and up.
We will first read that choicest of all the Psalms,—the twenty-third. It is like a precious pearl shining with a mild lustre. This Psalm is, among the other Psalms, what the lark is among the other birds; it soars and sings till it is lost in the heights to which it ascends.
Psalm 23 Verse 1. The LORD is my Shepherd;—
What a precious title the psalmist used in speaking of his God! It is right to call the Lord a Shepherd. “The Shepherd of Israel” is a very blessed and true title for him; but “my Shepherd” is best of all. I wish, beloved, that each of you could truthfully say, with David, “ ‘The Lord is my Shepherd.’ He owns me; and as I am his property, he will preserve me, protect me, provide for me, guide me, and be everything to my weakness, and folly, and necessity, that a shepherd is to a sheep.” “The Lord is my Shepherd;”—
1. I shall not want.
“Not only do I not want at the present moment, but I never shall want. I may sometimes foolishly fancy that I shall come to want; but I never shall as long as God provides for me. How could such a Shepherd as he is, almighty and all-sufficient, ever suffer one of his sheep to lack any good thing? No; ‘I shall not want.’ All the world beside may want, but I shall not while Jehovah is my Provider. Famine may be sore in the land; there may be neither dew nor rain, and even the brook Cherith may at last be dried up; but since ‘Jehovah is my Shepherd, I shall not want.’ ”
As a guarantee of his care of us in the future, we turn to our experience in the past and the present. What is our experience of our great Shepherd even now?
2. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
Here is blessed rest, and here is also gracious provision for the needs of the sheep. The pasture is sweet and tender; and there is so much of the green grass that it cannot all be eaten, and the superabundance makes a soft bed for the tired sheep: “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.” Repose, O believer, in the abundant provision of God’s grace! A sheep needs sometimes to lie down. It is as necessary for its health that it should have time to digest its food as that it should have proper and sufficient food to eat. May the Lord graciously give to each of you the sweet rest of meditation and contemplation,—that blessed rest, to which faith attains when it grows into firm confidence and full assurance, so that you may be able to say with David, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”
But our spiritual life is not to be all spent in lying down; there must come a time for going forward, so David adds:—
2. He leadeth me—
What a peerless Guide he is, since infallible wisdom is his! And how gracious and condescending it is, on his part, to go first in the way which he means us to take! David does not say, “He driveth me;” but “He leadeth me”—
2, 3. Beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness—
“In each one of them; he is my Exemplar in every virtue, for he himself has endured all temptations that are incident to my life’s pathway; and, all the way, ‘he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness’ ”—
3. For his name’s sake.
“Not because of any goodness in me, but because of the goodness that is in him, and for the glory of his holy name, ‘he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness.’ ”
“Also, ‘He restoreth my soul.’ When I wander, he restores my soul to the right road. When I become empty, he stores my soul again with good things; he re-storeth my soul.”
4. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:
“Not only shall there be none, but I will fear none.” A sense of the Lord’s presence lifts a Christian above even fear. You know how often it is true that we “feel a thousand deaths in fearing one.” But if we have a sense of our Saviour’s presence, when we do really walk through the valley of death-shade, not a trace of fear shall come across our peaceful souls.
4. For thou art with me;
The presence of Christ is all that his people can ever want. The all-powerful, ever-faithful, infinitely-compassionate One being with us, what cause for fear can possibly remain?
4. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
“To see thy sceptre, and even to feel thy chastising rod;—to know that thou art a King, and that thou rulest over Israel;—to know that, as a Shepherd, thou carriest a crook to guide thy flock; shall be enough to comfort my heart, and to sustain my spirit.”
How sweet is the next verse!
5. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
How calmly the psalmist writes! He realizes that he has enemies, yet he means to sit down to a feast; he is not going to snatch a hurried mouthful or two, but “a table” is “prepared” for him as though for a banquet. His enemies may look on while he is feasting, but they cannot take away his enjoyment of the feast.
5. Thou anointest my head with oil;
He receives a fresh anointing for new service, even the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
5. My cup runneth over.
“I have all I want, and even more than I need, so that others, not so favoured as I am, may come and catch some of the droppings from my overflowing cup. It is so full, O Lord, that it cannot hold all that thou givest me! Till thou dost enlarge my capacity, I shall still have to say, “My cup runneth over.”
The psalmist’s next word also has much meaning and force in it:—
There are no ifs, no doubts, no fears about the matter: “Surely”—
6. Goodness and mercy shall follow me—
“These two holy angels shall watch over my footsteps, and track me wherever I go;—‘goodness’ to preserve me, and ‘mercy’ to pardon me!—‘goodness’ to supply my needs, and ‘mercy’ to blot out my sins.” And these angels shall follow me—
6. All the days of my life:
“Not merely now and then, but all my days;—my dark days as well as my bright ones;—these heavenly messengers will never forsake me.”
6. And I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
This life begins here, for this earth is but the lower part of God’s house; and when the time shall come for us to leave this earth, we, who are the Lord’s own children, shall only go upstairs to the higher rooms, to “dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”