Psalm 231NIV New International Version Translations
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Even 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 overflows. 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
This psalm is neither intermingled with prayers, nor does it complain of miseries for the purpose of obtaining relief; but it contains simply a thanksgiving, from which it appears that it was composed when David had obtained peaceable possession of the kingdom, and lived in prosperity, and in the enjoyment of all he could desire. That he might not, therefore, in the time of his great prosperity, be like worldly men, who, when they seem to themselves to be fortunate, bury God in forgetfulness, and luxuriously plunge themselves into their pleasures, he delights himself in God, the author of all the blessings which he enjoyed. And he not only acknowledges that the state of tranquillity in which he now lives, and his exemption from all inconveniences and troubles, is owing to the goodness of God; but he also trusts that through his providence he will continue happy even to the close of his life, and for this end that he may employ himself in his pure worship.
Verses 1–2: God is like a shepherd. In Israel, sheep followed their shepherd. The David, who wrote Psalm 23 said:
- he makes me to lie down in green fields: these were fields where the grass was new. Grass is a plant that grows in fields. Cows and sheep eat grass. Green fields means that the sheep would find plenty to eat. And they would sleep easily.
- he leads me to waters where I can rest: this was the best water. It was probably a well, not a river.
The shepherd leads the sheep to all that they need: food, rest and water. Jesus leads his people to all that they need. Remember – what we NEED is not always what we WANT.
Verses 3–4: God is like a guide. We do not know who led David to Barzillai, the place we believe David was talking about in this Psalm. There was a guide. Just as the old shepherd Barzillai made David think about God, so the guide made David think about God. Some Christians think verses 3 and 4 are also about the shepherd and his sheep. Others think that it is about a guide. That guide led David through the wild places to where Barzillai lived. Either of the two ideas are true. GOD IS LIKE A GUIDE. GOD IS ALSO LIKE A SHEPHERD. The valley of the River Jabbok was very dark. But with God as guide and shepherd David was safe. God brought David through the shadow of death. He will do the same for us – if we believe in Jesus. It is a great help to know that:
- Jesus died and God raised him from the dead
- if we believe in Jesus God will raise us from the dead
Verses 5–6: God is like a friend. Psalm 23:1-4 is about life on earth. Psalm 23:5-6 is about life in heaven. People that believe in Jesus will go there. In the psalm, Barzillai made a great dinner for David. He poured oil, from plants, on David’s head. This was usual in those days. He gave David wine to drink. While it made David feel very happy, it also made David think this: I WILL ALWAYS LIVE WITH GOD. It is the same for us. If we believe in Jesus we can say, “I will always live in the house of the LORD.” And of course, the house of the LORD is in heaven.
Items for Discussion
- What do you think “heaven” will be like?
- Do you think that some will have it “better” in heaven than others?
- If you had to write a psalm today, what would you use in place of:
- a shepherd
- green pastures
- quiet waters
- a rod and a staff
- oil for anointing
- How is the promise of David’s psalm still so comforting in today’s world?
David is talking about a guide named Barzillai who led him to the green valley – Who are the “guides” in your own life today and how do they offer “guidance?”
22 Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
Background4http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=43&c=10 Matthew Henry’s Commentary
So much of John’s Gospel focused on the last few days of Christ’s life. Like someone about to leave, Christ focused His message on the important points, the points that would empower His disciples.
Matthew Henry says about these verses, “All who have anything to say to Christ, may find him in the temple. Christ would make us to believe; we make ourselves doubt. The Jews understood his meaning, but could not form his words into a full charge against him. He described the gracious disposition and happy state of his sheep; they heard and believed his word, followed him as his faithful disciples, and none of them should perish; for the Son and the Father were one. Thus he was able to defend his sheep against all their enemies, which proves that he claimed Divine power and perfection equally with the Father.”
Verses 22-23 Hanukkah is a festival that happens every year in December. At this festival, Jews remember the events that had happened in Jerusalem 200 years before. A foreign king called Antiochus Epiphanes had defeated the Jews. This king wanted to destroy the Jewish religion. So he made the Jews leave the Temple. He and his people used the Temple to worship false gods. They even sacrificed a pig to their gods there. (A pig was an unclean animal to the Jews.) This event upset the Jews very much and it made them angry. One of their leaders, Judas Maccabeus, fought against Antiochus Epiphanes and his people. Judas Maccabeus defeated them and he made them leave the Temple. Then the Jews made the Temple clean again and they offered proper sacrifices to God.
So at Hanukkah, Jews remember when Judas Maccabeus got the Temple back from their enemies.
Verse 24 There were probably two main reasons why the Jewish leaders asked Jesus this question. Perhaps, some of them really wanted to know if Jesus was the Messiah. They believed that the Messiah would defeat the Romans. Then, the Jews could rule their own land again. However, their idea of what the Messiah would do was wrong. Jesus had not come to defeat human enemies. He had come to save people from the results of sin. But probably the other leaders wanted Jesus to say something against the law; either their own Law or Roman law. Then they would have a reason to arrest him.
Verse 25 But Jesus refused to answer them with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Instead, he spoke about the miracles as evidence of who he was.
Verses 26-29 Then Jesus spoke again about the idea of the shepherd and the sheep (verses 1-21). Jesus’ sheep meant all those people who believed in him. But the Jewish leaders did not believe him. They would not even believe when they saw the miracles. So they were not his sheep.
Then, Jesus made a wonderful promise to everybody who believes in him. He promised that he would always look after them. They would be with him always. Even death could not separate them from him (also see Romans 8:35-39).
This promise is for all Christians. It is for us today. When we belong to Jesus, nobody can take us away from him. The devil can never take away our gift of eternal life. Although our bodies may suffer, our spirits are safe. Like a shepherd with his sheep, Jesus protects us. He keeps us close to him. But we must listen to him when we pray. We must trust him and we must follow him. We must obey him always.
Jesus was able to promise all this because God, his Father, has given us to him. There is nobody more powerful than God.
Verse 30 Jesus is in complete unity with his Father, God. They share the same thoughts and desires. They agree about everything. They share exactly the same qualities.
The meaning of Jesus’ words in verse 30 was clear to his audience. His words would remind this Jewish audience about Deuteronomy 6:4. ‘Listen, all you who are Israelites! The Lord our God, the Lord is One (one God).’ So Jesus was saying that he is God. Certainly, that is what the Jewish leaders understood. The punishment for anyone who said such a thing was death. People would throw stones at the guilty person until that person was dead (Leviticus 24:16). The Jewish leaders were so angry that they wanted to do this immediately. What Jesus said was true. He was and he is God. But the Jewish leaders did not believe him.
Items for Discussion
- If Christ was among us today, in a physical sense, how would you know it was Him?
- What would the characteristics of Christ be that you would recognize first?
- How do the “False Prophets” of today counterfeit these characteristics?
- What would Christ think of our leaders today? Would He treat them as He did in our Bible Verse? If so, why? If not, why not?
- How do we give ourselves and our families the basic understanding to “recognize Christ?”
- How do we practice the skills to recognize Christ?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations
- 4http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=43&c=10 Matthew Henry’s Commentary