So we see that the relationship between
the sheep and the shepherd in the Bible is a picture of the relationship
between Christ (the shepherd) and the believer (the sheep).
The knowledge of the shepherd's care for
us gives us a deep sense of security and satisfaction. "He maketh
me to lie down in green pastures: ...". Sheep graze from about
3:30 in the morning until about 10:00. They then lie down for three or
four hours to rest. It is almost impossible to make sheep lie down while
they are hungry. They will mill around and nibble on bits of grass until
they have eaten sufficiently. Only when their stomachs are full will
they find a quiet place and lie down.
|Sheep lying down in green pastures is a
picture of contentment and satisfaction.
"He leadeth me beside the still
waters". Sheep will not drink from swiftly running water for a
good reason: they are poor swimmers. If their wool coat became soaked
with water the weight will pull the sheep under water. Instinctively
sheep know this, so they will not go near swiftly running water.
Sheep resting beside the still waters is
a picture of peace and rest. The phrase "still waters" means
waters of rest. This picture reminds us of Jesus who said, "Come
unto me all you that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you
rest" (Matthew 11:28).
Sheep need a time of serene quietness to
ruminate - to chew their cud. When the sheep does this he is meditating
on what he has eaten just as we meditate from the Word of God that we
have eaten. We need to learn to cultivate the art of quietness. See
Isaiah 30:15 and Psalm 46:10a.
Conclusion: Verse 2 of Psalm 23 is
a testimony of the satisfaction that comes as a result of the
"provision" and "peace" that comes from our
sheep/shepherd relationship with God.
23, Part 3
Text: Psalm 23:3, "He restoreth my
soul...He leadeth me" is A
Testimony of Sovereignty.
Sheep are not very smart. They have a
predictable inclination to lose their way. They can be in a pasture with
plenty of grass and adequate water and still wander aimlessly until they
have nothing to eat or drink. Once lost they can't find their way back.
Many animals seem to have inborn compasses - not so with sheep. Once
lost, the shepherd must go and find them.
Spiritually, people are like sheep.
Isaiah the prophet wrote, "All we like sheep have gone
astray.." (Isa. 53:6). I once saw a cartoon that pictured two
sheep grazing in a pasture. One commented to the other, "All we
like people have gone stray." Sheep are like people. People are
like sheep. Both are easily lost.
We have a profound tendency to desert
what is good for us. The grass always looks greener on the other side of
the fence. So often we go away from God into sin. There are three
wonderful truths in Psalm 23:3 that David testified to:
- The Ministry of the Shepherd - "He
restoreth my soul...".
- The Mastery of the Shepherd - "He
leadeth me in the paths of righteousness...".
- The Majesty of the Shepherd - "for
His name sake".
The Ministry of the Shepherd:
"He restoreth my soul..."
We are saved by grace, restored by grace and kept by grace. There
are three kinds of sheep that need to be restored to fellowship with the
shepherd. The first is the straying sheep who are restored by the rod.
The rod us used as protection against the wild animals, but also used as
a means to discipline the stubborn sheep (See Hebrews 12:11).
|Discipline is more than punishment. It is
preventative development. There is a danger in no discipline.
The rod served at least for two purposes. To keep us from danger and to help
The second is the staff which is sometimes call the shepherd's crook.
The hook was just the right size to fit around the neck of a large
sheep, or around the body of a little lamb. The shepherd would use the
staff to draw sheep to him, guide the sheep or lift a fallen sheep.
The third kind of sheep that need to be restored are the sick sheep.
The sick sheep are restored by administering them with the oil. The shepherd would bring his
sheep into the fold one at a time calling them by name. He thoroughly
examined the sheep for thorns, bruises, scabs and raw places. To bring a
healing the shepherd would pour a healing and soothing oil on the sheep.
This "oil" speaks to us of the ministry of the Holy
The Mastery of the Shepherd:
"He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness...."
When He has restored us, He is not finished. He restores us that He
might lead us and guide us into the right way once again. Sheep have
poor eyesight. They cannot see more than fifteen yards ahead of them so
they need to be led. The word "righteousness" is used
here in a moral sense. The problem with so many of us is that we stop
with restoration, we don't want to go on to righteousness. If we are
only restored, we will be right back in the same condition. The wayward
sheep who is back where he should be will be in trouble again if he does
not immediately begin to follow the shepherd closer than ever. It is
important therefore that the sheep stay very close to the shepherd.
|The reason for restoration is that there might
be a return to righteousness.
With such poor eyesight the sheep must stay close so they can observe the shepherd and
listen so they can be obedient. See John 10:27.
The Majesty of the Shepherd: "for
His name sake".
He leads us in paths of righteousness for our sake and for His
name's sake. The Good Shepherd's name is judged by the behavior,
condition and welfare of His sheep. God has connected His name and His
glory with the walk and conduct of His people. Only if we walk in paths
of righteousness can we uphold the reputation of the Good Shepherd.
Note: Respect - Restoration -
Righteousness - Reputation
Conclusion: The Good Shepherd
ministers to His sheep in such an excellent and majestic way that His
sheep cannot help but give their love back to Him. 1John 4:19, "We
love Him because He first loved us".
23, Part 4
Text: Psalm 23:4, "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" is A
Testimony of Security.
There is a
valley called The Valley of the Shadow of Death in Palestine. It is
located beyond the hills of Bethlehem and toward the Dead Sea.
A spring breaks forth at the foot of
the Mt. of Olives 2700 feet above sea level, about 1/2 mile high, and
starts a valley that through the centuries has cut deep into the earth. It
goes all the way to the Dead Sea, 1300 feet below sea level. Today, it is
called the "Wadi Kelt" on the maps. When we visit Jerusalem, we
were able to travel on the narrow road that was cut through this valley.
Believe me, it is forlorn and scary. One would not want to be there alone.
It is really a little Grand
Canyon, 1500 feet deep in some places. In Bible times, the bear, the lion,
the leper, the hyena, and robbers waited in the shadows and the caves to
spring upon the flocks and the shepherd. It was a treacherous
valley - a dark valley of perpetual shadows and dangers.
It was a valley through which
all shepherds had to lead their sheep. In the winter, they would pasture
at Jericho. When the spring rains came in the Judean Desert, the hills
would break forth with flowers and green grass. The shepherds would turn
their flocks out of the lowlands into the mountains to the spring
pastures, through this, the valley of the shadow of death. They named it
"Shadow of Death" because the possibility of danger and death
was always present when they entered it.
This valley could just as well
be named the "Valley of Worry and Fear." The uncertainty of what
they might encounter could very well produce both in the hearts and minds
of those who entered.
David did not worry about nor
fear this valley as he entered it. He knew who his Shepherd was and he
knew what He was able to do. For David, it was a walk in the park. He knew
he wasn't walking alone. "...I will fear no evil for Thou art
with me: Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me."
What About the Valley
Experience? Each one of us at some point in our Christian walk will
encounter a valley to pass through that will try to produce worry and fear
in us. What will be a comfort to us when this happens? The answer is the
promises of God and the Holy Spirit. They become His presence - His
rod and His staff that will be a comfort to us when this happens.
1. Does your valley cause you to be worried, anxious, afraid, or
give you peace. "Do not
let your heart be troubled. Trust in God: trust also in Me...Peace I leave
with you, My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do
not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:
2. Does your valley cause you
to be worried about the future?
God will guide
you. "I will instruct
you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you and
watch over you" (Psalm 32:8).
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own
understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your
paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5).
3. Does your valley
cause you to be afraid of feeling alone?
never leave you.
"Be strong and
courageous, do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord
your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you:"
"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you:" (John
4. Does your valley
cause you to be depressed?
God will comfort
"The Lord is close to
the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" (Psalm
5. Does your valley
cause you to worry because you face opposition?
God is with you.
"If God is for us, who
can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31).
6. Does your valley cause you
to worry about your safety?
God will protect you.
"The Lord will keep you
from all harm; He will watch over your life; The Lord will watch over your
coming and going both now and forevermore" (Psalm 121: 7-8).
7. Does your valley worry you
so much you can't sleep?
God will ease your fears.
" When you lie down, you
will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be
sweet" (Proverbs 3:24).
Text: Psalm 23:5, "Thou
preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies. Thou anointest
my head with oil, my cup runneth over," A
Testimony of Safety.
With this verse the
image of the Psalm suddenly changes. We are no longer in the field but in
a palace. The Lord is now the gracious host. He prepares a table. He
anoints the head, and He pours a cup. Our perception of God will determine
our personal relationship with Him. God wants us to know that He has
welcomed us and that He loves us. In this verse we see three marks
of God's great love and hospitality.
1. The Preparation
of The Table - How important and special we are to Him. He
prepares the table.
2. The Anointing of The Head - A wealthy home would have had
an expensive vessel of perfumed oil by the door. It would be used for
special occasions when distinctive company came to visit. If a wonderful
friend from far away, or a loved one dear to ones heart would pay a visit,
they would be greeted at the door, hands The host would dip his
hands into that precious ointment and the head of the incoming guest
anointed. This act meant that they were very special. This is truth: you
are special to God!
3. The Overflowing Cup - In Bible times, there were no
motels and restaurants. It was the custom if a traveler stopped at ones
house, they were to be given entrance and a meal prepared for them.
However, no other obligation was expected from the host. Only a meal and
then the traveler could be sent on his way. If the person dining with you
were quite interesting, or you really wanted him to stay, you would tell
him in so many words. You would fill his glass to overflowing. When he saw
it he would look up and smile and thank you for the invitation. However,
if you wanted him to leave, you would fill his glass half full. That meant
that after dessert - hit the road traveler! The host in verse five
is a picture of Jesus and of the blessings we receive from Him.
The Fullness We Have in
Jesus: "Thou preparest a table..." Full sheep are
happy sheep, but the sheep must have a table land prepared for them
because of their enemies. The shepherd would go ahead from time to time to
seek out and prepare safe feeding places. Think of the times when the Good
Shepherd, the Lord Jesus prepared the table. Read Psalms 78: 19-22
and note the four different tables.
1. A table of Replenishment.
2. A table of Restoration
3. A table of Remembrance
4. A table of Rejoicing
The Freshness We Have in
Jesus: "He anoints my head with oil.." David
remembered how he would anoint the heads of his sheep.The oil symbolizes
the Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians1:21-22, "Now He which
stablisheth you in Christ, and hath anointed us is God; who hath also
sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." Thank
God for the freshness of that anointing. See Psalms 92:10 and Psalms
The Freeness We Have in
"My cup runneth over." Our God is the God of
more than enough. John 10:10, "...I am come that they
might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
Text: Psalms 23:6, "Surely
goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will
dwell in the house of the Lord forever," A
Testimony of Surety.
Satan has no old
happy people. We need to learn this principle: Satan gives his best
first and his worst last, but Jesus gives the best first and even then
it gets better. Everyone of us could write two volumes. One on the
goodness of God and on on the mercy of God. We could write about the
goodness of God which has met our failures. His goodness is His
provision for the good times and His mercy is His provision for the bad
times. Goodness takes care of my steps and mercy takes care of my
stumbles. Yet, all of our days must come to a close - "all
the days of my life." Yet, when our days are over we can
still say, "The best is yet to come! To die is gain. We will dwell
in the House of the Lord."
The Certainty of It -
will." Jesus reinforced the certainty that David spoke of
in John 14:1-3, "Let not your heart be troubled; ye
believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many
mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a
place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come
again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be
also." Heaven is a real place. It is not just a state of
mind or condition. Jesus said, "I go to prepare a
place." Where is heaven? The Bible says that heaven is up.
Yet, up seems to be a different place around the globe. But there is one
place that is always up no matter where you are on the face of this
globe. North is always up. See Isaiah 14: 13-14, Psalms
The saved go to this place
immediately upon death. There is no soul sleep. See 2 Cor. 5: 6-8.
We read in Acts 7:56 that Stephen saw the Lord and asked Jesus to
receive his spirit. The kind of place to which we go is a place where
there is no sin, sorrow, suffering death or disease or doubts. See Rev.
21:4. The presence of all that is good and the absence of all that
is evil will be the Christian's final abode. It will be all the loving
heart of God can conceive and the omnipotent hand of God can prepare. It
will be a place of meaningful service. See Rev. 7:15.
The Company of It -
"The house of the Lord." Jesus said that heaven is
a place of many mansions or dwelling places. Think of all the saints who
will be there. Mark Twain was reported to have said, "I will take
heaven for climate and hell for society." How wrong he was.
Will we know our loved ones
in heaven? Remember the story of David's little boy? See 2Samuel12:8-23. The disciples recognized Moses and Elijah on the Mount of
Transfiguration. They had never previously met either of them. Our
fellowship will surpass anything we have ever known on earth. All around
will be that shining cloud of witnesses - the redeemed of all the
centuries serving the same Savior. There will be such a crowd there and
so much to do that eternity will seem too short to fellowship with all
of them. Most of all, Jesus Himself will be there. After all, it
is His house, the "House of the Lord."
The Consistency of It -
Sheep are continually moving. They never settle down and stay in one
place very long. The word "dwell" means to
settle down and be at home. The "House of the Lord"
is a state of constant joy; no more sorrow, no more separation. It will
be for eternity - a long time. We'll be "dwelling
in the house of the Lord." What a happy ending!
Conclusion: Can you
testify, "The Lord is my Shepherd?"
A pilgrim was I and
In the cold night of sin I did roam.
When Jesus the kind Shepherd found me
And now I am on my way home.
He restoreth my soul when
He giveth me strength day by day.
He leads me beside the still waters,
He guard me each step of the way.
When I walk through the
dark lonesome valley;
My Savior will walk with me there.
And safely His great hand will lead me
To the mansions He's gone to prepare.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days - all the days of my life.
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever,
And I shall feast at the table spread for me.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days, all the days of my life.
(John W. Peterson -
Alfred B. Smith)