The Treasury of David

Psalm 23

There is no inspired title to this psalm, and none is needed, for it records no special event, and needs no other key than that which every Christian may find in his own bosom. It is David’s Heavenly Pastoral; a surpassing ode, which none of the daughters of music can excel. The clarion of war here gives place to the pipe of peace, and he who so lately bewailed the woes of the Shepherd tunefully rehearses the joys of the flock. Sitting under a spreading tree, with his flock around him, like Bunyan’s shepherd boy in the Valley of Humiliation, we picture David singing this unrivalled pastoral with a heart as full of gladness as it could hold; or, if the psalm be the product of his after years, we are sure that his soul returned in contemplation to the lonely water brooks which rippled among the pastures of the wilderness, where in early days she had been wont to dwell. This is the pearl of psalms whose soft and pure radiance delights every eye; a pearl of which Helicon need not be ashamed, though Jordan claims it. Of this delightful song it may be affirmed that its piety and its poetry are equal, its sweetness and its spirituality are unsurpassed.

The position of this psalm is worthy of notice. It follows the twenty-second, which is peculiarly the Psalm of the Cross. There are no green pastures, no still waters on the other side of the twenty-second psalm. It is only after we have read, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” that we come to “The Lord is my Shepherd.” We must by experience know the value of blood shedding, and see the sword awakened against the Shepherd, before we shall be able truly to know the Sweetness of the good Shepherd’s care.

It has been said that what the nightingale is among birds, that is this divine ode among the psalms, for it has sung sweetly in the ear of many a mourner in his night of weeping, and has bidden him hope for a morning of joy. I will venture to compare it also to the lark, which sings as it mounts, and mounts as it sings, until it is out of sight, and even then is not out of hearing. Note the last words of the psalm—”I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever; “these are celestial notes, more fitted for the eternal mansions than for these dwelling places below the clouds. Oh that we may enter into the spirit of the psalm as we read it, and then we shall experience the days of heaven upon the earth!
The Treasury of David.

Psalm 23:6

Exposition

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. This is a fact as indisputable as it is encouraging, and therefore a heavenly verily, or “surely” is set as a seal upon it. This sentence may be read, “only goodness and mercy, “for there shall be unmingled mercy in our history. These twin guardian angels will always be with me at my back and my beck. Just as when great princes go abroad they must not go unattended, so it is with the believer. Goodness and mercy follow him always— all the days of his life—the black days as well as the bright days, the days of fasting as well as the days of feasting, the dreary days of winter as well as the bright days of summer. Goodness supplies our needs, and mercy blots out our sins.

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. “A servant abideth not in the house for ever, but the son abideth ever.” While I am here I will be a child at home with my God; the whole world shall be his house to me; and when I ascend into the upper chamber, I shall not change my company, nor even change the house; I shall only go to dwell in the upper storey of the house of the Lord for ever. May God grant us grace to dwell in the serene atmosphere of this most blessed Psalm!

Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings

Ver. 4, 6. See Psalms on “Psalms 23:4 for further information.

I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. A wicked man, it may be, will turn into God’s house, and say a prayer, etc., but the prophet would (and so all godly men must) dwell there for ever; his soul lieth always at the throne of grace, begging for grace. A wicked man prays as the cock crows; the cock crows and ceases, and crows again, and ceases again, and thinks not of crowing till he crows again: so a wicked man prays and ceases, prays and ceases again; his mind is never busied to think whether his prayers speed or no; he thinks it is good religion for him to pray, and therefore he takes for granted that his prayers speed, though in very deed God never hears his prayers, nor no more respects them than he respects the lowing of oxen, or the grunting of hogs. William Fenner, B.D. (1600-1640), in “The Sacrifice of the Faithful.”

I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. This should be at once the crown of all our hopes for the future, and the one great lesson taught us by all the vicissitudes of life. The sorrows and the joys, the journeying and the rest, the temporary repose and the frequent struggles, all these should make us sure that there is an end which will interpret them all, to which they all point, for which they all prepare. We get the table in the wilderness here. It is as when the son of some great king comes back from foreign soil to his father’s dominions, and is welcomed at every stage in his journey to the capital with pomp of festival and messengers from the throne, until at last he enters his palace home, where the travel stained robe is laid aside, and he sits down with his father at his table. Alexander Maclaren, 1863.

Mark David’s resolute persuasion, and consider how he came unto it, namely, by experience of God’s favour at sundry times, and after sundry manners. For before he set down this resolution, he numbered up divers benefits received of the Lord; that he fed him in green pastures, and led him by the refreshing waters of God’s word; that he restores him and leads him in the paths of righteousness; that he strengthened him in great dangers, even of death, and preserveth him; that in despite of his enemies, he enriches him with many benefits. By means of all the mercies of God bestowed on him, he came to be persuaded of the continuance of the favour of God towards him. William Perkins.

Hints to the Village Preacher

(first clause). The blessedness of content.

On the road and at home, or heavenly attendants and heavenly mansions.
The Treasury of David.

Singing Psalms 23

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