Rev. & Mrs. Kenneth Fellenbaum
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Sunday, July 22, 2018
Have you ever noticed that the last two verses of Psalm 23 are written from a different perspective than the first four? In verses 1-4, David sees himself as a sheep and the Lord God as the Great Shepherd. In this relationship, David finds his needs provided for. In verses 5 and 6, he shifts back to being a man and God is portrayed as a great friend and gracious host.
There are three symbols in these two verses that I want to elaborate on. First of all, David said that God “prepared a table for him.” Our friends do us a real honor when they invite us to their home for a special dinner. Usually, they take great pains at putting out their best china, silverware, crystal and linen and then prepare an outstanding meal. David noted that God not only honored him by “preparing a table for him,” but he did this in the presence of David’s enemies. Have you ever noticed the Psalmist David’s frequent references to “his enemies”? As the king, apparently David had his share of people who disliked him. He drew great comfort from the fact that God chose to honor him in his enemies presence. Knowing God’s approval in life is helpful and encouraging.
Secondly, David said, “you anoint my head with oil.” Anointing in the Scripture is used in three senses: ordinary, sacred and medicinal. Here, no doubt, anointing with oil refers to his being chosen by God to serve as king. Because of this, David said, “my cup overflows.” Cup in the Bible is used literally or figuratively. Here “cup” refers to David’s heart. Realizing that we are special to God should cause our hearts to overflow.
Thirdly, David confidently said, “surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.” A personal knowledge of God reveals his goodness and love. No doubt the reasons that Psalm 23 is such a favorite of people is that this Psalm, perhaps more than any other, reveals the character of God. The six verses of this Psalm also describe the blessedness of his people. David concludes with these words of assurance: “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” I trust you know God and these blessings and assurance like David.
Someone has observed that Psalm 23 is one of the passages of the Bible that is first learned by children but perhaps one of the last that the meaning is truly comprehended as adults. The Psalmist David no doubt wrote these beautiful verses out of his experience as a shepherd boy. It is interesting that when he wrote, he put himself in the position of being a sheep and he referred to God as his shepherd. In this special relationship with the Lord, David found the answers to life’s greatest problems. Things that were issues 3,000 years ago remain problems for modern man.
The first problem that David found the answer to was that of human want. He said because I know ‘the Lord as my shepherd, I shall lack nothing.” He went on to say “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters.” It does not take a lot to make and keep a sheep contented. Give a sheep grass and water and they are satisfied. If we know God as our shepherd, he will provide us with all that we need. Humankind the world over has many needs and wants. In the third world, they need the basics to sustain life, and in the affluent West, people search for meaning, pleasure, etc. Our needs can be met through knowing God personally.
The second problem David discovered the answer to was that of human iniquity or sin. David wrote, “He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Sin is something that many people today do not want to acknowledge. But the truth is that we are all sinners and need to be reborn spiritually. David knew salvation through faith as he looked forward to the cross – just as we are saved from sin by looking in faith back to Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. Once we have been made new, we can then be led by the Spirit in righteousness.
The third problem of facing death and dying is perhaps the most difficult one. It is a great comfort when we are in danger or a life threatening situation to know the presence of the Shepherd. Our Lord has experienced death and the grave and has risen victoriously. He will be with us when we walk through “the valley of the shadow of death.”