Scripture Reading

Psalm 23; 2 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 21:1-5.

Suggested Hymns

"Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me"
"A Song of Heaven and Homeland"


Psalm 25:1; John 10:14-15.


A. Introduction

During the years of our childhood we learn to quote this beautiful Shepherd Psalm. Then, in the middle years, when we grapple with the problems of family, home, and our busy lives in general, we find ourselves returning to this psalm in moments of exasperation and frustration, finding a new sense of comfort and strength. We come to understand more about a Shepherd who will guide us through difficult times. But then, as the years pass and the autumn and winter of life come upon us, the words of this lovely psalm become more meaningful than ever. Loved ones are taken away. The emptiness, the void that is left behind, is sometimes almost unbearable. Then we find ourselves quoting with an even deeper understanding: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me." There is little doubt that David wrote this Psalm during the sunset years of his life. He is reflecting, thinking back on the countless ways in which the Lord God was a "shepherd" to him.

B. Key to the Psalm

The key to the Psalm is found in the first verse: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." Who is the Lord? Let us allow Jesus Himself to answer for us with the words He spoke to those who listened to Him one day long ago: John 10: 14, 15. Isn't this, in essence, what David was saying? Because the Lord was to him as a true shepherd is to his sheep, he would not want for that which was needful for his soul. When he walked through the dark valley of sorrow, he would not want for grace and strength to carry him through the long and weary days. Furthermore, not only did the shepherd know his sheep in those lands, but the sheep also knew their shepherd; they would not follow a strange shepherd. Jesus expressed this idea in John 10:2-4. Indeed, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want."

C. But that is not all

"He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul." Here, in essence, is the life story of a child of God. He begins life with the morning and the labor and toil of the day. But then come the resting periods, the times for communion with God, for getting in touch afresh with heaven. "He maketh me to lie down." Could it be that this is what weariness is for perhaps even illness? In the hustle and bustle of life, we sometimes forget how to relax, to have time to think, to enjoy the God who created us to serve Him.

Then David tells us that God is able to transform the most difficult situation into a "green pasture" and the most violently tossing waves into "still waters." Green is the most restful of all colors and, at the same time, the most hopeful. The "green pasture" requires clouds and showers and then the sunshine. The storm clouds are often necessary to bring the rain, but there always comes the sunshine.

Inevitably God leads us "in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." By this, David means "straight paths," paths with direction, leading somewhere. Life, when it is directed by God, is never without direction. It is always moving toward a goal. Likewise, when God calls one of His own to rest, He is fulfilling His plan and completing His purpose in that person's life.

D. Yea, though I walk

"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." Note that the refreshing time beside the still waters and in the green pastures came before the most difficult part of the journey with the Shepherd that part which leads "through the valley of the shadow of death." Tests of life the hard stretches on the road do not often come in the morning years of our lives. Rather they come in the afternoon, after we have had time to become acquainted with our God as Friend and Lord, as well as Savior. We have had time to walk and talk with Him, and to hear Him tell us that we are His own.

E. Last verses prepare for journey's end

The last two verses of this delightful psalm prepare us for the journey's end. Here the imagery changes abruptly from that of the Shepherd leading His sheep through the wilds of life's wilderness to that of a kindly Host providing lovingly and generously for His guests. The Good Shepherd has brought His flock home, and the idea of home is made all the more appropriate by the picture of the spread table and the lavish provisions made ready by a most fatherly Host. The sheep are safe in the fold: the enemies are outside, glaring but helpless. Truly, one's "cup of joy" overflows at the prospect of our Good Shepherd's thoughtful and loving care for His sheep.

F. Conclusion

Not only is our Shepherd the One who leads and guides us and goes before us to smooth the rough path and lighten the dark way, He also sees to the "rear guard." He takes care that we shall not be "abused" from behind by evil. For His twin courtiers, "goodness"and "mercy," are following us all the days of our lives; and in the end, we are assured of "dwell [ing] in the house of the Lord for ever."