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Psalm 23 Part 1

Who Is Your Guide?

  • Samuel Wilson
  • Weekend Messages
  • February 12, 2023

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

Who Is Your Guide?

Psalm 23 


Illus. Is it too late?


This morning we are going to study Psalm 23, it is one of the, if not the, most well-known Scriptures in the Bible. There is a good reason why it is so popular, essentially it is real life. The various pictures and ideas in Psalm 23 bring vivid color to places, situations and circumstances you and I face daily. While this Psalm brings about a real picture of what we face, it doesn’t stop there, it illustrates a picture for us of who God is and what God does. Pointing to the place those in His care need to be in the midst of the circumstances in their lives, and the reality that when God is your guide, He is with you always.

So, the question I want to center our focus on this morning is, who is guiding your life? Throughout Scripture we know that the Lord offers guidance to His people.


Psalm 32:8, The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.” (NLT)


We also get some specifics about what is true when He is our guide. Last week we looked at Psalm 1, which described the blessings that come from delighting and living according to the path God’s Word directs us to.


Isaiah 58:11, And the Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.


When Jesus spoke about the coming of the Holy Spirit, He gave us these words…


John 16:13, When He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth…


Isaiah 48:17, This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. (NIV)


What we know from these verses and many more in Scripture is that the Lord is not only a guide, but the greatest guide you could ever have in your life. He will bring strength to your bones, bring satisfaction in scorched places, He will guide you in truth, and teach you what is best for you!

But we also know there are other guides you can choose from. When the way seems unclear, or when the pathway provokes worry or fear. I am reminded of Saul, the first king of Israel, who was terrified of the Philistine army and instead of trusting in and waiting on the Lord for the best path forward, He sought the guidance of a medium, and that guidance led to his death.

Upon Saul’s death, in 1 Chronicles 10:14, we read that the kingdom was turned over to a man named David. David was a man after God’s own heart, not only this though, but David also knew who the Lord was, and in Psalm 23, he illustrates clearly, using the image of a shepherd and sheep, that God was his guider personally.

There is debate amongst Bible scholars as to the time or season in David’s life that this Psalm was potentially written. Some suggest it was written when he was a young man, tending sheep, intimately acquainted with how a shepherd cares for his sheep personally. Other suggest it was later in his life, looking back on the hills, peaks, and valley, with a recognition that God had been with him in all he went through.

While I don’t know at what point in his life it was written, I do know that it is a Psalm that applied at every point in his life. And the truths and images from these verses are powerful for you and I.


Read: Psalm 23:1-6 (NASB 95’)


  1. Set the Lord as Your Shepherd


  • A shepherd is the name or title given to a person who herds, tends, and guards sheep. In calling the Lord his Shepherd, David is likening himself to a sheep in the charge of the Lord.


  • This is something that is found throughout Scripture, God’s people, not likened to a lion, a tiger, or a bear; rather, likened to sheep, which are known more for their inability rather than their ability.


Isaiah 53:6, We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way. (NIV)


  • Like sheep, we go astray; and like sheep, we need a Shepherd.


Illus. Wandering Sheep.


  • This analogy of shepherd and sheep was quite common in David’s day.


  • The practices of a shepherd were specific to sheep keeping, so common in that day, the relationship between shepherd and sheep showed deep care, concern and covering.


  • David, having been a shepherd himself, knew that relationship well.


  • He knew the facts about sheep, and he knew their need for a shepherd, a guide, a guard, a master.


  • David also knew his need for a shepherd, because like sheep, he would go astray without the shepherd.


  • In the midst of his intimate understanding of shepherd and sheep, in Psalm 23, David declares that it is the Lord alone who is His shepherd. Not an earthly ruler, king, or leader.


  • David did not say the Lord is merely a Shepherd, or that the Lord is THE Shepherd, but rather, the Lord is His personal Shepherd.


  • And for you and me today, this is important to be continually reminded of. To make the declaration, not simply that the Lord is a Shepherd, but He is my Shepherd.


John 10:11, I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.


John 10:14, I am the good shepherd, I know my own, and my own know me.  


John 10:27, My sheep listen to My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.


  • These words came from Jesus in John 10 after people wanted to know if He was the Messiah. He said to them, “I told you, and you do not believe, the works I have done testify of Me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep…My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”


  • What Jesus’ words reveal to us is that those who are not his sheep, do not listen to Jesus, but those who are, will listen to Him, and the path they go on is guided by Him.


Illus.  You choose.


  1. Find Contentment in His Care


Psalm 23:1b-3, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. (NASB 95’)


  • I shall not want, or be in want, I shall not lack, or, I want for nothing.


  • All my needs are supplied by my shepherd. Not lacking, not deficient, content in the Lord’s hands.


  • While Jesus has called Himself the Good Shepherd, while we know that His sheep are to hear His voice, that He came that we would have life to the full (John 10:10), so often we are looking to make our own way.


Illus. A shepherd looks at Psalm 23. 


Psalm 121:3, He who watches over you will not slumber.


  • How often do we find ourselves in want? Looking over the fence and no matter the situation it isn’t enough.


  • In fact, our economy is built on us wanting and buying more. The next thing…I have this size, but need that size, thinking the next thing or size might be the real prize…and begin chasing after things rather than finding contentment in the One that will truly satisfy.


  • “I shall not want,” meaning, I will decide not to be in a state of wanting. Because the Lord is my shepherd and I know He has given me what I need.


Psalm 84:11, He withholds no good thing from those who walk with integrity.


  • If you are lacking something presently, and in a state of want, consider that it might be a good thing, it might even be the right things, but it is not a right now thing.


  • This will shift my focus away from my wanting toward His working, all the while trusting that He will work it together for good.


  • David wrote, “I shall not want…” Why? Because “He makes, He leads, He restores, He guides, for His namesake!”


  • When the Lord is your Shepherd, you can know that He is working, He is guiding, He is leading.


  • God is committed to leading, He is our Shepherd, and since He is committed to leading, since He is the Shepherd, we can be committed to learning contentment no matter where we are sent.


Illus. Be thankful.


Philippians 4:11-13, Not that I speak from need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with little, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.


  • Paul calls what he learned about contentment a secret; the definition of a secret is that which is kept from the knowledge of all but the privileged.


  • Then Paul shares the secret…That secret is, He can do all things through Christ who strengthens him.


  • This text has been used in the lives of many for many different reasons. Athletic competitions, auditions, impossible situations, or circumstances, but when applied in context, it is centered on contentment in every circumstance.


  • That is the only way he could be content in any and every circumstance, through Christ who gives him the strength to do so.


  • David continues, as shepherd, the Lord…


  • He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters (Vs. 2).


  • The green pastures and quiet waters are where the essential needs for food, water, and rest are met.


  • In the book referenced earlier, Phillip Keller wrote that it is almost impossible to get sheep to lie down when they don’t want to, unless four requirements are met.


  • Free from all fear, free from friction with other sheep, free from pests (flies, parasites, etc.), and free from hunger.


Illus. Going down.


  • For the sheep, their rest comes because the shepherd knows their needs specifically and has dealt with fear, friction, flies, and famine.


  • For you and I, we can rest in knowing that our God has conquered every fear, foe, and will provide. We can rest in the places God leads, knowing He Himself invites us to find true rest in Him.


Psalm 62:5, My soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him.


Psalm 4:8, In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.


1 Timothy 6:6-8, But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it, either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.


Hebrews 13:5, Be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”


  • That word content in Greek means to be satisfied, that what you have is enough, it is sufficient.


  • The writer of Hebrews gives the reason we can be content with what we have is because God has said He will never leave you, or forsake you….He is with you, watching over you, caring for you.


  • The shepherd knows when the sheep needs green pastures and knows when sheep’s need still waters.


  • And your shepherd knows what you need as well.


Illus. Looking over the fence.


Psalm 23:2, He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. (NASB 95’)


  • When God is your shepherd, your guide, he will make you lie down in green pastures, these are the pastures of His choosing, and the shade of green he has chosen to give.


  • Trust his ability to choose the place you need to be.


III.  Pursue the Path He Guides You To


Psalm 23:3, He restores my soul, He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His names sake. (NASB 95’)


  • The shepherd restores, “brings back” your soul. He “mends your soul,” and “causes life to return.”


  • Soul being the part of you that is not physical, the part of every human that lasts eternally, it is the soul that finds rest when one comes to Jesus (Mt. 11:29).


  • The picture is of a sheep that is lost, or has strayed, but David knew, as we must know as well that there is only One who can restore the soul, it is the Shepherd.


  • There are many guides in this world, and in life that do not carry that promise. They might try, but they aren’t able to.


  • Not only does He restore, however, He points you and guides you in the paths of righteousness.


  • The paths of righteousness are the right paths.


  • The “paths” referred to are the roads a person takes, where they walk…


  • The paths God leads a person on lead to eternal life.


Proverbs 12:28, In the way of righteousness there is life, and in its pathway there is no death.


Psalm 32:8, I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will advise you with My eye upon you.


  • The paths of righteousness are the paths God has opened up, or wants to open up for you, that is the right path for you and that right path for you is the path you are on when you are ‘right with Him.’


Illus. Where He points you…


Psalm 25:4-5 Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.


  • The nature of the shepherd is to guide. He is with you always; The Lord wants to guide your life.


  • But He can’t merely be a shepherd, or the shepherd, He has to be your shepherd. So too, He’s not just a guide, or the guide, He has to be your guide.


Illus. Stay close.



Psalm 23:1-3

1The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

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