Originally published in print Issue 88 of Calvary Chapel Magazine
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
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This is one of the most familiar passages of Scripture in the Bible. As we study it, we will discover why so many find strength, solace, comfort, and the Lord’s love in this psalm.
God Is with Us
David was a shepherd boy writing this psalm as he watched over his flock. He writes, Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me. The cure for fear is the consciousness of God’s presence with us.
This week I learned that there are actually 615 different phobias that people have. There is even a phobophobia, which is the fear of fear. People can be gripped with so many different fears. There’s thanatophobia–the fear of death, a very common fear. Sometimes we talk very bravely about death until we face it, and then it becomes an entirely different story.
When I was in sixth grade, we heard the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley. It didn’t ring true with me: I am the captain of my fate, I am the master of my soul. I had submitted my life to Jesus Christ and I didn’t consider myself the captain of my fate or master of my soul. But it sounds very brave, and people were drawn to it. But it’s a false confidence. As believers, God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1 NKJV).
He Protects and Cares for Us
In this psalm, David sees God as a shepherd, guide, and caretaker. Watching his father’s sheep, young David was very familiar with them. He knew that they had no real defensive weapons, so they had to trust in the shepherd to watch and to defend them. They had no sense of direction and were easily lost if they were out of sight of the shepherd.
Sheep need a shepherd to survive: to lead them to the pastures and the watering holes. David as a shepherd boy, realizing how they were dependent upon him, declared, The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want—I shall not want for comfort or rest—because He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. I shall not want for nourishment because He restoreth my soul.
He Guides Us to Right Paths
David sees the Lord as his guide: He leadeth me beside the still waters. These are not rushing waters or rivers because sheep cannot swim. They don’t know any better, so they could walk right into the river and be carried away. If one does, the rest will follow. The Lord knows this, so He leads us where we will get refreshment and not be harmed.
We read, He leads me in paths of righteousness. There is a hymn which says, “’Which way shall I take?’ shouts a voice in the night, ‘I’m a pilgrim awearied, and spent is my light.’”
So many times, we come to a crossroads, and like the weary pilgrim, we call out for help: “Which way should I go?” How wonderful it is to know that He will lead me in the right path. He goes before me, and His hand is upon me (Psalm 139:5).
Fear No Evil in His Presence
One day as the Lord is leading me in the path of life, I am going to come to this valley of the shadow of death: the time that my life is over, or even the death of a loved one. David said, Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.
In Isaiah 41:10a we read, “Fear thou not, for I am with thee.” That is really the cure for fear—the consciousness of God’s presence. He is with me no matter where the path may lead, no matter what the dangers may be. The knowledge of His presence with me should dispel any fear that I might have.
Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. This phrase is so descriptive of the Christian life: He doesn’t just fill the cup of my life; He overflows it with His blessing. At times He has been working in my heart and life, and I have been so overwhelmed that I just feel: “Lord, shut it off; I can’t take any more. This is so rich and so wonderful.” And He just keeps pouring until it overflows, and that’s His desire: not only to fill your life but to be an influence to others around you. Then you will be an instrument through which God’s love pours out to this needy, hurting world.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. I am on my way to my Father’s house where I’m going to be enjoying His love and His presence and His abundant provisions forever. I have nothing to fear. May the Lord bless you and fill you with the awareness of His presence with you today.