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Psalm 23 Part 2

When You Know the Shepherd

  • Samuel Wilson
  • Weekend Messages
  • February 19, 2023

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

When You Know the Shepherd

Psalm 23, Pt. 2 


This morning we are going to study the last three verses in Psalm chapter 23.  Last week, we took an in depth look at the first three verses and it was noted that Psalm 23, is one of the, if not the, most well-known chapters in all of the Bible. It is one that is known by both believers and non-believers, one that has been by various U.S. Presidents in time of deep difficulty in our nation, times of remembering, and times that point toward the promise of peace and protection.

The reason, as far as I can see is that the Psalm is so prominent and important, is due to all that it points to. The green pastures, and the still waters, the restoration of one’s soul, the paths of righteousness, but also the reality of difficulty and darkness. Because of its vivid picture of reality, it seems as if just about everybody knows the Psalm, but what we know is true is that not everybody knows the Shepherd. So this morning, as we look at this Psalm again, I want to look at it and express the importance of not just knowing the Psalm, but knowing the Shepherd. My prayer is that the importance of knowing the Shepherd won’t be missed, because the promises that are given, can only truly be applied when you know the Shepherd and He alone is the guide in your life.  


Read: Psalm 23:1-6 (NASB 95’)


This Psalm starts out with David referring to the Lord as His Shepherd. A shepherd is the name or title given to a person who herds, tends, and guards sheep. And it ends pointing those in Christ, those who are the sheep of His pasture to the promise of life in Him, both today and forever. The Bible often refers to us, God’s people, as sheep…and the relationship between shepherd and sheep was quite common in David’s day…


Psalm 100:3, Know that the Lord Himself is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.


David, once a shepherd himself prior to being a king, likened his relationship with the Lord to sheep and shepherd. But the Lord was not just any shepherd, the Lord was His personal shepherd. Each phrase and verse of Psalm 23 is powerful, expressive of your relationship to the Lord, your shepherd, the One who is with you always (Mt. 28:20). There in every peak, and every valley, at the beginning and until the end; whether through the midst of the shadow, or in the abundance of the overflow, there is one thing that is sure, when you know the Shepherd, He knows and walks with you.


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.


Thought they follow Him, there are also times when even though following, they end up in the valley. But they go through the valley differently when they know the shepherd personally….

In verses one to three, we see the Lord as shepherd, guiding to green pastures, still waters, restoring, and leading down the path. Beautiful truth and imagery, but one might wonder, what about in the valley?  What about in darkness? What about in difficulty?


Psalm 23:4, Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me. (NASB 95’)


  1. He Is with You Through Every Valley


  • As the scene changes from the green pastures and the quiet still waters, to the valley, David powerfully proclaims that even there, the Lord is present.


  • In Verse 4 we get a change of scenery after the green grass and quiet waters, and it begs the question, what happened?  The answer? Real life.


  • It is often in leading sheep to new pastures, that the sheep are led through valleys. They head into deep ravines or dark valleys. And just as valleys are a part of the natural landscape on earth, so to, they are a part of the landscape in life.


  • The definition of a valley in nature is a long depression between uplands and hills, or mountains, or a low point.


  • It is also a figure of speech for situations in one’s life; personal valleys are places, periods, or situations that are filled with fear, gloom, darkness, depression, or despair.


  • Just as Psalm 23 shifts abruptly to the valley, so it seems that the valleys in one’s life comes similarly. It is a sudden change, a sudden shift, David acknowledged this, but what he knew was that even there, the Lord was with him.


  • This isn’t the only shift between verses 3 and 4, however, there is another shift that is seen.


  • In verses one to three, David wrote about the Lord his shepherd. And in verse four a change, from the impersonal to the personal. A turn from merely talking about the Lord, into talking to the Lord personally.


  • David started out: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes, He leads, He restores, He guides, for His namesake.


  • And in verse 4, it changes: though I walk through the valley, I fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod, your staff, you prepare, you anoint, my cup overflows.


  • As the scene moves to the valley, so David moves from He and me, to I and you.


  • There is something about the valley that changes who God is to us. There is something about the valley that produces a deepening, a greater level of intimacy, a deeper determination that the Lord is the only One who can help, the only way out, and a turning from the impersonal, to the personal.


  • Something shifts from merely who He is, to who He is to me personally.


Illus. The Lord of the valleys.


1 Kings 20:28, Then a man of God approached and spoke to the king of Israel, and said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Since the Arameans have said, “The Lord is a god of mountains, but He is not a god of valleys,” therefore I will hand over to you all this great multitude, and you shall know that I am the Lord.’”


  • The Bible speaks of valleys in terms of difficulties. Yet in the midst of them, a reminder that the Lord is not absent, but with you in them.


  • Though valleys speak of difficulty, for the shepherd, he would lead the sheep through valleys for specific reasons; When it was hot, to cool them; No water, there were streams in the bottom of the valleys; And another reason was to get them to higher ground.


  • David wrote, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me!”


  • So often in Scripture, there are reminders in the dark valleys of their lives not to fear, because He is with them! “Fear not, I am with you!” (Is. 41:10)…The Lord promises His very presence, though you go through the valley, fear no evil, he is with you!


  • Though valleys and the trouble therein bring vivid color to calamity, they are not the place God’s people are left in, the valley is not the end.


  • Be reminded as you walk through the valley, that the Lord is not merely the Lord the mountaintops, but He is the Lord of the valleys, and will be the Lord in your valley, look for Him there.


  • As it is for the sheep, sometimes it is similar for you and I, when the darkest valleys are the pathways to the greenest pastures.


  • Remember however, that David did not write, though I walk to the valley, rather, though I walk through the valley.


  • In other words, the valley is not the destination. It is not a dead end.  


  • Even our modern mountain highways follow the valleys to reach the summit and get to higher ground and over the mountain.


  • And there are times in your life where the Lord will lead you upward through a valley in your life.


Matthew 28:20, Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (NASB 95’)


  1. Focus on the Shepherd Not the Shadows


  • In his book, A shepherd looks at Psalm 23, Phillip Keller wrote, “nothing so quieted and reassured a sheep as to see me in the field. The presence of their master and owner and protector put them as ease as nothing else could do.” –


  • When David wrote about the shadow of death, he used the Hebrew word tsalmaveth, which is defined as deep shadow, deep darkness, death-shadow, distress, danger.


  • Other translations (HCSB, NIV, NLT), render it “even though I walk through the darkest valley.”


  • David recognized that even in the shepherds and leading, he may go through the valley of the shadow of death, but that shadow is just a shadow of death, not the substance of it.


  • And if your eyes remain on Jesus, your Great Shepherd, then you know that the deepest darkness, the shadow of death, is only a shadow.


Quote, C.H. Spurgeon., “Death in its substance has been removed, and only the shadow of it remains. Someone has said that when there is a shadow there must be light somewhere, and so there is. Death stands by the side of the highway in which we have to travel, and the light of heaven shining upon him throws a shadow across our path; let us then rejoice that there is a light beyond. Nobody is afraid of a shadow, for a shadow cannot stop a man’s pathway even for a moment. The shadow of a dog cannot bite; the shadow of a sword cannot kill; the shadow of death cannot destroy us.”


  • He is talking about the reality that Jesus by His death, burial, and resurrection has conquered death.


  • The one who conquered is with you, He is your shepherd, He has conquered death.


  • And for the sheep of His pasture, death is but a shadow. It cannot hurt you, cannot destroy you.


  • The shadow and fear of death is merely attempting to block out the light on the other side of the shadow.


Illus. Where is your focus?


  • In every valley, there are shadows, but there is also a Shepherd in the valley.


Illus. Various valleys.


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


1 Corinthians 15:54(b)-57, “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.


Romans 8:37-39, In all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


  • The question then comes, who has the final say in your valley? In darkness, difficulty? Who is leading, guiding and guarding? Are you focusing on the Shepherd, or the shadows?


III.  Find Comfort in His Care


Psalm 23:4, Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (NASB 95’)


  • The rod and staff of the shepherd bring comfort to the sheep.


  • The rod was a club or stick the shepherd would wear at his belt to fight off attacking animals.


  • The staff was a long walking stick, with a hook at one end. The staff was used to guide and pull back in straying sheep.


  • The rod was for protecting, and the staff for directing.


  • Find comfort in the fact that even in the dark of the valley, the Lord is protecting and directing. Those are the essential tools for the shepherd and the essential characteristics of a good shepherd.


John 10:7-10, Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All those who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came so that they would have life and have it abundantly.


  • Sheep would often spend the night in a sheepfold. The sheepfold was an enclosure intended for the protection of sheep and also to keep them from wandering.


  • These were simple walled enclosures without roofs and without a door. It was the shepherd himself who guarded the door, and the way a shepherd would guard the door was by laying across the door, therefore, He himself, was the door.


  • No attacker, animal, robber, or person could enter in without stepping over the shepherd.


  • When He is your shepherd, He is the door, guiding, guarding, protecting…Even through the dark of night.


Psalm 23:5, You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. (NASB 95’)


  • The picture being given is of a table prepared by the Lord in the midst of David being completely surrounded in the presence of His enemies.


  • Without moving on from the picture of the darkest valley, David recognizes the great provision and goodness of the Lord, even in the presence of those against him.


  • The table prepared speaks of what the Lord’s provision, His care, His awareness, His power to protect, and His desire for personal connection with you when you are surrounded.


  • His care, concern and connection do not eliminate the presence of enemies or difficulties on this earth, nor do they eliminate His presence and provision.


  • Are you pursuing what He has prepared?


Illus. Enemies?


  • The Lord prepares a table in the presence of all that is going on, are you aware of what He has prepared and is preparing?


  • He anoints your head with oil, in that day speaking of refreshing, there was also a scent in the oil that made the guest smell pleasant. Oil is also a picture of the Holy Spirit…The helper!


  • In the presence of enemies, His cup overflows.


Psalm 23:6, Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (NASB 95’)


  • Goodness and lovingkindness, which is a term also translated “mercy.”


  • The goodness and lovingkindness of God will follow you all the days of your life.


  • Goodness, all that is good and right.


  • Lovingkindness (hesed), mercy, covenant faithfulness…


  • God’s goodness and commitment to you will follow you all the days of your life.


  • What does that mean follow you all the days of your life, it means they are present in your life for all of your days.


  • His goodness and mercy will be present in your life as long as life lasts. And…You will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.


  • If He is your shepherd, you will dwell in His house forever.


  • It wasn’t just David’s hope that he would dwell in the Lord’s house…it was his reality.


  • For those in Christ, it is the reality of your life, the end point of your pursuit, and the destination of your journey.


  • Take your seat at the table.


John 14:1-3, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if that were not so, I would have told you, because I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will take you to Myself, so that where I am, there you also will be.


Psalm 23

1The Lord is my shepherd, I will not be in need. 2He lets 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 the sake of His name. 4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. 6 Certainly goodness and faithfulness will follow me all the days of my life, and my dwelling will be in the house of the Lord forever.

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