Psalm 23:2-5: "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:
for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. "
With a little over 100 English words, there is more practical theology in Psalm 23
than there is in many books.
The words of Psalm 23 have been recited in hospital rooms and intensive care units, and at gravesides.
It has been a source of comfort, strength and peace for so many, for so many years.
Psalm 23 is special.
It is the most loved psalm, and it is the most quoted.
Psalm 23 is one chapter out of the 150 chapters in the Book of Psalms.
Psalm 23 presents a wide range of human emotions such as anger, depression, isolation, joy,
confidence and trust.
In this psalm, David used his experience as a shepherd to understand his relationship with God.
He understood God actions toward him as he thought about his duties as a shepherd.
The The New Living Translation of this psalm says: 1. "A psalm of David.
The LORD is my shepherd; I have everything I need.
2 He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3 He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.
4 Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
5 You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies.
You welcome me as a guest, anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.
6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the LORD forever." (Psalm 23)
As the sheep come in for the night, they are led to a gate.
The shepherd lays his rod across the top of the gateway just higher than the backs of his sheep.
As each sheep passes by in single file, he quickly examines it for briers in the ears,
snags in the cheek, or weeping of the eyes from dust or scratches.
When those conditions are found, he drops the rod across the sheep's back, and it steps out of line.
Then, each sheep's wounds are carefully cleaned.
Then, the shepherd dips his hand into the olive oil, and anoints the injury.
The shepherd puts oil on the heads of the sheep to sooth and to heal them.
The oil would prevent their cuts or scrapes from becoming infected, or develop into diseases.
The oil would destroy the insects that annoy them or cause them serious injuries.
The head in particular was the problem area that needed to be anointed.
[This Hebrew word for "anoint," is not the word for religious ceremonial anointing.]
Some of the worst enemies of sheep are flies.
The flies bite the sheep so much that they will start bleeding, and the bleeding would attract more flies.
David knew that in certain times of the year just before the hottest season, swarms of insects
would emerge to cause serious trouble for sheep.
A few insects that caused serious damage to the health of sheep are:
warble flies, bot flies, heel flies, nose flies, deer flies, and black flies.
These flies lay eggs around the moist part of the nose of the sheep and in the deepest cavity of the nose.
This causes intense itching over time, and it gets so bad that sheep will bang their head
against rocks to try to stop the itch.
The saddest part of this is, if the larvae hatch in the cavity of the nose,
this will cause permanent blindness, and the sheep will literally go insane.
At the beginning of fly season, a shepherd will prepare a homemade remedy
composed of olive oil, sulfur, spices and tar, and make it into a heavy paste,
and then, gently rub that paste on each one of his sheep.
When this happens there is an incredible transformation that takes place with infected sheep!
Isn't it amazing how little things can cause so much irritation?
The Shepherd takes olive oil and mixes in a little sulfur, and puts the mixture on the head
of the sheep as an insect repellant.
This helps keep the flies away.
Oil was also used is as an ointment.
When a sheep had an open wound, the shepherd would put oil on it to help the healing process,
and take away some of the pain.
At the first sign of flies among the flock, the shepherd would apply an antidote to their heads.
Then, an incredible transformation would come over the sheep.
After the oil had been applied to the sheep's head, there would be an immediate change of behavior.
The aggravation was gone.
The frenzy was gone.
The irritability and restlessness was gone.
And then, the sheep would start to feed again, and after that, they would be contented,
and then lay down in peace.
Another behavior of sheep that required the application of oil was their tendency to be affectionate.
Sheep would often rub heads with each other as a way of saying, "How are you doing?"
But if one sheep had infected skin, it would pass the infection on to the other.
The shepherd would also often be forced to apply oil to protect the sheep from themselves.
At times the sheep will fight for territorial rights by slamming their heads together
in a show of power and authority.
The best butter would be the winner, but not only could the sheep suffer "brain damage,"
but the harmony and tranquility of the flock could be disrupted by the conflict.
So, the shepherd would apply oil to the heads of the clashing sheep,
so that when they butted heads, they slipped right off each other without doing any major damage.
This would not only protect the sheep, but would also diffuse any conflict, and keep the peace.
Verse 5 says, "He anoints my head with oil."
When we are going through tough times, we should remember that Christ, our Shepherd,
has gone before us.
In the midst of our enemies, He prepares a table for us -- a table with bread and with a cup.
It will be a nourishing meal which will strengthens us.
That meal is not the only way our Good Shepherd protects us.
The sheep had their heads anointed with oil every time they needed it.
The shepherd consistently applied the oil so it would remain effective.
We need to spend consistent time with God.
We need to converse with Him often in prayer, and in His Word,
Worship should be an anointing time for us that protects us from external pests, negative influences,
and our own personal conflicts.
Time spent with God brings relief from the things that aggravate us, and will enable us
to become the kind of sheep that God has called us to be.
Oil was a vital resource in the care for sheep, and it was also a vital resource for people
in David's world.
Before entering a home or banquet hall, oil was provided by the host as a sign of hospitality. (Luke 7:46) "You welcome me as a guest, anointing my head with oil." (Verse 5)
The oil was also given for the purpose of refreshing the skin.
In Ecclesiastes, Solomon said, "Let your clothes be white all the time, and let not oil
be lacking on your head." (Ecclesiastes 9:8)
In the Old Testament, oil came to be referred to a symbol for joy. (Psalm. 45:7; 92:10; 133:2)
David said: "You have anointed my head with oil."
In other words, "God, You have given me joy!"
God gives us this joy as a by-product of the Holy Spirit.
Another meaning of anointing is that of spending time with God.
We're more like sheep than we might think.
Things that "bug" us can get under our skin, and cause us to beat our heads
against the wall in frustration.
When that happens, we need anointing.
When we associating with others who are infected with negativity, with gossip, and with anything
adverse to the Christian life these can lead to infections.
When that happens, we need anointing.
Sometimes we sheep find ourselves at odds with each other, butting heads in such a way
that does damage to our relationship, and disrupts the harmony around us.
When that happens, we need anointing.
We need the touch of our Lord on our lives.
He Touched Me
"Shackled by a heavy burden,
'Neath a load of guilt and shame.
Then the hand of Jesus touched me,
And now, I am no longer the same.
He touched me, Oh He touched me,
And oh the joy that floods my soul!
Something happened, and now I know,
He touched me, and made me whole.
Since I met this blessed Savior,
Since He cleansed and made me whole,
I will never cease to praise Him,
I'll shout it while eternity rolls." -- Bill and Gloria Gather
Every time that we remember that touch upon our lives, we become more aware
of the abundance of blessings we have from God.
"Thou anointest my head with oil."
We should live in the enjoyment of this blessing every day, and receive a fresh anointing
for duty of everyday.
"My cup runneth over. " (Verse 5)
In our cup, we have many wonderful provisions.
"He makes me lie down in green pastures" and "He leads beside the still waters"
remind us how He always provides for us..
"He restores my soul" reminds us of the rest and restoration.
and "He leads me in paths of righteousness" reminds us of His guidance.
Walking "through the valley of death" and the assurance of "thou art with me"
is a remainder that we can go through the valley of the shadow of death with no fear.
Comfort is another blessed provision of this shepherd-sheep relationship that David finds with God.
"Thy rod and staff they comfort me" reminds us of the protection that God provides for us.
"You prepare a table" imagines the abundance of God's providing spiritual strength
amid the turmoil and threats of an enemy that seeks to consume us.
With all of these blessings, our cup is filled to overflowing.
"I've never made a fortune and it's probably too late now.
But I don't worry about much, I'm happy anyhow
And as I go along life's journey, I'm reaping better than I sowed
And I'm drinking from my saucer because my cup is overflowed.
Don't have a lot of riches and sometimes the going's tough,
But I have family and friends that love me, and make me rich enough.
I just thank God for his blessings and mercies He's bestowed.
I'm drinking from my saucer because my cup is overflowed.
Oh, I remember times when things went wrong, and my faith got a little thin.
But then, all at once the dark clouds broke and that old sun peeped through again.
So, Lord help me not to gripe about the tough rows I've hoed.
I'm drinking from my saucer because my cup has overflowed.
And if God gives me strength and courage when the way is steep and rough,
I'll not ask for other blessings, I'm already blessed enough.
And may I never be too busy to help another bear his load.
Then I'll keep drinking from my saucer because my cup has overflowed."
-- Source Unknown
God will always fill your cup.
In this fifth verse He says, "I'll prepare a table before you in the presence of your enemies;
I'll anoint your head with oil; your cup will always be overflowing."
God will fill our cups, and they will run over with love and joy and assurance.
Paul said in Romans 15:13: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13)
The Bible teaches us how to view our cup, our cup is not only full -- it's overflowing.
Our little cup cannot contain "all the spiritual blessings in the heavenly places" we have in Christ.
Ephesians 1:3 says all believers already have "every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places "
1 Peter 1:3 says God has given His children "all things necessary for life and godliness." James 4:6 says God continually "giveth more grace "
"He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions, He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, he multiplies peace
His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again."
He gives continually so that my cup is always overflowing.
But if we are not thinking spiritually and scripturally, we don't have eyes to see all
the spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ.
"There is a song in my heart today
Something I never had;
Jesus has taken my sins away
O say but I'm glad!
Wonderful, marvelous love He brings
Into a heart that's sad;
Thro' darkest tunnels the soul just sings,
O say but I'm glad!"
"Oh, say but I'm glad I'm glad
Oh, say but I'm glad I'm glad
Jesus has come and my cup's over run
Oh, say but I'm glad I'm glad!"
"The Lord is my shepherd...my cup overflows."
This is the way believers live.
We live in the overflow, and from the overflow.
We have received blessings of God which are too numerous to count,
and the benefits overflow, and even "soak" those around us.
Experiencing the goodness of the Lord cannot be contained.
It flows freely in expressions of our praise and worship, in our kindnesses,
and in our conversations and interactions with others.
This overflow-living is natural, spontaneous, and continuous.
Our cup just keep on running over.
Suppose, our portion of blessings were measured by the returns that we have given back to God
for all His mercies that we have enjoyed?
We would probably be starving.
What am I doing for Him who died to save my lost and wretched soul?
Will I refuse to remember what little service that I have given to my Lord?
Instead of being thankful for His great love and sacrifice for me, have I put it aside
as something not worth remembering.
Out of habit, we give our little to Him who gave His life for us.
How feeble is our teaching
What little power there is in our preaching!
How heartless is our praying!
How little is our giving!
And how little are our returns compared with what we owe to Him from whom
we have received all that we possess!
We are ungrateful sheep.
If our portion of food were measured out according to our labor and devotion,
our feast days would be few and far between.
I would ask for each one of you, "How would it be with you, if God had filled your cup
in proportion to your faith and your service to Him ?
How much would you have in your cup?
We need to go the well, and drink!
"But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst;
but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up
into everlasting life." (John 4:14)
Fill My Cup, Lord
"Like the woman at the well, I was seeking
For things that could not satisfy:
And then I heard my Savior speaking:
"Draw from my well that never shall run dry".
There are millions in this world who are craving
The pleasures earthly things afford;
But none can match the wondrous treasure
That I find in Jesus Christ my Lord.
"Fill my cup Lord,
I lift it up, Lord!
Come and quench this thirsting of my soul;
Bread of heaven, Feed me till I want no more
Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole!"
-- Words and Music by Richard Blanshard
Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White