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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 23

Simeon's Horae HomileticaeHorae Homileticae

Verses 1-6


Psalms 23:1-6. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 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. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 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.

IN reading the Psalms of David we are apt to think of him as a highly privileged person, whom we can never hope to resemble in the fervour of his piety, or the height of his enjoyments. But, whilst as the anointed King of Israel whom God had so particularly chosen, and as a distinguished prophet of the Lord, he was favoured with communications and supports, which we are not entitled to expect, in his more private character, as a saint, he possessed no advantage above us. His views of divine truth were far inferior to ours: and his experience of its efficacy was no other than what may be enjoyed by every saint in every age. The psalm before us is a bright specimen of devout affection; and, in point both of composition and sentiment, is universally admired: yet it contains no other recollections than what every Believer’s experience must afford, no other confidence than what every saint is warranted to express. Considering David then as a pattern for ourselves, we shall notice,


His retrospective acknowledgments—

In recording the mercies of God to him, he speaks of his heavenly Benefactor under the character of,


A Shepherd—

[The Son of David, the Lord Jesus Christ, was David’s Lord [Note: Matthew 22:42-45.], and David’s Shepherd [Note: Genesis 49:24.Ezekiel 34:23-24; Ezekiel 34:23-24.John 10:11; John 10:11.]: and whatever pertains to the office of a good shepherd, he both executed for him, and will execute for us.

Is it the office of a shepherd to provide good pasture for his sheep? O what pasture is provided for us in the sacred records! David in his day could say, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters:” and if he, with so small a portion of the inspired volume in his hands, when the great mystery of redemption was hid under a veil, and the Spirit of God was yet but sparingly bestowed upon the Church, could use such language, how much more may we, who have the meridian light of the Gospel shining around us, and the Holy Ghost poured forth in all his gracious influences, almost without measure! What views have we of the “covenant, that is ordered in all things and sure!” of the prophecies, which have been so minutely fulfilled! and of “the exceeding great and precious promises,” which are so suited to all our wants! And how abundant are our consolations, when the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, seals all these truths upon our souls, and witnesses with our spirits that we are the Lord’s! — — —

Is it the office of a shepherd to bring back to the fold his wandering sheep, and to guide them in right paths? How justly may we unite with David in saying, “He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake?” Mark the words, “For his name’s sake.” It is his own glory that he has consulted in all his dealings towards us; and especially in that astonishing patience and forbearance which he has exercised towards us from day to day. Our backslidings have been so grievous, and our departures from him so frequent, that we might well have been left to perish in our sins. But he considers that his own honour is involved in the preservation of his sheep; and, therefore, he has never withdrawn his loving-kindness from us, or ceased to watch over us for good. It is on no other principle that we can account for our recoveries when fallen, and our preservation from ten thousand evils into which we should have fallen, if we had not been guided and upheld by him.

Is it the office of a shepherd to protect his sheep from danger? This he does, as well for the lambs of his flock, as for those that have attained a greater measure of strength. By “the valley of the shadow of death” we may understand a dying hour [Note: Job 10:21-22.]: but we rather understand by it a season of darkness and distress. This is more agreeable to the context, and better accords with the general import of those words in Holy Writ [Note: Psalms 107:10; Psalms 107:14.Jeremiah 13:16; Jeremiah 13:16.]. Sheep, in going from mountain to mountain and hill to hill, may easily be supposed to pass occasionally through valleys where dangers affright them, and difficulties obstruct their way: and in this respect the saints resemble them; for however rich their pastures for the most part may be, they find occasional seasons of darkness and gloom. But in such seasons the Lord Jesus Christ, as the great Shepherd and Bishop (Overseer) of souls, is with them, and with his pastoral rod and staff protects them. It is with that rod he numbers them when they come into his fold [Note: Leviticus 27:32.Ezekiel 26:17; Ezekiel 26:17.], and with that he secures them from every harm. This he has promised to them in the most express terms [Note: Isaiah 43:2-3; Isaiah 43:5.] — — — and he will fulfil it even to the end [Note: Isaiah 41:10.].]


A Friend—

[This is a character which God assumed in reference to Abraham [Note: Isaiah 41:8.]; and our blessed Lord honours all his faithful disciples with this endearing name: “Henceforth I call you not servants, but friends [Note: John 15:15.].” Now, as the friend of his people, he uses all hospitality towards them. As in the days of old he spread a table for his people in the wilderness, where they could not otherwise have subsisted, so “he prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies.” Enemies we have on every side; and such enemies as would deprive us of every blessing, if they were not restrained by an invisible and almighty power. But our heavenly Friend protects us from their assaults, and gives us an abundant supply of all good things, even “a feast of fat things, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.” Nor does he omit any thing which can possibly evince his love towards us. As a Host who delights to honour his guests, he anoints our head with oil; and as the Master of the feast, he fills “our cup” with the richest wine, so that it “runneth over.” These figures, though strong and clear, very inadequately represent the communications of his grace, and the consolations of his Spirit. David, in another psalm, says, “The Lord himself is the portion of my inheritance and my cup [Note: Psalms 16:5.]:” and when this is the case, can it be matter of surprise that “our cup runneth over?” No indeed; for there is nothing on this side of heaven that can be compared with the manifestations of his love. Truly, “in his favour is life; and his loving-kindness is better than life itself.”]

Whilst acknowledging thus the goodness of God to him in past times, the Psalmist does not hesitate to proclaim,


His prospective consolations—

These pervade the whole psalm, and arise out of every truth contained in it. Three of his assertions in particular we shall notice:


“I shall not want”—

[With such a Shepherd, and such a Friend, how could he want; or what can any one so privileged ever stand in need of? Does he not know all our wants? and is he not able to supply them [Note: Philippians 4:19.]? Has he not absolutely pledged himself to supply them? and is there not an inexhaustible fulness treasured up in him on purpose that he may supply them? Do we need a righteousness wherein we may stand before God? “The righteousness of Christ shall be unto all and upon all them that believe” — — — Do we need grace to mortify all our corruptions, and to fulfil the whole will of God? “His grace shall be sufficient for us” — — — Do we need peace in our troubled breasts? He has left us peace as a legacy; “Peace I leave with you: my peace give I unto you:” yea, “He himself will be our peace” — — — Even of temporal things he has said, that “they who fear him shall want no manner of thing that is good [Note: Psalms 34:10.].” Whether we look to the blessings of time or the glories of eternity, it is every believer’s privilege to say, I shall not want.”]


“I will not fear”—

[It were presumptuous in the extreme for any one to use such an expression as this, if he looked only to an arm of flesh: for “of ourselves we have no sufficiency even to think a good thought:” but, with such a protector as the Lord Jesus, we may laugh all our enemies to scorn. We know how powerful, how subtle, how malignant is that “roaring lion that seeketh to devour us;” and we know that we are as weak and impotent in ourselves as sheep: but if David, a man like ourselves, slew a lion and a bear that invaded his father’s flock, what shall not Jesus effect in our defence? Who shall escape his eye, or who shall withstand his arm? Hear what our Lord himself says; “My people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting-places; when it shall hail, coming down on the forest, and the city shall be low in a low place [Note: Isaiah 32:18-19.].” Let the timid then dismiss their fears, from whatever source they may arise. “I will fear no evil,” said the Psalmist; and we, whether we take a general view of our enemies, or enter into a distinct enumeration of them, may adopt the same triumphant language [Note: Psalms 46:1-3.Romans 8:35-39; Romans 8:35-39.] — — — If “we know in whom we have believed, we may be assured that he will keep that which we have committed to him against that glorious day,” when all his flock shall be gathered together, and be one fold under one shepherd.]


Of my happiness there shall be no end—

[Behold how confidently the Psalmist speaks on this subject! “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” What! hast thou no doubt about this great matter? No: it shall be surely so. Art thou not presumptuous in speaking thus in relation to thyself? No: it shall be thus to me. But would it not be abundantly sufficient to say, that goodness and mercy shall not turn away from thee? No: they shall follow me, and that too “all the days of my life:” they shall follow me, even as my shadow does, wherever I go; “goodness,” to supply my wants; and “mercy,” to cover my defects. And art thou bold enough to carry this confidence beyond the grave? Yes: “I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever;” not only serving him in his house below, but enjoying and glorifying him in his house above.

Behold here the felicity of the Saints! All the rest of the world are following after happiness, and it eludes their grasp: but those who believe in Jesus have happiness following after them: “goodness and mercy” are their attendant angels, that never for a moment turn aside from them, or relax their attention to them.

The ignorant world have no idea of this blessed truth: they would account it almost blasphemy to utter such language as this. But the reason is, they know not what a Shepherd, and what a Friend, we have: did they but duly appreciate his love, they would know, that nothing within the sphere of our necessities to require, or of his ability to grant, is too great for us to expect at his gracious hands.
Enlarge then your expectations, all ye who are of the fold of Christ: learn to estimate alight your privileges: see them yet more distinctly stated by the Holy Psalmist [Note: Psalms 91:15-16.] — — — and look forward to the full enjoyment of them in that house, where the same adorable Saviour that now ministers unto you, will continue his ministrations to all eternity [Note: Revelation 7:15-17.].]

Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Psalms 23". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/psalms-23.html. 1832.
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