Grant me the favour of being led by thee, under the directions of thy providence and thy Word. Grant me thy blessings with bitter things, to brighten and quicken me, not to depress and make me lifeless; Grant me, like Gideon of old, way-tokens, by removing things that discourage me; Grant me succour beneath the shadow of thy sympathy when I am tempted. Accept my unceasing thanks that I am not cast off from thy hand as a darkened star or a rudderless vessel. Suffer not my life to extend beyond my usefulness; Cast me not under the feet of pride, injustice, riches, worldly greatness, selfish oppression of men; Help me to wait patiently, silently upon thee, not to be enraged or speak unadvisedly. Let thy mercy follow me while I live, and give me aid to resign myself to thy will. Take my heart and hold it in thy hand; write upon it reverence to thyself with an inscription that time and eternity cannot erase. To thy grace and the care of thy covenant I commit myself, in sickness, and in health, for thou hast overcome the world, fulfilled the law, finished justifying righteousness, swallowed up death in victory, and taken all power everywhere. Mark this covenant with thine own blood in the court of forgiving mercy; Attach unto it thy name in which I believe, for it is sealed by my unworthy mortal hand.
Throughout time God will guide us with His counsel, if we let Him, if we look to Him, and if we trust Him to do so. In Psalm 23. The Lord is the Counselor, The One who is the Wonderful Counselor is also the Good Shepherd. The One who wants to counsel us, look what He is and is able to do, as He counsels.
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.
I’m glad the church of Jesus Christ has shown such great interest in giving attention to this psalm at the death and passing and funerals. Praise God, that’s a great time for it. But it was designed especially for the living. I mean it’s great at that time. I’ve taught out of that at moments like that too, and been comforted at moments like that. But this is a psalm for everyday living. We’re the sheep, He’s the shepherd. That day is now. The One who is our Wonderful Counselor, He’s also our shepherd, our guarder, our provider, our caretaker, our helper, our protector.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
And because the Lord is our shepherd we shall not want. We’ll have everything we need if we walk under His shepherding care. So many people out seeking counsel and do you know what they really need to be reconsidering? Who is their shepherd? Therefore where and how are they going to get everything they need? It’s right here in Psalm 23. Our Wonderful Counselor is also our shepherd, therefore we shall not want. We shall have what we need.
“He makes me to lie down in green pastures.”
He who is our Wonderful Counselor, if we let Him counsel us as He counsels, then He will shepherd, provide, and care for us. He’ll make us lie down in green pastures. A lot of people seeking counsel, you know what they really need?—just to lie down for a while, spiritually speaking, in green pastures. Just slow down, lie down, and let the Lord feed you for a while. A lot of people seeking counsel, they’re just in a frantic frenzy, undernourished, weak and on the edge of a panic. Now the Lord understands and He cares. And many of them can have the deepest of their needs met just slowing down, lying down as it were, just resting a while with the Lord in green pastures. I mean, spiritually speaking, here are the green pastures.
There are a lot of weed fields out there. Not wheat fields, weed fields. You know, with a lot of humanistic thinking, you know. Not fields of grain but just fields of weeds. You know, wild things, non-productive things. Not nurturing, just growing but not helping. The Lord loves us to lie down in green pastures. Just rest a while and get fed.
“He leads me beside the still waters.”
Our wonderful counselor who is also our shepherd, He leads us beside the still waters. A lot of people seeking counsel, they just need some quiet times of refreshment. They need quiet times of refreshment with the Lord or with another brother or sister, depending on the situation. Brother getting with brother, sister with sister, being refreshed with the still waters, the peaceful work of the Holy Spirit in our lives; abiding in Christ, walking in the Spirit. Considering again what the Christian life is all about.
“He restores my soul.”
Verse three says, “He restores my soul.” Is it God’s restoration projects or man’s recovery programs? Oh, they’re popular these days. You know, restore my soul. Recover me. Put me back into what I should be. Hey, how about the Good Shepherd? He restores my soul. He can put our soul, our inner life back into the state it ought to be in. No one can do it like He can do it.
“He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
And He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. How many people seeking counsel—are just driven with a passion or a panic, they’ve got to find the right path to take in life. Decisions. Choices. Options. I mean, here it is in the Bible. He leads me in the paths of righteousness, the right paths are the righteous paths. And not just for a feel-good experience for me or a, “Whew, that takes care of that decision!” It is much bigger than that, it is for His name’s sake. He’ll put us on the right paths and it will end up honoring His name. Boy, how’s that for counsel? We’re not talking about a quick fix here. We’re talking about a life path that the Shepherd is leading us on. This is the same One who is our wonderful counselor. How about just hanging out with
Him? You say, “Yeah, but I need help in that.” He knows that, that’s why we are to counsel one another, as we’ll see later down the road. He uses instruments of sheep ministering to sheep. But sheep only have to give what the Shepherd gives them. How can a sheep help another sheep? Here comes a wolf! Hey, no problem, I’ll take care of you. Bahh! Why am I not comforted? But the Good Shepherd, oh hey that’s another matter!
“Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.”
Verse four says, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” Many people are in the deep valley of darkness, the shadow of death. It’s like death is casting a shadow over them. Many people live daily in what you could call the valley of the shadow of death. Just in a deep place of darkness, confusion, fear, apprehension. Here’s the great thing—“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death”—and we all get our treks through there. I know that from the Word of God. I know that from watching Jesus in the Scriptures. I know that from watching great men of God like Moses and Paul and others. And I can bear witness by my own testimony. We all get our treks through the valley of the shadow of death. Where everything just looks like it’s dark and dying and impossible, with no way through. And fear threatens from every side. I’ve been there and I may be there again. But praise God, the more we walk with our Shepherd, we can say this—“Yea, though I walk through that valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” I’m not going to dread all the evil that lies around me.
“I will fear no evil.”
Why? “For You are with me.” This is not whistling by the graveyard. This is not the “unpower” of positive thinking. This is faith based on fact. I will fear no evil. Why?—because “You are with me.” Because the Lord’s there! Not because we’re somebody. Not just because we just refuse to be afraid. All those things will run out sooner or later. Someone big enough, with a big enough “Boo” will just bring that to the end. No, I need more than that. I’ll fear no evil right in the valley of the shadow of death, when all looks like darkness and dying.
“For You are with me. Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.”
Why?—“For You are with me.” And He is with us, as a Shepherd. “Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.” The rod is to beat off the enemy, the wolf. The staff with the crook is to pull us out of the pits, out of the mess.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”
Verse five says, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” Yes, in this world we have a vicious enemy. Whipped at the cross and by the resurrection, but he won’t stop fighting until he’s thrown in the pit. But right in the presence of our enemies the enemy and all those who are cooperating with him, wittingly or unwittingly, the Lord prepares a table before us right there. All the way from food to eat to spiritual nourishment when all around is the enemy.
“You anoint my head with oil. My cup runs over.”
“You anoint my head with oil. My cup runs over.” Of course, this is the picture of a shepherd anointing the injured or needy sheep. But it is done in such a way that there’s just overflowing blessings. Apply this to New Testament believers who could walk in the fullness of the Spirit. The Lord anoints us, the Spirit upon us, until the cup of our life just overflows.
A lot of Christians that are seeking counsel, really need nothing other than just letting the Wonderful Counselor, who is also their Shepherd, just anoint their head with oil. That is, pour out the Spirit upon them until the cup of their life just overflows with His presence and His work. Boy, I’ll tell you, when the Lord is doing that, you can have a hundred counseling problems being dealt with simultaneously by one work of God, by the filling of the Holy Spirit.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all of days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
And look at the assurance we can walk in as we walk with our Shepherd. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” What a great assurance that all the way through this life, we have this assurance, that God’s goodness and God’s mercy will be right there with us. In His goodness to supply what’s needed, it is with a loving intention. And His mercy—to be sure we don’t get what we deserve! What a Shepherd.
And He’ll do it all the days of our lives. Yes, even today! He’ll also do it all those other dreaded days. Yesterday He was doing it, whether we saw it or not. And tomorrow He’ll do it. And then when that’s all done we’ll just live in God’s house forever. That’s the path of walking with the Good Shepherd. Who also is our Wonderful Counselor. If the sheep of God’s pasture would just, as it were, cuddle up close to their Wonderful Counselor and find out He is their Good Shepherd and walk with Him day by day, I think we would be blown away at what a Wonderful Counselor He truly is.
A friend led me to the Christian 17th century text “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence. He conversed with God as a way of living. He expressed, “the love of God was the end of all actions, it was a single motive behind all.” Prayer was constant, devotional and spontaneous throughout the day. At the core of his heart was trust. He speaks of the love of God as coming from knowing Him and that ‘knowing’ as being based upon the growing relationship formed through the holy habit of being in His Presence.
Living in God’s Presence always leads to His loving lead. His Presence pours Love and Mercy immeasurably. We only need to live with and for Him.
The Practice of the Presence of God
Brother Lawrence, Fifteenth Letter, his final letter
GOD knows best what is needful for us, and all that He does is for our good. If we knew how much He loves us, we should be always ready to receive equally and with indifference from His hand the sweet and the bitter; all would please that came from Him. The sorest afflictions never appear intolerable, but when we see them in the wrong light. When we see them in the hand of GOD, who dispenses them: when we know that it is our loving FATHER, who abases and distresses us: our sufferings will lose their bitterness, and become even matter of consolation.
Let all our employment be to know GOD: the more one knows Him, the more one desires to know Him. And as knowledge is commonly the measure of love, the deeper and more extensive our knowledge shall be, the greater will be our love: and if our love of GOD were great we should love Him equally in pains and pleasures.
Seek Him by Faith
Let us not amuse ourselves to seek or to love GOD for any sensible favors (however elevated) which He has or may do us. Such favors, though never so great, cannot bring us so near to GOD as faith does in one simple act. Let us seek Him often by faith: He is within us; seek Him not elsewhere. Are we not rude and deserve blame, if we leave Him alone, to busy ourselves about trifles, which do not please Him and perhaps offend Him? ‘Tis to be feared these trifles will one day cost us dearly.
Let our devotion belong only to Him
Let us begin to be devoted to Him in good earnest. Let us cast everything besides out of our hearts; He would possess them alone. Beg this favor of Him. If we do what we can on our parts, we shall soon see that change wrought in us which we aspire after. I cannot thank Him sufficiently for the relaxation He has vouchsafed you. I hope from His mercy the favor to see Him within a few days. Let us pray for one another.