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TEXT: Psalm 23:2
SUBJECT: Henry on Psalm 23#3
No Scripture is more often recited than the Twenty-third Psalm. No Scripture is less often believed than the Twenty-third Psalm. Why people read, memorize and recite it is clear: it's so good and beautiful. Why we don't live by it is equally clear: it seems too good and beautiful to be true. But it is true. "Every word of God is pure" David said--including this one.
The goal of this study, therefore, is not so much to open your understanding to Psalm 23 as to get you to believe it and to live in the joy and peace it is designed to give you.
Thus far, we've looked at its main doctrine and application. What is the Psalm about? It's about The Lord being my shepherd. What does that mean to me? It means I belong to Him and I ought to trust Him. This is the privilege of every believer without exception. The veteran saint, the newest convert-it makes no difference-the Lord is every Christian's shepherd and every Christian belongs to Him in body and soul and ought to trust Him for all the good He has promised us.
This brings us up to the second verse of Psalm 23 and to Matthew Henry's exposition of it. Henry, you know, was a Puritan pastor and author. We are using his great Commentary on the Whole Bible to guide us in our study.
Matthew Henry starts where you'd expect a Puritan to: with a doctrine-or what the verse teaches about God.
"God is his Shepherd and his God-a God all-sufficient to all intents and purposes. David found Him so and so have we".
The Lord is our Shepherd. We covered this in some detail last time, so let's move on to the other key words in the short paragraph.
The God who is our Shepherd is all-sufficient. Now, kids, do you know what "sufficient" means? It means you can do what you want to do, that you don't have to depend on other people or the right circumstances or good luck!
I expect to be here next Sunday-I'm planning on it. But I am not sufficient to guarantee it. My being here on Sunday depends on a great many things: Will I be alive on Sunday? Will I be healthy enough to come? Will the church building still be here? Will the weather allow me to make it? I depend on a million things to be here next Sunday.
But the Lord doesn't! He is sufficient-all-sufficient to do whatever He wants to do. Good people are hindered by two things: things outside of themselves (like weather or other people) and things inside themselves (like a poor memory or old age). But these things don't affect God in the least. I won't labor it, but a few verses are worth thinking about:
"If I say even the darkness shall hide me, even the night shall be light about me. Yes, the darkness hides nothing from You, but the night shines as the day: the darkness and the light are alike to You" (Psalm 139:11-12).
"And all the inhabitants of the world are reputed as nothing, and He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of men, and none can stay His hand or say to Him, `What are you doing?'" (Daniel 4:35).
"Behold He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep" (Psalm 121:4).
"Have you not known? Have you not heard? That the Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, does not faint and does not become weary? There is no searching of His understanding" (Isaiah 40:28).
If the Lord is infinite and eternal and almighty, then He is all-sufficient-He does not depend on circumstances, on men and angels, and words like fate, luck, and chance mean nothing to Him!
Your Shepherd is not a good, strong, reliable man, but the All-Sufficient God!
That's the first term to note in Henry's paragraph. The second is
"God is all-sufficient to all intents and purposes".
"Intents and purposes" are the things you want to do. An all-sufficient God is not an entirely happy thought. What if an Infinite God wanted to roast you in eternal fire? He could do it! He could make the fire hotter than any fire on earth and also make your body and soul non-consumable. Always burning and never burnt up! What an appalling thought! That wicked philosopher Neitzche, said,
"What does not destroy me makes me stronger".
That may be true in some cases-but here it isn't. The fire, though infinite at first could keep on getting hotter forever! And the pain which could not be worse would keep on getting worse!
But punishment, destruction, hellfire is not what our Shepherd and intended and purposed for His sheep! No, His intentions are good-not always pleasant-but always good and in the end, happier than anything we can imagine!
Not only do God's purposes stand, but they are His good purposes that stand! Not just good in the sense of holy, but good for us.
This is the doctrine of Psalm 23:2 and how precious it is! That the all-sufficient God is for me! Not because I deserve it, but because He is so merciful. In one of his short books, Dr. Martin Luther tells the story of a bad servant who inherited his master's immense wealth. Everyone was surprised by the will and most people were mad about it: he didn't deserve it! But the servant gave nothing back, but praise for his master! He knew he didn't deserve the fortune, but he was happy to have it!
From the doctrine, Matthew Henry draws an application (three, in fact, but we'll only look at the first one for now). Because God is our Shepherd,
"We are well-placed or well-provided for: `He makes me to lie down in green pastures. We have the supports and comforts in this life from God's good hand and our daily bread from Him as our Father. The greatest abundance is but a dry pasture to a wicked man, but the believer, who has but little, to Him it is a green pasture".
If the Lord is your Shepherd you are provided for. Whether you think so or not. The Lord's mercies are varied and very great.
First, He provides for our material needs. No one has a right to one bite of God's food or one breath of His air or one sip of His water-or anything else. Yet we have all we need-and a lot more than we need. Some of us (mostly me) are fatter than others, but no one here is starving! No throat is parched; no lungs are airless. How generous the Lord is to give us these material things-and way more than our bare necessities.
Paul says, "Having food and clothing, be content". By food and clothing, I suspect he doesn't mean caviar, champagne, and Armani suits! Yet even the poorest food and clothing are gifts of God-and everyone of us has things way better than the poorest!
Our bodies are provided for. The number one killer in the USA is heart disease which is often the result of too much eating and resting-things not everyone has to worry about.
He also provides for other earthly needs. Man is not a car needing only gas and oil to stay running. We are humans and our needs include things mental, emotional, social, and so on. He provides these things too. We have them: family, friends, fun, work, rest, books, laughter, and other things that make life happy under the sun. These come from your Shepherd.
They are ours-even when we don't realize it. You know my house is right next to the foothills which, at the moment, are green and beautiful. I don't own those foothills, yet I enjoy their beauty every bit as much as the man who does. And maybe more, because I don't have to pay taxes on them! How dear the Lord is! How generous He is to all and sundry alike-but especially His People!
He provides for our spiritual needs. Believers have the forgiveness of sin; we are brought into the family of God; our consciences are put at peace; we have hope for heaven-and the hope won't let us down when it's time to die.
One more thing here: Henry alludes to it, but we're prone to forget it. God has not only given us all we need, but He has also given us the ability to enjoy His gifts.
Have you ever known a person who had plenty but didn't seem to enjoy any of it? Either he was envious at others who have more or covetous, wanting even more himself, or-I don't know what to call it-just poverty-stricken sitting on a mountain of diamonds!
Solomon calls this a great evil under the sun: God has given a man much, but He has withheld the gift of enjoyment.
If the Lord is your Shepherd, you are well-provided for.
Do you believe this? Nearly everyone says he does. But their lives don't back up their words. How many believers there are who are discontent, envious, bitter, and wallowing in self-pity!
How in the world can I pity myself when "The Lord is my Shepherd?" When He has given me "all things which pertain to life and godliness".
God has not short-changed you-except in His wrath which you very much deserve. No, He has been extremely generous to every person here-including you.
You ought to be thankful; you ought to be content; you ought to rejoice in what He gives other people; and you ought to remember: the best is yet to come.
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