A Devotional Glimpse at Psalm 23
by James Smith, 1859
The Lord is My Shepherd
"The Lord is my Shepherd — there is nothing I lack!" Psalm 23:1
So sang David — and so God would have us to sing. What the Lord was to David — that he is to every sincere believer in Jesus. God in Christ is our Shepherd. The Lord Jesus is our Shepherd. He claims us. And well he may — for he gave his life for us! He seemed to glory in this act. He seems to speak of it with peculiar pleasure, "I lay down my life for the sheep." Every believer is the purchase of Christ, therefore said the Apostle, "You are not your own — you are bought with a price." What wondrous words are those, "Feed the church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood!" My soul, never, never, lose sight of the fact, that Jesus bought you with his blood — he laid down his life for you!
Jesus is my Shepherd — he has the entire care of me. His Father entrusted me in his hands. He could not, he would not, entrust me to any other. Jesus has the care of my person, of my salvation. As the eastern shepherd took the entire care of the flock, to watch over it, provide for it, preserve it, and return it to the owner safe — so Jesus took the charge of me, and so careful is he for me, and of me — that he bids me not to worry about anything — but tell him all, trust him with all, and enjoy peace.
Jesus as a Shepherd, knows every sheep, and all about each. "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me" Yes, Jesus knows my heart, my state, my circumstances, my infirmities, my temptations, my trials, my troubles, my doubts, and my fears. Sweet thought — he who loves me most, and has the entire care of me — knows all about me.
Jesus prizes every sheep. He sets the highest value upon them. They are his wealth — his treasure — his glory. He will not part with one of them. Sooner than part with them, he would part with his life. He impoverishes himself, that his sheep may be free, and safe, and happy. He would part with anything — rather than one of his lambs. With what pleasure he says to his Father, "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish — ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand." Not one lost! None ever will be. Jesus keeps every sheep in his eye. They seem to be left to wander — but his eye follows them. They are scattered over the face of the earth — but his eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth, watching, keeping, and preserving them. "The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous." Blessed thought, the eyes of the Lord our God are ever upon his sheep!
"The Lord is my Shepherd — there is nothing I lack." What a natural, what a comfortable conclusion! With Jesus for our Shepherd — can we ever be left to lack? Especially when it is said, "No good thing will he withhold, from those who walk uprightly." Imagined good, I may lack; real good — I shall never lack.
I shall not lack protection, for Jesus is an Almighty Shepherd. With perfect ease, he can protect every lamb of his flock, every sheep of his fold. And as he can, he will, for he has said, "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish — ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand!"
I shall not lack direction, for Jesus is an all-wise Shepherd. It is the shepherd's province, and a part of the shepherd's work — to lead the sheep; and Jesus will perform this work well. He may lead us in the dusty path of tribulation; or across the burning sands of affliction and trouble — but he will lead us in the way of righteousness, the right way to the Heavenly fold. He will lead us in the midst of the paths of difficulty — yet in the most prudent and suitable way, to his Father's house. Blessed Jesus, what a numerous flock have you led home, without losing one! How many are following you now! My soul cries out to you, "You shall guide me with your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory!"
I shall not lack supplies, for the resources of Jesus are infinite. "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof." Jesus has all authority in Heaven and in earth. He said, "All things are delivered unto me of my Father." And again, "All things which the Father has, are mine." As Jesus claims the wealth of the universe, as he has all things at his command. And as he has the entire care of his flock, and prizes every lamb so much, and has his eye at all times on all, and on each — is it likely that any one will ever be left to die for lack? Is it not more reasonable, as it is Scriptural, to say, "My God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in Christ Jesus." Yes, yes, all the flock of God, entrusted to the care of Jesus, shall be well supplied!
Once more, I shall not lack healing, for Jesus has all skill. Cheer up then, poor diseased soul — Jesus will heal you. He will heal the plague of the head, and the plague of the heart. He will heal you so, that no trace of disease shall be found upon you, and will present you to his Father, without spot or blemish.
I shall not lack, for Jesus will know all my needs. Jesus will lovingly supply all my needs. Jesus has already provided for all my needs. O my soul, rejoice you in Jesus, that Great Shepherd of the sheep! Rejoice in Jesus, the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep! Rejoice in Jesus, the Faithful Shepherd, who never lost a lamb, or parted with one sheep from his fold. He has broken the teeth of the young lions, and broken the jaws of the old lion — so that they cannot destroy or devour any of his flock. Roar at them, alarm and terrify them, they may; desire to have them, they may; but no, not one, for Jesus can still say, and will be able to say at the last day, to his Father, "those whom you gave me I have kept — not one of them is lost." Not one! Oh, blessed fact! Not one! Oh, delightful thought! Not one! What an honor to the Shepherd! Not one! What a comfort to the poor foot-sore, weak, and burdened sheep of Christ! Not One Lost!!
"He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters" Psalm 23:2
What a lovely sight is presented to us in this verse! What a beautiful picture! Here is the active devoted Shepherd, in the midst of his flock; and here are the healthy, happy sheep and lambs around him, enjoying his care, and the provisions to which he leads them.
What an exemplary Shepherd is Jesus! Surely as under shepherds we should keep the eye fixed on him, and regulate our conduct by his. Jesus, having accepted the flock from his Father, having taken charge of it — is careful of every member of it. And in order to take care of the whole, he lives among them, and personally attends to them. "Surely" said he, "I am with you always." "Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name — there am I in the midst of them." "I will never leave you, nor ever forsake you." Precious promises these! What a sweet assurance they give us!
Our good Shepherd, gently leads his flock, kindly draws them after him — but never harshly drives them before him. Sweetly and beautifully does he fulfill the words of the prophet, "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young." Glorious Shepherd! Happy flock!
The provision made by this Shepherd for his flock
is sweet and pleasant. Green pastures — or fresh, budding, tender grass. Not
the coarse, half-dried, grass which we sometimes see — but the young and
fresh. This is intended to represent the Word and ordinances of God. The
inspired Word, which contains . . .
the choicest histories,
the profoundest mysteries,
the most glorious doctrines,
the simplest precepts,
the most precious promises,
the intricate providences,
the most gracious covenants,
and the most tender cautions.
Here is food for the tender lambs — and for the strong and full grown sheep.
Then, the ordinances . . .
of prayer and praise,
of preaching and hearing,
of baptism and the Lord's supper,
of domestic worship and closet duties;
in each and all of these, the sheep of Christ find pleasant pasturage.
These green pastures are . . .
rich, and feed the soul;
suitable, and fit every case;
plentiful, and can never be exhausted —
therefore the flock of Jesus can never lack.
Then, there are the quiet waters — a beautiful figure, representing the presence and grace of the Holy Spirit in the church. These are not like noisy, roaring, rattling torrents — but are waters of quietness, waters of rest. They are pure and clean, refreshing and healing, invigorating and satisfying, deep and ever flowing!
In allusion to them, Jesus says, "If any man thirsts — let him come unto me and drink." "He who drinks of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst." Or without the figure, "I will send you another Comforter, who shall abide with you forever." The Father is the fountain of living waters, from which these streams flow; therefore the Holy Spirit is said to proceed from the Father. Jesus and his perfect work is the channel in which these waters run; therefore said he, "If I do not go away, the Comforter will not come — but if I depart, I will send him unto you."
Not more necessary is the Shepherd's watchful care, or the green pastures provided for the flock — than are the grace and influences of the Holy Spirit. We are therefore exhorted "To live in the Spirit," "To walk in the Spirit," "To sow to the Spirit;" and are said to "Drink into that one Spirit." With Jesus for our Shepherd, with the word and ordinances for our food; and with the Holy Spirit to quench and satisfy the thirst of our souls — we may well be happy!
The flock is represented as enjoying their provision. They lie down in the green pastures, not only cropping the grass — but ruminating and growing fat upon it. So we must not only hear, or read, or pray — but we must MEDITATE. Free from all care and alarm, the sheep lie at the Shepherd's feet — so we, casting all our cares on Jesus, and feeling that we are free from all cause of alarm in his presence — should meditate in his statutes, on his person, offices, and work; on his promises, grace, and glory; until we can say, "You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy. I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night!"
They are led beside the quiet waters. Morning and evening, as the thirst of the soul is felt — we must be led to the Holy Spirit, in order to enjoy his recovering, refreshing, and satisfying influences. No satisfaction, no growth, for the sheep — without the quiet waters! Just so, no satisfaction of soul, no growth in grace for us — without the Holy Spirit. The Spirit always leads us to Jesus — but Jesus leads us to, or confers on us, the Holy Spirit. The Spirit's work within us, is as necessary, as the Savior's work for us! Blessed Jesus, fill us with your Spirit, and indulge us to lie down in peace, safety, and satisfaction, in the green pastures which you have provided for your people.
My soul, is Jesus your Shepherd? Do you hear his voice speaking to you day by day? Do you know his voice, distinguishing it from all others? Do you obey his voice, following him wherever he goes? All the sheep of Jesus know their Shepherd, love their Shepherd, and follow their Shepherd. "His sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice."
Are you thus happy? Does he cause you to lie down in green pastures? Does he lead you by the quiet waters? Do you enjoy religion, being led into it by Jesus himself? Is it your food and drink, your pleasure and profit?
Precious Lord Jesus, take me more than ever under your care. Feed me in your green pastures, and cause me to lie down — for I am often hungry, restless, and weary. Lead me beside your quiet waters — for I am thirsty, parched, and feverish! Let me share in the privileges of your flock, and enjoy the safety and repose of your fold. I wish to be yours. Yours wholly. Yours only. Yours forever. Yours to enjoy your love. Yours to do your will. Yours to glorify your name. Call me closer to you than ever. Commune with me more sweetly than ever. Consecrate me to you more entirely than ever. Crown me with your loving-kindness and tender mercy, more conspicuously than ever. O to be always with Jesus, just like Jesus, and wholly taken up with Jesus!
Folly and Fidelity
"He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake." Psalm 23:3
The Lord's people as compared to sheep — often manifest their folly, both by wandering and following. They wander from the Lord's fold — instead of dwelling together in unity. They wander from the Lord's pastures — instead of feeding, ruminating, and resting in them. And worse than all — they wander from the good Shepherd, to whom they should cleave with full purpose of heart. They were naturally prone to wander, and they indulge this wandering disposition often — to their Lord's dishonor, and to their own discomfort.
But, while they wander from the Lord — they follow their own vain imaginations, and others who wander out of the right way — and so are led farther and farther astray.
Then, like the wandering sheep, they become lonely and miserable; for the sheep with its social nature, can only be happy in the flock, and by the Shepherd's side.
The wandering sheep, is a fit emblem of the backsliding Christian, who is both lonely and miserable. Our backslidings commence in the prayer closet — but they do not usually end there. When once we begin to wander from God — we wander farther and farther, until grace arrests us, and the good Shepherd fetches us back. To wander is human — to return is divine; the former is from sinful nature — the latter is from divine grace. Wandering shows our folly — returning proves the Shepherd's fidelity. Jesus is faithful to his charge, he takes care of his sheep, attending to the whole of his flock. Let us then notice,
The fidelity of Jesus as our Shepherd."He restores my soul," said David, and surely we also can say the same. He goes after every wandering sheep until he finds it; and finding it, brings it back. He goes after it sometimes by painful providences — stripping, bereaving, or smiting with afflictions. As he sent the storm after Jonah, Nathan to David, and the angels to Lot — so he sends his providential messengers after his wandering sheep. But providence alone, is not sufficient to reclaim or recover the wanderer; he therefore sends his grace, or his Holy Spirit, and by his inward, secret, and sanctifying operations — he restores the soul. The Spirit awakens and rouses up the sleepy conscience, leads the wanderer to review his past course, comparing the former with the present — and in this way, he produces conviction, contrition, and sorrow. Reflection produces self condemnation; self-condemnation fills the soul with shame and grief; and shame and grief issues in the determination, "I will go and return to my first husband, for then it was better with me than now!"
The soul gets no rest until it comes back to the Shepherd and the fold, with weeping, supplication, and frank confession of sin. But, it was the Shepherd sought the sheep first, not the sheep the Shepherd; and by the Shepherd's grace alone, was the wandering sheep restored. Having restored the soul — he leads it in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Jesus leads every one of his sheep, he goes before them, calls them, and they know his voice and follow him.
He leads them in right paths. In every moral duty, his footprint is to be seen; for his life is a speaking representation of the law. He is the embodiment, exposition, and illustration of the law; and he has left us an example, that we should follow in his steps.
He leads us also, into all the means of grace. He went from Galilee to Jordan, to be baptized of him by John — setting us an example. He sat down with the twelve, breaking the bread, and handing the wine, saying, "Eat, drink, and do it in remembrance of me."
Thus Jesus leads his sheep in right paths, and he does so, for his name's sake. That is, out of his pure love, and for his own honor and glory. It is for the Shepherd's honor — to have all his sheep safe, healthy, and clean; therefore Jesus restores his wanderers, heals his sick ones, and leads all his flock in clean paths. Not one will be allowed to wander finally — but all will be restored, and presented to his Father, to manifest his ceaseless fidelity.
Reader, to wander from Jesus is the height of folly — and it is running into the greatest danger! Watch, therefore, against a restless disposition. Beware of following the devices or desires of your heart. Make the Word of God your rule at all times, and in all things. Look out for the print of the Shepherd's foot — and walk in it. Listen for the Shepherd's voice — and follow it. To follow Jesus is to be obedient, to be on the right path — for he leads in the way of righteousness. To follow Jesus is to make sure of supplies — for he leads into the green pastures, and beside the still waters. To follow Jesus is to be safe — for by his side no foe can injure us, no evil can happen to us.
Let us, therefore, if we have wandered, seek grace to return; crying out with David, "I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost; seek your servant!" And, if we are in the Shepherd's fold, if we are feeding among his flock, if we are reposing at his feet — let us take heed, lest being led away by the error of the wicked, we fall from our steadfastness.
Evil influences are always being exerted, to draw or drive us away from Jesus; and there is a natural proneness in our hearts to wander from him; it becomes therefore necessary for us daily to pray, "Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of your wing." O to be established and settled in the truth! O to live near Jesus, abiding with him! O to feed in fellowship and love, with all the flock of God!
Confidence in the Great Shepherd
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil — for you are with me. Your rod and your staff — they comfort me." Psalm 23:4
The Lord Jesus leads his flock from nature to grace — and from grace to glory. He goes before them every step of their journey, to give them confidence, and ensure their safety. They follow him, and at length enter with him into their Father's kingdom.
But the way in which the Shepherd leads them, is often very rough, and sometimes dark and dreary. David refers to this, when he speaks of, "the valley of the shadow of death." Let us consider his words a little. "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil — for you are with me. Your rod and your staff — they comfort me." Here is,
A Trial Anticipated. It may refer to something before death, for death sometimes throws its shadow a long way before it. Therefore we read of some, who through the fear of death, were all their lifetime subject to bondage. And the Psalmist says, "The sorrows of death compassed me about." And again, "The snares of death confronted me." The nervous system becomes disordered, the evidences of a saving interest in Christ becomes beclouded, alarming circumstances in the world or the family occur — and we are dejected and brought low. It is as if death threw its shadow over everything. Nothing is bright, clear, or beautiful; we weary of life, we long for Heaven — and yet fear to die. Here is the shadow of death, and the substance is not far off.
Or the reference may be to death itself, which as far as it refers to the believer in Jesus, is but the shadow of itself. But it is a gloomy depressing shadow.
Death obscures the sun — and the earth loses all its charms;
it chills the atmosphere — and life is stripped of all its comforts;
it conceals exhilarating objects — and we dwell upon the dismal and dreary;
it produces gloom — and often awakens fear.
But as the shadow in nature, though it may alarm, death cannot injure us — just so the shadow of death cannot injure the Christian. If death is a serpent — it has lost its sting, it has no power to harm us. If death is a tyrant — it is stripped of its authority, and we may smile at its impotence. Jesus, for us, has "abolished death" — only the shadow remains. He has destroyed, or rendered feeble and ineffectual — him that had the power of death, that is the devil. Therefore he said, "He who believes on me shall never die." "He who keeps my sayings, shall never taste of death." Which leads us to look at the language of David again, and to notice,
The Confidence Expressed."I will fear no evil." Why should he? Nothing is really evil — but sin, and separation from God as the effect of sin. But to every believer sin is pardoned, put away, and covered; and separation from God is now impossible."
"I will fear no evil." Why should he? No evil can happen to him. He knows who leads him into that valley, and why he is led there. Jesus is his leader — and it is the direct road to his Father's house! His life is safe, for it is identified with the life of Jesus. His property is safe, for it is lodged in the hands of Jesus. His home is near, and there he will dwell forever with Jesus. Grace is promised him, grace for dying, as well as for living; for in reference to his journey through this valley Jesus says, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in your weakness." The promise is sure, for "faithful is he who has promised, who also will do it." Intercessory prayer has been presented by Jesus, and prayer that avails much. What then is to be feared? Why should the most timid sheep in all the Savior's flock fear?
Two Reasons Are Assigned For His Confidence.
First; "you are with me." Yes, Jesus accompanies every member of his flock through the valley. He has said, "I will never leave you," no not in the valley of the shadow of death! "I will never forsake you." "Surely I am with you always, even unto the end." With confidence therefore may the Christian say, "You are with me."
You, my tried Friend,
you, my kind and loving Father,
you, my almighty Savior,
you, my precious Comforter,
you my faithful Shepherd
— "You are with me!"
"Your rod and your staff — they comfort me." By the rod and staff, the shepherd's instruments, we may understand the power and promise of Jesus — or his blessed Word and Holy Spirit. The rod that corrected us and proved our sonship, which reduced us to submission and acquiescence with your will — will sustain and comfort me. Your rod and staff which drew me near to yourself, and drove my enemies away — will comfort me too.
The rod and staff, emblems of the Shepherd's office — will be my comfort. His sweet Word, speaking to me; and his Holy Spirit working in me — will comfort me. Oh, how sweet the assurance felt by the sheep and lambs of Jesus in the valley: "I am not alone, Jesus is here. I am not friendless, Jesus is my friend. I am not left to myself, I am in the care and charge of Jesus. Why then should I fear? What evil can happen to me, befriended and guarded like this?"
But there are some who should fear — for evil is before them. Yes every unbeliever, every impenitent sinner, any one, and every one, who is not led to Jesus — has cause to fear; for in their case the valley of death leads to weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth! The careless and presumptuous, are in the greatest danger; therefore let him that thinks he stands take heed, lest he fall. Every one should seek a saving interest in Jesus now — that they may share in the Shepherd's care and kindness then. The sheep of Christ should confidently trust in their shepherd, even in the valley of the shadow of death. They are safe, beneath their shepherd's eye. They are happy, savingly interested in their shepherd's love. They will soon emerge from the valley, and arrive in Immanuel's land! Once there, "Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
Happy end to a weary journey! Blessed outcome to a trying conflict! Then, on the plains of glory — they shall feed forever — of the rivers of pure happiness — they will drink without interruption or satiety. Beneath the rock of ages — they will rest, and be disturbed no more. O glorious future of the sheep of Jesus, "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him!"
"Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life — and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!" Psalm 23:6
The good Shepherd, having undertaken the care of his flock; having fed them in green pastures, and given them to repose by the quiet waters; having restored the wanderer to the fold, and led him in right paths; and having conducted the flock, safely through the valley of the shadow of death — the scene now changes, the imagery is new.
Instead of a Shepherd — we have a Sovereign.
Instead of a sheep — we have a guest.
Instead of green pastures and still waters — we have a prepared table, perfumed anointing oil, and an overflowing cup.
The former scenery was in Bethlehem, near the home of Jesse — this scene is at the court of Saul. The custom is oriental, and is observed to the present day; hence we read in Captain Wilson's memoirs, "I once had this ceremony performed on myself in the house of a great and rich oriental, in the presence of a large company. The gentleman of the house poured a delightful odoriferous perfume upon my head, my hands, and arms. He then put a golden cup into my hands, and poured wine into it, until it ran over; assuring me at the same time, that it was a great pleasure to him to receive me, and that I would find a rich supply in his house." This ancient ceremony is used by David to set forth spiritual things.
First, a table is prepared for him.This was to honor as well as to feast him. His host was the great king, the Lord Almighty. O what condescension our God displays, in providing sustenance, and presiding at the table, where he feasts such poor worms as we are! What an honor to be guests of the Most High God! We do not wonder that we are compared to poor silly sheep: but to be raised to be guests in the palace of the great king, to banquet with the king — is truly astonishing!
The preparation made for us bespeaks at once the wealth, the dignity, and the love of him who has provided it. Here is plenty — enough and to spare. Here is variety — everything that is rich and good. Here is a hearty welcome — the founder of the feast is pleased to see us come. And of all who come it is said, "You feed them from the abundance of your own house, letting them drink from your river of delights."
This prepared table is before us, and represents
the ordinances of the everlasting gospel. On this table is presented
all that is necessary to meet our case, or gratify our souls. Here is . . .
a full pardon of all sin;
perfect righteousness, to justify us before God;
peace with God;
pure, pervading and everlasting holiness;
deep and lasting comfort!
In a word, here is . . .
wisdom, for the foolish;
strength, for the weak;
health, for the sick;
patience, for the afflicted;
hope, for the tried;
redemption, for the enslaved;
life, for the dead; and
salvation, for the lost.
This table is prepared . . .
to meet all cases,
to suit all people,
to supply all needs,
and is open at all times.
It is prepared, and spread, in the presence of our enemies — before the world that hates us, and has often spitefully treated us.
Blessed be God for his gospel, his ordinances, his house, his Holy Spirit, his beloved Son, and his ever-blessed self!
This leads us to notice,
Secondly, the Holy Anointing."You anoint my head with oil." All the Lord's people are anointed, as it is written, "You nave an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things." And again, "As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you."
By the anointing oil, is intended the Holy Spirit,
who by his gracious and powerful operations . . .
penetrates the heart,
softens the spirit,
strengthens the mind,
beautifies the character,
gladdens the soul, and
preserves the whole sanctified person unto life eternal.
No perfumed ointment of the east, was ever so valuable, so pleasant, so beneficial — as the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit. With this Divine unction — we must be anointed. The Holy Spirit must be received. He is both promised and bestowed by the Father. The Holy Spirit was procured for us by the Son — and is also by him imparted. Gracious Lord, anoint, not only our heads — but our hearts, with the Holy Spirit in fullness and power, that we may shine to your glory, and be a sweet savor of Christ in every place! We now glance,
Thirdly, at the Overflowing Cup."My cup overflows." In another place he says, "The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup: you maintain my lot." The cup, or lot — may refer to temporal good, and many of the Lord's people have to say, in reference to God's providential dealings, "The lines have fallen unto me in pleasant places; yes, I have a goodly heritage." Yes, the Lord has dealt well with his children, in the dispensations of his wise and holy providence. With some of us at first the cup was anything but overflowing — but it has increased, until we have at last reason to say — it is full to the brim! The language of the patriarch Jacob is suited to us: "I am not worthy of all the unfailing love and faithfulness you have shown to me, your servant. When I left home and crossed the Jordan River, I owned nothing except a walking stick. Now my household fills two large camps!"
Other believers had the overflowing cup — but the shaking hand, or the giddy head, or the gadding heart — emptied it! And now their wise and gracious Father, can only give them daily bread, or drop a little into the cup at a time.
How exquisitely sensitive was the mind of Agur, and how wise his prayer, "Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God." Proverbs 30:9. A daily portion of temporal things, received directly from our heavenly Father's hand — is the best portion! May the Lord grant us to be satisfied with all His providential arrangements! "Give us this day our daily bread!" Matthew 6:11
But the overflowing cup may refer to spiritual things — and in this sense, our cup always runs over. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Heavenly places in Christ." Here is a full cup — all spiritual blessings. Again, "All things are yours; whether . . . the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours!" Again we say, Here is a full cup — all things are ours. Yes, every spiritual blessing is ours, to seek, receive, possess, and enjoy now; and all that is contained in that wondrous word "glory," will be ours after death! Well, therefore may we say, "My cup runs over."
Beloved admire the beneficence of God. How good, how generous, how gracious is our God. A table prepared, the oil poured on the head, and the cup filled to overflowing.
Rejoice, in the believer's welcome. In every possible way, our God shows us that we have a hearty welcome from him. Let us therefore dwell in his house, be regularly at his table, and come boldly to his throne — that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help us, in every time of need.
Rejoice, in the saints supply. If God has prepared our table, if he fills our cup, we shall never be left destitute. "There is no lack unto those who fear him." The strongest, the fleetest, the most courageous of God's creatures may lack; but not his beloved, believing, dependent children!
He will supply all our needs.
He will sanctify all our trials.
He will turn every curse into a blessing.
He will guide us by his counsel, and afterward receive us to his glory.
Now we are his guests — but then we shall be children at home. Now we are received at the palace of the Sovereign, as a favor; but there we shall be in our Father's house, and shall never leave forever.
Trust and Triumph
"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!" Psalm 23:6
Real religion is calculated and intended to inspire us with confidence and courage. Thus fitting us to face all we meet with in our journey, and to anticipate the glory to be conferred on us at the end.
As objects of the Divine love and care,
as watched over and attended to by a special providence,
as savingly interested in the grace of Christ, and the work wrought by Christ
— we may, we ought to be, confident and courageous!
Thus the Psalmist appears to be in the verse before us. He had sang of his interest in his God, of his experience of the kindness and care of his God, of his persuasion that his God would be with him even through the last dark valley — and now he closes his song in this sweet strain, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!"
See, His Confidence for Time. "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." He had a Shepherd, in whose faithful care, and constant attention, he could ever trust — for he was persuaded that he would never leave or neglect him. He had a Host, on whose friendship and resources he could rely, and he felt sure that he would never change, nor allow his supplies to fail. He had two of the Divine perfections (goodness and mercy), like two guardian angels, engaged to attend upon him every step of his pilgrimage, and see his needs supplied. He therefore felt certain, that goodness would supply him out of its vast resources; and that mercy would sympathize with, and pardon him, through Christ's great atonement. He therefore enjoyed certainty — holy, heart-establishing certainty.
This certainty, as it arose from his interest in God, was
strengthened and sustained . . .
by his knowledge of God's character,
by a careful review of his past history,
by his interest in the well ordered covenant of grace, and
by his title to the great, gracious, and glorious promises which God has made.
O what a privilege to be followed by God's goodness and mercy; His goodness carrying the keys of God's store-houses — and His mercy possessing the most tender and sympathizing heart. Goodness and mercy follow the Christian closely, and constantly, through every step of his wilderness journey, acting as his body guard.
Notice, David's Expectation for
Eternity. "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Not in
the sheepfold in the wilderness — nor in the guest-chamber in
Jerusalem — but in the house of the Lord. The dwelling-place of God —
the family residence of the Father of mercies, and his beloved children. In
that house, we shall have . . .
all our desires gratified,
all our prayers answered, and
our highest expectations more than realized!
There we shall dwell in peace, united to all the saints, and enjoying the society of all the ransomed brethren!
There we shall dwell and worship — and our worship will be spiritual, pure, and perfect!
There we shall dwell and enjoy — and our enjoyments will be dignified, delightful, and eternal.
There we shall dwell and obey — and our obedience will be perfect, hearty, and perpetual.
There we shall dwell and rest from conflict — not from service, for we shall have rest from labor — not from activity; rest in worshiping him day and night in his temple.
There we shall rest, and our rest will be sweet, refreshing, and satisfying.
There will be no wilderness storms there.
There will be no cruel, crafty, malignant foes there. There will be no Canaanite, no Doeg the Edomite, no Judas the traitor, there.
All will be friends and brethren. All friendship will be
unchangeable, and fellowship perpetual and pure. O glorious prospect! O
sweet anticipation! In our Father's house are many mansions, all those
mansions will be occupied, for . . .
every one ever born of the Spirit,
every one for whom Jesus became a substitute and sacrifice,
every one beloved and chosen by the Father — will be there! All God's children shall be there — not one of them lost! All God's sheep shall be there — not one hoof left behind!
There the Eternal Father will be surrounded by, and enjoy the society of all his happy family. There the glorious Savior will see of the travail of his soul — and be fully and forever satisfied. There the Holy Spirit will fill all his temples, and enjoy his divine workmanship, and the presence of all who he has prepared for glory. There, Jehovah, Father, Son, and Spirit, at home with his people — will manifest forth his glory, and pour floods of light, love, and blessing upon them forever. Well then may the Psalmist say, "In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures!"
Let us then, beloved, as the sheep of the great Shepherd, as the guests of the King of kings — seek to live up to our privileges. Cleaving to the dust, clinging to this earth, or setting our affections on anything below — does not befit us. We should have our hearts, our thoughts, and our hopes in Heaven — from whence also we should be looking for the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us also, trust in God. This is both our duty and our privilege. Our duty — for he commands us to trust in him; our privilege — for he promises to keep us in perfect peace, if our minds are stayed on him.
Let us often think of home. This vain world is not our
rest. Here on earth, we have no continuing city. Home, the home of the
believer's heart — is in the skies . . .
where Jesus is,
where Jesus reigns,
where love is perfect,
where there is always a full tide of joy,
where God displays all his glory,
where grace satisfies the utmost desires of every renewed soul.
Let us then rejoice, for "We know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in Heaven, not built by human hands!" We have a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God!
Shepherd of Israel — lead us, feed us, keep us, restore us, and fully bless us! Receive us, welcome us, and make a home for us even while below. Good and gracious God, help us to confide in you, courageously to press onward in our homeward path, assured that "goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our life; and that we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever!"
Grace will complete what grace begins,
To save from sorrows and from sins;
The work that Wisdom undertakes,
Eternal Mercy ne'er forsakes!