What Can I Want Beside? - 6.16.2024 Bulletin

What Can I Want Beside?

The most famous Psalm of all and one of the most famous passages in the whole Bible is Psalm 23, commonly known as "The Lord is my Shepherd".  This passage speaks to the loving care and guarding God provides for us, and how we know we can safely follow Him, and receive nothing but blessings and peace and protection.  It is small wonder then that this is the most famous Psalm of all.  Yet I have often noticed that this Psalm is particularly common at funerals, both in our lives and even in movies.  Psalm 23 is often quoted during times of fear or loss.  While this is certainly an appropriate time to think on the lessons from this Psalm, I admit that sometimes I'd rather hear a more "positive" usage of this passage.  Or perhaps more accurately, I'd like to hear it in good times as well as bad times.  It is a comforting psalm, so I'd like for it to be associated with more than just funerals.

So let's examine it.  "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."  Really you could just read that and it would be sufficient.  Even when David was writing this Psalm, there was more than enough evidence that God would never fail His people, whoever or wherever they were.  "I shall not want" means that you will never lack anything that you need.  You will never want for food or shelter because God is able to abundantly provide everything you need, as we read in Ephesians 3:20. 

"He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters."  Contrary to popular belief, the middle east where David lived was not a barren, desolate, sandy wasteland.  On the contrary it was a land flowing "with milk and honey", thus there plenty of pastures shepherds could take their flocks to be fed and full.  Water is also a requirement for life, and the Good Shepherd knows where to take His flock to find it.  For the physical shepherds, they had to find pasture and waters.  For us though, Jesus is the source of our spiritual nourishment.  He is thusly the source of our spiritual food and water, as He Himself said in John 4:13-14 and John 6:48-51.  As a brief aside, this is why John 6 is not in fact a "Lord's Supper" verse.  While it sounds similar, that is not what Jesus was referring to at this time, but rather He was referring to Himself as being the Living Bread of Heaven.

"He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His Name's sake."  This part is rather straightforward.  We are living in a world of darkness, thus our souls will need to be restored and rejuvenated frequently.  It would be foolhardy of anyone to think they can endure all of life without ever receiving regeneration from the Lord.  And the paths of righteousness are obviously a desirable road for anyone who wishes to serve and follow God.  He is righteousness, therefore following this path will only bring us closer to Him.  However...

"Yea, 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."  While God does lead us down the path of righteousness, that does not mean we will face no adversity.  The valley of the shadow of death is pain and turmoil that we will all face in life.  Yet as David says, he will fear no evil for God is with him, leading him.  The mention of His rod and staff are due to those being the tools/weapons of choice for a shepherd.  Rods and staves are used both to guide the flock and to stop them from going someplace they shouldn't, and they are also used to defend the flock against wolves, lions or bears like David did in his shepherding days.

"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over."  For this, I ask you to envision yourself before an enemy.  Whether a personal enemy, whether someone you know who reviles God, or maybe even some historical figure.  Imagine being seated before them and seeing God preparing a table for you, then anointing your head with oil.  This is quite symbolic of an extreme triumph over your foes, delivered directly by God Himself.  Your cup running over is to show how you cannot even contain all the blessings He gives.

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."  And as you go on down the paths of righteousness or through the valley of death, God will see to it that goodness and mercy are ever with you.  If there's one thing us humans need, it's God's mercy and grace.  And what better fate could there be than to live in the house of God forever?  What could anyone want beside?


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