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Hope and Help from Psalm 23 (Part 3 of 4)

Jan 25, 2019

This installment of Hope and Help from Psalm 23 reveals how God puts Himself on full display by providing Himself as our life’s satisfaction. Part Two shows us how the phrase “For his name sake” brings hope and help in desperate situations  In Part One we see how the phrase “The Lord is my shepherd” brings comfort and care to sufferers.

“Amazing Grace should strike a chord in your heart as a Christ follower! One line has
you looking over your life with delight for what your God has done for you. Through many
dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far.” You
hear and see the same grace in Psalm 23. What should result is praise in your heart for the
Good Shepherd’s care, comfort and concern!

Psalm 23 puts your God on full display! Today’s age puts self-actualization and “selfies”
first. Psalm 23:3 points to your Shepherd doing everything in your life “for His name sake,” and
out of that He reveals His loving care, comfort and concern for you. What He does for you as a
Great Shepherd is always for His honor and glory!

Remember in Psalm 23 the emphasis is what He has done for you. Let’s walk through
this loving and caring relationship the Good Shepherd has with His sheep! You will see what
your Good Shepherd does for His name sake and how you benefit from His graciousness.

Verse 2 reads, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” In that phrase, you see that
He provides proper conditions for growth. Verse 2 presents the shepherd directing his
sheep to a lush green pasture. This shepherd knows where to lead his sheep for them to eat
well and keep them from disease. Some fields may be weed filled and not watered well. The
shepherd stays away from these fields.

Green pastures also have tormenting insects. Shepherds find the best conditions where
sheep thrive without many insects. Yet many fields are not insect free and torment abounds.
This makes it hard for sheep to lie down and be content.

Your Good Shepherd knows what you need to grow and change. He provides the Word
for proper nourishment. He also gives His Word to keep you from spiritual disease and death.
You can lie down and feast on His Word to grow up into Christ! Your Good Shepherd also
provides pastors to shepherd and keep you from spiritual disease and death.

Shepherds also know sheep will lie down when there is no friction from other sheep.
Too often sheep establish a pecking order. Older sheep will dominant younger ones by butting
heads with them. The shepherd’s job is to keep this from happening and provide peaceful
conditions. Christian people can be like sheep! They may want to establish a pecking order
through who has what or whom. Some react to this by wanting to keep up with the Joneses or
having prejudice.

Another way to delight in your Good Shepherd is found in verse 2. “He leads me by
still waters.” This means He provides Himself as your life’s satisfaction.

Let’s flesh out David’s imagery in this phrase. Sheep thrive in semi-arid country. They
cannot go a long time without water. Sheep are composed of 70 per cent  water and their
bodies need replenished from time to time. Again a wise shepherd knows where to lead his
sheep for water.

“Still waters” pictures a shepherd leading his sheep to calm, quiet, clean and pure water.
When sheep are in such a situation, they are at peace, restful and calm. The “still waters” refer
to God Himself. The Good Shepherd leads His sheep to Himself. Good circumstances, people
or created things don’t bring lasting and sustaining satisfaction to life. Only God will.

Augustine summed it up well: “O God. Thou hast made us for thyself and our souls are
restless, searching, till they find their rest in Thee.” Jesus said in John 7:37: “If anyone thirsts,
let him come to me and drink.” Only the Good Shepherd gives true satisfaction to life.

Jeremiah 2:13 declares, “For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken
me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that
can hold no water.” Down through the ages: sex, money and power seem to attract even
believers. These three offer no real satisfaction for the thirsty soul compared to our God!

David declares in verse 3, “He restores my soul.” What’s the delight from this verse
about your Great Shepherd? He provides peace.

Maybe you ask: “What’s this statement about?” Surely no sheep in the Good
Shepherd’s care should become distressed and have a need to be restored. The fact is that it
does happen because of sin and this fallen world.

To understand “he restores my soul,” you need to combine it with “he makes me lie
down in green pastures.” This pictures sheep that are at peace and have contentment!

Sometimes sheep bring problems on themselves! Sheep that eat well fatten and weigh
a lot because of wool. Sheep in this condition lie down and roll a little, and then they find
themselves upright on their backs. Shepherds call this being “cast.” It’s a life threatening! A
sheep struggles and flails for its life. The shepherd constantly looks to put a “cast” sheep back
with its feet on the ground.

Some believers in Christ can become so sad and despondent over responding to life
circumstances in an unbiblical way. Some turn to drugs or alcohol to deaden the pain of
depression. Others run to food, porn, sex or sexual changes for happiness.

Everyone becomes sad at one time or another, but the key is how to react to it. People
who think in terms of hopelessness and despair stay in depression’s black hole. Christians can
think the same way. When they go to some physicians, no physical cause can be found to their
sadness. So, out of a desire to help the depressed person a medication is prescribed for being
“bi-polar.”

Psalm 42:5 pictures you as a “cast” sheep. You have reacted to life with hopelessness
and despair as a Christ follower. Your life is at stake! Then, you talk to yourself about your
God in your heart. Listen to the gospel you preach to yourself: “Why are you cast down, O my
soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him.”

The writer of Psalm 42 feels the sting of being in exile and a long way from Jerusalem.
His enemies say: “Where is your God.” Maybe you have experienced that sting from
unbelieving family members, neighbors or co-workers. Your life doesn’t measure up to their
brand of success. They have done it without God and look where you are at.

The Psalmist tells you: “Hope in God.” This is not calling you to have a hope-so
approach to life. Or, hang in there and just cope with life. Biblical hope is your confident
expectation about God’s goodness in the present and in the future based upon the Word of
God. Hope is your assurance and confident expectation that God will do what He promises.
Hope is your confident expectation of God’s blessings based on His character and promises.
Hope in God is a present investment in a future guarantee.

For the writer of Psalm 42 and you that means you still have a relationship with God that
no one can take away. Also God’s goodness is displayed in what Christ has done for you in
salvation. He has given adoption, redemption, election, an inheritance and the Holy Spirit’s
sealing in being united in Christ. Also this fallen world will change. What will change? You will
see the promise of a new heaven and new earth.

Verse 3 declares: “He leads you in the paths of righteousness.” You delight that He
points you to paths of righteousness. Sheep should look to the shepherd for guidance and
to follow him. Our Good Shepherd points you to follow Him in the paths of righteousness found
in the Bible. Unfortunately this phrase “he leads you in the paths of righteousness” can be
clouded in mysticism. Some Christians have taken the Good Shepherd’s leadership into paths
of righteousness by following their feelings, inner promptings or fleeces instead of using the
objective Word of God for decision making.

What should you rely on to make wise decisions? The Bible. The Bible gives you
commands, promises and principles to help you make wise choices for Him. God always leads
you into paths of righteousness. Romans 8:14 talks about the Spirit leading you into thinking
and acting like an adopted son. Galatians 5:18 tells you the Spirit wants you to be led not by
sinful desires of the flesh, rather you are to be led by the Spirit into choosing the Spirit’s fruit for
your life.

Another way to delight in your Good Shepherd is found in verse 4. “Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” Your delight is in that He protects
you from ultimate harm. Notice as a sheep you will walk through danger and disaster with
your Good Shepherd. The image is of a shepherd leading his sheep through a mountain pass
on a path with rocky sides. Bears and lions can hide and pounce on the sheep. Danger is
imminent. Death could be near. Yet your Good Shepherd is beside you as you walk through it.
God being there makes all the difference.

“I will fear no evil.” That sounds like the many “fear not’s” in the Bible. You are to put
off fear by replacing it with God’s presence in your thinking. Many people die not having God’s
presence in their thinking. Hope is found in suffering having purpose and sharing eternity with
God.

Again Psalm 23 is a comforter for the believer in Christ leading up to death and all the
days of one’s life. Help and hope abound in Psalm 23 for this present life and the future. More
will be said in the next blog.