The Messianic Psalms
This is the fifth in the series on the Messianic Psalms by Dr. John Boyd. The Doctor is well known to our regular readers. We all appreciate that in spite of a busy medical practice, he takes time to minister the Word of God to our edification.
Stanza 2 Messiah’s Consolation For His People (Vs. 4 - 5).
David expresses another firm conviction about Jehovah. What time he finds himself in a dark valley in life’s journey, he would fear no evil. In verse one his conviction was that he would lack no good thing; here that he would fear no evil thing.
“The valley of the shadow of death,” is a figurative expression for the black darkness of extreme sorrow, such gloom as is experienced when the soul approaches death. It has a wider application than merely to death itself. It includes all trials where the outlook is very black. Note the margin of the Revised Version, “the valley of deep darkness.” It is a canyon, a deep gorge with sides so steep that daylight seldom penetrates to its floor. It is descriptive of the pathway of life dominated by high mountains of trouble, so high as to shut out the sunshine of hope and expectation. Should David find himself treading such a gloomy path, he would not be afraid of an evil outcome. This fearlessness he ascribes to four attributes he has found in Jehovah in such adverse circumstances. But note that here he changes from the third to the second person. He is now addressing Jehovah, not as before speaking about Him. He is drawing nearer to Him. The darkness compels that, and coming closer he is so aware of Jehovah’s presence that he converses with Him. Let us look at the four reasons why David fears no evil.
HIS COMPANIONSHIP: “Thou art with me.” The sheep amidst the darkness and the gloom nuzzles nearer, and finds the Shepherd there. So David in the dark valley appreciates Jehovah’s companionship, present not to sight, but to faith. Thus did Paul experience Messiah’s presence in the darkness of his prison cell in Jerusalem as he walked through the deep valley lying between the mountains of Israel’s hatred and the power of imperial Rome. Then the Lord stood by him, and encouraged him to go on, even to Rome (Acts 23:11).
HIS COMFORT: Further tokens of the shepherd’s presence, his rod and staff, give the sheep another sense of security. The rod was used to count the sheep (Lev. 27:32), and the shepherd would be quick to miss a sheep that had strayed. The rod guaranteed the sheep’s inclusion in the flock. The staff had a two-fold function, (a) to bring back an erring sheep, and (b) to ward off the attacks of wild animals.
So David knew that Jehovah would rescue him if he strayed; He would quickly bring him back; He was strong to deliver him from his many foes. And this, too, is the experience of the erring Christians whom Peter describes as going astray like sheep; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls (1 Pet. 2:25, R.V.).
HIS SUPPORT: Just as the metaphor of the shepherd is dropped in verse three so here David again speaks directly of Jehovah as his host, furnishing the table for a human guest, and that when surrounded by his foes. Far from the Psalmist being afraid in the deep valley enclosed by mountains of enemies, he finds himself seated at God’s table. The table indicates divine provision, and though opposed on every hand, he is fully supplied with food (2 Sam. 17:27-29). The efforts of those who would deny him the very sustenance of life are frustrated by the all-providing God. And so it is with our Messiah. Did He not provide loaves and fishes for five thousand of His followers (John 6:10-11)? He has promised to add to the believer all his requirements if he but seeks the interests of the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33).
HIS SELECTIVITY: Not only is David seated at God’s table, but he is anointed as His special guest (Luke 7:46). He is made to feel himself the particular object of God’s choice. Even his enemies were aware of it. The anointing of a guest’s head with oil caused all around to appreciate the signal honour bestowed on the recipient (John 12:3). So the believer is conscious of being anointed with the Holy Spirit, an anointing that is obvious to all (1 John 2:20). ‘To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit to profit withal’ (1 Cor. 12:7, R.V.).
The lesson David learned from the bounteous nature of Jehovah’s blessings, he expresses in one concise clause, “My cup runneth over.” The ‘cup’ signifies the blessings that satisfy the soul (Ps. 16:5). Says David, “My blessings are more than I can contain.” Similar words come from Paul’s pen I have all things, and abound (Phil. 4:18). His Lord was able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think (Eph. 3:20).
Stanza 3 The Psalmist’s Conclussions (V. 6).
David draws conclusions from his meditations. They are two-fold:
WITH REGARD TO TIME: Surely or rather as R.V. marg., only goodness and mercy follow him continually throughout his life. Thus he sums up God’s dealings with him. He had as it were two attendants, goodness and kindness. Whatever evil his enemies may have sought to accomplish, God turned it to good — the outcome of his kindly disposition. He realizes that this had been his portion throughout life, and will continue so to be. Such was Paul’s confidence in his Lord, “Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that He will yet deliver us” (2 Cor. 1:10).
WITH REGARD TO ETERNITY: Possibly this refers primarily to David’s hope of spending much time in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, whither he is confident he will return after Absalom’s rebellion is quelled. “For ever” may be better rendered as R.V. marg., “for length of days.” But it may rather be that David by the Spirit writes of the ultimate hope of spending a long eternity with Jehovah in His house. This was Messiah’s promise to His disciples. He is even now preparing mansions for them in the Father’s house, there to dwell for ever with Him.
What a delightful Messianic Psalm this is! May we continually rejoice in it, and revel in the Lord’s shepherd care. Let us look forward with keen anticipation to the many mansions, and to be for ever with the Lord. To be with Christ is far better than anything that ever this life affords.