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The Shepherd Psalm
It is the purpose of today's study to throw us more completely into the arms of the Living God. Our chapter, Psalms 23:1-6 , we have read because it breathes the spirit of that personal touch with the Almighty which we so much need.
We are, however, turning, in this study, from our usual course. Instead of giving an exposition of a certain chapter, or part of a chapter, we are taking up distinctive Scriptures which we will cluster around our study theme, which is, "God's Provision for His Saints."
1. The Almighty God. In the verse before us (Genesis 17:1 ), God is saying to Abraham, "Walk before Me, and be thou perfect." This, of course, was impossible with Abraham; however, with God, nothing is impossible. He is the Almighty God, the God who is enough. He is the One who can meet our every need and supply it.
2. The Everlasting God. When Abraham had planted a grove in Beer-sheba, he "called there on the Name of the Lord, the Everlasting God." Our God is the God of the eternal past, of the ever present, and of the eternal tomorrow. He is both from everlasting, and to everlasting. He is before all things, and after all things. The God of our fathers is our God; our God is the God of coming generations.
3. The Living God, This revelation of God was given to Joshua as he was about to lead the Children of Israel into Canaan. Joshua told the Children of Israel, "The Living God is among you." How did they know that God was the Living God? It was because He would now drive all the Canaanites from before them; and carry His people through the Jordan, as by dry land.
4. The Merciful God (Deuteronomy 4:30-31 ). A Merciful God is a God who pardons. He forgives those who come to the mercy-seat where the Blood is sprinkled. What would we do if we did not have a God who was faithful and just to forgive His children, when they confess their sins, and plead the merits of His Cross?
5. The Faithful God. Man is unfaithful, unreliable. Even the sand which God has placed as a barrier for the sea, holds back the waves thereof, that the waters may not pass by: yet, "My people," saith God, "hath revolted and gone." We have turned every one to his own way; and have gone astray.
God, however, is faithful. He is the unchanging and unchangeable God. He is the God who never wearies, and never forgets to keep His trysts. Our key-text says, "He is God, the Faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His Commandments to a thousand generations."
6. The Righteous God, Man is altogether corrupted. From his head to his feet there is no soundness in him. He is full of wounds and bruises and putrefying sores.
God is a Righteous God. "I will publish the Name of the Lord: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is our Rock, His work is perfect: for all His ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He."
I. GOD HAS US IN HIS HEART (Exodus 28:28-29 )
We have before us a most interesting Scripture. It discusses the breastplate which was to be worn by the high priest.
How blessed is the thought that our Lord bears us in the place of His love! When Paul wrote to the Philippians, he said, "I have you in my heart." He meant that he yearned after them in all of the tender mercies which were in Christ Jesus. Their joy was his joy; their sorrows were his.
So it is that the Lord carries us, He thinks upon us. He hides us in the secret of His presence. He keeps us in the pavilion of His love and grace. "His banner over [us] is love."
There is one verse which has always appealed to us, "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him." How great is the loving-kindness of God in behalf of His children! Great is His faithfulness! It is fresh every morning, it is renewed every evening.
Who can separate us from the love of God, which is ours in Christ Jesus? There is a little verse which reads, "And having loved His own * *, He loved them unto the end." The heart is the center of affection, and it is there that the Lord carries us by name. He thinks upon us individually and personally. He knoweth our need. The very hairs of our head are numbered in His sight. There is not a word in our tongue, but what He knoweth it altogether.
The breastplate was also for protection. In the conflict, it shielded the heart and the vitals of life from the darts of the enemy. So does God shield those whom He loves. He is a wall of fire round about us. He will not permit any power of evil to overcome us.
II. GOD HAS US UPON HIS SHOULDERS (Luke 15:4-5 )
The Lord, in our Scripture, is speaking in parables. He is telling how a man who had a hundred sheep lost one of them. Leaving the ninety and nine safe in the wilderness. He went out after that which was lost until He found it. Then we read the statement of our verse: "And when He hath found it, He layeth it on His shoulders, rejoicing."
This is where our Lord carries us. The "shoulders" stand for the place of strength. Our God bears us up: "For, in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength." Our God makes us secure, not because of any strength we may inherently possess, for we are naturally but wandering and helpless sheep. We are secure because He carries us upon His shoulder. Our salvation is an everlasting salvation, because our hope is founded upon Him.
Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. We have read in mythology of how Atlas held the earth upon his shoulders; we know, however, that we are held upon the shoulders of the Lord. We are just as secure as His shoulders are strong.
There is no power on earth, or in hell, that can overcome us because our hope is in God.
Thank God, He has said, "I will carry you."
III. GOD HOLDS US WITH HIS HAND (Isaiah 41:10 ; Isaiah 41:13 )
The hand stands for helpfulness. The parent takes the child by the hand lest it might fall by the way. God has said, "Yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness."
There is the hand of compassion. When Peter saw the lame man asking alms at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple, "He took him by the right hand, and lifted him up." That is just what God does for us. He reaches out His hand to us in our need. We are kept by the power of God as we walk along the way.
He has said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Thus, we also may say, "The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me."
It was the Apostle Paul who said, "Having obtained help of God, I continue unto this day."
No man can set on us to hurt us, while the Lord is with us, walking at our side, and holding our hand. How comforting are these words, "Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; * * and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion."
IV. GOD UNDERGIRDS US WITH HIS ARMS (Deuteronomy 33:26-27 )
The Lord God is an Eternal God. He is a sure Refuge. They that dwell in Him dwell in safety. No words could be more comforting than the words of our text, "Underneath are the everlasting arms."
Have you ever read the Bible description of the eagle. This is the way it runs: "As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the Lord alone did lead him."
The little eaglet, learning to fly, may find its nest torn up by the mother bird. The mother bird will not, however, suffer her eaglets to be harmed. She will spread abroad her wings and bear up her young. Will the Lord do less for us? God forbid.
The Shulamite describing her Shepherd Lover, said, "His left hand is under my head, and His right hand doth embrace me." It is there that we find rest. It is there that we find satisfaction and sealing.
Christ took the little children up in His arms, and blessed them. We gather, therefore, that having the everlasting arms beneath us, we may also have the everlasting arms around us. Those arms will give us marks of His love, as well as tokens of His protection. "Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy."
V. GOD GUIDES US WITH HIS EYE (Psalms 32:8 )
When we think of the eyes of the Lord we are liable to want to run, that we may hide ourselves. We need, however, to consider that the eyes of the Lord are not upon us for evil, but for good. "The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him."
The eyes of the Lord are upon us to guide us, to show Himself strong in our behalf. He desires our good, and not our bad. Have you ever read the Scripture, "Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear Him, * * to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine."
In the New Testament, there is a quotation from the old which we need to weigh carefully. Read 1 Peter 3:10 , 1 Peter 3:12 .
Why then should we forsake mercy and truth, and walk in the sight of our own eyes? If we do this, we will walk into many a pitfall, for the god of this world hath blinded the eyes of the unbelieving.
If, on the other hand, we follow the Lord whose eye is upon us, we will walk under a pillar of fire by night to give us light. When Israel followed the Lord, the Lord went before His people, and led them into a plentiful land, into a land of milk and of honey.
VI. GOD ENCAMPETH ROUND ABOUT US (Psalms 34:7 )
Here is a gracious promise indeed: "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The Angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them. O taste and see that the Lord is good."
This Scripture is a sore trial to Satan. He wanted to get hold of Job, but he could not. Therefore, he complained, "Hast not Thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side?"
Satan confronted a like difficulty in the case of Peter, and in order to get at Peter that he might sift him, he had to obtain by the asking.
Here is a wonderful promise, "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about His people from henceforth even for ever." There is no power that can overcome a child of God, who rests within the circle of God's care.
When the king of Syria, with his hosts compassed a certain city, both with horses and chariots, that they might take Elisha, then Elisha prayed and said, "Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha."
Have we not just as secure a protection as had the Prophet of old? Do we not have ministering Spirits who are sent forth to minister unto the heirs of salvation? Did not our Lord say that He would hold us in His hand, and no one could pluck us out of His hand.
A PRINCELY CARVER
"To be carved for at table by a great prince would be counted as great a favor as the meal itself. To take outward blessings out of God's hand, to see that He remembereth us, and sendeth in our provision at every turn; this endeareth the mercy, and increaseth our delight therein." What, indeed, would most men give if they could say, "The Queen herself carved for me, and was most anxious that I should be well supplied"? But each believer has the Lord Himself for his Provider. He loads our table, and fills our cup. Providence is no other than God providing. He measures out our joys, weighs our sorrows, appoints our labors, and selects our trials. There is no morsel on the saint's plate which is not of the Lord's carving, unless he has been so foolish as to put forth his hand unto iniquity.
Is it not delightful to know our Father's hand broke for us the bread which we have eaten this day; that the Saviour's own fingers mingled our cup, and that every blessing has come direct from God's own table? Surely we are as dear to God as the little ewe lamb in Nathan's parable was to the poor man; for we are told that "he bad nourished It up, and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom." Does not this make our meat, and drink, and lodging more than royal? Are we not more than content with such fare?
Yea, Lord, my portion tastes of love, for Thy hand has sweetened it. A sacred perfume is on my raiment and in my chamber, for Thou hast prepared both for me. And this would be true if I wore rags, and lay in a dungeon, in sore sickness. What a heritage is mine! One said, "I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinketh upon me."
In this passage the second sentence underwrote the first, and undermined its meaning: how can he be poor and needy of whom it can be said that the Lord thinketh upon him? O Lord, Thou art my All, and my all in all: my all is more than all because it comes of Thee, and is dealt to me by Thine own self. C. H. Spurgeon.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Psalms 23". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29