Three thousand years have passed away since David sung this sweet song, and yet it is as new and fresh as if it had come to us this morning.
No passage of Scripture has been more variously named or quoted.
One has called it his creed, learned at his mother's knee, repeated every day of his life, and to be lived by until the good Shepherd was seen face to face.
Another has named it the minstrel song, and as such it has sung hope into the hopeless, strength to the weak, courage into the army of the disappointed; and it shall continue its ministry until the last one of God's children is called home. Then it will wing its way back to God from whom it came.
Henry Ward Beecher said it was "the nightingale song," for it sung its sweetest music in the night-time of disappointment and distress.
In my own thought of it, it has always been the song of the meadow-lark, for it is the habit of this bird to sing only as it leaves the earth, and the higher it flies, the sweeter it sings.
So this sweet song of David's is appreciated only by those who are "in the world and not of it," and who, according to Paul's injunction, live in the heavenlies. The Christian in touch with the world appreciates it not. One of my friends told me of his standing beside the open grave of his mother, when suddenly one of these meadow-larks started up from the dry grass by his side; and, as it rose, it began its song, rising in its flight until it could not be seen, but its music fell like a benediction upon the sorrowing hearts. Upon every child of God standing beside the grave of buried hopes and lost joys this psalm breathes its blessing.
Its position is not to be forgotten, for the place where God has set it makes it a comfort to us all. It follows the twenty-second psalm, not because of the order of the numerals, and precedes the twenty-fourth, not for the same reason, but because the twenty-second is the psalm of the cross, and that is past, while the twenty-fourth is the psalm of the glory, and this is future. Thus these two psalms rise before us like two mountain peaks, leaving the twenty-third a fruitful, restful, refreshing valley between, with truth, not for the end of life alone, but for every step of the journey from the point of regeneration to the moment of translation to the skies.
"As a brook among the hills, making music through the year, and refreshing weary and thirsty wayfarers, so these words have spoken to the heart of many: of the peace of the fold, of the limpid lake, of the green glen, of the cool of overhanging rocks, of the comfort of protectorship, of the home where the spread table and the anointed head bespeak the day's work done, and mirror the complete rest and satisfaction of the soul. Then, taking every similitude, the Psalmist flings the necklace of pearls at the feet of Christ, declaring that this would be the condition of soul for all who knew his voice, and followed him as their shepherd."
Every tense may be rendered by the present. "I do not want; he leads me; he makes me lie down; he refreshes; he guides; I fear no evil; they follow me." Not in the days that are to be, but to-day. Not in some scene which is yet to unfold or in some distant future, but here and now, if only thou wilt take him from this moment to be thy Shepherd, and wilt commence to obey his lead, and trust his watchful care.
For me to say anything new about this twenty-third psalm is indeed a difficult task, but to say anything at all that would be helpful is to put a writer's readers in his debt. In a little clipping which came one day to my table my eye lighted on an arrangement of the truth of this song of the meadow-lark which has never left me. It is well known that when once one has caught a vision of the constellations in the heavens, he cannot possibly in after nights be blind to them. In this same way I have never read the twenty-third psalm since that day when it has not fallen into six divisions, each with a name and each name beginning with the same letter. This is the order, and for its helpfulness to me I owe my unknown friend a debt of gratitude.
|Possession:||The LORD is my shepherd, verse 1.|
|Position:||He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside still waters, verse 2
|Promise:||He restoreth my soul, verse 3.|
|Progress:||Yea, though I walk through the valley, verse 4.|
|Provision:||Thou preparest a table before me, verse 5.|
|Prospect:||Goodness and mercy shall follow me, verse 6.|
This is in a very peculiar way the song for the quiet hour. One could not live in its truth without having sweet fellowship with Him of whom the psalm sings.
It has been said that every valley in the Scriptures has in it a well or spring of water. Whether this be true or not, we do know that, if this psalm be likened unto a valley, then we may find here that water which springs up into everlasting life, and which if a man keep drinking he shall never thirst.
May God make this little book a blessing to the many Comrades of the Quiet Hour. The messages were delivered at the Detroit Quiet Hour meetings, when the divisions suggested above were followed; but now for the sake of my readers they are presented in the form of a meditation for each day of the month.
May every reader in every day of thought meet Him with whom it is our privilege each moment to abide.
|"I have a Friend so precious,
So very dear to me,
He loves me with such tender love,
He loves so faithfully,
I could not live apart from him,
I love to feel him nigh;
And so we dwell together,
My Lord and I."
—J. WILBUR CHAPMAN
From The Secret of a Happy Day: Quiet Hour Meditations by J. Wilbur Chapman. Boston: United Society of Christian Endeavor, ©1899.