« PreviousContinue »
THE LORD OUR SHEPHERD.
The Lord is ny Shepherd.—(Psalm xxiii. 1.)
Our high estimation of the Psalm from which this fext is taken, and the heart-felt pleasure we have found in the contemplation of it, have induced us, once more, to bend our attention to the sacred text.
First, then, if we ask, who is this Shepherd ? the He. brew scholar will answer, by telling us, that it is Jehovah, and that it is well known, that through the Old Testament the word LORD, in capitals in our English translation, corresponds to Jehovah in the Hebrew.
The Christian world generally, and we know no ex. ception to the rule, apply the character of shepherd in this psalm to the Lord Jesus Christ, and with great propriety ; for our Lord takes this character fully to him. self: (John X. 11:) “I am the good Shepherd; the good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep:” (and ver. 14.) I am the good Shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine : (and ver. 16.) And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold; them also I must
bring ; and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one Shepherd. The prophet Isaiah, speaking of this Shepherd, says, (liii. 6.) All we, like sheep, have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way ;
and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. The prophet Zechariah (xiii. 7.) gives force to these sentiments, when he says, “Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts; smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.”
Several things are observable from these divine tes. timonies : First. That this Shepherd is Jehovah. Se. cond. That Christ, our Emmanuel, who is God with us, (Mat. i. 23,) claims to be the true Shepherd. Third. That the human nature is the sheep of God, and all stray sheep. Fourth. That those who know, and fol. low Christ, are emphatically his flock; but that those who do not thus know Christ, are to be brought into this knowledge, and thus the whole human race be one flock; Christ the head and Shepherd of them all.
The next thing we notice in our text is the confidence with which the psalmist expresses himself; there is no. thing like hesitation or doubt, but rather of present en. joyment, and the assurance of future good. The whole residue of the psalm is the exhibition of results flowing from the fact, and the knowledge of the fact, that Jesus is the great, the true, the only divine Shepherd. But it will, perhaps, be said, that this was the privilege of David only. Such thought is a fatal error ; it is surely the privilege of every one who has David's faith ; and if we have his faith, and have not his enjoyment, then we live just so far beneath our privilege.
The first advantage we derive is security against poverty : “ The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want." And it is most reasonable for us to expect, that since Jehovah has taken upon him the eharacter of our Shepherd, he will discharge to each of his flock this first and most important duty ; but let us not suppose, that he will supply what we, in our weak, perverted judg. ment, desire, but what he, in his unerring mind, sees is good. And does not our own calm, deliberate judg. ment approve of this? We prefer the judgment of our physician to our own; and even in the meanest arts we have respect to the judgment of the artist ; shall we not then prefer the will of God to any thing that our fallible wisdom would desire ? Jesus has set us the di. vine example : not my will, but thine be done. And when our will is thus absorbed in the will of God, we know that what we have is what is best for us, and we receive what we ask for, because we ask in that humble faith, which prefers the will of God to our own, and thus the will of God is ours, even to the endurance of the sorest ills of life. We willingly submit to the will of the earthly physician, when he makes us sick, that he may the more effectually make us well; so the good Physician, whose recipe never fails, says, (Rev. iii. 19,) “ As many as I love I rebuke and chasten." Thus, then, what we feel as suffering, we know to be a blessing under the form of evil. This satisfied state is well represented to us in the second verse : “ He maketh me to lie down in green pastures ;" or, as it is rendered in the margin, pastures of tender grass. Does the sheep ever lie down till it is satisfied with food? Would it lie down in the pasture of tender grass if it had not fed to the full ? Such is the satisfaction of those who know Christ, and
follow him ; he is to them all that they desire : their wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
This divine Shepherd is represented as leading his flock beside the still waters, or waters of quietness. This is in accordance with the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, and which keeps the heart and mind through Christ Jesus. (Phil. iv. 7.)
The next blessing enjoyed by the psalmist is the restoration, or conversion, of the soul; these are nearly, if not quite, synonymous terms. Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost : he hath finished his work, and, consequently, restored. (Ps. xix. 7.) We are told, the law, or doctrine, of the LORD, or Jehovah, is perfect, converting, or restoring the soul : the testi. mony of the LORD, or Jehovah, is sure, making wise the simple. How precious is the wisdom of him who is taught of God, to see the way and the extent of salvation, the value of the blood which was shed for every man, (Heb. ii. 9,) and which cleanseth from all sin. (1 John i. 7.) Jesus, our Shepherd, is our guide," he leadeth me in paths of righteousness, for his name's sake." We not only acknowledge, but maintain the moral ten. dency of the grace of God; for it teacheth us to live so. berly, righteously, and godly, in this present world, and thus ornaments the profession of faith which we make. (1 Peter iii. 4. Titus ii. 12. iii. 9.) But as respects our salvation, and its meritorious cause, it is the righteousness of Christ; his righteousness being made ours by imputation, we are led into the knowledge of his righteous incarnation, life, death, resurrection, as. cension, and intercession. All this he did and suffered for us ; and the same divine love, which offered prayer for his murderers while hanging on the cross, is now
employed as our advocate with God; and all this for his name's sake. And why for his name's sake ? When we consider what is the import of his name ; that Jesus imports Saviour, and was given because he should save his people from their sins, is it not for the honour of his name, as Saviour, that his people (and all souls are his) should then be led in the paths of righteousness ?
The next advantage we have is in the knowledge of the victory we have over death, through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. xv. 57.) “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” There is a natural attachment to life, which the Author of our being has fixed in us for wise and good purposes, and this may appear to imply the fear of death, or, rather, of dying ; but the believer who is weak in faith, may be subject to fear of bodily pain in dying, when he has no fear of being dead, or of future spiritual death ; and such in their last moments are usually raised above all fear of physical suffering. The usual recitation of this passage is “the dark valley.” There is a beautiful correction of this error in the tract called the Dairyman's Daughter. Listen to the con. versation between the clergyman and the dying saint, as represented by L. Richmond : “At length I said to Elizabeth, Do you experience any doubts or tempta. tions on the subject of your eternal safety ?”
“No, sir ; the Lord deals very gently with me, and gives me peace.”
“ What are your views of the dark valley of death, now that you are passing through it ?”
" It is not dark.”
Why so ?”