Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD”

Psalm 23[1]

 

Turn in your Bible to First Corinthians chapter 12, where we will stand and read verses 24-26:

 

24     For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:

25     That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.

26     And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

 

We know that everyone will pass through the portal of death to enter eternity, except for those Christians who are alive when our Lord returns. We also know that, with some unusual exceptions for those who die suddenly at a very young age, everyone suffers.

As I mentioned several weeks ago, the unsaved among us cannot make sense of suffering, because their own suffering is essentially meaningless apart from a wise and compassionate Savior who works in the lives of His own, even making use of suffering to work glory to God the Father. Therefore, and in light of the relationship Christians in our church have with each other after having been mixed together by God, God having “tempered the body together” Paul writes in verse 24, we “should have the same care one for another,” verse 25, and when “one member suffer, all the members suffer with it,” verse 26.

Again, I remind you that the lost can do very little spiritual good for the saved in our suffering, and for the saved when we approach death. Therefore, it falls on us to minister to spiritual needs of each other as best we can during times of suffering and as death approaches a brother or a sister in Christ.

To that end, please turn to the 23rd Psalm. Charles Spurgeon wrote of this psalm: “It has been said that what the nightingale is among birds, that is this divine ode among the psalms, for it has sung sweetly in the ear of many a mourner in his night of weeping, and has bidden him hope for a morning of joy.” It is my hope and prayer that the time we spend in the 23rd Psalm tonight will better equip each of us to comfort one another in suffering and when one of our own approaches death.

Let us stand and read the entire psalm responsively. I will read the first, third, and fifth verses, and you will read the second, fourth, and last verses:

 

1      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.

 

Verse 1: “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

 

David had been a keeper of sheep in his youth, and understood both the needs of the sheep and the many cares of a shepherd. Who better to portray the believer as one who is weak, defenseless, and foolish, though he has taken God to be his Provider, Preserver, Director, and, indeed, his everything. No man has a right to consider himself the Lord’s sheep unless his nature has been renewed, since the scriptural description of unconverted men does not picture them as sheep, but as wolves or goats. A sheep is an object of property, not a wild animal, and frequently it is bought with a great price. Does not the child of God belong to the Lord by right of purchase? There is no “if” or “but,” or even “I hope so.” Instead, he writes, “The LORD is my shepherd.” The sweetest word of the whole is that word, “my.” He does not say, “The LORD is the shepherd of the world at large, and leadeth forth the multitude as His flock,” but “The LORD is my shepherd.” If He is a Shepherd to no one else, He is a Shepherd to me. He cares for me, watches over me, and preserves me. Whatever the believer’s position happens to be, he is even now under the pastoral care of Jehovah.

The next phrase derives from the first phrase. “I shall not want.” Because God is my shepherd, and shepherds are responsible for the safety, for the nourishment, and for the protection of their sheep, the security of the believer is assured.

 

Verse 2: “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.”

 

The Christian life is shown here to have two elements in it, the contemplative and the active, and our Shepherd richly provides for both of these:

First, the contemplative element of life: “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.” What are these “green pastures”? In Hebrew, this refers to sod enclosures constructed for sheep to be safely penned and fed at night. Our concern, however, has to do with the spiritual imagery of this poetry. Methinks the sweet psalmist of Israel is referring here to the spiritual safety and nourishment for the soul that is God’s Word. Always fresh, always rich, and never exhausted, where the grass is long enough for the flock to lie down in it, this refers to the doctrines of the gospel, fit food for our souls, just as tender grass is natural nutrition. Observe that, “He maketh me to lie down.” How thankful each child of God should be that he has been placed in the refuge of safety and nourishment by the Shepherd of our souls.

The second part of a Christian’s life consists in activity. We not only think, but we act. We are not always lying down to feed, but are also journeying onward toward perfection: “he leadeth me beside the still waters.” It is a rippling current that speaks of a shallow stream, but the stillness here speaks of depth. Spurgeon believed the poetic imagery suggested the influences and graces of the Holy Spirit and the “still waters” an allusion to the Spirit’s love for peace. Therefore, as we engage in ministry, as we busy ourselves with the work of faith and the labor of love, God’s children can enjoy not only peace with God, but also the peace of God reigning in our hearts and minds.

 

Verse 3: “He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

 

When the soul grows sorrowful, He revives it; when it is sinful, He sanctifies it; when it is weak, He strengthens it. “He” does it. His preachers and teachers would be of no use, but for God’s use of them in doing it. Neither would His Word accomplish anything by itself. “He restoreth my soul.” Are you low in grace? Do you feel that your spirituality is at its lowest ebb? Guess who can restore your soul. He can. He will. However, you must ask Him to do so. Remember James 4.2: “Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.” If you want your soul restored, ask Him to restore your soul.

“He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” The Christian delights to be obedient, but it is the obedience of love, to which he is constrained by the example of his Master. “He leadeth me.” The Christian is not obedient to some commandments and neglectful of others. Neither does the child of God pick and choose; selecting the one he delights in, while ignoring the one that is burdensome. Notice that the plural is used, “the paths of righteousness.” Why so? Life is complex, and there are a variety of tasks and responsibilities we must shoulder. Our duty is to be faithful in all those paths of righteousness. “For his name’s sake.” It is to the honor of our great Shepherd that we should be a holy people, walking in the narrow way of righteousness. If we are so led and guided, we must not fail in our gratitude for our heavenly Shepherd’s care.

 

Verse 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.”

 

Most people refuse to walk through the valley of the shadow of death. While one refuses to think about it or discuss it, as though by refusing to think about death it can all be avoided, the other runs through the valley of the shadow of death. The child of God, on the other hand, is the foremost realist, who faces death with eyes wide open, and with no alteration in his stride. He walks, as he has always walked, and does not run or refuse. Notice, for the child of God, two things are implied here: First, my journey is through the valley, and does not end in the valley. For the believer, death is an event to be passed through on the way to a more blessed eternity. Additionally, for the Christian, it is a valley of the shadow of death, because death does not mean for the believer what it means for the unsaved man. For most men, death is the beginning of horrors, while for the Christian death is a door that is passed through to glory.

“I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” I am not saying Christians do not experience trepidation as they approach death. However, it is nothing like the stark terror and fright that the clear-thinking lost man is typically consumed by. Why so? The Christian fears no evil because he does not approach death alone. His God is with him, the God of all comfort. As well, His rod and His staff comfort believers in the valley of the shadow of death. The rod and the staff may refer to the same shepherd’s tool, or the rod may speak to the shepherd’s authority, with the staff speaking to the shepherd’s support. Whatever view is taken the result is the same, with our Shepherd exercising great authority and providing supreme comfort even when I am walking through the valley of the shadow of death. He is powerful. He is good. He is wise. He watches over me. I am in good and gracious hands through it all. No wonder I will fear no evil. He is with me. In Hebrews 13.5, we read, “for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”

 

Verse 5:  “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”

 

Who does not have enemies? As well, how Christ-like would a believer be who did not have enemies, as the Savior had enemies? Thus, we see that the psalmist acknowledges the believer’s enemies, all the while showing that God prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies. Nothing is hurried, there is no confusion, no disturbance, the enemy is at the door and yet God prepares a table, and you sit down and eat as if everything is in perfect peace. What peace God gives His children, even in the most trying circumstances.

Does not oil speak of the Holy Spirit? Does not anointing speak of the Christian’s unction? Is not a cup running over an allusion to being filled with the Spirit? “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit,” Ephesians 5.18. In David’s day, the priest without oil misses the chief qualification for his office. In our day, the Christian fulfilling his function in this priesthood of believers must be filled with the Spirit of God, even when he walking in the valley of the shadow of death, or living in the very presence of his avowed enemies. Believers are vessels that are useful only when we are filled. When empty we are without utility.

 

Verse 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.”

 

The days of my life will not always be bright and cheerful. There will be times of thick darkness and even suffering. Each person’s life consists of varying amounts and intensities of joy and grief, happiness and sorrow. However, the real advantage of the child of God is that goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. Such cannot be said for the lost among us, for what follows after them all the days of their lives are the hounds of Hell that will someday track them down, bring them down, and drag them to the place of torment.

“And I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.” Remember, from this morning’s message, what Jesus said to His disciples the night before He was crucified? “I go to prepare a place for you.” That is where I will dwell forever. For the unsaved person, then, death is the end of all happiness, for death will be the doorway to Hellfire for the Christ-rejecter. For the child of God, however, death does not lead to Hell, but to heaven. And that which leads to death, the valley of the shadow of death, therefore, is not the place of terror and foreboding for the Christian that it is for the unsaved.

God is so good to His Own. His provision for us is complete. His watch care over us is tender and loving. Thankfully, we are never alone.

 

SERMON:

 

Please look once again to the 23rd Psalm, and read along as I read it to you again, taking care to note those places in the psalm where assurance is given to the child of God that the child of God is not alone:

 

1      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.

 

Shepherds do not leave their flocks, verse 1. He leads me beside the still waters, verse 2. He leads me in the paths of righteousness, verse 3. He is with me in the valley of the shadow of death, causing me to fear no evil, verse 4. He prepares a table before me and anoints me, verse 5. In addition, He makes goodness and mercy to follow me all the days of my life, with me ending up dwelling in the house of the LORD forever, verse 6.

Please consider several things related to life and how it is lived:

 

First, THE LIFE OF THE LOST MAN

 

You understand that a lost man’s life is always lived alone. Regardless of the number of so-called friends he has around him, and despite the way he throws himself into social situations with reckless abandon, the lost man is, first and foremost, alone. And he knows he is alone.

The reason for this, of course, is because he is estranged from God. The most important relationship a man can have with any being is a relationship with God, that vertical relationship that is established when the sinner comes to Christ. Until then, God, who is rightly and justifiably jealous, will never bless the horizontal relationships, relationships with other people.

 

Next, THE CONVERSION OF A MAN TO CHRIST

 

When the Holy Spirit of God makes use of Christian witness and gospel preaching to persuade a sinner that his situation is perilous, He frequently drives home to the sinner a sense of his aloneness, as well as opening his eyes to his terrible sinfulness.

Should the sinner turn from his sins to Christ, he must do that alone. A man comes to Christ alone, and not with the company of others. The gate, after all, is said to be strait for a reason. Only one can fit through at a time. Therefore, a lonely sinner, convicted of his sins, comes to Christ alone.

However, when that sinner comes to Christ, a second great miracle accompanies the miracle of the new birth. That other miracle is the miracle of the new Christian’s indwelling by the same Holy Spirit. From the moment a sinner turns to Christ and is saved from sins, the precious Holy Spirit, Who is the earnest of our inheritance, indwells him.

From that moment onward, you will never be alone again. When Jesus said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” He meant it and keeps His promise in the person of His personal representative to you, the Holy Spirit.

 

Third, THE CONDUCT OF A CHRISTIAN

 

Though the Christian life is entered alone, it is not God’s will that it be lived alone. In addition to the indwelling Holy Spirit, Christ’s will for His Own is for conversion to be followed by believer baptism and a lifetime of service with other Christians in the church of Jesus Christ.

The living of the Christian life is a life that is not lived alone, a life that is not lived in isolation, and a life that is not lived with indifference toward others. Rather, it is a life lived out as a member of a body, as we see described for us in First Corinthians 12.12-27:

 

12     For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

13     For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

14     For the body is not one member, but many.

15     If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

16     And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?

17     If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?

18     But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

19     And if they were all one member, where were the body?

20     But now are they many members, yet but one body.

21     And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

22     Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:

23     And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.

24     For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:

25     That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.

26     And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

27     Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

 

You may wonder at the emphasis I place on companionship in the congregation, and think I am a bit overboard. However, what do you make of the Lord Jesus Christ’s decision to commend His mother, Mary, to the safekeeping of His Apostle John rather than to any of her four other sons, in John 19.26-27?

 

26     When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!

27     Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

 

It is obvious that what is vastly more important to the Savior than companionship in the Christian life is Christian companionship in the Christian life. This is why I stress the importance of Christians rallying to the side of our brothers and sisters in Christ during times of suffering and when someone is in the valley of the shadow of death.

 

Finally, THE CONCLUSION OF THE CHRISTIAN’S LIFE HERE ON EARTH

 

When the Christian life is lived in accordance with the dictates of God’s Word, the Christian is not alone in life, and the Christian is not alone at the end of life on this earth; at least not spiritually alone. You see, what God said shortly after He created Adam still applies today: “It is not good that the man should be alone.”

Alone as a lost man. Alone when you come to Christ. However, having come to Christ, you are never spiritually alone again. Indwelt by the Spirit of God, with companions in ministry and service in your church, you even approach death’s door with companions.

Remember, Jesus said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Therefore, I know that as I approach my declining years, I have no fear of walking through the valley of the shadow of death. I know that He is with me, for the Spirit indwells me. His rod and His staff comfort me. Goodness and mercy follow me. Then there are my Christian family and friends.

Lost people die alone. They always die alone. Even when people surround their hospital beds, they die alone. Hell is always entered alone. However, the same cannot be said about the child of God, because Christians never die alone. Every Christian has the precious Holy Spirit with him. Besides Him, there are other Christians who accompany the believer to the door of death, bidding farewell until we meet again.

Imagine death as a door, with the dying believer passing through the doorway from a temporal existence to his eternal home. Does he pass through alone? Not really. If Luke 16.22 is any indication, the Lord Jesus Christ provides for His Own to be “carried by the angels” to their resting place in His presence. Carried to the door of death by your Christian friends, carried away from the door of death by God’s holy angels.

 

I want you to know one aspect of your existence should you ever come to Christ. To be sure, the main thing is sin and the forgiveness of sins through the shed blood of Christ. Then there is the communion, the companionship, the removal of the aloneness that is ever-present with the lost.

Not only is He with me forever, but He places us together with others. In addition, we shall be with others in His presence forever. Not crowded and cramped, mind you, but comfortable and with companions, first and foremost among our companions being the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ.

All of this and so much more when you come to Christ and you can truthfully say, “The LORD is my Shepherd.”



[1] My exposition makes extensive use of Charles H. Spurgeon’s exposition of the 23rd Psalm in The Treasury Of David, Volume I, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers), pages 353-357.



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org