Wednesday, 2 May 2018

PSALM 23  


I have started listening to a series about Psalm 23 and just wanted to share with you all what I have learned from it.  You may already know all of this but it has been refreshing for me to go over it again, so that is why I wanted to share it with you.  Remember that the Old Testament is a ‘type and shadow’ of Jesus and his finished work.  We all have a pre-conceived idea that Psalm 23 is used only at weddings or funerals as a hymn, but really  it is far more than that when you take into consideration when it was written and by whom it was written.  It can tells us a lot more through studying it and knowing about the area in Israel it is referring to. David had been a shepherd and so he is well qualified to write this psalm.  Remember that his beginning in life was to tend to his father’s flock. He was an accomplished shepherd. He protected his father’s flock of sheep day and night, sometimes fighting the enemy such as bears, wolves etc to keep the sheep safe.  Now that is a picture of Jesus, is it not?  He is tending the flock of his Father by looking after us, leading us and caring for us. He also fought the enemy and won!  In conjunction with this Psalm please read the Scriptures I will give you at the end of this part of the study.


 1 A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
   2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
   3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
   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.
   5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
   6 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.

Last time we covered almost all of the first three verses.  If you have not seen it please go and read it. We did not look at the last few words of verse three so that is where we will start today.  Remember that the context of this psalm is that it lies between psalm 22 which speaks of Jesus being forsaken for our sin on the cross and psalm 24 when it refers to the second coming of Jesus. So we are living in psalm 23.  This is our time and it is where we are right now.  Jesus died and was raised for the dead and he went to heaven and there is a gap at this point because he is coming back again, so we are waiting for his return.  We also saw last time that our shepherd provides everything for us.  He leads us to green pastures, which means we are fed, and then we rest and then he does the work. As we have been fed and now rest we are restored in our souls.  3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.  So then he leads us in the paths of righteousness which we saw was a path that leads higher an higher toward our hope in heaven.  But why? For his name’s sake!  To show the reputation of God in his name. God has set out what is a perfect plan and when we cooperate it shows his divine hand in our lives.  When we follow and obey him it highlights that there is indeed a God and he will be seen as true to his word as we live in the way that he has prescribed for us to live. When we do someone in someone’s name it is to show their reputation. If that person is respected then we will receive favour, but if that person has a bad reputation then that will be what we get too through association. So when we follow on the paths of righteousness and stay on them it shows that God is real and trustworthy.  His reputation is highlighted to the world. What kind of reputation of God are we showing the world today?  The road or path to destruction is wide and welcomes everyone, the paths of righteousness are narrow and have no safety rails at the edges.  To stay on it we have to stay focused on our shepherd.  Let us, for his name’s sake, feel our eyes on the shepherd and not get distracted by anything at all. 

The road from Jerusalem to Jericho

The valley of the shadow of death. 

  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.  So I have done some research into where the valley of the shadow of death actually is in Israel. Before we look at that there are two meanings to this phrase.  Many people who experience life threatening situations say they walked through the valley of death, and I understand what they mean by this as it is a very good description.  However, in this context David was talking to God saying : Yes, even though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Do you remember last time that i spoke of the road from Jerusalem to Jericho? It is the same road Jesus refers to in the parable of the good samaritan.  This road is a very narrow mountainous road and very winding.See the photos above. Even today it is still a very difficult road to travel on. says this : It’s a steep, deep and narrow canyon. The sun only hits the bottom of it when it’s directly overhead at high noon. The rest of the time the bottom of the canyon is dark. David probably led his sheep through the valley of the shadow of death as he was growing up. As you look in the Bible, the term “valley” also refers to all kinds of rough times in life.
  • Joshua talks about the Valley of Calamity
  • Psalm 84 talks about the Valley of Weeping
  • Hosea talks about the Valley of Trouble
  • The reference to a valley in Ps 23 in Hebrew actually means The Valley of Deep Darkness
This is what I find a very powerful thought. Up to this point in the Psalm, David as he writes has been speaking to the reader about God. He starts out and says to the reader, Hey let me tell you about the Lord. He is my Shepherd etc etc.  David was telling us that even though he walked in this place he feared no evil and then, he turns the conversation from the reader to God himself! He then says : 

For you are with me (the Shepherd) your rod    

from an unused root probably meaning to branch off; a scion, i.e. (literally) a stick (for punishing, writing, fighting, ruling, walking, etc.) or (figuratively) a clan:--X correction, dart, rod, sceptre, staff, tribe.

and your staff   
or mishteneth {mish-eh'-neth}; feminine of 4937; support (abstractly), i.e. (figuratively) sustenance or (concretely) a walking-stick:--staff.

both comfort me.  So what does all of that mean?   First of all let me explain something about shepherds and hired shepherds.  Men who were hired to tend the sheep did not really care about the sheep, they were doing this job for money  and many of them used their rod to beat the sheep to get them to go where they wanted them.  They did not lead the sheep and the sheep did not know them.  You see when a shepherd has a flock of sheep he gets to know his sheep and they get to know him and his ways.  There is a relationship between the sheep and the shepherd. David had looked after his father’s sheep as a young lad and he did a really good job of that.  The sheep knew him and he knew his sheep.  He did not lose any and he protected them against their enemies.  Can you see the parallel in this? Jesus is our shepherd and we know who he is and we know his voice and we follow him. So what about the rod and staff then?  There are churches who spread the gospel like a bit stick!  Think about it.  Many people are in church because they are afraid not to be because of what they are being taught. A hired preacher will do what he can to get by, but one who is anointed and loves his congregation will do everything to grow them into the love of God, not through fear. The rod is also a sceptre and sceptres are usually used by kings and the sceptre is symbolic of protection.  Royalty carry a sceptre on certain occasions as a show of protection.  Yes, it is symbolic but it is there to remind everyone that the king or queen can use it to beat off the enemy. It shows that the holder of the sceptre has power and authority and is in charge.  So David felt protected and knew he was protected by the Shepherd because of the rod or sceptre.  David was saying that God is in charge and his authority is first and foremost.  Trust is an issue to many people if they put their trust in other people because they can be let down.  If we give trust to there people then we are giving them authority, so we need to understand that sometimes we should not be doing that at all.  We can give authority to other people but it is God who holds the sceptre.  Overall David knew who God very well, after all it was said of David that he had a heart after God! So protection comes when we decide God will lead us.  He will lead us out of the valley of the shadow of death because his authority is over all.  In Ezekiel the rod washed for counting sheep.  It would be dipped some colour and tapped onto the sheep as each one went through the gate so that the shepherd could count them and, more importantly, doing this to the sheep said that they were his. They then had the mark of the shepherd  on them so that he would recognise which sheep were his.  Our mark is the blood of Jesus that God recognises, and that is what makes us his. God has final authority over each one of us when he looks and sees the blood of Jesus on us. 

So what about the staff then: This staff was like a walking stick, but tall and had a hook at the end of it.  The word used is pronounced as Mishawna……. phonetically.  So when a sheep strayed the shepherd could use the crooked end of the staff to hook around the next of the sheep and pull it back to safety. You see the shepherd would have an attitude of long-suffering.  He knew the sheep would stray and get into difficulties and he was prepared for that and he was prepared to use the tools he had to help the sheep get bak onto the right path.  This rod and staff are there for our protection too.  No matter how far we stray or fall off the path we are protected but eh Great Shepherd.  He will hook us up out of the mire clay, he will hook us out of the trouble we find ourselves in.  He will give a gentle nudge with the rod to prompt you to return, but if we are stubborn he will used the staff to hook us up to him again.  He will bring us back onto the paths of righteousness.  We need to learn to trust and rely on the support of the rod and staff that the great Shepherd uses.  The word of God, and Holy Spirit and our rod and staff. Think about it. They comfort us, if we let them. 

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  This is also interesting.  You see David knew how god loves us so much he wants the whole world including our enemies to see for themselves.  In David’s time, a king would hold a feast in the open air.  Their hospitality was extravagant and very visual for all to see. Your enemies might be there looking on but they cannot touch you when you are feasting in the presence of the king.  It is a perfect picture of how God treats us even before our enemies. His hospitality is exceptional.  Your friends, family and enemies can do nothing other than stand and watch how much God favours you.  He is displaying his power and authority and your part in it to all who see.  You are protected and looked after in front of all. Your enemies are powerless in the presence of God.  Let me put it another way.  Satan can do nothing while you are eating off the table of the Lord.  What are you eating? Are you studying daily? Are you meditating on the word, chewing the cud so to speak? Are you digesting and then allowing the food to grow you in your spirit?  God, the great Shepherd has invited you to join him at his table of the word and while you are there you are protected.  No-one can touch you and even your enemies will have to stand and watch God blessing you.  This is what it means when a table has been furnished in the presence of your enemies.  

thou anointest my head with oil so what does this mean then?  Going back to the sheep analogy I want to explain this to you.  The sheep have an enemy in the form of a certain fly that likes to land in the nostrils or ears of the sheep to lay it’s eggs.  Now, this is not nice but relevant.  If the fly succeeds, the eggs hatch with little worms that burrow their way up to the sheeps brain and causes a lot of distress to the sheep.  The result is that sheep can kill themselves by whacking their heads again a wall to stop the irritation. They shake their heads violently to try and relieve the irritation but if the worm has reached it’s destination it is usually too late and the sheep could die.  So let us look at the work of satan!  When he puts a bad thought, no matter how nice it seems at first, into your head it will begin to grow until you manifest the thought into reality. This is when you fall off the paths of righteousness and the worse thing that can happen is that you might die.  However the point of this is to say how devious satan is and how even a tiny little thought can grow into something you cannot control anymore.  We need to keep our minds being renewed in the word. So what about this anointing then, I hear you ask? The shepherds found that if they poured oil over the heads of the sheep the flies would not land on them, the flies did not like the oil and it acted like a deterrent.   So I want you to know that you are anointed in the grace of God.  Read this : 2 CORINTHIANS 1 VERSES  21 & 22 :   21 Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God;   22 Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.   We have no excuse.  We are anointed.  It is up to us to remember this and use the authority that it gives us.  The second a thought comes into our minds that is not good for us, no matter how attractive it seems, we need to take it captive and replace it with God’s word. Our cup (heart and mind) runs over with the love of God, the word of God and all the authority of God.  Our anointing comes from God himself.  Not only are we anointed but we have more than enough to keep us on the paths of righteousness and in the flock. 

  6 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.  Surely, the word is very specific, surely means surely, not perhaps or maybe.  It means certainly, without a shadow of a doubt.  When it speaks of the goodness and mercy that shall follow, it is really much stronger than that. When you look at the word follow :  

a primitive root; to run after (usually with hostile intent; figuratively (of time) gone by):--chase, put to flight, follow (after, on), hunt, (be under) persecute(-ion, -or), pursue(-r).  

It is actually saying that goodness and mercy will hunt you down.  They will chase you and pursue you  and hunt you down. All of His everything is chasing you, blessings are chasing you, mercy is chasing you.  All of his bounty of everything is chasing you to overwhelm you with his goodness and mercy because he is good.  For as long as you live on this earth God’s mercy and goodness will be change you and hunting you down to bless you; and you will live in the house of the LORD forever. While you are here on earth your body is the temple of the Lord and you are carrying him around with you.  When are you going to understand that he is as real as the people you see walking around you?   He is our Shepherd and he is well equipped to look after us far better than we are equipped in ourselves. Let us be the sheep that focuses on the shepherd ahead of us and never loses sight of him, so that we can stay on the paths of righteousness. Let him hunt you down with his blessings and mercies and love. 

Until next time, God bless you xxx

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