Psalm 23
 

27 meditations presented here focus on Psalm 23.  All selections come from The Treasury of David.

Day 1

"The Lord is My Shepherd; I shall not want."
Psalm 23:1

What condescension is this, that the Infinite Lord assumes towards his people the office and character of a Shepherd!  It should be the subject of grateful admiration that the great God allows himself to be compared to anything which will set forth his great love and care for his own people.  David had himself been a keeper of sheep, and understood both the needs of the sheep and the many cares of a shepherd.  He compares himself to a creature weak, defenseless, and foolish, and he takes God to be his Provider, Preserver, Director, and, indeed, his everything.  No man has a right to consider himself the Lord's sheep unless his nature has been renewed, for the scriptural description of unconverted men does not picture them as sheep, but as wolves or goats.  A sheep is an object of property, not a wild animal; its owner sets great store by it, and frequently it is bought with a great price.  It is well to know, as certainly as David did, that we belong to the Lord.  There is a noble tone of confidence about this sentence.  There is no "if" nor "but," nor even "I hope so;" but he says, "The Lord IS my shepherd."  The sweetest word of the whole is the monosyllable, "MY."  He does not say, "The Lord is the shepherd of the world at large, and leadeth forth the multitude as his flock," but "The Lord is my shepherd;"  if he be a Shepherd to no one else, he is a Shepherd to me;  he cares about me, watches over me, and preserves me.  The words are in the present tense.  Whatever be the believer's position, he is even now under the pastoral care of Jehovah.

Day 2

"The Lord is My Shepherd; I shall not want."
Psalm 23:1

I might want otherwise, but when the Lord is my Shepherd he is able to supply my needs, and he is certainly willing to do so, for his heart is full of love, and therefore "I shall not want."  I shall not lack for temporal things.  Does he not feed the ravens, and cause the lilies to grow? How, then, can he leave his children to starve?  I shall not want for spirituals, I know that his grace will be sufficient for me.  Resting in him he will say to me, "As your day so shall your strength be."  I may not possess all that I wish for, but "I shall not want."  Come what may, if famine should devastate the land, or calamity destroy the city, "I shall not want."   Old age with its feebleness shall not bring me any lack, and even death with its gloom shall not find me destitute.  I have all things and abound; not because I have a good store of money in the bank, not because I have skill and wit with which to win my bread, but because "The Lord is my Shepherd."  The wicked always want, but the righteous never; a sinner's heart is far from satisfaction, but a gracious spirit dwells in the palace of content.

Day 3

"The Lord is My Shepherd; I shall not want.
 
 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures;
he leadeth me beside the still waters."
Psalm 23:1-2

The Christian life has two elements in it, the contemplative and the active, and both of these are richly provided for.  First the contemplative, "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures."  What are the "green pastures" but the Scriptures of truth - always fresh, always rich, and never exhausted?  There is a no fear of biting the bare ground where the grass is long enough for the flock to lie down in it.  Sweet and full are the doctrines of the gospel; fit food for souls, as tender grass is natural nutriment for sheep.  When by faith we are enabled to find rest in the promises, we are like the sheep that lie down in the midst of the pasture; we find at the same moment both provender and peace, rest and refreshment, serenity and satisfaction.  But observe: "He maketh me to lie down."  It is the Lord who graciously enables us to perceive the preciousness of his truth, and to feed upon it.  How grateful ought we to be for the power to appropriate the promises!  There are some distracted souls who would give worlds if they could but do this.  They know the blessedness of it, but they cannot say that this blessedness is theirs.  Those believers who have for years enjoyed a "full assurance of faith" should greatly bless their gracious God.

Day 4

"The Lord is My Shepherd; I shall not want.
 
 
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters."
Psalm 23:1-2

The second part of a vigorous Christian's life consists in gracious activity.  We not only think, but we act.  We are not always lying down to feed, but are journeying onward toward perfection; hence we read, "he leadeth me beside the still waters."  What are these "still waters" but the influences and graces of his blessed Spirit?  His Spirit attends us in various operations, like waters - in the plural - to cleanse, to refresh, to fertilize, to cherish.  They are "still waters," for the Holy Ghost loves peace, and sounds no trumpet of ostentation in his operations.  He may flow into our soul, but not into our neighbor's and therefore our neighbor may not perceive the divine presence; and though the blessed Spirit may be pouring his floods into one heart, yet he that sitteth next to the favored one may know nothing of it.

"In sacred silence of the mind
My heaven, and there my God I find."

Still waters run deep.  Nothing more noisy than an empty drum.  That silence is golden indeed in which the Holy Spirit meets with the souls of his saints.  Not to raging waves of strife, but to peaceful streams of holy love does the Spirit of God conduct the chosen sheep.  He is a dove, not an eagle; the dew, not the hurricane.  Our Lord leads us beside these "still waters;"  we could not go there of ourselves, we need his guidance, therefore is it said, "he leadeth me."  He does not drive us.  Moses drives us by the law, but Jesus leads us by his example, and the gentle drawings of His love.

Day 5

"The Lord is My Shepherd; I shall not want.
 
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul:"
Psalm 23:1-3

When the soul grows sorrowful Jesus revives it; when it is sinful he sanctifies it; when it is weak he strengthens it.  "He" does it.  His ministers could not do it if he did not.  His Word would not avail by itself.  "He restoreth my soul."  Are any of us low in grace?  Do we feel that our spirituality is at its lowest ebb?  He who turns the ebb into the flood can soon restore our soul.  Pray to him, then, for the blessing - "Restore thou me, thou Shepherd of my soul!"

Day 6

"The Lord is My Shepherd; I shall not want.
 
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake"
Psalm 23:1-3

The Christian delights to be obedient, but it is the obedience of love, to which he is constrained by the example of his Master. "He leadeth me."  The Christian is not obedient but yields to all.  Observe, that the plural is used - "the paths of righteousness."  Whatever God may give us to do we would do it, led by his love.  Some Christians overlook the blessing of sanctification, and yet to a thoroughly renewed heart this is one of the sweetest gifts of the covenant.  If we could be saved from wrath, and yet remain unregenerate, impenitent sinners, we should not be saved as we desire, for we mainly and chiefly pant to be saved from sin and led in the way of holiness.  All this is done out of pure free grace; "for his name's sake."  It is to the honor of our great Shepherd that we should be a holy people, walking in the narrow way of righteousness.  If we be so led and guided we must not fail to adore our heavenly Shepherd's care.

Day 7

"The Lord is My Shepherd; I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth 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 do no evil:"
Psalm 23:1-4

This unspeakably delightful verse has been sun on many a dying bed, and has helped to make the dark valley bright for the mind.  Every word in it has a wealth of meaning.  "Yea, that I walk," as if the believer did not quicken his pace when he came to die, but still calmly walked with God.  To walk indicates the steady advance of a soul which knows its road, knows it end, resolves to follow the path, feels quite safe, and is therefore perfectly calm and composed.  The dying saint is not in a flurry, he does not run as though he were alarmed, nor stand still as though he would go no further, he is not confounded nor ashamed, and therefore keeps to his old pace.  Observe that it is not walking in the valley, but through the valley. We go through the dark tunnel of death and emerge into the light of immortality. We do not die, we do but sleep to wake in glory. 

Death is not the house but the porch, not the goal but the passage to it.  The dying article is called a valley.  The storm breaks on the mountain, but the valley is the place of quietude, and thus the last days of the Christian are often the most peaceful in his whole career; the mountain is bleak and bare, but the valley is rich with golden sheaves, and many a saint has reaped more joy and knowledge when he came to die than he ever knew while he lived.

And, then, it is not "the valley of death," but "the valley of the shadow of death," for death in its substance has been removed, and only the shadow of it remains.  Some one has said that when there is a shadow there must be light somewhere, and so there is.  Death stands by the side of the highway in which we have to travel, and the light of heaven shining upon him throws a shadow across our path; let us then rejoice that there is a light beyond.  Nobody is afraid of a shadow, for a shadow cannot stop a man's pathway even for a moment.  The shadow of a dog cannot bite; the shadow of a sword cannot kill; the shadow of death cannot destroy us.  Let us not, therefore, be afraid.  "I will fear no evil;"  He does not say there shall not be any evil; he had got beyond even that high assurance, and knew that Jesus had put all evil away; but "I will fear no evil;" as if even his fears, those shadows of evil, were gone for ever. 

The worst evils of life are those which do not exist except in our imagination.  If we had no troubles but real troubles, we should not have a tenth part of our present sorrows.  We feel a thousand deaths in fearing one, but the Psalmist was cured of the disease of fearing.  "I will fear no evil," not even the Evil One himself; I will not dread the last enemy, I will look upon him as a conquered foe, an enemy to be destroyed.

Day 8

"The Lord is My Shepherd; I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth 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 thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."
Psalm 23:1-4

 

I will not dread the last enemy, I will look upon him as a conquered foe, an enemy to be destroyed, "For thou art with me."  This is the joy of the Christian!  "Thou art with me."  The little child out at sea in the storm is not frightened like all the other passengers on board the vessel, it is asleep in its mother's bosom; it is enough for it that its mother is with it; and it should be enough for the believer to know that Christ is with him.  "Thou art with me;"  I have in having you, all that I can crave:  I have perfect comfort and absolute security, "For thou art with me."  "Thy rod and thy staff," by which you govern and rule your flock, the ensigns of your sovereignty and of your gracious care - "they comfort me."  I will believe that you reign still.  The rod of Jesse shall still be over me as the sovereign succor of my soul.

Day 9

"The Lord is My Shepherd; I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth 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 thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over."
Psalm 23:1-5

The good man has his enemies.  He would not be like his Lord if he had not.  If we were without enemies we might fear that we were not the friends of God, for the friendship of the world is enmity to God.  Yet see the quietude of the godly man in spite of, and in the sight of, his enemies.  How refreshing in his calm bravery!  "Thou preparest a table before me."  When a soldier is in the presence of his enemies, if he eats at all he snatches a hasty meal, and away he hastens to the fight.  But observe: "Thou preparest a table," just as a servant does when she unfolds the damask cloth and displays the ornaments of the feast on an ordinary peaceful occasion.  Nothing is hurried, there is no confusion, no disturbance, the enemy is at the door and yet God prepares a table, and the Christian sits down and eats as if everything were in perfect peace.  Oh!  the peace which Jehovah gives to his people, even in the midst of the most trying circumstances!

"Let earth be all in arms abroad,
They dwell in perfect peace."

Day 10

"The Lord is My Shepherd; I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth 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 thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over."
Psalm 23:1-5

May we live in the daily enjoyment of this blessing, receiving a fresh anointing for every day's duties.  Every Christian is a priest, but he cannot execute the priestly office without unction, and hence we must go day by day to God the Holy Ghost, that we may have our heads anointed with oil.  A priest without oil misses the chief qualification for his office, and the Christian priest lacks his chief fitness for service when he is devoid of new grace from on high.  "My cup runneth over."  He had not only enough, a cup full, but more than enough, a cup which overflowed.  A poor man my say this as well as those in higher circumstances.  "What, all this, and Jesus Christ too?" said a poor cottager as she broke a piece of bread and filled a glass with cold water.  Whereas a man may be ever so wealthy, but if he be discontented his cup cannot run over; it is cracked and leaks.  Content is the philosopher's stone which turns all it touches into gold; happy is he who has found it.  Content is more than a kingdom, it is another word for happiness.

Day 11

"The Lord is My Shepherd; I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth 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 thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
Psalm 23:1-6

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life."  This is a fact as indisputable as it is encouraging, and therefore a heavenly verily, or "surely" is set as a seal upon it.  This sentence may be read, "only goodness and mercy," for there shall be unmingled mercy in our history.  These twin guardian go abroad they must not go unattended, so it is with the believer.  Goodness and mercy follow him always - "all the days of his life" - the black days as well as the bright days, the days of fasting as well as the days of feasting, the dreary days of winter as well as the bright days of summer.  Goodness supplies our needs, and mercy blots out our sins.

Day 12

"I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth 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 thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
Psalm 23:1-6

"A servant abides not in the house for ever, but the son abides ever."  While I am here I will be a child at home with my God; the whole world shall be his house to me; and when I ascend into the upper chamber I shall not change my company, nor even change the house; I shall only go to dwell in the upper story of the house of the Lord for ever.

May God grant us grace to dwell in the serene atmosphere of this most blessed Psalm!

Day 13

The Lord is My Shepherd - PSALM 23:1

Now the reasons of this resemblance I take to be these: First, one property of a good shepherd is, skill to know and judge aright of his sheep, and hence is it that it is a usual thing to set mark upon sheep, to the end that if they go astray (as of all creatures they are must subject to wander), the shepherd may seek them up and bring them home again.  The same thing is affirmed of Christ, or rather indeed Christ affirms the same thing of himself, "I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:27)  Yea, doubtless, he that has numbered the stars, and calls them all by their names, yea, the very hairs of our head, take special notice of his own children, "the sheep of his pasture,"  that they may be provided for and protected from all danger. 

Secondly, a good shepherd must have skill in the pasturing of his sheep, and in bringing them into such fruitful ground, as they may battle and thrive upon: a good shepherd will not suffer his sheep to feed upon rotten soil, but in wholesome pastures.

Thirdly, a good shepherd, knowing the straying nature of his sheep, is so much the more diligent to watch over them, and, if at any time they go astray, he brings them back again.  This is the Lord's merciful dealing towards poor wandering souls.

Fourthly, a good shepherd must have will to feed his sheep according to his skill: the Lord of all others is most willing to provide for his sheep.  How earnest is Christ with Peter, to "feed his sheep," urging him unto it three times! 

Fifthly, a good shepherd is provided to defend his flock....The Lord in every way provided for the safety and defense of his sheep, as David confesses in this Psalm v4, "Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."  And again, "I yook unto me two staves" (says the Lord), "the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bands; and I fed the flock."  (Zech 11:7) 

Sixthly, it is the property of a good shepherd, that if any of his sheep be weak and feeble, or his lambs young, for their safety and recovery he will bear them in his arms.  The Lord is not wanting to us herein.  (Isaiah 40:11) 

And lastly, it is the property of a good shepherd to rejoice when the strayed sheep is brought home.  The Lord does thus rejoice at the conversion of the sinner.  (Luke 15:7)

- These thoughts were written by Samuel Smith who lived in the late 1500s.

Day 14

The Lord is My Shepherd - PSALM 23:1

I noticed that some of the flock keep near the shepherd, and follow whithersoever he goes without the least hesitation, while others stray about on either side, or loiter far behind; and he often turns round and scolds them in a sharp, stern cry, or sends a stone after them.  I saw him lame one just now.  Not altogether unlike the good Shepherd.  Indeed, I never ride over these hills, clothed with flocks, without meditating upon this delightful theme.

Our Savior says that the good shepherd, when he puts forth his own sheep, goes before them, and they follow. (John 10.4)  This is true to the letter.  They are so tame and so trained that they follow their keeper with the utmost docility.  He leads them forth from the fold, or from their houses in the villages, just where he pleases.  As there are many flocks in such a place as this, each one takes a different path, and it is his business to find pasture for them.  It is necessary, therefore, that they should be taught to follow, and not to stray away into the unfenced fields of corn which lie so temptingly on either side.  Any one that thus wanders is sure to get into trouble.  The shepherd calls sharply from time to time to remind them of his presence.  They know his voice, and follow on; but, if a stranger call, they stop short, lift up their heads in alarm, and, if it is repeated, they turn and flee, because they know not the voice of a stranger.  This is not the fanciful costume of a parable, it is simple fact.  I have made the experiment repeatedly. 

The shepherd goes before, not merely to point out the way, but to see if it is practicable and safe.  He is armed in order to defend his charge, and in this he is very courageous.  Many adventures with wild beasts occur, not unlike that recounted by David (1 Sam 17: 34-36), and in these very mountains; for though there are now no lions here, there are wolves in abundance; and leopards and panthers, exceeding fierce, prowl about the wild wadies.  They not unfrequently attack the flock in the very presence of the shepherd, and he must be ready to do battle at a moment's warning.  I have listened with intense interest to their graphic descriptions of downright and desperate fights with these savage beasts.  And when the thief and the robber come, the faithful shepherd has often to put his life in his hand to defend his flock.  I have known more than one case in which he had literally to lay it down in the contest. 

A poor faithful fellow last spring between Tiberias and Tabor, instead of fleeing, actually fought three Bedawin robbers until he was hacked to pieces with their khanjars, and died among the sheep he was defending. 

Some sheep always keep near the shepherd, and are his special favorites.  Each of them has a name, to which it answers joyfully, and the kind shepherd is ever distributing to such, choice portions which he gathers for that purpose.  These are the contented and happy ones.  They are in no danger of getting lost or into mischief, nor do wild beasts or thieves come near them.  The great body, however, are mere worldlings, intent upon their mere pleasures or selfish interests.  They run from bush to bush, searching for variety or delicacies, and only now and then lift their heads to see where the shepherd is, or, rather, where the general flock is, lest they get so far away as to occasion a remark in their little community, or rebuke from their keeper.  Others, again, are restless and discontented, jumping into everybody's field, climbing into bushes, and even into leaning trees, whence they often fall and break their limbs.  These cost the good shepherd incessant trouble. 

 These thoughts were written by W.M. Thomson, DD in The Land and the Book.  Thomson lived in the mid to late 1800s.

Day 15

The Lord is My Shepherd - PSALM 23:1

As we sat, the silent hillsides around us were in a moment filled with life and sound.  The shepherds led their flocks forth from the gates of the city.  They were in full view, and we watched them and listened to them with no little interest.  Thousands of sheep and goats were there, grouped in dense, confused masses. The shepherds stood together until all come out.  Then they separated, each shepherd taking a different path, and uttering as he advanced a shrill peculiar call.  The sheep heard them.  At first, the masses swayed and moved, as if shaken by some internal convulsion; then points struck out in the direction taken by the shepherds; these became longer and longer until the confused masses were resolved into long, living streams, flowing after their leaders.  Such a sight was not new to me, still it had lost none of its interest.  It was perhaps one of the most vivid illustrations which human eyes could witness of that beautiful discourse of our Lord recorded by John. "And the sheep hear the shepherd's voice: and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out.  And when he puts forth his own sheep, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.  And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers,"  (John 10:3-5)  The shepherds themselves had none of that peaceful and placid aspect which is generally associated with pastoral life and habits.  They looked more like warriors marching to the battlefield - a long gun slung from the shoulder, a dagger and heavy pistols in the belt, a light battle-axe or ironheaded club in the hand.  Such were the equipments; and their fierce flashing eyes and scowling countenances showed but too plainly that they were prepared to use their weapons at any moment.

-written by J.L. Porter, A.M. in "The Giant Cities of Basham," 1867.

Day 16

I Shall Not Want - PSALM 23:1b

To be raised above the fear of want by committing ourselves to the care of the Good Shepherd, or by placing our confidence in worldly property, are two distinct and very opposite things.  The confidence in the former case, appears to the natural man to be hard and difficult, if not unreasonable and impossible: in the latter it appears to be natural, easy, and consistent.  It requires, however, no lengthened argument to prove that he who relies on the promise of God for the supply of his temporal wants, possesses an infinitely greater security than the individual who confides in his accumulated wealth.  The ablest financiers admit that there must be appended to their most choice investments, this felt or expressed proviso - "So far as human affairs can be secure."...Since then no absolute security against want can be found on earth, it necessarily follows, that he who trusts in God is the most wise and prudent man.  Who dare deny that the promise of the living God is an absolute security.

-written by John Stevenson who lived in the early to mid 1800s.

Day 17

I Shall Not Want - PSALM 23:1b

Our Shepherd the All-sufficient!  nothing can unite itself to him; nothing mingle with him; nothing add to his satisfying nature; nothing diminish from his fullness.  There is a peace and fullness of expression in this little sentence, known only to the sheep.  The remainder of the Psalm is a drawing out of this, "I shall not want."  In the unfolding we find repose, refreshment, restoring mercies, guidance, peace in death, triumph, an overflowing of blessings; future confidence, eternal security in life or death, spiritual or temporal, prosperity or adversity, for time or eternity.  May we not say, "The Lord is my Shepherd"? for we stand on the sure foundation of the 23rd Psalm.  How can we want, when united to him!  we have a right to use all his riches.  Our wealth is his riches and glory.  With him nothing can be withheld.  Eternal life is ours, with the promise that all shall be added; all he knows we want.  Our Shepherd has learned the wants of his sheep by experience, for he was himself "led as a sheep to the slaughter."  Does not this expression, dictated by the Spirit, imply a promise, and a full promise, when connected with his own words, "I know my sheep,"  by what painful discipline he was instructed in this knowledge, subjected himself to the wants of every sheep, every lamb of the fold, that he might be able to be touched with a feeling of their infirmities?  The timid sheep has nothing to fear; fear not want, fear not affliction, fear not pain; "fear not;" according to your want shall be your supply. "The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I trust him."

-written by Theodosia A. Howard, Viscountess Powerscourt (1830), in "Letters."

Day 18

I Shall Not Want - PSALM 23:1b

One of the poor members of the flock of Christ was reduced to circumstances of the greatest poverty in his old age, and yet he never murmured.  "You must be badly off,"  said a kind-hearted neighbor to him one day as they met upon the road, "yet you are always cheerful!" 

"Oh, no!"  he replied, "we are not badly off, I have a rich Father, and he does not suffer me to want." 

"What! your father not dead yet?  he must be very old indeed!" 

"Oh!" said he, "my Father never dies, and he always takes care of me!" 

This aged Christian was a daily pensioner on the providence of his God.  His struggles and his poverty were known to all; but his own declaration was, that he never wanted what was absolutely necessary.  The days of his greatest straits were the days of his most signal and timely deliverances.  When old age benumbed the hand of his industry, the Lord extended to him the hand of charity.  And often has he gone forth from his scanty breakfast, not knowing from what earthly source his next meal was to be obtained.  But yet with David he could rely on his Shepherd's care, and say, "I shall not want;" and as certainly as he trusted in God, so surely, in some unexpected manner was his necessity supplied. 

-written by John Stevenson who lived in the early to mid 1800s

Day 19

The Lord is My Shepherd; I shall not want.

 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters Ps 23:1-2

Here are many pastures, and every pasture rich so that it can never be eaten bare; here are many streams, and every stream so deep and wide that it can never be drawn dry.  The sheep have been eating in these pastures ever since Christ had a church on earth, and yet they are as full of grass as ever.  The sheep have been drinking at these streams every since Adam, and yet they are brim full to this very day, and they will so continue till the sheep are above the use of them in heaven!  

-written by Ralph Robinson, 1656

Day 20

The Lord is My Shepherd; I shall not want.

 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters Ps 23:1-2

With guidance to "green pastures" the Psalmist has, with good reason, associated guardianship beside "still waters;" for we can only appropriate the word through the Spirit, so we shall ordinarily receive the Spirit through the word; not indeed only by hearing it, not only by reading it, not only by reflecting upon it.  The Spirit of God, who is a most free agent, and who is himself the source of liberty, will come into the heart of the believer when he will, and how he will, and as he will.  But the effect of his coming will ever be the realization of some promise, the recognition of some principle, the attainment of some grace, the understanding of some mystery, which is already in the word, and which we shall thus find, with a deeper impression, and with a fuller development, brought home with the power to the heart.

-written by Thomas Dale, M.A., in The Good Shepherd, 1847

Day 21

"The Lord is My Shepherd; I shall not want.
 
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake"
Psalm 23:1-3

The subjects experimentally treated in this verse are, first, the believer's liability to fall, or deviate even within the fold of the church, else wherefore should he need to be "restored?" Next, the promptitude of the Good Shepherd to interpose for his rescue.  "He restoreth my soul."  Then, Christ's subsequent care "to lead him in the paths of righteousness;" and, lastly, the reason assigned wherefore he will do this - resolving all into the spontaneousness, the supremacy, the omnipotence of grace.  He will do all, "for his own name's sake."
written by Thomas Dale, M.A., in The Good Shepherd, 1847

The same hand which first rescued us from ruin, reclaims us from all our subsequent aberrations.  Chastisement itself is blended with tenderness; and the voice which speaks reproof, saying, "They have perverted their way, and they have forsaken the Lord their God," utters the kindest invitation, "Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings."  Nor is the voice unheard, and the call unanswered or unfelt.  "Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the Lord our God."  (Jeremiah 3:22)  "When You said, Seek my face; my heart said unto you, Your face, Lord, will I seek." 
written by J Thornton's Shepherd of Israel, 1826.

Day 22

"The Lord is My Shepherd; I shall not want.
 
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake"
Psalm 23:1-3

The Good Shepherd restores my soul to its original purity, that was grown foul and black with sin; for also, what good were it to have "green" pastures and a black soul!  He "restores" it to its natural temper in affections, that was grown distempered with violence of passions; for alas! what good were it to have "still" waters and turbulent spirits! He "restores" it indeed to life, that was grown before in a manner quite dead; and who could "restore my soul" to life, but he only is the Good Shepherd and gave his life for his sheep? 

Alas! O Lord, these "paths of righteousness" have a long time so little been frequented, that prints of a path are almost clean worn out; that it is a hard matter now, but to find where the paths lie, and if we can find them, yet they are so narrow and so full of ruts, that without special assistance it is an impossible thing not to fall or go astray.  Even so angels, and those no mean ones, were not able to go right in these "paths of righteousness," but for want of leading, went away and perished.  O, therefore, thou the Great Shepherd of my soul, as thou art pleased of thy grace to lead me into them, so vouchsafe with thy grace to lead me in them;' for though in themselves they be "paths of righteousness," yet to me they will be but paths of error if thou vouchsafe not, as well to lead me in them, as into them.

Seeing he hath taken upon him the name of a "Good Shepherd," he will discharge his part, whatever his sheep be.  It is not their being bad sheep that can make him leave being a "Good Shepherd," but he will be "good," and maintain the credit of "his name" in spite of all their badness; and though no benefit come to them of it, yet there shall glory accrue to him by it, and "his name" shall nevertheless be magnified and extolled.

-written by Sir Richard Baker (1568-1645)

Day 23

"The Lord is My Shepherd; I shall not want.
 
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth 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 thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Ps 23: 1-4

To "fear no evil," then, "in the valley of the shadow of death," is a blessed privilege open to every true believer!  For death shall be to him no death at all, but a very deliverance from death, from all pains, cares, and sorrows, miseries and wretchedness of this world, and the very entry into rest, and a beginning of everlasting joy: a tasting of heavenly pleasures, so great, that neither tongue is able to express, neither eye to see, nor ear to hear them, nor any earthly man's heart to conceive them....And to comfort all Christian persons herein, holy Scripture calleth this bodily death a sleep, wherein man's senses be, as it were, taken from him for a season, and yet, when he awaketh, he is more fresh than when he went to bed!...Thus is this bodily death a door or entering into life, and therefore not so much dreadful, if it be rightly considered, as it is comfortable; not a mischief, but a remedy for all mischief; no enemy, but a friend; not a cruel tyrant, but a gentle guide; leading us not to mortality, but to immortality; not to sorrow and pain, but to joy and pleasure, and that to endure for ever! 

-Homily against the Fear of Death, 1547

Day 24

"The Lord is My Shepherd; I shall not want.
 
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth 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 thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Ps 23: 1-4

Though I were called to such a sight as Ezekiel's vision, a valley full of dead men's bones; though the king of terrors should ride in awful pomp through the streets, slaying heaps upon heaps, and thousands should fall at my side, and ten thousand at my right hand, I will fear no evil.  Though he should level his fatal arrows at the little circle of my associates, and put love and friend far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness, I will fear no evil.  Yea, though I myself should feel his arrow sticking fast in me, the poison drinking up my spirits; though I should in consequence of that fatal seizure, sicken and languish, and have all the symptoms of approaching dissolution, still I will fear no evil.  Nature, indeed, may start back and tremble, but I trust that he who knows the flesh to be weak, will pity and pardon these struggles.  However I may be afraid of the agonies of dying, I will fear no evil in death.  The venom of his sting is taken away.  The point of his arrow is blunted so that it can pierce no deeper than the body.  My soul is invulnerable.  I can smile at the shaking of his spear; look unmoved on the ravages which the unrelenting destroyer is making on my tabernacle; and long for the happy period when he shall have made a breach wide enough for my heaven-aspiring spirit to fly away and be at rest.

-written by Samuel Lavington (1726-1807)

Day 25

"The Lord is My Shepherd; I shall not want.
 
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth 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 thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Ps 23: 1-4

Do you know the sweetness, the security, the strength of "Thou art with me"?  When anticipating the solemn hour of death, when the soul is ready to halt and ask, 'How shall it then be?' can you turn in soul-affection to your God and say, "There is nothing in death to harm me, while thy love is left to me"?  Can you say, "O death, where is thy sting"?  It is said, when a bee has left its sting in any one, it has no more power to hurt.  Death has left its sting in the humanity of Christ, and has no more power to harm his child.  Christ's victory over the grave is his people's.  "At that moment I am with you," whispers Christ; "the same arm you have proved strong and faithful all the way up through the wilderness, which has never failed, though you have been often forced to lean on it all your weakness."  "On this arm," answers the believer, "I feel at home; with soul-confidence, I repose on my Beloved; for he has supported through so many difficulties, from the contemplation of which I shuddered.  He has carried over so many depths, that I know his arm to be the arm of love." 

How can that be dark, in which God's child is to have the accomplishment of the longing desire of his life?  How can it be dark to come in contact with the light of life?  it is "his rod,"  "his staff;" therefore they "comfort."  Prove him - prove him now, believer! it is your privilege to do so.  It will be precious to him to support your weakness; prove that when weak, then are your strong; that you may be secure, his strength shall be perfected in your perfect weakness.  Omnipotent love must fail before one of his sheep can perish; for, says Christ, "none shall pluck my sheep out of my hand."  "I and my Father are one;" therefore we may boldly say, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me."

-written by Viscountess Powerscourt (1862)

Day 26

"The Lord is My Shepherd; I shall not want.
 
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth 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 thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Ps 23: 1-5

God does not at all depend upon wicked men in the benediction of his servants; they concur not with him, neither per modum principii (through the mode of the beginning), for he alone is the cause; nor per modum auxilii (through the mode of helping), for he without them can bless his all: their malicious renitency (resistance) of spirit, or attempt against God's blessing of his people, is too impotent to frustrate God's intention and pleasure.  An effectual impediment must not only have contrariety in it, but superiority: a drop of water cannot put out the fire, for though it has a contrary nature, yet it has not great power.  Now the malice and contrivances of evil men are too short and weak for the divine intention of blessing, which is accompanied with an almighty arm.  Evil men are but men, and God is a God; and being but men, they can do no more than men.  The Lord will clear it to all the world, that he rules the earth, and that "his counsel shall stand;" and where he blesses, that man shall be blessed; and whom he curses, that man shall be cursed; that the creatures can do neither good nor evil; that his people are the generation of his and love, though living in the midst of deadly enemies.
-
condensed from Obadiah Sedgwick (1600)

"Thou anointest my head with oil."  Anointing the head with oil is a great refreshment.  There are three qualities of oil - a smoothness to the touch, brightness to the spirit, fragrancy to the smell, and so, gratifying to the senses, it must needs cause delight to those anointed with it.  To this Solomon alludes when persuading to a cheerful life, he said, "Let thy head lack no ointment."  How fully does this represent the Spirit's unction which alone rejoices and exhilarates the soul!  It is is called the "oil of gladness," and "the joy of the Holy Ghost."
-
written by Nathanael Hardy (1618-1670)

"My cup runneth over."  Or as it is in the Vulgate: "And my inebriating chalice, how excellent it is!"  With this cup were the martyrs inebriated, when, going forth to their passion, they recognized not those that belonged to them; not their weeping wife, not their children, not their relations; while they gave thanks and said, "I will take the cup of salvation!"
-
written by Augustine (353-429)

Day 27

"The Lord is My Shepherd; I shall not want.
 
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth 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 thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
Psalm 23:1-6

This should be at once the crown of all our hopes for the future, and the one great lesson taught us by all the vicissitudes of life.  The sorrows and the joys, the journeying and the rest, the temporary repose and the frequent struggles, all these should make us sure that there is an end which will interpret them all, to which they all point, for which they all prepare.  We get the table in the wilderness here.  It is as when the son of some great king comes back from foreign soil to his father's dominations, and is welcomed at every stage in his journey to the capital with pomp of festival and messengers from the throne, until at last he enters his palace home, where the travel-stained robe is laid aside, and he sits down with his father at his table.

-written by Alexander Maclaren, 1863

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