The Good Shepherd & Psalm 23

Excerpt from a recent sermon on the Psalm Immortal. 

Good Shepherd - Background2As if there weren’t enough reason IN Psalm 23 to draw us TO the Psalm, I want to add one more thought. Consider the Lord Jesus for a moment.

I’ve spent time in this Psalm before. I’m sure I’ve taught on it before at some point. But it was only this week that I found myself considering the incarnate Lord Jesus, walking the earth as the fullest revelation of the Word of God. And I asked myself, “I wonder what Jesus, the Good Shepherd in the flesh, thought about this Psalm?” I also found myself asking, “Could it be that Jesus found the same comfort in this Psalm as did David, and as we do today?”

It is easy to fall into the trap of imagining Jesus as God walking around 1st century Israel, holding the Old Testament as if it were a checklist. Born in Bethlehem? Check. To a woman? Check. Who is a virgin. Impressive. Check. Bruise the head of the serpent? In progress. Heal the blind… Hmmm… someone bring me a blind man! We forget that Jesus was also a man who knew the Father. A man who knew the Scripture, not just memorized, but knew how to apply them in every situation.

Andrew Bonar once said, “the church has so exclusively applied this Psalm to herself, as almost to forget that her Shepherd once needed it and was glad to use it. The Lamb was once led along by His Father.”

In the gospel of John, Jesus said, “I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.” (10:14b-15a) In other words, in the same way Jesus knows his sheep, he was known by his heavenly Father. Jesus could stand in the flesh and say, with superior confidence,

YHWH is my Shepherd… I shall not want.”

We must remember that Jesus walked as both God and man. Incomprehensible. But this meant that he read, understood, and leaned on the Scriptures in a way we cannot begin to fathom. He called out to his heavenly Father.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me.

In the 16th chapter of John, as he made his final preparations for the cross, Jesus said, “And yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.” As his soul faced the trouble of the wrath of God, walking alone as both Shepherd and Lamb through valley of darkness, fear could not shake him – for the Father was near!

He prepares before me a table in the presence of my enemies.
He anoints my head with oil. My cup overflows.

Consider the table the Father prepared for the Lamb. The last supper. The greatest table of all. In Jerusalem, surrounded by the crowds that would call for his death, Jesus approached the table, broke the bread and poured the wine. Satan took possession of Judas at the very table the Father arranged. The enemy was indeed in the midst. And yet the anointed of the Lord persevered, his cup overflowing.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life;
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

The promise. The covenant made before time began. The Lord Jesus knew that goodness and mercy would certainly follow him, even though he had to walk through the valley to return home. In knowing his own eternal position as the King of kings, Jesus carried on in great strength, and he secured our eternity with him.

I believe this is the kind of Psalm that would have brought comfort to Jesus in his darkest hours. And now he sits enthroned on high as the Good Shepherd-King – the one who seeks lost sheep and returns them to the fold of God. All praise, glory, and honor be to Jesus for evermore!

As John Newton said, “He guides, protects, feeds, heals, and restores; and he will be our guide and our God even until death. Then he will meet us, receive us, and present us to Himself, and we shall be near him, and like him, and with him forever.”

This is our Shepherd. This is Christ the King. If you are thirsty, come. Repent of your sin, turn from your shame and brokenness. Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Savior and Master of your soul. He alone can embrace you with eternal arms of grace, cleanse you of all unrighteousness, seal your adoption as a son of God Almighty, and usher you into the very presence of God.

He alone is the fountain of goodness and mercy. His is the eternal presence we so desperately seek.

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