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Wednesday, June 12th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 23

Expositor's Dictionary of TextsExpositor's Dictionary

Verses 1-6

Psalms 23:4

We have always associated the word 'rod' with chastisement. Herein we have deprived ourselves grievously of great comfort. Will the preachers collate the passages in which the word 'rod' occurs? they will find material there for a never-ending course of lectures, full of sap and encouragement and profitable gladness.

I. 'And the Lord said unto Moses, Take the rod.' Even Moses was nothing without the sign; Moses, greatest, strongest of lion-hearts, was only a layman when he had no rod in his hands. God always gives a sign; there is always a Divine mark; whatever it may be, it is of God's choice, and only when we hold that mantle or rod or staff are we mighty with omnipotence. The rod was in a sense the Lord Himself; the mantle was a token of the Divine presence and inspiration. The rod is done away, but the thing signified abides for ever. When Moses is called upon today to do any great work, the Lord always says to him, Take My Word, take the Bible, take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of truth. So even we, the modern and latest descendants of Moses, have our rod, our sign of commission, our seal and pledge of being no laymen in the sense of not being initiated into the mystery of the heart of God. When the Lord calls a man from sheepfold or orchard or harvest-field, He does not send him empty-handed to do His work. He says, Take the rod. Lord, what is the rod? The Book. What book? My Book; the Book of inspiration, the Book that holds in it the germs, the beginnings, of that great tree which is to overshadow the whole earth and form a cathedral of singing delight.

II. 'And Elisha said unto Gehazi, Take my staff.' Could not the man walk without the staff? He could not; there is a sense in which the staff makes the man; there is another sense in which the staff tries the man, pulls his muscle to know if it is aught but gristle. Set a man with the Bible in front of him, and you change his whole relation, you change and you test the man himself. Take away the Bible and leave him to the riot of his own fancy, and he might say many beautiful and graphic things; put before him the Bible which he is called upon to interpret, and he cannot interpret a word of it unless the Spirit be in him, the inner light, that throws its blaze of splendour upon the outward and visible sign. Gehazi took the staff, what became of his doing so? Nothing; he could wake no child from the dead. Why? Because he was a bad man. The good staff in the bad hand means failure the world over.

III. 'And the Lord said unto Moses, Take the rod;' 'And Elisha said unto Gehazi, Take my staff'; and the greatest, sweetest of all the minstrels said, 'Thy rod and Thy staff,' I will take them both, they comfort me, and thus prove that they are the Divine rod and the Divine staff. Still you see the same idea penetrates the whole thought of this discourse that we must have, so to say, something. You will find the rod and the staff of God everywhere if you look for them with the right eyes and the pure intent. Everything in all nature is the rod or the staff, comforting human souls, and bringing God quite near. Sometimes we cannot see God Himself, but we can see the rod, and we know it to be His rod; we can see the staff, and we know it to be His staff. Rod and staff are written all over with a cipher which the inspired and sanctified heart alone can interpret and apply.

IV. Thy rod, and Thy staff, and Thy promise. We have exceeding great and precious promises at our command; God has placed them at our disposal. There is nothing that can occur in your experience personally, domestically, or otherwise, that is not provided for in the Bible. The promises you do not know how sweet they are until you need them. They are delightful companions; they take up no room, they make no noise, they never fret or vex the soul by calling attention to their claims. They are never out of the way, yet never in it; they are like the atmosphere, they are like the summer weather; the light fills all space and leaves plenty of room for every little child to sit down in.

Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. v. p. 175.

The Table Prepared in Presence of Foes

Psalms 23:5

There are three points of resemblance between the provision made for David and the provision made for us. These are its Divine preparation, its abundance and suitableness, and its being made in the presence of our enemies.

I. The enemies in whose presence our table is prepared human as well as natural. The harvest will not give us its blessing without a stern struggle with hostile elements.

II. The table prepared before us. This table is wisely adapted to our necessities as human beings. And what a table is thus spread for us every year! What sacred memories gather round the table thus so richly furnished!

III. The preparation of the table. The harvest is the subject of a Divine covenant engagement. Never once has the pledge given five thousand years ago been violated.

IV. The fruits of the harvest should be used in the work and for the glory of God.

Hugh Macmillan, Harvest and Thanksgiving Services, p. 1.

References. XXIII. 4-6. S. A. Brooke, Sermons, p. 71. J. Vaughan, Sermons (6th Series), p. 133. XXIII. 5. H. Bell, Sermons an Holy Communion, p. 77. F. Corbett, The Preacher's Year, p. 164. XXIII. 6. H. Woodcock, Sermon Outlines, p. 98. S. A. Tipple, Sunday Mornings at Norwood, p. 233. S. Martin, Comfort in Trouble, p. 70. H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1848. Bishop Thorold, The Presence of Christ, p. 217.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Psalms 23". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/psalms-23.html. 1910.
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