Psalm 23:1
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(1) Shepherd.—This image, as applied to God, appears in Hebrew literature first (Genesis 48:15; Genesis 49:24) of his relation to the individual (comp. Psalm 119:176); as the shepherd of His people the image is much more frequent (Psalm 78:52; Psalm 80:1; Isaiah 40:11; Isaiah 63:11; Ezekiel 34; Micah 7:14).

Psalms

THE SHEPHERD KING OF ISRAEL

Psalm 23:1 - Psalm 23:6
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The king who had been the shepherd-boy, and had been taken from the quiet sheep-cotes to rule over Israel, sings this little psalm of Him who is the true Shepherd and King of men. We do not know at what period of David’s life it was written, but it sounds as if it were the work of his later years. There is a fulness of experience about it, and a tone of subdued, quiet confidence which speaks of a heart mellowed by years, and of a faith made sober by many a trial. A young man would not write so calmly, and a life which was just opening would not afford material for such a record of God’s guardianship in all changing circumstances.

If, then, we think of the psalm as the work of David’s later years, is it not very beautiful to see the old king looking back with such vivid and loving remembrance to his childhood’s occupation, and bringing up again to memory in his palace the green valleys, the gentle streams, the dark glens where he had led his flocks in the old days; very beautiful to see him traversing all the stormy years of warfare and rebellion, of crime and sorrow, which lay between, and finding in all God’s guardian presence and gracious guidance? The faith which looks back and says, ‘It is all very good,’ is not less than that which looks forward and says, ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.’

There is nothing difficult of understanding in the psalm. The train of thought is clear and obvious. The experiences which it details are common, the emotions it expresses simple and familiar. The tears that have been dried, the fears that have been dissipated, by this old song; the love and thankfulness which have found in them their best expression, prove the worth of its simple words. It lives in most of our memories. Let us try to vivify it in our hearts, by pondering it for a little while together now.

The psalm falls into two halves, in both of which the same general thought of God’s guardian care is presented, though under different illustrations, and with some variety of detail. The first half sets Him forth as a shepherd, and us as the sheep of His pasture. The second gives Him as the Host, and us as the guests at His table, and the dwellers in His house.

First, then, consider that picture of the divine Shepherd and His leading of His flock.

It occupies the first four verses of the psalm. There is a double progress of thought in it. It rises, from memories of the past, and experiences of the present care of God, to hope for the future. ‘The Lord is my Shepherd’-’I will fear no evil.’ Then besides this progress from what was and is, to what will be, there is another string, so to speak, on which the gems are threaded. The various methods of God’s leading of His flock, or rather, we should say, the various regions into which He leads them, are described in order. These are Rest, Work, Sorrow-and this series is so combined with the order of time already adverted to, as that the past and the present are considered as the regions of rest and of work, while the future is anticipated as having in it the valley of the shadow of death.

First, God leads His sheep into rest. ‘He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside the still waters.’ It is the hot noontide, and the desert lies baking in the awful glare, and every stone on the hills of Judaea burns the foot that touches it. But in that panting, breathless hour, here is a little green glen, with a quiet brooklet, and moist lush herb-age all along its course, and great stones that fling a black shadow over the dewy grass at their base; and there would the shepherd lead his flock, while the sunbeams, like swords,’ are piercing everything beyond that hidden covert. Sweet silence broods there, The sheep feed and drink, and couch in cool lairs till he calls them forth again. So God leads His children.

The psalm puts the rest and refreshment first, as being the most marked characteristic of God’s dealings. After all, it is so. The years are years of unbroken continuity of outward blessings. The reign of afflictions is ordinarily measured by days. ‘Weeping endures for a night.’ It is a rainy climate where half the days have rain in them; and that is an unusually troubled life of which it can with any truth be affirmed that there has been as much darkness as sunshine in it.

But it is not mainly of outward blessings that the Psalmist is thinking. They are precious chiefly as emblems of the better spiritual gifts; and it is not an accommodation of his words, but is the appreciation of their truest spirit, when we look upon them, as the instinct of devout hearts has ever done, as expressing both God’s gift of temporal mercies, and His gift of spiritual good, of which higher gift all the lower are meant to be significant and symbolic. Thus regarded, the image describes the sweet rest of the soul in communion with God, in whom alone the hungry heart finds food that satisfies, and from whom alone the thirsty soul drinks draughts deep and limpid enough.

This rest and refreshment has for its consequence the restoration of the soul, which includes in it both the invigoration of the natural life by the outward sort of these blessings, and the quickening and restoration of the spiritual life by the inward feeding upon God and repose in Him.

The soul thus restored is then led on another stage; ‘He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake,’-that is to say, God guides us into work.

The quiet mercies of the preceding verse are not in themselves the end of our Shepherd’s guidance; they are means to an end, and that is-work. Life is not a fold for the sheep to lie down in, but a road for them to walk on. All our blessings of every sort are indeed given us for our delight. They will never fit us for the duties for which they are intended to prepare us, unless they first be thoroughly enjoyed. The highest good they yield is only reached through the lower one. But, then, when joy fills the heart, and life is bounding in the veins, we have to learn that these are granted, not for pleasure only, but for pleasure in order to power. We get them, not to let them pass away like waste steam puffed into empty air, but that we may use them to drive the wheels of life. The waters of happiness are not for a luxurious bath where a man may lie, till, like flax steeped too long, the very fibre be rotted out of him; a quick plunge will brace him, and he will come out refreshed for work. Rest is to fit for work, work is to sweeten rest.

All this is emphatically true of the spiritual life. Its seasons of communion, its hours on the mount, are to prepare for the sore sad work in the plain; and he is not the wisest disciple who tries to make the Mount of Transfiguration the abiding place for himself and his Lord.

It is not well that our chief object should be to enjoy the consolations of religion; it is better to seek first to do the duties enjoined by religion. Our first question should be, not, How may I enjoy God? but, How may I glorify Him? ‘A single eye to His glory’ means that even our comfort and joy in religious exercises shall be subordinated, and {if need were} postponed, to the doing of His will. While, on the one hand, there is no more certain means of enjoying Him than that of humbly seeking to walk in the ways of His commandments, on the other hand, there is nothing more evanescent in its nature than a mere emotion, even though it be that of joy in God, unless it be turned into a spring of action for God. Such emotions, like photographs, vanish from the heart unless they be fixed. Work for God is the way to fix them. Joy in God is the strength of work for God, but work for God is the perpetuation of joy in God.

Here is the figurative expression of the great evangelical principle, that works of righteousness must follow, not precede, the restoration of the soul. We are justified not by works, but for works, or, as the Apostle puts it in a passage which sounds like an echo of this psalm, we are ‘created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.’ The basis of obedience is the sense of salvation. We work not for the assurance of acceptance and forgiveness, but from it. First the restored soul, then the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake who has restored me, and restored me that I may be like Him.

But there is yet another region through which the varied experience of the Christian carries him, besides those of rest and of work. God leads His people through sorrow. ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.’

The ‘valley of the shadow of death’ does not only mean the dark approach to the dark dissolution of soul and body, but any and every gloomy valley of weeping through which we have to pass. Such sunless gorges we have all to traverse at some time or other. It is striking that the Psalmist puts the sorrow, which is as certainly characteristic of our lot as the rest or the work, into the future. Looking back he sees none. Memory has softened down all the past into one uniform tone, as the mellowing distance wraps in one solemn purple the mountains which, when close to them, have many a barren rock and gloomy rift, All behind is good. And, building on this hope, he looks forward with calmness, and feels that no evil shall befall.

But it is never given to human heart to meditate of the future without some foreboding. And when ‘Hope enchanted smiles,’ with the light of the future in her blue eyes, there is ever something awful in their depths, as if they saw some dark visions behind the beauty. Some evils may come; some will probably come; one at least is sure to come. However bright may be the path, somewhere on it, perhaps just round that turning, sits the ‘shadow feared of man.’ So there is never hope only in any heart that wisely considers the future. But to the Christian heart there may be this-the conviction that sorrow, when it comes, will not harm, because God will be with us; and the conviction that the Hand which guides us into the dark valley, will guide us through it and up out of it. Yes, strange as it may sound, the presence of Him who sends the sorrow is the best help to bear it. The assurance that the Hand which strikes is the Hand which binds up, makes the stroke a blessing, sucks the poison out of the wound of sorrow, and turns the rod which smites into the staff to lean on.

The second portion of this psalm gives us substantially the same thoughts under a different image. It considers God as the host, and us as the guests at His table and the dwellers in His house.

In this illustration, which includes the remaining verses, we have, as before, the food and rest, the journey and the suffering. We have also, as before, memory and present experience issuing in hope. But it is all intensified. The necessity and the mercy are alike presented in brighter colours; the want is greater, the supply greater, the hope for the future on earth brighter; and, above all, while the former set of images stopped at the side of the grave, and simply refused to fear, here the vision goes on beyond the earthly end; and as the hope comes brightly out, that all the weary wanderings will end in the peace of the Father’s house, the absence of fear is changed into the presence of triumphant confidence, and the resignation which, at the most, simply bore to look unfaltering into the depth of the narrow house, becomes the faith which plainly sees the open gate of the everlasting home.

God supplies our wants in the very midst of strife. ‘Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Thou anointest my head with oil. My cup runneth over.’ Before, it was food and rest first, work afterwards. Now it Is more than work-it is conflict. And the mercy is more strikingly portrayed, as being granted not only before toil, but in warfare. Life is a sore fight; but to the Christian man, in spite of all the tumult, life is a festal banquet. There stand the enemies, ringing him round with cruel eyes, waiting to be let slip upon him like eager dogs round the poor beast of the chase. But for all that, here is spread a table in the wilderness, made ready by invisible hands; and the grim-eyed foe is held back in the leash till the servant of God has fed and been strengthened. This is our condition-always the foe, always the table.

What sort of a meal should that be? The soldiers who eat and drink, and are drunken in the presence of the enemy, like the Saxons before Hastings, what will become of them? Drink the cup of gladness, as men do when their foe is at their side, looking askance over the rim, and with one hand on the sword, ‘ready, aye ready,’ against treachery and surprise. But the presence of the danger should make the feast more enjoyable too, by the moderation it enforces, and by the contrast it affords-as to sailors on shore, or soldiers in a truce. Joy may grow on the very face of danger, as a slender rose-bush flings its bright sprays and fragrant blossoms over the lip of a cataract; and that not the wild mirth of men in a pestilence, with their ‘Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die,’ but the simple-hearted gladness of those who have preserved the invaluable childhood gift of living in the present moment, because they know that to-morrow will bring God, whatever it brings, and not take away His care and love, whatever it takes away.

This, then, is the form under which the experience of the past is presented in the second portion,-joy in conflict, rest and food even in the strife. Upon that there is built a hope which transcends that in the previous portion of the psalm. As to this life, ‘Goodness and mercy shall follow us.’ This is more than ‘I will fear no evil.’ That said, sorrow is not evil if God be with us. This says, sorrow is mercy. The one is hope looking mainly at outward circumstances, the other is hope learning the spirit and meaning of them all. These two angels of God-Goodness and Mercy-shall follow and encamp around the pilgrim. The enemies whom God held back while he feasted, may pursue, but will not overtake him. They will be distanced sooner or later; but the white wings of these messengers of the covenant will never be far away from the journeying child, and the air will often be filled with the music of their comings, and their celestial weapons will glance around him in all the fight, and their soft arms will bear him up over all the rough ways, and up higher at last to the throne.

So much for the earthly future. But higher than all that rises the confidence of the closing words, ‘I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.’ This should be at once the crown of all our hopes for the future, and the one great lesson taught us by all the vicissitudes of life. The sorrows and the joys, the journeying and the rest, the temporary repose and the frequent struggles, all these should make us sure that there is an end which will interpret them all, to which they all point, for which they may all prepare. We get the table in the wilderness here. It is as when the son of some great king comes back from foreign soil to his father’s dominions, and is welcomed at every stage in his journey to the capital with pomp of festival, and messengers from the throne, until he enters at last his palace home, where the travel-stained robe is laid aside, and he sits down with his father at his table. God provides for us here in the presence of our enemies; it is wilderness food we get, manna from heaven, and water from the rock. We eat in haste, staff in hand, and standing round the meal. But yonder we sit down with the Shepherd, the Master of the house, at His table in His kingdom. We put off the pilgrim-dress, and put on the royal robe; we lay aside the sword, and clasp the palm. Far off, and lost to sight, are all the enemies. We fear no change. We ‘go no more out.’

The sheep are led by many a way, sometimes through sweet meadows, sometimes limping along sharp-flinted, dusty highways, sometimes high up over rough, rocky mountain-passes, sometimes down through deep gorges, with no sunshine in their gloom; but they are ever being led to one place, and when the hot day is over they are gathered into one fold, and the sinking sun sees them safe, where no wolf can come, nor any robber climb up any more, but all shall rest for ever under the Shepherd’s eye.

Brethren! can you take this psalm for yours? Have you returned unto Christ, the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls? Oh! let Him, the Shepherd of Israel, and the Lamb of God, one of the fold and yet the Guide and Defender of it, human and divine, bear you away from the dreary wilderness whither He has come seeking you. He will carry you rejoicing to the fold, if only you will trust yourselves to His gentle arm. He will restore your soul. He will lead you and keep you from all dangers, guard you from every sin, strengthen you when you come to die, and bring you to the fair plains beyond that narrow gorge of frowning rock. Then this sweet psalm shall receive its highest fulfilment, for then ‘they shall hunger no more, neither shall they thirst any more, neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat, for the Lamb which is in the midst of the Throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters, and God shall wipe all tears from their eyes.’Psalm 23:1. The Lord is my shepherd — He hath showed himself to be so by his gracious providences toward me; and he hath kindly taken upon himself that office, and condescended to stand in that relation to me, having entered into covenant with me, and thereby engaged to rule, feed, and preserve, and heal me, and do all for me that shepherds do, or are under an obligation of doing for their flocks. David himself had been a shepherd, and, doubtless, well understood, and had carefully performed his duty, as such, to his flock. He knew by experience the cares and tender affections of a good shepherd toward his sheep, and was not unmindful what need they had of a shepherd, and what advantage it was to them to have one that was skilful and faithful. By this, therefore, he illustrates God’s care of his people, and by this he strengthens his own faith and confidence in him, and assists the faith and confidence of every pious reader. For he that is the Shepherd of Israel, of the whole church in general, Psalm 80:1, is the shepherd of every particular believer; the meanest is not below his cognizance. He gathers even the lambs with his arm, Isaiah 40:11; nay, and carries them in his bosom. He takes them into the fold of his church, and then takes care of them: he protects and provides for them with more care and constancy than any shepherd can his sheep. If God be to us a shepherd, we must be to him as sheep, inoffensive, meek, and quiet, silent before the shearers; “nay,” says Henry, “before the butcher too;” useful and sociable, we must know the shepherd’s voice, and follow him. I shall not want — Namely, any thing that is really necessary for me, either for this life, or for the next. But foolish men may think many things to be necessary for them, which the all-wise God knows to be, not only unnecessary, but hurtful, and therefore mercifully denies what men ignorantly desire to their hurt.23:1-6 Confidence in God's grace and care. - "The Lord is my shepherd." In these words, the believer is taught to express his satisfaction in the care of the great Pastor of the universe, the Redeemer and Preserver of men. With joy he reflects that he has a shepherd, and that shepherd is Jehovah. A flock of sheep, gentle and harmless, feeding in verdant pastures, under the care of a skilful, watchful, and tender shepherd, forms an emblem of believers brought back to the Shepherd of their souls. The greatest abundance is but a dry pasture to a wicked man, who relishes in it only what pleases the senses; but to a godly man, who by faith tastes the goodness of God in all his enjoyments, though he has but little of the world, it is a green pasture. The Lord gives quiet and contentment in the mind, whatever the lot is. Are we blessed with the green pastures of the ordinances, let us not think it enough to pass through them, but let us abide in them. The consolations of the Holy Spirit are the still waters by which the saints are led; the streams which flow from the Fountain of living waters. Those only are led by the still waters of comfort, who walk in the paths of righteousness. The way of duty is the truly pleasant way. The work of righteousness in peace. In these paths we cannot walk, unless. God lead us into them, and lead us on in them. Discontent and distrust proceed from unbelief; an unsteady walk is the consequence: let us then simply trust our Shepherd's care, and hearken to his voice. The valley of the shadow of death may denote the most severe and terrible affliction, or dark dispensation of providence, that the psalmist ever could come under. Between the part of the flock on earth and that which is gone to heaven, death lies like a dark valley that must be passed in going from one to the other. But even in this there are words which lessen the terror. It is but the shadow of death: the shadow of a serpent will not sting, nor the shadow of a sword kill. It is a valley, deep indeed, and dark, and miry; but valleys are often fruitful, and so is death itself fruitful of comforts to God's people. It is a walk through it: they shall not be lost in this valley, but get safe to the mountain on the other side. Death is a king of terrors, but not to the sheep of Christ. When they come to die, God will rebuke the enemy; he will guide them with his rod, and sustain them with his staff. There is enough in the gospel to comfort the saints when dying, and underneath them are the everlasting arms. The Lord's people feast at his table, upon the provisions of his love. Satan and wicked men are not able to destroy their comforts, while they are anointed with the Holy Spirit, and drink of the cup of salvation which is ever full. Past experience teaches believers to trust that the goodness and mercy of God will follow them all the days of their lives, and it is their desire and determination, to seek their happiness in the service of God here, and they hope to enjoy his love for ever in heaven. While here, the Lord can make any situation pleasant, by the anointing of his Spirit and the joys of his salvation. But those that would be satisfied with the blessings of his house, must keep close to the duties of it.The Lord is my shepherd - Compare Genesis 49:24, "From thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel;" Psalm 80:1, "Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel." See also the notes at John 10:1-14. The comparison of the care which God extends over his people to that of a shepherd for his flock is one that would naturally occur to those who were accustomed to pastoral life. It would be natural that it should suggest itself to Jacob Genesis 49:24, and to David, for both of them had been shepherds. David, in advanced years, would naturally remember the occupations of his early life; and the remembrance of the care of God over him would naturally recall the care which he had, in earlier years, extended over his flocks. The idea which the language suggests is that of tender care; protection; particular attention to the young and the feeble (compare Isaiah 40:11); and providing for their wants. All these things are found eminently in God in reference to his people.

I shall not want - This is the main idea in the psalm, and this idea is derived from the fact that God is a shepherd. The meaning is, that, as a shepherd, he would make all needful provision for his flock, and evince all proper care for it. The words shall not want, as applied to the psalmist, would embrace everything that could be a proper object of desire, whether temporal or spiritual; whether pertaining to the body or the soul; whether having reference to time or to eternity. There is no reason for supposing that David limited this to his temporal necessities, or to the present life, but the idea manifestly is that God would provide all that was needful for him always. Compare Psalm 34:9, "There is no want to them that fear him." This idea enters essentially into the conception of God as the shepherd of his people, that all their real wants shall be supplied.

PSALM 23

Ps 23:1-6. Under a metaphor borrowed from scenes of pastoral life, with which David was familiar, he describes God's providential care in providing refreshment, guidance, protection, and abundance, and so affording grounds of confidence in His perpetual favor.

1. Christ's relation to His people is often represented by the figure of a shepherd (Joh 10:14; Heb 13:20; 1Pe 2:25; 5:4), and therefore the opinion that He is the Lord here so described, and in Ge 48:15; Ps 80:1; Isa 40:11, is not without some good reason.

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.

Psalm 23:1

"The Lord is my shepherd." What condescension is this, that the Infinite Lord assumes towards his people the office and character of a Shepherd! It should be the subject of grateful admiration that the great God allows himself to be compared to anything which will set forth his great love and care for his own people. David had himself been a keeper of sheep, and understood both the needs of the sheep and the many cares of a shepherd. He compares himself to a creature weak, defenceless, and foolish, and he takes 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, for 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; its owner sets great store by it, and frequently it is bought with a great price. It is well to know, as certainly as David did, that we belong to the Lord. There is a noble tone of confidence about this sentence. There is no "if" nor "but," nor even "I hope so;" but he says, "The Lord is my shepherd." We must cultivate the spirit of assured dependence upon our heavenly Father. The sweetest word of the whole is that monosyllable, "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 be a Shepherd to no one else, he is a Shepherd to me; he cares for me, watches over me, and preserves me. The words are in the present tense. Whatever be the believer's position, he is even now under the pastoral care of Jehovah.

The next words are a sort of inference from the first statement - they are sententious and positive - "I shall not want." I might want otherwise, but when the Lord is my Shepherd he is able to supply my needs, and he is certainly willing to do so, for his heart is full of love, and therefore "I shall not want." I shall not lack for temporal things. Does he not feed the ravens, and cause the lilies to grow? How, then, can he leave his children to starve? I shall not want for spirituals, I know that his grace will be sufficient for me. Resting in him he will say to me, "As thy day so shall thy strength be." I may not possess all that I wish for, but "I shall not want." Others, far wealthier and wiser than I, may want, but I shall not." "The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." It is not only "I do not want," but "I shall not want." Come what may, if famine should devastate the land, or calamity destroy the city, "I shall not want." Old age with its feebleness shall not bring me any lack, and even death with its gloom shall not find me destitute. I have all things and abound; not because I have a good store of money in the bank, not because I have skill and wit with which to win my bread, but because "The Lord is my Shepherd." The wicked always want, but the righteous never; a sinner's heart is far from satisfaction, but a gracious spirit dwells in the palace of content.

Psalm 23:2

"He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters." The Christian life has two elements in it, the contemplative and the active, and both of these are richly provided for. First, the contemplative, "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures." What are these "green pastures" but the Scriptures of truth - always fresh, always rich, and never exhausted? There is no fear of biting the bare ground where the grass is long enough for the flock to lie down in it. Sweet and full are the doctrines of the gospel; fit food for souls, as tender grass is natural nutriment for sheep. When by faith we are enabled to find rest in the promises, we are like the sheep that lie down in the midst of the pasture; we find at the same moment both provender and peace, rest and refreshment, serenity and satisfaction. But observe: "He maketh me to lie down." It is the Lord who graciously enables us to perceive the preciousness of his truth, and to feed upon it. How grateful ought we to be for the power to appropriate the promises! There are some distracted souls who would give worlds if they could but do this. They know the blessedness of it, but they cannot say that this blessedness is theirs. They know the "green pastures," but they are not made to "lie down" in them. Those believers who have for years enjoyed a "full assurance of faith" should greatly bless their gracious God.

The second part of a vigorous Christian's life consists in gracious activity. We not only think, but we act. We are not always lying down to feed, but are journeying onward toward perfection; hence we read, "he leadeth me beside the still waters." What are these "still waters" but the influences and graces of his blessed Spirit? His Spirit attends us in various operations, like waters - in the plural to cleanse, to refresh to fertilise, to cherish. They are "still waters," for the Holy Ghost loves peace, and sounds no trumpet of ostentation in his operations. He may flow into our soul, but not into our neighbour's, and therefore our neighhour may not perceive the divine presence; and though the blessed Spirit may be pouring his floods into one heart, yet he that sitteth next to the favoured one may know nothing of it.

"In sacred silence of the mind

My heaven, and there my God Icontinued...THE ARGUMENT

The matter of this Psalm gives us some general discovery of the time of its writing; which was when David was delivered out of his distresses, and quietly settled in his kingdom.

A Psalm of David.

David deseribeth his own happiness, Psalm 23:1, both in temporal, Psalm 23:2, and in spiritual things, Psalm 23:3-5. His confidence in God’s mercy, and vows to dwell in his house for ever, Psalm 23:6.

He hath showed himself to be so by his gracious providences towards me and for me; and he hath taken upon him that office and relation to me by his entering into covenant with me, whereby he hath engaged himself to rule, and feed, and preserve, and heal me, and do all which shepherds do, or are obliged to do, to their flocks; which David very well understood, and had doubtless carefully performed his duty to his sheep; and therefore he strengthens his faith by this consideration, that God was his Shepherd; and as God was a much better Shepherd than he or any man could he, so he might confidently expect more than ordinary benefits from his conduct. I shall not want, to wit, any thing which is really necessary for me, either for this life or for the next. But foolish man may think many things to be necessary for him, which the all-wise God knoweth to be not only unnecessary, but hurtful, and therefore mercifully denies what men ignorantly desire to their hurt.

The Lord is my shepherd,.... This is to be understood not of Jehovah the Father, and of his feeding the people of Israel in the wilderness, as the Targum paraphrases it, though the character of a shepherd is sometimes given to him, Psalm 77:20; but of Jehovah the Son, to whom it is most frequently ascribed, Genesis 49:24. This office he was called and appointed to by his Father, and which through his condescending grace he undertook to execute, and for which he is abundantly qualified; being omniscient, and so knows all his sheep and their maladies, where to find them, what is their case, and what is to be done for them; and being omnipotent, he can do everything proper for them; and having all power in heaven and in earth, can protect, defend, and save them; and all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge being in him, he can guide and direct them in the best manner; wherefore he is called the great shepherd, and the chief shepherd, and the good shepherd. David calls him "my shepherd"; Christ having a right unto him, as he has to all the sheep of God, by virtue of his Father's gift, his own purchase, and the power of his grace; and as owning him as such, and yielding subjection to him, following him as the sheep of Christ do wheresoever he goes; and also as expressing his faith of interest in him, affection for him, and joy because of him: and from thence comfortably concludes,

I shall not want; not anything, as the Targum and Aben Ezra interpret it; not any temporal good thing, as none of Christ's sheep do, that he in his wisdom sees proper and convenient for them; nor any spiritual good things, since a fulness of them is in him, out of which all their wants are supplied; they cannot want food, for by him they go in and out and find pasture; in him their bread is given them, where they have enough and to spare, and their waters are sure unto them; nor clothing, for he is the Lord their righteousness, and they are clothed with the robe of his righteousness; nor rest, for he is their resting place, in whom they find rest for their souls, and are by him led to waters of rest, as in Psalm 23:2, the words may be rendered, "I shall not fail", or "come short" (s); that is, of eternal glory and happiness; for Christ's sheep are in his hands, out of which none can pluck them, and therefore shall not perish, but have everlasting life, John 10:27.

(s) "non deficiam", Pagninus, Montanus.

<> The LORD is my shepherd; {a} I shall not want.

(a) He has care over me and ministers all things to me.

1. The Lord is my shepherd] How natural a figure in a pastoral country, and for the shepherd-king, if the Psalm is his! Jehovah is often spoken of as the Shepherd of Israel, and Israel as His flock, especially in the Psalms of Asaph. See Psalm 74:1, Psalm 77:20, Psalm 78:52; Psalm 78:70 ff.; Psalm 79:13; Psalm 80:1, and cp. Psalm 95:7, Psalm 100:3; Micah 7:14; and the exquisite description of Jehovah’s care for the returning exiles in Isaiah 40:11. Jacob speaks of “the God who shepherded me” (Genesis 48:15, cp. Genesis 49:24). The title of shepherd is also applied to rulers; and in particular to David (2 Samuel 5:2; 2 Samuel 7:7); and to the future king of whom David was a type (Micah 5:4; Ezekiel 34:23); and so Christ appropriates it to Himself (John 10:1; cp. Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25).

I shall not want] The language, partly of experience in the present, partly of confidence for the future. So of Israel, looking back on the wandering in the wilderness, “thou hast lacked nothing” (Deuteronomy 2:7); and looking forward to the Land of Promise, “thou shalt not lack anything in it” (Deuteronomy 8:9). Cp. Psalm 34:10; Psalm 84:11.Verse 1. - The Lord is my Shepherd. This metaphor, so frequent in the later Scriptures (Isaiah 40:11; Isaiah 49:9, 10; Jeremiah 31:10; Ezekiel 34:6-19; John 10:11-19, 26-28; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 7:17), is perhaps implied in Genesis 48:15, but first appears, plainly and openly, in the Davidical psalms (see, besides the present passage, Psalm 74:1; Psalm 77:20; Psalm 78:53; 79:14; 80:1 - psalms which, if not David's, belong to the time, and were written under the influence, of David). It is a metaphor specially consecrated to us by our Lord's employment and endorsement of it (John 10:11-16). I shall not want. The Prayer-book Version brings out the full sense, "Therefore can I lack nothing" (comp. Deuteronomy 2:7; Deuteronomy 8:9; and Matthew 6:31-33). (Heb.: 22:26-27) The call to thanksgiving is now ended; and there follows a grateful upward glance towards the Author of the salvation; and this grateful upward glance grows into a prophetic view of the future. This fact, that the sufferer is able thus to glory and give thanks in the great congregation (Psalm 40:10), proceeds from Jahve (מאת as in Psalm 118:23, cf. Psalm 71:6). The first half of the verse, according to Baer's correct accentuation, closes with בּקהל רב. יראיו does not refer to קהל, but, as everywhere else, is meant to be referred to Jahve, since the address of prayer passes over into a declarative utterance. It is not necessary in this passage to suppose, that in the mind of David the paying of vows is purely ethical, and not a ritualistic act. Being rescued he will bring the שׁלמי נדר, which it is his duty to offer, the thank-offerings, which he vowed to God when in the extremest peril. When the sprinkling with blood (זריקה) and the laying of the fat pieces upon the altar (הקטרה) were completed, the remaining flesh of the shalemim was used by the offerer to make a joyous meal; and the time allowed for this feasting was the day of offering and on into the night in connection with the tda-shelamim offering, and in connection with the shelamim of vows even the following day also (Leviticus 7:15.). The invitation of the poor to share in it, which the law does not command, is rendered probable by these appointments of the law, and expressly commended by other and analogous appointments concerning the second and third tithes. Psalm 22:27 refers to this: he will invite the ענוים, those who are outwardly and spiritually poor, to this "eating before Jahve;" it is to be a meal for which they thank God, who has bestowed it upon them through him whom He has thus rescued. Psalm 22:27 is as it were the host's blessing upon his guests, or rather Jahve's guests through him: "your heart live for ever," i.e., may this meal impart to you ever enduring refreshment. יחי optative of חיה, here used of the reviving of the heart, which is as it were dead (1 Samuel 25:37), to spiritual joy. The reference to the ritual of the peace offerings is very obvious. And it is not less obvious, that the blessing, which, for all who can be saved, springs from the salvation that has fallen to the lot of the sufferer, is here set forth. But it is just as clear, that this blessing consists in something much higher than the material advantage, which the share in the enjoyment of the animal sacrifice imparts; the sacrifice has its spiritual meaning, so that its outward forms are lowered as it were to a mere figure of its true nature; it relates to a spiritual enjoyment of spiritual and lasting results. How natural, then, is the thought of the sacramental eucharist, in which the second David, like to the first, having attained to the throne through the suffering of death, makes us partakers of the fruits of His suffering!
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