Thoughts on Pastoral Ministry from Psalm 23:
Being Satisfied with Our Shepherd and Pleased with Our Pastor (Part 3 of 4)
by Doug Smith
Note: This article is adapted from a message delivered at the first graduation for the Cumberland Area Pulpit Supply (an extension of Bancroft Gospel Ministry in Kingsport, Tennessee), Phase 1 Training, on April 14, 2007.
Psalm 23 – A Psalm of David
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. (KJV)
2. We need to be satisfied with our Shepherd’s PROVISION. Notice the verbs in the six verses of Psalm 23. Most of them refer to God. God’s activity is highlighted here, showing us why we shall not want, or lack, or need any thing.
“I shall not want” food because God makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters. He gives us calmness and a pure resource of life-giving nourishment. We can feast on His Word. We should be satisfied with the riches of His Word. God has not made us lie down in a wasteland, but in lush pastureland. He has spread a banquet before us, and calls us to feast. If we do not feed upon God’s Word ourselves, how can we expect our people to come hungering for it, and, if they do, how can we expect to give them nourishment from God’s Word when we are sickly and fainting because we have drunk from the contaminated potholes of cable TV or movies or the Internet or the news or magazines and neglected the pure springs of God’s Word? Let’s be satisfied with God’s provision so that we will have healthy, wholesome food to give to the sheep, and not spiritual junk food or poison that simply tickles their ears.
“I shall not want” guidance, because God leads me. He is the one who takes me by the still waters, and who calls me to follow in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. He is a safe guide, who has been down the path we are to follow. We don’t know where we need to go, and we are prone to stray. But Christ walked the path of perfect obedience to God that we failed to do. But if we trust Him, God clothes us in that perfect righteousness of His and then we are to walk in obedience. He binds up His reputation with us “for His name’s sake.” How then can we be indifferent to matters of obedience? How can we say “follow me as I follow Christ,” as Paul said, unless we are walking with our Lord, following Him. How can we guide others unless we know the guidance of the Lord and are satisfied with it?
In addition to guidance, God gives correction. Sheep are pitiful creatures when they are on their backs. So are Christians. We are powerless to restore ourselves. “He restoreth my soul” putting me back up on my feet. I must be satisfied enough with God to confess my sin and be thankful that He corrects me instead of leaving me to die in it. I must be content with God’s correction if I am to use His Word to correct others and help restore them, putting them back onto right paths.
God also protects. The Shepherd uses His staff and rod, to drive away wild beasts and to protect the sheep from its own foolishness in straying. God is with us through the valley of the shadow of death, so we don’t have to fear. He spreads a banquet table before us in the presence of our enemies. He protects us. We must be satisfied with His protection if we are going to brave the dangers of the ministry free from the fear of man. We can face death and trials unafraid if our trust is in God. We can face opposition to the message of the Gospel, be it man’s words, man’s threats, or man’s actions and we can rejoice in the midst of persecution if we are satisfied with God’s protection. If we are going to guard our families from spiritual danger and our flocks from false teaching, we must know God’s presence as our Protector and be satisfied with Him.
In all these things, God provides in abundance. He anoints the head with oil, in a manner fit for an honored guest. He causes our cups to overflow and pursuing us with goodness and mercy, as one preacher put it, like two sheepdogs, nipping at our heels every time we turn around. We have every reason to be satisfied with our Shepherd’s provision and no reason to grumble and complain about His goodness to us.