PSALM 23—CHRIST IN HIS SHEPHERDING
After Psalm 22, Christ is in resurrection. Praise the Lord! But we have here not only one Psalm of Christ, but three Psalms of Christ. Thus, after Psalm 22, we have Psalm 23.
Most Christians do not realize that Psalm 23 is a continuation of Psalm 22. “The Lord is my shepherd.” Who is this Lord who is my shepherd? Christ in resurrection is my Shepherd. We should not forget the previous Psalm, which tells how He suffered death to accomplish redemption for us, how He was resurrected, and how we were made His brethren by His resurrection. It is also by this that the whole earth, in a sense, turns to Him, even the dead bow before Him, and we, the meek and prosperous ones, are all the day eating Him, being satisfied with Him, worshipping Him, serving Him, and preaching the Gospel to the coming generation. Such a Christ, who has died, was resurrected, and brought forth such a result, is our Shepherd.
The New Testament also speaks about Christ as our Shepherd. The Lord calls Himself “the good shepherd” (John 10:11), and He is also called the “great shepherd” (Heb. 13:20). God has raised Him from the dead to be the great Shepherd of the sheep. In 1 Peter 5:4, Peter tells us that He is the “chief shepherd,” the head of all the shepherds. He is the Shepherd in resurrection. He is the Shepherd today not in the heavens, but here on the earth within us and among us. So He must be the resurrected One, He must be the leading One, and He must be the Spirit. If He were not, how could He be among us and in us on this earth as our Shepherd? Therefore, it is in resurrection that Christ today is the Shepherd as revealed in this Psalm.
We cannot say much now concerning Psalm 23, but I wish to indicate that within His shepherding there are five stations through which we must pass. The first station is so wonderful—the green pastures with the still waters. “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters” (v. 2). So many of you in the local churches are lying on the green pastures and drinking of the still waters. So many newcomers in these days are shouting, “Hallelujah, now we are in the local church!” I agree with you, and I am happy, so very happy. Christ in the local church is the green pastures, and in the local church we are beside the still waters. But this is just the first station, the beginning of His shepherding.
The second station is the paths of righteousness. “He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (v. 3). It is not sufficient for us merely to enjoy Him; the purpose of the enjoyment is that we may go on and walk in the paths of righteousness. We need to walk not only in the path of grace, but also in the path of righteousness. We all know what righteousness is. With grace there is love and happiness, and everything is rather easy. But with the matter of righteousness, it is not so easy; there is a certain kind of regulation and restriction. We must go on from the green pastures to take the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. This is the second station.
Then we must proceed to the third. We must go on and on. We who have been following Him for years can tell you that the further we go, the more difficult the situation becomes. The third station is the valley of the shadow of death. I know that you like the green pastures; you do not like the valley of the shadow of death. The valley is not at the top, but at the bottom; it is not the shining, but the shadow; it is not the life, but the death. You would like to stay in the green pastures with the still waters, but sooner or later you will enter the valley. Regardless of how much we help you to stay on top, you will descend to the valley. You will pass through the valley of the shadow of death. I know you will. But do not be frightened; listen to what the Psalmist says: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me” (v. 4). If you have ever observed a shepherd with his flock in various situations, you know that when the flock is lying in the green pastures, the shepherd may leave for a while or remain at a distance. But when the flock is passing through the valley with its shadows, he is so near and protective. When you are passing through the valley of the shadow of death, the Shepherd is nearer to you than ever before.
Moreover, His rod and His staff comfort you. The rod is for protection, to keep the wolves away, and the staff is for guidance in whatever way your need demands. In the valley you have the Shepherd with you; you have His rod, and you have His staff. It is sufficient. In all the past years I have passed through a good number of valleys. But whenever I have entered a valley, the presence of the Lord has been so dear and so precious. I can testify that the rod has protected me and the staff has guided me. It is really so. This is the third station.
(Christ and the Church Revealed and Typified in the Psalms, Chapter 5, by Witness Lee)