Psalm 23 is so ordered by the Spirit as to apply to a dying Christ, or a saint who follows His footsteps, or the preserved remnant. It does not consider the sufferings of Christ from God, or from man, nor those of the faithful, save as mere facts and occasions of Jehovah’s care. Its subject is “Jehovah is my Shepherd” — the constant unfailing care exercised by Him. It is a life spent under His care and eye, come what will, the experience it affords, and the assurance that Jehovah’s love gives to the end and for ever. It is not what He gives which assures the heart, but Himself. “Jehovah is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” Power, grace, goodness, interest in the faithful One, all assure; and assure in all circumstances and for ever and always. He has undertaken and has charged Himself with the care of His faithful ones. These cannot want. We have not to think of what may come, or what means may be employed. The Shepherd’s care is our assurance. The natural fruit of this care is fresh and green pastures in security the peaceful enjoyment of the sure refreshings of goodness. But in fact man, specially the remnant, and Christ Himself, are in the midst of oppressing sorrow, and death, and in presence of mighty enemies. Is the soul troubled and bowed down? He restores it. Does it go through the valley of the shadow of death? does death cast its dark gloom over the spirit that must go down into its shade? He is there, greater than death, to guide and sustain. Are powerful and relentless enemies there to alarm and threaten? They are powerless before Him. He dresses a table for His beloved, where they sit down in safety, and secure. Divine unction is the seal of power when all is against us. Human weakness, death, and spiritual powers of wickedness, all are only the occasions to shew most evidently that Jehovah, the Shepherd, is the infallible safeguard of His people.
Christ was not, of course, a sheep, but He trod the path the sheep have to tread, and trusted in Jehovah. He is the Jehovah-Shepherd of them that are His. He loves us, as Jehovah loved and cared for Him. It is then the sure care of Jehovah through all that besets human nature in its path through this world. The natural proper fruit of this care is green pastures in the security of peace; but, in man’s ruined state and the path he has to tread in the midst of the powers of evil, an infallibly sustaining power. Hence the heart, as it trusts to the unchangeable Jehovah, reckons on the future. It is as certain and secure as the past. Goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and the house of Jehovah receives me for ever. Confidence is in Jehovah Himself; and therefore all circumstances, and the whole power of evil, and difficulties of mortal man included in them, are but occasions of Jehovah’s power, interested in infallible faithfulness, in carrying the faithful through.
It is interesting to see this care of divine power, holding its place in infallible certainty over all the special sufferings and trial and death of the Lord. This is the faithful man’s blessing, when the earth is not Jehovah’s, when the power of evil, and death, and mighty adversaries are before it. Jehovah is the secure dwelling place of faith.
(Practical Reflections in the Psalms)