Christian Churches of God
He Calls Them by Name:
A Study of Psalm 23
(Edition 1.1 19940423-19981130))
This is a study of Psalm 23.
Christian Churches of God
PO Box 369, WODEN ACT 2606, AUSTRALIA
(Copyright ã 1994, 1998, 2001 Wade Cox
Summary by Patti Gambier, Ed. Wade Cox)
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He Calls Them by Name: A Study of Psalm 23
The 23rd psalm is probably one of the very best known, and widely sung psalms of the whole Bible. There are 2 aspects of this work that come to mind immediately.
One, that of Jesus Christ as the good shepherd and two, the applications of the words to a physical flock of sheep. David, the author of the psalm, had been a shepherd as a youth, so he was able to present facts in a cogent manner. David has been referred to as a "shepherd’s king" of Israel, and he will be installed again into that position in the Millenial rule of Jesus Christ, the Great Shepherd. (Ezek 34:23)
In some countries the flock is small, and the shepherd is quite familiar with each and every animal under his charge. Just as Christ is aware of the foibles, frailties and strengths in the little flock under his care.
David opens his psalm by declaring that yahovah is his shepherd, and this YHVH was the God or Elohim of Israel, by authority of God the Father (Deut 32:8,9). The sheep, or little flock (Luke 12:32) in the care of Jesus Christ were given to him by His Father. (John 10:29, 17:6)
Why is it such an honor to be one of the sheep in Christ’s little flock? Because Christ was the beginning of the creation of God (Rev 3:14), the firstborn of creation (Col 1:15). He has preeminence over all, by authority of his God and His Father, who is also our God and our Father (John 20:17). God the Father called us and gave us to his Son, Jesus Christ (John 6: 44).
So our Shepherd is very special. Sheep are creatures that need endless attention and care, and David as a shepherd, risked his life for his father’s flock. Our shepherd Christ gave his life for us (John10:11).
So with such a shepherd, we need fear no want. He is powerful to care for us in every instance of our lives, in troubled times, or in abundance, and our confidence and satisfaction is in the knowledge that he is in charge of our lives.
With sheep, in order for them to rest in the field ("lie down in green pastures") they must be free from fear, hunger, annoying parasites, and contrariness by any other member of the flock. Likewise, by laying our cares and fears at the feet of our shepherd, we rest in contentment of spirit. In the flock belonging to Christ, there may be tension caused by rivalry, or by members who are vying for status or power. This ought not to be, as our lives in His flock should be of service to others (Luke 22:26). Christ showed Himself to be the servant when He was on earth (Mat 20:28).
"The green pastures" of a member of Christ’s flock are prepared in our minds by His work to break up the stony disbelief, to pull out any root of bitterness, to break our proud hearts and brings about a contrite spirit in which He can plant His love and God’s word. We then can feed in "green pastures"
When a shepherd in the region of Israel took his flock to drink, often he had to make a dam, or fill a trough for his animals, so that then they could drink from still waters, unafraid. They are averse to drinking from fast currents, and it would be dangerous for them to descend steep rough sides of a waterhole.
Christ enjoins us to drink from "living waters" – that is Holy Spirit. We are not to drink in muddy, polluted, diseased waters of the spirit of the world ruled by Satan.
One might wonder why Jesus would need to restore any souls, if we are of His flock. But like sheep, we tend to wander away and can become lost, or confused and in danger. Thus, as a shepherd seeks out the one lost sheep, so Christ seeks out the wandering one, and leads him to repentance and thus brings him home.
In the Middle East cultures, sheep are led by their shepherd, who seeks the right path for sheep to follow. If left to themselves, being creatures of habit, they would use one path, till it became a rut, overgraze the land to desert waste, and pollute the field with their droppings.
Christ, as our wise shepherd, takes us in the path that will lead to eternal life for us. We tend to follow our own ways which end in death (Prov.14:12). We get stuck in one aspect of Bible study, and we need to be led to good and varied pastures in the Bible. So Christ "speaks’ to us through His word, by the Holy Spirit, and His own flock "know his voice". (John 10:1-5).
The Middle Eastern shepherd sometimes needs to lead his sheep through a dangerous valley to reach better pasture on higher ground. But he is there, leading, guiding, caring and protecting. The same can be said for Jesus, as He guides us through difficult times, and sometimes death is imminent, and he brings us to a higher plateau of Christian understanding and experience. He walks us "through the valley of the shadow of death" or as Acts 14:22 says "through many tribulations" etc. These are the times we need to be especially close to our shepherd and to hear and diligently hold his voice.
It is the presence of Christ in our lives, which helps us to "fear no evil". As sheep draw together for protection against the wolves, dogs, bears, or lions, so as a flock belonging to Christ, we too, must draw together to Him to withstand attacks from our enemy, Satan.
The shepherd had his rod and staff with him as he went out ahead of his flock. He used the rod to protect himself and his flock, a weapon of defense. Christ’s rod is God’s word. He used it in the battle with Satan in the desert, and we can use it as a clear-cut authoritative power in our lives. It is used as a rod to examine our lives for "defects", "disease", and "wounds", which are our inner attitudes, intents and motives. (Psa 139: 23, 24, Rev 2:23).
The staff in the hand of the shepherd represented his guidance and tender compassion, using the crook to draw a sheep or lamb to him. He could use it to nudge a sheep to guide it in the way to go.
By the use of the Holy Spirit from God the Father, through Christ, we are drawn into a close relationship, and guided on our way. (John 16.7; Isa 40:11).
The shepherd searches out poisonous weeds or snakes, and prepares a place for his flock to eat safely. We need to be wary of "eating" poisonous weeds (false doctrine) and check our attitudes that they are not poisoning the pure word of God. Christ, through the word, shows what we should be eating.
When sheep are led in to the fold in the evening, through narrow entranceways, the rod is used to part the fleece, and any wounds or sores are treated. Weary sheep would be handled with loving care, having their faces and ears rubbed with olive oil and a drink of water brought to their mouths. The shepherd acted as a door to admit the sheep one by one. And examine them. Christ is the door (Jn 10:7–9).
This anointing with oil, and the kindness and mercy of the shepherd to his sheep hardly needs elaboration of the point of Christ’s care for His flock, and our entrance to the Kingdom of God through Christ, the door.
We as a result, should bring love and mercy, and tender care to others, leaving them with contentment and peace and love.
Then as the sheep are safely in the sheepfold, we too look forward to dwelling with God and Jesus in God’s house forever. When we have followed the voice of our shepherd (Jn 10:3-14) then we will have the peace and contentment only God and Christ, who is His Good Shepherd can give.