Jehovah Is My Shepherd

Psalm 23
Psa. 23
The blessings of this Psalm modified in this way—the blessings into which as the Shepherd He leads the flock—are not merely temporal but spiritual. The veil is now rent from top to bottom, and we are brought up to God, so that God is not only caring for us all the way, but the exercise of our souls should be to walk in the light with Him, “if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection from the dead.”
The care He has is to bring us up to walk in the power of that heavenly glory with Himself. “Keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me.” God is not only known to us as Jehovah giving us mercies all along the road, but it is the Father blessing us with spiritual things. True, “the hairs of our head are all numbered,” but there is discipline for our souls as well, which leads into blessing.
This Psalm is not only for us, but there was this experience in the Lord Jesus Himself, of God as His Shepherd. As a man upon earth He was kept by God. “He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.” He knew restoration of soul in Gethsemane where He, being in an agony, prayed the more earnestly. He never erred in His ways, never needed to be restored in that way. The very same care was exercised for Him—faultless object as He was of it—as there is for us.
Any pious Jew having a renewed nature, in old time, might know and use this Psalm and say, Jehovah my Shepherd. The holiness of God was not fully revealed, and therefore the conscience was not disquieted, and the distance not felt. They knew the favor of God and counted on His goodness then; but now we are brought into the light and see what judgment is. The veil is rent and God's holiness is manifested, for we are in the light as He is in the light through Jesus. “The darkness is past and the true light now shineth.”
Now that sin has been fully shown out, the death of Christ proving what the enmity of the heart was, this matter must be settled. I cannot say, “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever,” if I have not the knowledge of sin forgiven. I cannot talk of confidence, if I have a fear of judgment, and I see the desert of sin in the light of His holiness. I cannot speak of One who may be my Judge, that He is my Shepherd, and “I shall dwell,” &c.
We cannot know Him as our Shepherd if it is an unsettled matter about sin being forgiven. God cannot let sin into His presence. There must be a conscience purged. Christ has been accepted, and He puts us into His place, having made peace through the blood of His cross. “He has put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” “By one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified” — “entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption.” God does not see sin in Jesus, and we are in Him: therefore He sees no sin in us. The comfort and peace Christ had as a man walking on the earth, He gives us. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” Now I have come to put you in the place of unhindered confidence with the Father, and that is what you could never have, if the least sense of sin were upon you. The peace is made; therefore He can not only say, “Peace I leave,” &c.; but “my peace I give unto you.” These were not idle words; and we can see how He can give it us, having brought us to God and put away everything against us.
Now the question is one of happiness with God (conflict by the way of course, but God is my Shepherd). Not only has He done something for me, but He is something to me. Therefore it is said, “that your faith and hope might be in God.” I believe in God in Christ, as One who has loved me perfectly and manifested His love by putting away my sin. The kindness and love of God our Savior toward man has appeared.
The thought I may now have of God is that He has done all this for me, and that He is all this to me. I may fail and so get into evil, and this will make me ashamed, but it will not destroy my confidence, because my faith and hope are in God Himself. Now God is my Shepherd, and we may have confidence in Himself, for it does not say, He has done this and He will do that; but “I shall not want.” There never can be a want to the soul that has the supply. It is the application of this power and goodness of God to my every-day need that I shall feel; and all this must go on the ground of sin forgiven. Now I have found out not only my need of being justified, but that He has justified me. “Whom he called, them he also justified.” (Rom. 8)
The starting point of Christian experience is, “God for me,” and “if God be for me, who can be against me.” I am the object of His favor, which is “better than life.” “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.” I shall find food in everything—lie down, no one making me afraid. There are not only green pastures to be seized, with wolf in the way, but I lie down in them, and it is “he leadeth me,” and that must be in perfect peace and enjoyment, “beside the still waters.” This is the natural Christian state, realizing all things ours, for God is for us: therefore we may lie down. We shall have conflict, but, amidst it all, enjoyment.
Further, “He restoreth my soul.” This we know in a different way to what the Lord Jesus could. In one sense it could be said of Him, for He had had trouble without sin. “I cry in the day time, and thou hearest not, and in the night season,” &c. See John 12:27, 2827Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. 28Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. (John 12:27‑28) also. Sorrow is not sin. Christ knew sorrow but not distrust of God. If the sorrow gets between our souls and God, so as to produce distrust, it is sin; and if sin comes in, He can restore the soul. Whether from trouble or offending, He can restore.
See what thought he had about God! He does not say, I must get my soul restored and then go to God; but “he restoreth my soul.” It is not said, If any man repent, but “if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father.” Who can restore but He? There may be something to correct in us, if not actually a fall—hardness in my heart, which trouble shows me, &c. For our good in this way, He sends trouble—the soul needs plowing up, and cannot tell what God is doing—as well as that which is our proper portion as followers of Him who was the “man of sorrows.” But when He does restore, it is “for his name's sake.” Here am I, a poor failing wretched creature, and the Lord comes in and restores. Why? “For his name's sake.” Whatever I am, God is for me, and not only in this way, but also against enemies. “Though I walk through the valley,” &c. Man had reason to quail at death, before Christ came, for death was the wages of sin, Gen. 3; but now we need “fear no evil,” death is “ours” now: “the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raiseth the dead.” If they took my life, they could not hurt me, for I was trusting to One who could raise me; Paul meant to say, If they take this life I have lost nothing; nay, it is positive gain, for it hastens me on the road. Death is not terrible now. Why? “Thou art with me,” terrible without. “Thy rod,” &c., not only a rod, but “Thy rod,” &c. I shall fear no evil. Why? Because no one can compete with God. Death is the very thing by which Christ has saved me, and it is by that He will take me into His presence: “absent from the body present with the Lord.” “Though I walk,” &c., it may come as a trial to exercise my soul, well, I have to remember, “Thou art with me.”
Ver. 5. There is not only failure in life, and failure in death to meet, but mighty enemies; and I can sit down amongst them and find everything given me for food. I feed on this dying Christ, and it was in His death Satan's power was most put forth. In another light, Satan comes and tempts me with the flesh, but I can say to him, I am dead. I have a right to say it, I may fail in saying it, but that is another thing. Satan cannot touch anything but my flesh, and, if I am mortifying my members, he has no power. If my members are alive, Satan cannot count me dead. In the presence of all these I can sit down and say, I have done with them all, for “Thou art with me.” I have found that power by which they are made nothing to me. Then we get into farther security still, not only lying down in green pastures, &c., and led on in the paths of righteousness, comfort and support in walking through the valley so that there is no fear, and a table spread in the presence of enemies; but my head anointed with oil, “my cup runneth over.” Now that Christ has ascended, and the Holy Ghost has been given, there is triumphant joy, abounding over all, “through the power of the Holy Ghost.”
Ver. 6. “My cup runneth over.” I now find God Himself. the source of all, and not only this as a present thing, but seeing what God is, I can say, “goodness and mercy shall follow me,” &c., and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. We shall never want goodness and not find it. It “shall follow me.” The goodness of God is better than man's, if we could get it, and there is a place to dwell in— “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord,” &c. That is my hope. In the Father's house, there are not only blessings conferred, but a place to dwell in with the Father forever. As He brought Christ through, of course He will bring me through too; and I am there now by faith. I am at home with God my Father. Temporal mercies come from God's love, and spiritual, which are far better. And He would have us feel that all the correctings and chastenings by the way are founded on the fact that He is for us. When peace is really settled through the work of Christ, I have all these exercises; and what is known only to faith at the beginning becomes afterward experience, though always faith too; but every step, having had this experience, we can say, we know it—whatever it be we meet with by the way—we know it is all for good, and “we shall dwell,” &c. Wonderful grace!
We may notice that the Lord may put us through all kinds of trials, to teach us His faithfulness and love, while finding out what we are, we know ourselves so little. He studies as it were our characters, as we do our children.
There is a measure of confidence produced the moment God begins to work in the heart, but not quietness and peace until there is the knowledge of sin put away.