This Week's Focus Passage

Psalm 23 ‘Jehovah is my Shepherd, I shall not want.’

This Week’s Focus Passage: Psalm 23

‘Jehovah is my Shepherd, I shall not want.’


It may well be the case that the 23rd Psalm is the best-known ‘passage,’ or ‘chapter,’ in the Bible. It is extremely likely that, even the historical usage of this psalm over many years, as a ‘comfort’ or ‘eulogistic’ portion of Scripture by families and funeral directors with, probably, as many differing motives for doing so, as there are different families and funeral homes involved in its phenomenal history of usage. This alone could account for its being the best known psalm in the Word of God, and the most quoted portion of Scripture. It is most reasonable and unsurprising that such verses specifically contained in this monumental and incredibly endearing song, or poem, or psalm, of David, would form such great comfort for those mourning the death of a loved one. The simple recognition that the Lord, the Creator of all things, should be the Shepherd of the one being mourned, and, in many, if not most, cases, the Shepherd of the mourners themselves. The two verses, which usually would provide the most comfort, are surely verses four and six. They each speak especially of the comforting and the lovingkindness of the good Shepherd for His sheep. Verse four, as found in the ASV-1901, expresses such a hope:

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.

And verse six, such a faith; Surely goodness and lovingkindness shall follow me all the days of my life; And I shall dwell in the house of Jehovah for ever.

Its popularity, in use, forms the substance of something of a conundrum, a sort of puzzle, an enigma of sorts; that is to say, or ask the question, how can such a lovely expression, such a grand piece of poetry, become the beloved dirge for people that, in a multiplicity of cases, may not even profess to be lovers of Jehovah God? The sentiments set forward by the ‘sweet Psalmist of Israel’ have so enraptured their thoughts, perhaps, of some kind of Elysium [Elysian Fields]. Classical Mythology, the abode of the blessed after death. Of course, and sadly, there are as many; yea, a multitude of synonyms attached to such and similar false hopes. Many have their hope in a Nirvana, or they may imagine themselves to be led by Valkyries to Valhalla or some other mythical place of happiness. It could be a ‘cloud nine,’ or a ‘seventh heaven,’ or perhaps the ‘happy hunting ground.’ These poor deluded folk; some do not even have these ‘religious’ delusions, but are satisfied, in their refusal to believe on the only true and living God, with such expectations as ecstasy, or, exhilaration, or maybe even, euphoria. These folk are primarily deluded by their pride, that which prevents them from embracing the truth found in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    They are pleased to be given some form of comfort, as they lay dying. They are perhaps thankful for the words of the psalmist, even as they refuse to believe truly in the Shepherd of whom he speaks; they will not have Him as their Lord. They remind us of the ten lepers of Luke 17, that were happy that their leprosy was gone, but only one of them came to Christ to fall at His feet and thank Him for the healing, ‘and he was a Samaritan.’ Jesus had to inquire of this one, Were not the ten cleansed? but where are the nine? Were there none found that returned to give glory to God, except this stranger? There are many, it seems, that receive comfort from reading the grand words of Psalm 23, yet refuse to acknowledge the Author as Lord. They have their reward, and that is all the comfort they will receive. They were not able to see, in David’s words, that the Lord was the Shepherd that comforts His sheep.

    Christ has told us, that have been given ears to hear, in the tenth chapter of John, that He is the Good Shepherd. That is the reason for which we are distinguished from those that are satisfied with some man-made havens after death, rather than the heaven provided by God through His Shepherd, Jesus Christ. He has told us that He is the door of the sheepfold. By me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and go out, and shall find pasture. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.’ David has written under inspiration in the first verse of this 23rd psalm, He leadeth me beside still waters. He was enabled to see, in some mysterious manner, the Good Shepherd whom His sheep would follow, even following the Lamb whithersoever He goeth [Rev. 14:4]. Yes, the Shepherd and the Lamb are the One and the Same wonderful and glorious Savior. I came, He has said, that they may have life, [eternal life] and may have it abundantly. [even for ever and ever]. How? Jesus explained further, I am the Good Shepherd, the Good Shepherd layeth down his life for the sheep. This, of course, is what makes the great difference between the sheep and the goats. It is through the blood of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Paul has said it well, By grace have ye been saved though faith [in the Lamb]; not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, that no man should glory. All praise to the Good Shepherd who has laid down His life for His sheep! He has made all the difference between sheep and goats, enabling us to say, with David, Jehovah is my Shepherd. One writer, of the eighteenth century, has spoken of this marvelous grace:

“Most happy then and blessed is the man who believes in God as He is revealed in Christ. He is not only a humble sheep of a fold, he is also and honored guest at a banquet! And the great and gracious Jehovah in whom he confides, is not only a Shepherd who preserves His sheep from all evil, but also a Royal Host who richly provides for His friends in the very presence of their enemies! Oh how it fills our hearts to discover that the Shepherd whom we follow is a great King! We learn that He is leading us not only into the valley of peace, but also into the kingdom of grace! And we obtain the delightful assurance that He can not only preserve us for ever within the sacred enclosure of His fold, but that He can also exalt us to everlasting honor and gladness in His kingdom of Glory! The Lord Jesus then is revealed to us in this Psalm as a Shepherd and a King, abounding in wisdom, benevolence, and power! As our Shepherd and King He is to form the object of our confidence and obedience during the whole  period of our earthly existence! As our Shepherd and King He shall also be the object of our hope and our veneration in the day of His glorious appearing.”

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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