“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. 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 23:5-6)
I am learning that consistency in posting with a series like this isn’t necessarily my strong point, so I’m going to finish up the posts on Psalm 23 today, covering the last two verses. Throughout the passage, David has emphasized the absolute completeness of his Shepherd’s care. (“I shall not want.”) These last two verses continue and finish out that thought by describing God’s overwhelming provision for His people at all times and in all places.
In his text, Mr. Keller again emphasizes here the work that it would require of the shepherd to provide such care to his sheep. He has led them to a place of sufficiency, often in the midst of various dangers, and now the sheep are able to enjoy his provisions. Even here, though, his work is not done. His is a job of constant vigilance – against the threat of predators, against the everyday ills that could wear down his sheep, and against the self-destructive tendencies of his own flock. For example, flies would swarm the sheep, and scab (caused by a parasite) would pass swiftly from sheep to sheep as they rubbed up against one another. The attentive shepherd would head off such nuisances with a liberal and continual application of oil upon the sheep’s head. Mr. Keller even speaks of his application of axle grease to the heads of his rams to prevent them from causing damage to one another as they fought during mating season. The shepherd’s work is hard, yet at the end of the day he is rewarded with sheep that are thriving under his care.
Now, consider the Shepherd that David is describing here. He is the perfect Shepherd. He knows His sheep’s every need before it arises, and He makes perfect provision for them – “my cup runs over.” And consider the confidence and utmost contentment of one who can say, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” If you are a Christian, a faithful child of God, this is your Shepherd. This is the One you raise your voice to in the morning, the One you bow your knee before every night. This is the One you cry out to in your deepest distress and the One you sing praises and thanksgiving to in the midst of your joys. This is the One who knows your every need and has made perfect provision for each of them so that you can live a life of contentment and peace before Him. What a glorious blessing this is!
But you know what… The passage does not stop there.
A shepherd may be completely dedicated to caring for his flock, but at some point those sheep are going to die and his care for them will end. Not so with the Shepherd described in this passage. Rather, David says, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” This Shepherd’s care will not end at the death of His sheep but will continue on through all eternity. And as we gather together with our God in His heavenly home, we will have the full experience of all that He has offered us in this life – full rest, full peace, full sustenance, full protection from every threat or trial or heartbreak. And we will be forever in the presence of the One who guided us so faithfully through our life on earth into the life beyond.
As we go through our day, may we continually seek to follow the Lord as our Shepherd. May we submit ourselves to His will and follow the paths He laid out for us through His word. May we examine ourselves closely to be sure that we are actually sheep in His flock. If we find that we have never joined His flock or have wandered from it, may we not waste a single second in doing what is needed to come back to Him. The blessings of His care are too precious to forsake, and the risks of being outside His fold are too dangerous to ignore. And once we are a true and obedient member of His flock, may we be content in His care on this earth, with hearts set toward eternity with Him.
Thanks for stopping by!
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.