I Will Dwell in The House of The Lord
Pr Edi Giudetti
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 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. 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. (Ps 23)
The most inescapable witness of how much David loved God is found in the book of Psalms.
The Psalms is a collection of songs and poetry that never ceases to bring comfort to those who read them.
It seems each time I come to the book of Psalms in my devotional reading, I always come to them in just the right time of my need for them, and it is such a joy.
David’s love and dependence on God is the most evident aspect of the Psalms, and no Psalm seems to demonstrate that love and dependence better than the Shepherds Psalm, Psalm 23.
We considered the first three verses of this Psalm last week, today we shall conclude our consideration of this Psalm with the last three verses.
4 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.
We recall from the consideration last week that this incredible Psalm was written by a man who himself was a shepherd.
He kept his father sheep, he was the youngest of eight sons of Jessie and a time came in his early life that a great man came to the door of his fathers house. They understood that the man was there to anoint the King of Israel.
One might imagine what was going through the minds of Jessie and his sons when Samuel had come to see who it was the Lord would have him anoint king of Israel.
Was there not already a king is Israel?
Is Saul Dead?
Will not his son Jonathan be the heir to the throne?
Well there is nothing written in the scriptures concerning these ‘thoughts’, but seven of the sons of Jessie passed before Samuel and not one of them was the chosen of the Lord until the youngest of all the sons of Jessie came from keeping the sheep of his father.
David was there anointed King in the midst of all his brethren, the spirit of God came upon him, and he returned to keeping his father’s sheep.
It would be this work as a shepherd that he attended to faithfully year after year from his tender age, that would prepare him to become the King by which all future kings would be measured and compared.
He was indeed the figure head of the Kings of Israel.
It would be seen that faithfully kept and protected not only the sheep of his father, but also the sheep of his God.
But Psalm 23 is not about his work as a Shepherd, no doubt if David were alive today the modern Church might press him to write a book on Church Growth and Ministry, or The Secrets of Successful Shepherding.
But no, the shepherd king, who writes this Shepherd Psalm, writes it as a sheep. David knows that God is the Good Shepherd, and he recalls God working and tending to him as a Sheep.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
How often it might have been that David brought his sheep through the valleys in Israel to reach the green pastures and still waters for his sheep.
Though the valleys themselves are lovely in Israel, and the greens bright and the sights around them pleasant. Israel is not a flat land, it is as many valleys as it does mountains and hills, but it was never the preferred way to bring the sheep because the valleys had dangers in them.
Snakes were the most regular of the dangers, so too were there predators such as lions and bears.
David spoke of delivering his sheep from the mouth of the lion and the claws of the bear when he spoke to Saul many years earlier, (before the Romans collected all the wild animals for their games a thousand years later, the east was filled with such animals). So David was aware of the dangers of taking his sheep through the valleys.
It was because of the dangers that the shepherd led his sheep and not drive them as they do here in Australia. The dangers in Israel were such that the sheep at any time might be struck by a serpent or taken by a beast, and it was the shepherd who would go before them to ward off the mortal danger of the sheep.
Nevertheless, the green pastures and still waters were the destination, and there are times when the only option for the shepherd is to lead his sheep through the Valleys.
Stephen Habuoush, in his book My Shepherd Life wrote in the early 20th century, about a valley he would take his sheep through near the Dead Sea, saying;
I would dread leading the sheep through this valley, but it was necessary whenever new pasture ground must be sought on the other side. My sheep would sense the danger and gather closely to my side. My continual calling and the sense of my presence gave them confidence and allayed their fear.
So it is in our own lives.
There are valleys that the Lord must take us through, even though the end goal is the green pastures and still waters, there are times when the best way to reach that tranquility would be through areas of danger and trial.
The sheep sensed danger as they went though those valleys, and yes there is in you the sense that something is not right, a sense of danger also, but notice that the sheep draw nearer to the shepherd even more during these times and they fear no evil.
It should be that way with us also if we hope to “fear no evil”
The Lord calls most loudly in times of our troubles, trials and pains.
It was C.S Lewis who wrote; “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains”
And he does so all the louder through the valleys of our lives that we might know he is with me;
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
This is the reassurance of the prince of peace, this is the confidence we can have as we find ourselves walk, even through the Valley of the shadow of death.
Perhaps it is important also to consider that it is not “a valley of death”, but a shadow!
Yes, it gives the appearance of mortal danger, but not with the Shepherd of shepherds, in our relationship with God and with Christ the Good Shepherd, death is a mere shadow in these valleys, death has lost its sting, the grave has lost its victory, and we fear no evil and are comforted.
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
A part of the shepherds tool kit was both his rod and his staff.
The rod itself was about 20 inches long, it would often be taken from a small straight tree, its root base would form the club end of the Rod, at the top of the rod a small hole would be drilled that it might hang on the side of the shepherd clothing.
The rod was used as a weapon.
The staff was long and generally straight (no crook). It was used by the shepherd to walk, rest and guide the sheep.
These two items where what the shepherds employed for the benefit of the sheep, to safeguard them and thereby bring them comfort.
Beloved the Bible speaks of the Lord employing a rod of iron upon the wicked, we saw that in Psalm 2, we see it again in Revelation 2, 12 and 19. It would be the rod of his judgment and it would be quickly employed against the enemy.
His judgement is in accord with his word and it is this same word that we take comfort in that will, judge the quick and the dead.
I say this because there will be times when you will have wrong done against you.
Each one of us have been wronged in time past and many of us will likely suffer wrong in the future as we go through one of those valleys on the way to green pastures and still waters, but it will be God who will render to every man according to his works.
God will be the judge, it will be the Lord who will defend his people and the Lord who takes vengeance on behalf of his own.
Turn to Romans 12:17-21
17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. 20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
No matter what evil might come upon you in this world, rest in the knowledge that the rod of the Lord and his staff brings comfort to his sheep.
It is Gods work to recompense and reward.
If you are persecuted for righteousness sake, happy are you says Peter, “be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” ( 1Pet 3:14-15)
It seems in the context of Peters writing that it is through persecution that the witness of Christ is most evident to encourage the question of the hope that is in you.
Can you see?
Can you see how nothing can every trouble the Christian who remains close to his Lord?
Just like nothing troubles the sheep who are close to their shepherd.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Beloved the table of the sheep in the land is the green pastures in which the shepherd led them. It was their table where they would partake of the wealth and fatness of the land, to feast and to enjoy and to be blessed, all the while the shepherd would stand guard and watch the sheep as they rested, watching for the foxes, the lions, bears and wolves that look for an opportunity to devour the sheep.
They hunger but are not filled, they thirst but are not yet quenched, they think they will be satisfied when they devour even on of the sheep, but they are wrong.
Nevertheless they look for the opportunity but that opportunity is denied them because the shepherd is watching his sheep
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
The Lord will lead you and I to enjoy the fullness and fatness of all the provision he gives to us to enjoy. We had hungered but are filled, we had thirsted, but our thirst is quenched even with living water.
There are passages in the Bible that I find quite incredible respecting those God has placed in authority over us. Strange because the passages speak of those who bare rule are there for the punishment of evildoers but for the good of them that do well.
This passage in the Psalms reminded me of that and I thought about how it fits.
Turn to 1 Peter 2:13-14
13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.
Turn to Romans 13:1-6
1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. 5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
An interesting choice of words, that rulers have an effect where to the one they are set for the punishment of evil and yet to the other they are set for the praise of.
It’s curious to me how this works.
In our own political system it is also curious that governments are voted in that promise health and wealth to the people as a gift, contrary to God’s command to work, and yet it is those very people who suffer most when that “free wealth” needs to be paid back.
And then I see this Psalm and wonder if,
-while the world has rulers that stand in judgment against the evil,
-does the Lord stand guard that we might still partake of the fullness and fatness of the land?
At the moment many in the world are struggling with a war they do not understand, as a result they are troubled, some are angry, others are in complete despair;
But this portion of the Psalm gives the clearest picture that those sheep who walk closely by their shepherd, have a table prepared before them in the presence of the wicked and they do well.
This same truth is reflected elsewhere in the scriptures, those who know their Lord know who it is that cares for them, the nearer they draw to their Lord the more they are comforted, even while their enemies look on.
thou anointest my head with oil;
The good shepherd would give their lives for their sheep and would not suffer even one to perish if they could help it, but there were indeed times when injury would come to one of them.
Two particular pouches would be carried by the shepherd, one with salt and the other with olive oil.
The salt was used to cauterize a wound, and the olive oil was used to cleanse the wound and heal it.
What a wonderful example of that which apply to those who have come to know the Lord. Salt has been associated with the concept of ‘truth’ in Mark 9:49 and Colossians 4:6, but to be cleansed and mollified with oil to bring restoration and healing.
Yes the anointing of oil is applied in the scriptures in other ways also, but that is not the context of this passage. Here is that anointing of the sheep by the shepherd.
What a blessing that is to consider.
In our pains and in our troubles it is our Lord who cares for us, who takes away the pain and comforts the heart and the soul.
It doesn’t matter what it is that has caused injury to you, there is no limit to the Lord to sooth and to heal, his pouches never run empty.
Is there a memory of a recent or distant past that is yet to be healed, does it still give you pain, does it still hurt and trouble you? Does it still grieve or anger you?
So too it was with David beloved, so too with David. Here he writes from experience. Not only was his life in jeopardy from his king when he was young, but also from his own home were there attempts against him to take both his throne and his life.
He had been terribly hurt, and in great pain many times. But here he recalls to himself, as a sheep of the Lord, how the Lord anointest my head with oil.
Notice also that the word is anointest and not anointed, it is verb in the present tense and not the past. There is no time when the Lord is not working to heal our pains and hurts.
But Don’t be far from the Lord during this time beloved, it is difficult to heal from a distance, the shepherd heals when his sheep are within reach, Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.Says James in James 4:8
my cup runneth over.
There is a story that is told of the customs of the East that well expresses the meaning of this latter part of the verse, and it goes like this.
A pilgrim, having a very dear and intimate friend in a distant country, visits him. Upon his arrival, this pilgrim, though in a strange land, finds the gates and doors of the palace of his friend open and the friend standing expectantly with open arms to welcome him to his bosom. The pilgrim is refreshed wonderfully; the dust of the long and tedious journey is washed away, and he is made to feel at home. He did not dream of the wealth or of the great possessions of his friend, or of the beauty that he saw in every nook and corner of the magnificent palace. Years before by way of accident he had made the acquaintance of this friend but he had had no idea that the latter had such wonderful possessions. The modesty and the spirit of humility and the unusual graciousness of this friend upon their first meeting led the pilgrim to believe that he was poorer than himself. But now his eyes were open to the greatness of this wonderful friend. Every conceivable thing was lavished on the pilgrim. From the hour of his rising to the hour of his slumber he was entertained royally. Nothing was left undone to make his stay the richest experience of his life. Every wish, and every want was fulfilled.
The time of parting came. The pilgrim was to return to the land of his home. How will he express his appreciation to his wonderful host? If he offered gold and silver his friend would feel insulted, for he was vastly richer than the pilgrim. Would the mere words “thank you” or “much obliged” be sufficient to express his sincere appreciation of the wonderful hospitality? How, then, should he express his gratitude? The pilgrim, while visiting his friend, learned many strange customs. Time after time there came to his ears this expression: “Mamnonok-Kateerang.” But what did it mean? Every time this was said by a departing guest there came a look of complete gratification upon the face of his friend and host. Upon inquiring, he learned it was the supreme expression of appreciation among true friends in the East: “My cup runneth over.”
There is a joy in the heart that rejoices in the Lord when he is near.
There is a blessing to be blessed with to all those who find their regular place on their knees before their loving Saviour, it is a joy that goes beyond anything you can imagine.
I can’t tell you how often I have been on my face before my Lord and have experienced the most wonderful loving care and embrace from him. It is a joy inexpressible and it never ceases to reduce me to tears.
I went from being a man who never cried to becoming one who has shed so many tears of joy before my Lord simply because “my cup runneth over”
How often I have said to my Lord “I just want to stay Lord, I don’t want to leave this wonderful place with you and near you, “my cup runneth over”, I am overjoyed with my love for my Lord and I just want to stay.
I can relate to that last verse of the hymn, In The Garden, and am always reminded of this same desire of my own where it reads;
I’d stay in the garden with Him
Tho’ the night around me be falling;
But He bids me go; thro’ the voice of woe,
His voice to me is calling.
My cup runneth over and no matter how much I desire to stay and to just be with him, there is time when his work must continue.
How close are you drawing to the Lord beloved? Does your cup run over?
How many times dear sheep have you set aside the things that bring little to no joy and just spent time alone with the Shepherd?
How often have you just spent time alone with Jesus and had become overjoyed at the Love he fills you with, that your cup runneth over?
You have no idea of the sorrow I have felt when some Christians have confessed to me they have NEVER been so close to the Lord to experience such joy.
What have you allowed to take its place?
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
The most perfect end to this wonderful Psalm is a passage of reckoning.
With all that the sheep has experienced of their shepherd, there is a sum total of their time with the Lord that comes to a logical conclusion.
Beloved this last verse is not a wish!
Its not a perhaps, maybe, hope so passaged, but a verse that can draw no other conclusion but an assurance of everlasting goodness and mercy with a permanent dwelling place with the Lord.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
The Bible says
“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor 2:9)
Turn to Psalm 84:10
10 For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. 11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. 12 O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.
There are Psalms worth memorizing, no doubt Psalm 23, but might you also consider Psalm 27?
A Psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. 3 Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. 4 One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple. 5 For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock. 6 And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD.
7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me. 8 When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek. 9 Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation. 10 When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up. 11 Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies. 12 Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty. 13 I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. 14 Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.