The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
Four aspects of the Shepherd-care of God.
I. GOD'S SHEPHERD-CARE DISCLOSED IN REVELATION. For the Scripture doctrine of God's relation to his people as their Shepherd, the student may with advantage study and compare the following: Psalm 74:1; Psalm 77:20; Psalm 79:13; Psalm 80:1; Psalm 95:7; Psalm 100:3; Psalm 119:176; Isaiah 40:11; Isaiah 53:6; Jeremiah 31:10; Jeremiah 23:1-3; Ezekiel 34; Micah 7:14; Zechariah 11:16; Zechariah 13:7; Matthew 10:6; Matthew 15:24; Matthew 18:12; Luke 15:4-6; John 10:1-16, 26-29; John 21:16; Acts 20:28; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25; 1 Peter 5:4. These passages summarize Bible teaching on this theme for us. We may set it forth under the following heads:
1. God is related to men as their Shepherd. A purely absolute Being out of relation does not exist. To whatever God has made he stands in the relation of Maker. And when he has made man in his own image, after his likeness, he stands to such a one in a relation corresponding thereto; and of the many names he bears to express that relation, few more tenderly illustrate his watchful care than this word "shepherd."
2. This relation is manifested in Jesus Christ. (John 10:1-16.) He claims to be emphatically "the good Shepherd." The apostle speaks of him as "the Shepherd and Bishop of... souls."
3. As the Shepherd, Jesus came to seek and save the lost. His mission on earth was emphatically for this. He regards men as his wealth, in which he rejoices; and if they ace not under his loving care he misses them - he is conscious of something lacking (Luke 15:4-6).
4. He has risen and ascendent up on high as the great Shepherd of the sheep (Hebrews 13:20).
5. He now appoints under-shepherds to care for the flock. (Acts 20:28.)
6. As the chief Shepherd, he will again appear. Then he will gather in and gather home all the flock (1 Peter 5:4).
7. Only as he gathers men to himself as their Shepherd, do they find safety and rest. (1 Peter 2:25.) Till then they are homeless wanderers, perpetually in danger of stumbling "over the dark mountains."
8. When men return to him they find all they need in his Shepherd-care. (Psalm 23.)
9. This Shepherd-care is for each as well as for all. Each one may say, "He loved me, and gave himself up for me;" "The Lord is my Shepherd." Let us not forget to note the Shepherd's individualizing care.
II. GOD'S SHEPHERD-CARE EXERCISED IN ACT. The points of detail are set forth in this psalm with exquisite tenderness and beauty,
1. Repose. "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures." In such a restless age as this, there is no thought which a believer has greater need to appropriate than this (see Mark 6:31). As physically we must find time for sleep, however severe the pressure of work, so spiritually we must find time for repose. And God's gracious arrangements are planned with a view to this. "He maketh me," etc. The good Shepherd says, "I will give you rest." When he gets back the wandering sheep he lays it on his own shoulders (Greek, see Luke 15:5). The Master never expects his servants to be always on the stretch. He tells them to "rest awhile;" and if they are heedless of this kind monition, he will himself call them out of the rush into the hush of life. It would be well if some Christians thought more of rest in Christ; their work would be richer in quality even if less in quantity.
2. Refreshment. "Still waters;" literally, "waters of rest," or refreshment. The believer has no craving thirst: he can ever drink of the living stream, and therewith be refreshed (see John 4:10; Revelation 7:17). Dropping the figure, the truth here conveyed is that there shall be a constant supply of the grace of Christ, and of the Spirit of Christ (cf. John 7:37-39).
3. Restoration. (Ver. 3.) This may either mean renewing the strength when worn down, or bringing back after wandering. We need not omit either thought, though the latter seems principally intended.
4. Leadership. (Ver. 3.) "Paths of righteousness," i.e. straight paths. This follows on the restoration. Having recalled him from "by-paths," the good Shepherd will lead him in the right way. The sheep can wander wide easily enough, but if they are to be kept in the right way that can be only through the Shepherd's care. God guides by
(1) his Word;
(2) his providence;
(3) his Spirit.
5. A living presence. "Thou art with me' (ver. 4). This means, "Thou art continually with me," not merely with me in the darkness, but with me always. The sunshine of the living presence of a Guide, Help, Friend, Saviour, is always on the believer's path; and if the mingling of unbelief with faith did not dim the eyesight, he would always rejoice in it.
6. Discipline. (Ver. 4.) The rod and staff are special emblems of the Shepherd's care in tending and ruling the flock. The Shepherd chides us when we rove, and uses sometimes sharp measures ere he recalls us. And this comforts us! Even so. The disciplinary dealings of our God are among our greatest mercies.
7. Ample provision. (Ver. 5.) The riches of God's love and life are the provisions on which we feed, and on which souls can grow and thrive; and these supplies are ministered to the soul through the invisible channels of God's grace, even while enemies prowl around. Yea, we are entertained as guests st the Father's board. The anointing oil is the token of the right royal welcome which the Host delights to give! So rich, so abundant, are the mercies and joys which are vouchsafed, that our "cup runneth over"!
III. THIS SHEPHERD-CARE OF GOD IS ACCEPTED, AND IN IT THE NEEDY ONE GLORIES. We can but hint.
1. Here is appropriation. "My Shepherd" (see John 10:11, 27, 28).
2. Here is satisfaction. "I shall not want."
3. Here is loyalty. The psalmist not only consents to but delights in this Divine care, and has no wish but to follow where the Shepherd leads.
4. Here is joy. This thought is (perhaps Intently, but really) in the expression, "Thou art with me." The presence of God is life's exceeding joy.
5. Here is fearlessness. "I will fear no evil." Not even the darkest shade can make him fear, for God is with him there.
6. Here is recognition of the infinite grace of the Shepherd. (Ver. 3.) "For his Name's sake." Not for our sakes, but for his own; having undertaken to be the Shepherd, he will for his own glory's sake do all that a shepherd's care demands.
IV. THE SHEPHERD-CARE OF GOD IS CELEBRATED IN SONG. The song has a threefold significance.
1. It is a song of gratitude. "Goodness and mercy" mark every feature of the Divine treatment, and they will, to life's end.
2. It is a song of hope. The psalmist looks forward, without a moment's fear of the Shepherd ever leaving him (ver. 6).
3. It is a song and vow of consecration. "I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever." To what extent David thought of a future state when he wrote these words, we cannot say. Yet his meaning is to some extent clear. The house of God was the place where God made his home and manifested himself to his people (see Psalm 132:13-16). And the writer says, "Where God makes his home, there shall be mine. He and I will never part company" (see Psalm 61:4; Psalm 48:14; Psalm 73:24-26). It was not the house of God, but the God of the house, that was to be David's home - and the home of all the saints - for ever and for ever! There is a picture by Sir Noel Paten, which is a marvellous illustration of this psalm. It is entitled, 'The Valley of the Shadow of Death.' It is worthy of prolonged study. In the foreground is a dismal and dark valley, through which a blasting wind has swept, laying low alike the warrior and the king; the helmet of the one and the crown of the other lie useless on the ground. In the centre of the picture is the Lord Jesus, with a halo of glory over his head, a crown of thorns around his brow, and in one hand a shepherd's staff. On the left is a young maiden, whose face bears traces of the terror she has felt in coming through the valley, and yet of radiant hope as she now sees the good Shepherd there. She grasps his hand; he holds hers; his feet stand on a gravestone, beneath which lie the remains of the fallen; but where the Shepherd sets his feet, the tombstone is luminous with the words, "Death is swallowed up in victory!" The very sight of that glorious picture weaned one from the vanities of the world, and drew her to Jesus; and in the case of "an old disciple" it completely abolished the fear of death! May we all, by faith, catch a glimpse of our Shepherd, and every fear will vanish quite away! - C.
Thou art He that took me out of the womb.1. He takes notice of common mercies. Such mercies as most men are partakers of. To come safe and sound into the world, and to be persuaded and sustained in it, they are such things as most men have allotted and vouchsafed unto them. But there are very few who are sensible of common mercies, — such is the corruption of our nature and our base ingratitude.
2. He acknowledges ancient mercies. He remembers those mercies which another would have forgotten. The mercies of his infancy and childhood and younger years. We should remember both temporal and spiritual mercies.
3. He remembers primitive or original mercies. Those mercies which he had at first, in the very entrance or beginning of his life when he first came into the world, and were likewise the ground and foundation of all the rest. It is with mercies as with judgments, one makes way for another, and the first is so much the more considerable as it induces and brings in the rest.
4. He takes notice of constant mercies. Those which were continued to him from the first moment of his being till now, through the whole course of his life to this present. He takes notice of the goodness of God to him in the full latitude and extent of it. See now the specification of the several particulars.
(1) (2) (3) (4) (T. Horton, D. D.)
(2) (3) (4) (T. Horton, D. D.)
(3) (4) (T. Horton, D. D.)
(T. Horton, D. D.)
(T. Horton, D. D.)
Thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts
I. ITS NATURE AND INFLUENCE. It enters largely into every man's system of happiness, whether they be prosperous or afflicted. It is the spring of men's conduct, the end of their life. It keeps his soul alive within him, invigorates his faculties, purifies his passions, and directs the exertions both of his mind and body to their proper objects.
II. BY WHAT PRINCIPLES TO REGULATE IT. A passion so general, and that has such an influence on the sum of life, cannot be too carefully regulated nor disciplined to its proper objects. In this, as in most other cases of moral and religious duty, the folly and the danger of extremes should be avoided. The happy medium, which we should all labour to attain on the present occasion, lies equally remote from silly and extravagant expectations, — from sluggish indifference and helpless despondency, or the dead calm of insensibility. The one is apt to lead to every kind of excess, and to end in misery and disappointment; the other disqualifies us for fulfilling the duties of life, and is, in fact, the destruction or subversion of every virtue.
III. THE OBJECTS TO WHICH IT SHOULD BE DIRECTED. These are to be found in the blessed future world.
(J. Hewlett, B. D.)
I. IMPLIES THE GOODNESS OF GOD IN THE CONSTITUTION OF OUR NATURE. For it is one of the chief blessings of humanity.
1. It is one of the most powerful impulses to action.
2. It is one of the chief elements of support under trial. Hope buoys us up beneath the load; gives us a steady anchorage amid the fiercest surgings of the storm.
3. It is a source of joy. The joys of memory and the pleasures of the passing hour are not to be compared with the joys of hope.
II. SUGGESTS A FUTURE STATE OF EXISTENCE. It may not prove such existence, but it does much in that direction. For —
1. Analogy supports it. All our senses and appetites have provision made for them — light for the eye, sounds for the ear, etc. And so in our social relations.
2. The Divine goodness leads to belief in it.
III. MEANS THAT PROGRESS IN BLESSEDNESS IS THE LAW OF OUR BEING. Hope points not only to the future, but to good in the future.
IV. SHOWS THE FITNESS OF CHRISTIANITY TO HUMAN NATURE. For —
1. It reveals eternal blessedness; and —
2. Supplies means of its attainment which are both soul pacifying and purifying.
V. INDICATES THE CONGRUITY OF THE RELIGIOUS LIFE WITH OUR NATURE. Therefore, if we quench this hope midnight reigns; and sin tends to do this.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
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