Basic Bible Studies

His Sheep Am I (Psalm 23)

His Sheep Am I (Psalm 23)
Attitude is Everything
Why Study The Bible?
Basic Rule for Bible study
Small Group Bible Study
It's Time To Grow Up
The Seven I am's
Wrestling with God
Prayer Changes Things Pt 1
Prayer Changes Things Part 2
2 Timothy 3:16
Know the Difference 2 Cor 13:5
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by Michael Chu
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In the process of memorizing Psalm 23, I would like to share with you the following meditation:

1The Lord is my Shepherd;I shall not want.

King David spoke of his Lord. Do we know who or what is Lord of our life? Could it be our carnal mind or something as innocuous as newspaper or the television that is holding sway over our life? The word ‘Lord’ in Greek means “supreme authority”; it connotes ownership. Indeed, we read from 1 Corinthians 6:20 that we are not our own, but we “were bought at a price; therefore glory God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” The apostle Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Jesus Himself, the Son of God, said, “For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the father has told Me, so I speak.” (John 12: 49 ~ 50)

To the Psalmist, his Lord is “my Shepherd”, meaning that he is in fellowship with and know Him intimately. Oftentimes, we speak of “my house”, “my car”, “my dog” – the things that belong to us, or we refer to “my family”, “my career”, “my plans” – what is part of us. I was thinking along these lines with regards to “my Shepherd” and I found myself hard put for an explanation. Upon further contemplation, I received a revelation that, in this case, on the contrary, it is the Shepherd who owns the sheep! The sheep is affirming that: the Lord is the Shepherd who owns me! We read in John 10:11 that Jesus is the good Shepherd who gives His life for his sheep; unlike the hireling who neither owns nor cares for the sheep and would flee when the wolf comes. Further, Jesus said in John 10: 14 that He knows His sheep and is known by His own; the sheep recognizes His voice and follows only Him.

When a sheep is in the sheepfold of the good Shepherd, he will not lack anything. How is this so? The good Shepherd watches over those who are His; they will be saved from danger. He knows them by name; they will enjoy a personal relationship with Him. He leads them in and out and they will find pasture; they will have life, and have it more abundantly. Under His ownership, leadership and care, they have everything they need!

2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me besides the still waters.

When a sheep lay down, as opposed to wandering on its feet (hooves), then it is contented and at rest. (Yes, sheep will wander aimlessly unless they are led and wander restlessly unless they are made to lie down! Human beings are like this too; all we like sheep have gone astray!) In Ezekiel 34:3 ~ 6 we read of irresponsible shepherds who do not feed the flock, nor strengthen the weak, nor heal those who are sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty ruled over them. Consequently, the sheep were scattered and became food for all the beasts of the field. In verse 6, God said, “My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and on every hill, yes, My flock was scattered over the whole face of the earth, and no one was seeking or searching for them.”

But, God is the Shepherd of Israel. “And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in good pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Israel. There they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down,” says the Lord. (Ezekiel 34:13~15)

The NIV Study Bible states that “green pastures” is a metaphor for all that makes life to flourish while “quiet waters” refers to waters at resting places which provide refreshing and well-being. Indeed, the Redeemer of Israel has said, “They shall feed along the roads, and their pastures shall be on all desolate heights. They shall neither hunger nor thirst, neither heat nor sun shall strike them; for He who has mercy on them will lead them, even by the springs of water He will guide them.” (Isaiah 49: 9b~10) The best is yet to be found in heaven where “They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:16~17)

3 He restores my soul;He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

We are body, soul and spirit. Soul refers to our intellect, will and emotion – these are the very things that God will restore or revive as we come into His rest.

Truly, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) Again, we are told in Proverbs 9:10 that: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” In Proverbs 9:5, Wisdom says to him who lacks understanding, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine which I have mixed. Forsake foolishness and live, and go in the way of understanding.” Such wisdom is from above, and is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.” (James 3:17)

Jesus came to do the will of the Father. Some of us live to eat food while others eat food to live. Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.” (John 4:34) In His presence, He will grant us fresh impetus to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (the will of the Father) as opposed to self-seeking (our own will).

Speaking of the Hope of the Faithful, and the Messiah’s Victory in Psalm 16, King David declared in verse 11, “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Joy is the emotion which is made evident in the one who has been in the presence of the Lord.

What God does in his work of restoration may have an impact that goes way beyond our own soul. Let’s consider the book of Ruth, where Naomi was left a widow and bereaved of her two sons while sojourning in the country of Moab. When the famine in Bethlehem of Judah had ended, Ruth, one of Naomi’s daughter-in-law, was determined to accompany Naomi back to her country. Ruth said to Naomi, “Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.” By and by, Ruth got married to Boaz and begot Naomi a grandson whereupon the women of Judah said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord. Who has not left you this day without a near kinsman; and may his name be famous! And may he be to you a nourisher of your old age;…” (Ruth 4:14 ~ 15)

And, was he famous? Yes! He is none other than the grandfather of King David. In Matthew 1, we read of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, and verses 5 and 6 tell us that “..Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David the king.” In Ezekiel 34: 23 ~ 26, God said, “I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them – My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. … I will make them and the places all around My hill a blessing; and I will cause showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing.”

A time is coming when the Lord will bring and lead the descendants of the house of Israel from the north country and from all the countries where He had driven them, and they shall dwell in their own land. “ ‘Behold the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘That I will raise to David a branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.’” (Jeremiah 23:5,6)

“In the way of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.” (Proverbs 12:28) As with the children of Israel, God also lead us who are in Christ in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Our righteousness, as pointed out by Paul in Philippians 2:9, is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith. “For He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become (through faith) the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) Abraham did not quiver at the promise of God (to give him a son) through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore it was accounted to Abraham for righteousness.

Righteousness is faith in action -- believing in and doing according to God’s word, with full revelation of and assurance in the completed works of Jesus at Calvary. “In this the children of God and the children of the devil is manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:10)

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,I shall fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

The valley of the shadow of death is a metaphor for a place where death is looming -- the grave, if you will. As Job puts it, “Before I go to the place from which I shall not return, to the land of darkness and the shadow of death, a land as dark as darkness itself, as the shadow of death without any order, where even the light is like darkness.” (Job 10 : 21 ~ 22)

It’s a place of mourning where we experience affliction, condemnation and oppression; where it seems that God has “given us up like sheep intended for food” (Psalm 44:11). But, there is hope in the face of discouragement (lack of courage) because God is on our side. God is always there for us, but we need to turn our attention and behold His Sovereign reality in all of our circumstances. “Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your tabernacle. Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and on the harp I will praise You, O God, my God. Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you so disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” (Psalm 43 : 3 ~ 5) We need to know our God personally, focus on Him with praise, and we will be full of hope.

God is light, He dispels the darkness around us. God is truth, He sets us free from unbelief and the lies of Satan and his demons. Arm ourselves with the word of God, which is the sword of the Spirit, and fight through the darkness. And, fight with the aim of winning. The Psalmist knows this -- “I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Further, we read in Psalm 40 : 11 ~ 17:

Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O Lord;Let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me.For innumerable evils have surrounded me;My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up;They are more than the hairs of my head;Therefore my heart fails me.

Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me;O Lord, make haste to help me!Let them be ashamed and brought to mutual confusion Who seek to destroy my life;
Let them be driven backward and brought to dishonour who wish me evil. Let them be appalled because of their shame, who say to me, “Aha, aha!”

Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You;Let such as love Your salvation say continually, “The Lord be magnified!” But I am poor and needy;Yet the Lord thinks upon me. You are my help and my deliverer; Do not delay, O my God.

When we are walking with our Lord, the difficulties and even the near-death situations in our life can be turned around as opportunities for us to deepen our trust in Him. The apostle Paul said “a thorn in the flesh was given me, a messenger of Satan to beat me, lest I be exalted above measure”. He pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from him, and God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12 : 9a) Our faith grows as we learn to depend on God daily. While we may not give thanks for all circumstances, we can give thanks to God in all circumstances. Immanuel, God is with us!

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.

From the NIV Study Bible, I gather that: (1) In the ancient Near East, covenants were often concluded with a meal expressive of the bond of friendship; (2) Anointing head with oil is a customary treatment of an honoured guest at a banquet; and (3) Cup is a metaphor referring to what the host offers his guests to drink.

Those who follow the Lord wholeheartedly out of an obedient heart will become His friends. “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servant, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” (John 15:14 ~ 16)

We have an anointing from the Holy One (1 John 2:20, 27). The cross-references of John 14:16 and John 6:13 refer this anointing to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth. He will guide us into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will tell us things to come.

The prophet Zechariah had a vision of a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps. Two olive trees were by it, one at the right of the bowl and other at its left. They were the anointed ones (the sons of fresh oil) who stood ministering before the Lord – Joshua the High Priest and Zerubbabel from the royal line of King David. The oil which flowed from the two olive trees helped to fuel and light the lamps continually. Of this vision, Zechariah 4:6 reads: “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.” The Spirit of grace will complete the building of God’s temple through the hands of Zerubbabel.

Joyce Meyer, in her book ‘Knowing God Intimately’, said “One of the symbols of the Holy Spirit is oil (see Zechariah 4:6). When I think of oil, I always think of ease. Oil makes things flow easily; actually, they can become downright slippery. Some people just need a little oil applied to their life; then everything won’t be so difficult. If you are one of those people, I encourage you to go to God and tell Him you came for “an oil job”!” To get a filling-up from the Lord is the real thing!

As a vessel ( a cup or, if you will, a pot, for God’s honour) that thirsts and come to Jesus for a drink, Jesus has this to say, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38) Being filled with the Holy Spirit, as symbolized by pure olive oil and living water, we will be full of light and alive to God’s eternal purpose for mankind. We will, as apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 3:16, “be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man”. No wonder, Jesus the Good Shepherd said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it abundantly.” (John 10:10b) Scripture also tell us, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Romans 8:14)

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

God is good, and because of His mercy we are not consumed. In spite of afflictions and anguish, we can depend on God and affirm: “Through the Lord’s mercies
We are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul. ‘Therefore I hope in Him!’ The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.” (Lamentations 3:22~25)

Through Jesus we can draw near to God the Father (John 14:6). As we draw near to Father God, He will draw near to us. Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make Our home with him.” (John 14:23)

“But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3 : 4 ~ 7)

In proclaiming that “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” the Psalmist is in effect saying that this is his ultimate goal -- it’s all about living by faith in God, doing the will of the Father and entering into the joy of His salvation. This is the one thing that matters at the end of our day when all is said and done.

The following scripture verses will help us to evaluate what is the one thing we desire, lack or need:

“One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, to inquire in His temple.” (Psalm 27:4)

“Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow me.’” (Mark 10:21)

“But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken
away from her.” (Luke 10:42)

“But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24)

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13, 14)

“Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.’” (John 4:34)

Finally, brethren and friends, Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” If you have not chosen to follow Jesus yet, may I urge you to do so today. You will then embrace the fullness of Psalm 23.