Tag Archives: psalm 23

Psalm 23 – It’s Not About You

jesus_shepherdHow many times have you read Psalm 23?  For me, it is probably several dozen, if not more than one hundred.  Until recently I read it with a selfish focus.   When I read Psalm 23, I saw the promise of peace, restoration, and protection.  While it speaks to these subjects, none of them are THE subject.

The Temptation

If you or I had written Psalm 23, it might go something like this: 
1 I have a shepherd; I don’t lack anything.
2 I get to rest in luscious, green pastures: anytime I want, I get to drink out of clear, still waters.
3 When I’m tired, my soul is restored. . .

This is somewhat how I used to read it.  But that is not what the Holy Spirit inspired David to write, and, more importantly, that is not the message of Psalm 23.  The Bible is littered with promises, many of them being “personal promises.”  But, frankly, not a single one of them is about you or me.  Each one is about the one who makes the promise.  If you think it through, this only makes sense, for a promise is no greater than the one making it.

The Truth

Psalm 23 is not about how David received some special blessing from God.  Psalm 23, like the whole of Scripture, is simply about the greatness of Jesus Christ.  In this instance, God wants us to know Christ as a Shepherd.  He reveals the care and protection He provides.  I do not believe David is proclaiming how lucky he is because he is a “famous sheep.”  I believe he is informing us about the goodness and prosperity he found in the Lord when he made the decision to humbly become a sheep.

I’m no king.  I’m no great warrior.  Though I strive to be, God has never called me “a man after His own heart.”  But I have yielded to the Shepherd, and I have found peace, restoration, and provision.  If you are willing to come to the Shepherd, submit to His authority, and become one of His sheep, then you will – like David – be able to attest to the greatness of the Shepherd.

Article by Bryan Likins

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The Promise

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” Ps. 23:6

The Shepherd has taken us on quite a journey. We have lain in green pastures, drank from still water, walked righteous paths, and gone through the valley of the shadow of death. He has fed us, bound our wounds, and overfilled our cups. Now He wants to leave us with a promise to hold onto as we continue on our journey.

The first word “Surely” is the Shepherd’s way of telling us that we can count on this… just as surely as we can count on every thing else He has said. For the rest of my life — no matter the pain, sorrow, good times, or bad times — His goodness and His mercy will follow me. Oh, if we could only understand this concept. He is not ever going to leave you in need. He has walked the trail before many times with many sheep. He knows the danger and trials that you will face. He has provided His goodness as a gift to help us as we walk. He knows that we will struggle so He reminds us that He will always be there to provide good things for us.

It is so easy in the midst of a trial to think that God is taking a board and hitting you just for good measure. In our pain, we lash out and think that He no longer cares. Yes, the Shepherd will chastise a disobedient sheep, but He never strikes us for His pleasure. Our Shepherd is good and wants us to know His goodness is always there. We must go through trials and testing to strengthen and grow our faith. We tend to expect a Christian life in a bubble of protection; however, if you take a baby and place him in a bubble with no germs, nothing to learn, and nothing to stimulate him, he will die. As humans we need to get sick to build our immunity. We need to learn how to walk, talk, and live on our own. We need difficulty to stimulate us to persist and try again. The Christian life is no different. Just as we would provide goodness and encouragement to a child who is growing the Shepherd provides us that same goodness.

 Our Shepherd is good and He wants us to know that His goodness is always there!

As if it was not enough to have his goodness, He also provides His mercy. The Shepherd knows that we will fail Him. We were born falling short of His Glory, and salvation does not change the fact that we will fall short. Knowing this, the Shepherd has provided His mercy; not as a license to sin, but as a way to continue the journey. If not for His mercy He would strike us down on our first offense. We live our life each day in His mercy and with that mercy comes responsibility. We must rise after we have fallen. (Proverbs 24:16) “For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.” His mercy demands that we get up and go on. Satan will use your falling and tempt you to remain down. The Shepherd never intended you to fall and not get up. If He did, He would never have given His mercy.

Some may ask: “Can I run out of this mercy?” According to the verse, not until He takes you home. I do believe that some sheep go home early, but as long as He gives you breath you have His mercy. In my opinion, for what it is worth, I think that many Christians who quit do so over guilt of their sin. Satan uses past failures as burdens to hold us down, but His mercy allows us to stand again.

To close it all off and finish this journey the Shepherd has taken us on, He has one more thing to say. “and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” After the journey is complete and when the path has ended – Heaven awaits. The pain of today leads to the joy of tomorrow. The trials made us able to reach more people for Christ. Our faith in the Shepherd was built to its ultimate purpose: He awaits us with nail scared hands. No longer stretched out for our sin, but now stretched our to welcome us home.

I leave Psalms 23 with some words that Paul gave those Christians at Ephesus … and having done all, to stand. Stand…
(Ephesians 6:13,14)

Article by David Wagner

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The Shepherd Knows the Way

If we are not careful, one of the most frustrating things about being a Christian is trying to know what God’s will is for our lives. We know in times past He spoke to Israel with moving clouds, called Samuel by name, made Gideon’s fleece wet, and sent His angles to talk. We may sometimes wish for direction just as clear as that, and not realize that we have something better.

First of all we must understand that the Shepherd does have a plan for His sheep. Continuing with Psalms 23:3, “ …he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” From the green pastures through the dark valleys He has promised never to leave or forsake us. In discussing restoration from the first part of the verse we know that sometimes He leads us though places that are a real test of faith.

A step forward in the will of God is always a step of faith.

Sometimes the problem is not that we do not understand where the Shepherd wants us to go, as much as it is that we do not want to go there. In truth, a step forward in the will of God is always a faith-step. Too many sheep walk haltingly, fearful of what the next step will bring. Our walk for God should be just as confident as our walk down the street. Take each step of faith, understanding that all the other steps in God’s will just bring us closer to Him.

A Righteous Path

Consider the path that the Psalms has laid out before us… There is no need to fear in the will of God. We must trust that His leading will always take us down the correct path. The path He leads us in is a righteous path. We know that there is no righteousness in us, but that does not stop us from walking down the righteous path. We must walk confidently knowing that whatever the path might bring, it is a righteous path we walk. The reason is even greater: we walk, “for his names sake.” Stop and think about this, would you? The Shepherd leads us along a righteous path for HIM. As Christians, we have the opportunity to walk for His name.

Here I am just a dirty little sheep. My Shepherd chose me and bought me with His blood. I no longer have to worry about where I am headed because He leads me. You get that? He leads me personally. The path I take for Him will always be a righteous path. I am a little ambassador for my Shepherd. I walk for His name’s sake. He chose me and He directs my path.

The Nuts and Bolts

When the Shepherd directs you down a righteous path, do not leave the path unless you are sure that the Shepherd is changing your path. What was God’s will, will continue to be God’s will, until He changes it. If the Shepherd wants you to change paths He will make sure that you know just what to do.

The Shepherd will never take you down an unrighteous path. Satan will tempt you to leave a path for greener pastures. He may use various methods to try to get you off the path that the Shepherd wants you on. If he can move you of the righteous path then you will not be as effective for God.

The Shepherd will always move you to be more effective “for his names sake.” If a path seems to take you from service for God, be careful. The Shepherd will train and raise you, and may even move you to be more effective for Him. We however must take our will out of the situation, and move only on His will.

For me, leaving the Pastorate was one of the hardest things I had ever done. I had pastored for the same place for seven years. I learned a lot in those seven years, and I had a blast being a pastor. God moved me before the health issues were too much trouble. They were interfering, but I could function. We moved to another Church in another state where God gave me a secular job and a home within two days. I served God in that Church as a layman until my health made that impossible. From a pastor to a homebound Christian may seem, to some, to be a downward path. The Shepherd has taken twenty-two years of service to Him to put me were I am today. I would not ever have chosen this path for myself. However, I would not trade anything for His leading me down this path for His name’s sake. That is the will of God.

Today may not seem right, but a lifetime of daily steps of faith will show you that your path is right.

So how do you find the right path for yourself? Spend time with the Shepherd. Work hard were you are. Take the steps of faith as they come. The best thing I can give you as encouragement is Psalms 46:10a, “Be still, and know that I am God:” My son recently asked me why he does not hear from God. I told him that he must learn to be still, and listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit. By the way, he has heard from God since.

Article by David Wagner

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The Ship is Lost

It was a desperate situation for the captain. He had traveled a long way looking for the answers to the question about his soul. He was no longer satisfied to travel the dark seas, and had heard that there was a place filled with light. He had only to find a lighthouse to guide him on his way. Before the captain – in the darkness – stood a grand lighthouse. It had been known to shine so brightly in the past, and many had found the Kingdom of Light by its testimony. The light inside the lighthouse glowed as brilliantly as it ever had. However, the keeper of the lighthouse had become weary in his well doing. In his despondency he had ceased to keep the windows clean. The desperate Capitan would have to look for another lighthouse because this one had ceased to shine.

I continue my journey though the 23rd Psalm. This time the first part of verse three. “He restoreth my soul:” If there is any doubt of the difficulties faced on the green pastures and by the still waters the fact the the Shepherd restores our souls should settle it. Lets cut through the pleasantries and take an honest look at your soul. To many Christians are just like the lighthouse mentioned above, and way past the need for a restoration. The problem is never the Light for it always shines inside of us. Too many souls are so desperate to be restored that the light can not even penetrate into the lighthouse itself. We are discouraged, depressed, worn out, and tired. We still go to church for now, and we may still even work in ministry at our church. We are however just a shell of a Christian serving God out of a habit.

If you doubt me let me ask you one question: Were is your joy?

In Psalms 53 David pleads with God to “restore the joy of thy salvation.” One of the first things to go in a Christians life is the joy that comes with our salvation. There can be no joy in darkness. The really sad part is the number of Christians who are fine being in darkness. They would never say it, but they are as unconcerned about the lost world as they are about themselves. The Fruit of the Spirit has long since been partaken of, and Satan has victory in there lives.

Well, if I have not totally ticked you off, I will show you the good news. The Shepherd knows that you are going to need restoration. He gladly provides it. His love for us is not conditional on our obedience to Him. His fellowship with us can be affected, but He has promised never to leave us or forsake us.

So there you stand covered in dirt. Your joy is gone. Your testimony to the world is gone. You are the sheep that is standing at the edge of the flock as far from the Shepherd as you can get. I challenge you to lift up your eyes and look into the eyes of the Shepherd. For He has said, ”Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Your Shepherd stands there now, knocking on your door; waiting to restore you. You need not worry about cleaning the dirt before opening the door. He already knows it’s there, and He will wash you. Spend some close time with your Shepherd, and you will find your joy restored. See the world with His eyes, and your heart will burn for the lost.

It was a desperate situation for the captain. He had traveled a long way looking for the answers to the question about his soul. He was no longer satisfied to travel the dark seas, and had heard that there was a place filled with Light. He had only to find a lighthouse to guide him on his way. Before the captain in the darkness stood a grand lighthouse. It had been known to shine so brightly in the past, and many had found the Kingdom of Light by its testimony. The Light inside the lighthouse glowed as brilliantly as it ever had. The windows, now restored, reflected that Light far into the dark sea. The desperate captain saw the Light. His heart skipped with joy, and tears ran down his eyes. For this sheep, whom once had been lost, now had been found. His life in darkness had now been transformed into sight. This was all due to the sheep who found himself in need of restoration, and surrendered himself anew to the Shepherd.

Article by David Wagner

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Green Pastures & Still Waters – but no Bed of Roses

In my opinion one of the most misunderstood passages of the twenty-third Psalm is verse 2: “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.” As you read this passage, you might imagine herds of sheep eating on the green hillside and drinking in a nearby babbling brook.

What made me stop and consider was the thought that the Shepherd had to make the sheep lie down in green pastures. It would seem that life in a pleasant, green land, you would not have to make the sheep lie down. So consider with me what would make the pastures so green? Storms – of course. Remember, Psalm 23 is talking about life on Earth with the Shepherd – not life in Heaven. In Heaven the green fields will not need storms, but on Earth they do. The same applies to the Christian life. The small storms of the pasture prepare us for the dark valley ahead.

Unfortunately, too many Christians are ill-prepared for the Christian life.

We must realize that a life of faith is grown. Look at the lives of great men of faith – men like Abraham, David, and Moses were not born as men of great faith – they were grown. The small difficulties faced on the green pastures of their lives grew their faith. Yes, it is true that God provided for their need on the pasture, but he also taught them. The sheep will jump into any water to drink. It is up to the Shepherd to lead him to the water that is safe to drink. It is the responsibility of the sheep to learn to listen to the Shepherd. That is the true purpose of the time spent in green pastures and by still waters. These are the places were we learn the voice of the Shepherd. We learn to walk where He says; we learn to lay down when He says. The reason for the storm becomes less important as learning to trust Him becomes more important.

Dr. Lee Roberson led me to Christ as a 5 year old boy. I can still hear him in my head saying, “Have faith in God.” As we grow in the Christian life, we will be tested. There will come a day that you face a valley. It will be dark, and you may not see the hand of the Shepherd like you did on the pasture. It may only be His still small voice that encourages you on. If you have not learned to listen for His voice you will be lost when the valley comes. It is easy to enjoy the green of the pastures and the stillness of the water and to take for granted that the Shepherd is trying to train you. We bristle as sheep against the rod and the staff. We want to live our way.

A sheep who has not learned the basics of the rod and staff will wonder off the path.

I can not emphasis enough the importance of learning the lessons of faith early. As a teenager, I took a softball to the head. I spent my 18th birthday in a hospital bed unable to move. For the first time in my life nobody could help me. The only person who knew what was really going on was my Shepherd. After a month of the doctors shaking their heads, I slowly began to learn to walk again. That step of faith back there seems so small compared to the level of faith I need for my daily walk today. I claim to be no great Christian, but I have learned to take steps by faith. The Shepherd has had many lessons for me. Each new loss of ability seems like a giant storm coming my way. It is in those times that the Shepherd makes me lie down in the green pastures. It is when I am desperately thirsty for some life-giving water that He leads my beside those refreshing, still waters.

I can testify that I have seen many storms come by, but I must also testify that the Shepherd has always been faithful. The storms may swirl around me so strong that I can not see the hand of the Shepherd. It is in those times that His still small voice breaks through the storm. It is those times that the rod and staff comfort me. If I had waited till the storm came to learn His voice it would have been too late. The time to learn the voice of the Shepherd is when the sun is shining on the pasture.

My friend, you will face storms in life.
The faith you have in the Shepherd will be tested.

Each opportunity for faith will be one step outside of what you think you can do. The decision you face is this: Will you learn from the Shepherd, or will you try to live the Christian life alone? Think about it this way… If your faith is never tested than you can never grow in faith. I will tell you this, I do not have the faith to stand in front of a million people and stretch my rod out over the Red Sea and expect God to part the water. That is not my test nor is it yours. I can tell you this though, that when Moses acted in faith God parted the water. The question is not if God can do something, but rather will He use you to do something. Learn to walk in faith, and give God the resource to do great things. 

Article by David Wagner

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The Lord is My Shepherd

I would to take you on a journey with me through the 23rd Psalm. This passage of scripture has been a profound blessing to me, as well as in my ministry. Here are some lessons God has given me.

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” This first verse contains a wonderful blessing for the child of God. This verse establishes both our position, and our possession. The little word “my” sets the tone for the whole chapter. This is a personal Psalm, and it has many applications for our Christian life.

Our position is clear here in this first verse the LORD is the shepherd and we are His sheep. His intent is to provide us the things necessary that we need to be good sheep. He will provide us with pasture and water to take care of our need. He will guide us with rod and staff to train us to hear Him. He will teach us the path to take. He will grow us so that we will walk the hard path without His continual voice. As sheep we are prone to wander. The grass that is across the way looks much better to us. The water provided is not as convenient as others. We resent and rebel the rod and the staff. We want to choose our own path. We will obey as far as we can see.

As our shepherd, the Lord does not abandon us as we struggle to do our own thing. His Holy Spirit works in our heart. Our sin is forgiven and our return to the fold is welcomed. It is true that oil is provided for our healing, however scars remain to remind us of our wandering.

Look through my eyes as I look at the Shepherd. I see One who knows me. I see One who loves me. I see One who bore my sins. I see One who died for me. I see One who picks me up, and looks me over to make sure I am not wounded. I see One who combs the dirt of the world out of my wool. I see One who comforts me when I fear. I see One who holds me when I cry. His wish for me is that I obey and fulfill His purpose in my life. He is my personal Shepherd. Religions promote their gods — gods of wood and of stone — gods who can not feel or care. Their gods are dead, and yet they serve them out of fear. Those who do not worship the true God are left without a Shepherd. Yes, our God is a jealous God, One that we should fear, but He is also the God who loves us and has provided for us a Shepherd.

This is not the only verse that deals with the provision of the Lord in our life. Picture a herd of sheep calmly moving along the path. These sheep do not have a worry in the world. Their faith and trust is in the provision of the shepherd. Oh, that we Christians could learn to live without want. We are not content with what the shepherd has provided us, but want what the shepherd has provided others. Many of us go so far as to covet our neighbors goods. We look at the blessings the Shepherd has given others, and we grow bitter with the blessings the Shepherd has given us.

The verse does not promise us we will never have needs. How can we grow our faith if we never have need? How can the Shepherd provide a blessing if there is no need? The life without want comes by walking along with the Shepherd and realizing what is important. We have been so blessed that sometimes we become carnally-minded and want after the things of the world. Living a life close to the Shepherd makes us become more like Him and makes our desires more like His.

Article by David Wagner

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