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Psalm 23

Psalm 103: 1-18

(With reference to Psalm 139)

            Lately I have been concentrating on what we must or must not do – Have No Other Gods, Choose whom we shall Serve,   and Don’t worry – Don’t sweat the small stuff!     Today I want to go back to the fundamental reason for us to do all this, or to take notice of these teachings.

            You will have noticed a concentration on the Psalms today, and in particular Psalm 23.    This begins The Lord is my Shepherd.   Remember the SS boy Jenny told us about, worried about whether the shepherd had dogs?  He though Surely, Goodness and Mercy were the shepherd’s dogs.   Maybe he was right because I believe much of what I want to say today is about God’s Goodness and Mercy.    The Israeli shepherd did not have dogs – they were considered unclean and viscous,  much as people in some countries would consider the Jackals.   The shepherd didn’t drive his sheep,  he led them from patch of grass to patch of grass to water hole, to welcome shade for rest.   This was an arid land and hot in summer and could be bitterly cold in winter.  Without the shepherd the sheep would have been largely helpless and in many dangers.  Remember that David, the writer of this psalm was a shepherd himself before he became a warrior and a King.   He had protected his flock from bears and from lions.   He had led his flock to the best pasture and the cleanest water and to shady places.   Jesus claimed this image for Himself when He said to His listeners ‘I am the good shepherd’,  and ‘The good shepherd will lay down His life for His sheep.”

            Carrying on from last time about worrying where our food and clothing will come from,  the Psalm has the theme of “I shall not want” – for provision, for rest, for refreshment, or for protection.   How can this be when we are mere mortals and we are talking about God as our shepherd?   The middle east shepherd knew each of his sheep by name,  he led his sheep in safe places, he was aware when even one sheep had strayed, and set out to find it and bring it home safely.  Each night he examined each sheep for injuries incurred, for burs in the wool, for diseases and illnesses, and treated each one immediately,  and then lay down across the gateway of the stone walled fold to keep out all night dangers.

            There are marvellous things in Psalm 23, they say that all of the OT names for God are illustrated in this psalm.  Jehovah-Jirah (the Lord my provider), Jehovah-Shalom (the Lord our peace), Jehovah-Nissi (the Lord our Banner), Jehovah-Rapha (the Lord my Healer), Jehovah-Tsidkenu (the Lord our Righhteousness), Jehovah-Shammah (the Lord is here) and, of course, Jehovah-Raah ( the Lord my shepherd).

            Another examination of this psalm looks at each word or phrase. Some may know this one already, so forgive me while I read it to those who probably don’t know it.  There are some glorious truths her,  and it is easy to see why the 23rd Psalm is such a popular reading.   (The 23rd Psalm Explained.)

         The other psalm that Joyce read from - the 103rd -  contains three great themes.  Firstly in V.3,  & 10-14 there is Forgiveness.   Just as John says so well in his 1st Letter 1: 8     If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the  truth is not in us.     9      If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.     10     If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.    Forgiveness is like healing when we are sick, relief when we are burdened, and reconciliation when we have hurt someone.  All this comes to us because Jesus died for our sins on the cross,  and we have trusted Him and given over our lives to Him.

            Secondly there is Redemption in V4, 6-9, – Paul in Romans 5: says      17     For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned  through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.     God redeemed the Israelites from bondage and from the difficulties they faced in their journey to Canaan.   He frees us that He might  be our Master and care for us for ever.  When He crowns us, He transforms slaves into Kings.  What marvellous Grace !

                        Thirdly there is Satisfaction in v5, 15-18.  Remember the verse in Isaiah 40?  31     Yet those who wait for the Lord    Will  gain new strength;    They will mount up with wings like eagles,    They will run and not get tired,    They will walk and not become weary.  Man is frail and temporary, but believers enjoy eternal youth and spiritual renewal.   David compares it to the eagle that looks old but still soars upward with renewed strength,  carried aloft by the wind under its’ wings.  It is interesting to note that wind is a synonym for the Spirit of God.


            What does all this mean to us today?      We must realise that God is with us always and everywhere.  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  He knows what we are, what we say, and what we do.   Yet He still loves us and cares for us if we but accept Him.   Let’s turn to Psalm 139 found in the hymn book at 883,  and read this responsively.

            Let us return to Psalm 103: 8-14 The Lord is  compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. 9     He  will not always strive with us,

Nor will He  keep His anger forever.  10     He has  not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 11     For as high  as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. 12     As far as the east is from the west,   So far has He removed our transgressions from us. 13     Just as a father has compassion on his children,   So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.    14     For  He Himself knows our frame; He  is mindful that we are but  dust.  The Tongan group have a message for us  - “Jesus keep me near the Cross.”

                        The Cross is His greatest compassion and Grace, His greatest gift.  Abide in Him – in His love,  in His kind shepherding,  in the brightness of His Sun of goodness shining on us and lighting our way.  

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