A SHEPHERD LOOKS AT PSALM 23 #12
I WILLD WELL IN THE HOUSE
OF THE LORD FOREVER
THIS PSALM OPENED with the proud, joyous statement, "The
Lord is my Shepherd." Now it closes with the equally positive,
buoyant affirmation, "And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Here is a sheep so utterly satisfied with its lot in life,
so fully contented with the care it receives, so much "at home"
with the shepherd that there is not a shred of desire for a
Stated in simple, direct, rather rough ranch language it
would be put like this, "Nothing will ever make me leave this
outf it - it's great!"
Conversely on the shepherd's side there has developed a
great affection and devotion to his flock. He would never think
of parting with such a sheep. Healthy, contented, productive
sheep are his delight and profit. So strong, now, are the bonds
between them that it is in very truth - forever.
The word "house" used here in the poem has wider meaning
than most people could attach to it. Normally we speak of the
house of the Lord as the sanctuary or church or meeting place of
God's people. In one sense David may have had this in mind. And,
of course, it is pleasant to think that one would always delight
to be found in the Lord's house.
But it must be kept in mind always, that the Psalmist,
writing from the standpoint of a sheep, is reflecting on and
recounting the full round of the year's activities for the flock.
He has taken us from the green pastures and still waters of the
home ranch, up through the mountain passes onto the high
tablelands of the summer range. Fall has come with its storms and
rain and sleet that drives the sheep down the foothills and back
to the home ranch for the long, quiet winter. In a sense this is
coming home. It is a return to the fields and corrals and barns
and shelters of the owner's home. During all seasons of the year,
with their hazards, dangers and disturbances, it is the rancher's
alertness, care and energetic management that has brought the
sheep through satisfactorily.
It is with a sublime feeling of both composure and
contentment that this statement, "I will dwell in the house of
the Lord for ever," is made.
Actually what is referred to by "house" is the family or
household or flock of the Good Shepherd. The sheep is so deeply
satisfied with the flock to which it belongs, with the ownership
of this particular shepherd that it has no wish to change
It is as if it had finally come home again and was now
standing at the fence, bragging to its less fortunate neighbors
on the other side. It boasts about the wonderful year it has had
and its complete confidence in its owner.
Sometimes I feel we Christians should be much more like
this. We should be proud to belong to Christ. Why shouldn't we
feel free to boast to others of how good our Shepherd is? How
glad we should be to look back and recall all the amazing ways in
which He has provided for our welfare. We should delight to
describe, in detail, the hard experiences through which He has
brought us. And we should be eager and quick to tell of our
confidence in Christ. We should be bold to state fearlessly that
we are so glad we are His. By the contentment and serenity of our
lives we should show what a distinct advantage it is to be a
member of His "household," of His flock.
I can never meditate on this last phrase in the Psalm
without vivid scenes from some of the days on my first sheeo
As winter, with its cold rains and chilling winds came on,
my neighbor's sickly sheep would stand huddled at the fence,
their tails to the storm, facing the rich fields in which my
flock flourished. Those poor, abused, neglected creatures under
the ownership of a heartless rancher had known nothing but
suffering most of the year. With them there had been gnawing
hunger all summer. They were thin and sickly with disease and
scab and parasites. Tormented by flies and attacked by predators,
some were so weak and thin and wretched that their thin legs
could scarcely bear their scanty frames.
Always there seemed to lurk in their eyes the slender, faint
hope that perhaps with a bit of luck they could break through the
fence or crawl through some hole to free themselves. Occasionally
this used to happen, especially around Christmas. This was the
time of extreme tides when the sea retreated far out beyond the
end of the fence lines which ran down to it. The neighbor's
emaciated, dissatisfied, hungry sheep would wait for this to
happen. Then at the first chance they would go down on the tidal
flats; slip around the end of the fence and come sneaking in to
gorge themselves on our rich green grass.
So pitiful and pathetic was their condition that the sudden
feast of lush feed, to which they were unaccustomed, often proved
disastrous. Their digestive systems would begin to scour and
sometimes this led to death. I recall clearly coming across three
of my neighbor's ewes lying helpless under a fir tree near the
fence one drizzly day. They were like three old, limp, gray,
sodden sacks collapsed in a heap. Even their bony legs would no
longer support them.
I loaded them into a wheelbarrow and wheeled them back to
their heartless owner. He simply pulled out a sharp killing knife
and slit all three of their throats. He couldn't care less.
What a picture of Satan who holds ownership over so many. Right
there the graphic account of Jesus portrayed of Himself as being
the door and entrance by which sheep were to enter His fold
flashed across my mind.
Those poor sheep had not come into my ranch through the
proper gate. I had never let them in. They had never really
become mine. They had not come under my ownership or control. If
they had, they would not have suffered so. Even starting out
under my management they would have been given very special care.
First they would have been put on dry, limited rations, then they
would gradually have been allowed green feed until they were
adjusted to the new diet and mode of life. In short, they tried
to get in on their own. It simply spelled disaster. What made it
doubly sad was that they were doomed anyway. On the old
impoverished ranch they would have starved to death that winter.
Likewise with those apart from Christ. The old world is a
pretty wretched ranch and Satan is a heartless owner. He cares
not a wit for men's souls or welfare. Under his tyranny there are
hundreds of hungry, discontented hearts who long to enter into
the household of God - who ache for His care and concern. Yet
there is only one way into this fold. That way is through the
owner, Christ Himself - the Good Shepherd. He boldly declared, "I
am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and
shall go in and out, and find pasture" (John 10:9).
Almost every day I am literally rubbing shoulders with men
and women "on the other side of the fence." What is my impact
upon them? Is my life so serene, so satisfying, so radiant
because I walk and talk and live with God, that they become
envious? Do they see in me the benefits of being under Christ's
control? Do they see something of Himself reflected in my conduct
and character? Does my life and conversation lead them to Him -
and thus into life everlasting?
If so, then I may be sure some of them will also long to
dwell in the house of the Lord forever. And there is no reason
why this cannot happen if they come under His proper ownership.
There is one other beautiful and final sense in which the
psalmist was speaking as a sheep. It is brought out in the
Amplified Old Testament where the meaning of this last phrase is,
"I will dwell in the 'presence' of the Lord forever."
My personal conviction is that this is the most significant
sentiment that David had in his heart as he ended this hymn of
praise to divine diligence.
Not only do we get the idea of an ever-present Shepherd on
the scene, but also the concept that the sheep wants to be in
full view of his owner at all times.
This theme has run all through our studies. It is the
alertness, the awareness, the diligence of a never-tiring master
which alone assures the sheep of excellent care. And from the
sheep's standpoint it is knowing that the shepherd is there; it
is the constant awareness of his presence nearby that
automatically eliminates most of the difficulties and dangers
while at the same time providing a sense of security and
It is the sheep owner's presence that guarantees there will
be no lack of any sort; that there will be abundant green
pastures; that there will be still, clean waters; that there will
be new paths into fresh fields; that there will be safe summers
on the high tablelands; that there will be freedom from fear;
that there will be antidotes for flies and disease and parasites;
that there will be quietness and contentment.
In our Christian lives and experience precisely the same
idea and principle applies. For when all is said and done on the
subject of a successful Christian walk, it can be summed up in
one sentence. "Live ever aware of God's presence."
There is the "inner" consciousness, which can be very
distinct and very real, of Christ's presence in my life, made
evident by His gracious Holy Spirit within. It is He who speaks
to us in distinct and definite ways about our behavior. For our
part it is, a case of being sensitive and responsive to that
There can be an habitual awareness of Christ within me,
empowering me to live a noble and richly rewarding life in
cooperation with Himself. As I respond to Him and move in harmony
with His wishes I discover life becomes satisfying and
worthwhile. It acquires great serenity and is made an exciting
adventure of fulfillment as I progress in it. This is made
possible as I allow His gracious Spirit to control, manage and
direct my daily decisions. In fact; I should deliberately ask for
His direction even in minute details.
Then there is the wider but equally thrilling awareness of
God all around me. I live surrounded by His presence. I am an
open person, an open individual, living life open to His
scrutiny. He is conscious of every circumstance I encounter. He
attends me with care and concern because I belong to Him. And
this will continue through eternity. What an assurance!
I shall dwell in the presence (in the care of) the Lord forever.
Bless His Name.
Ah yes, what an uplifting, encouraging, and educational book from
Phillip Keller. I hope you found it as good to read as I did once
more, in uploading it to this Website. I think you will now agree
with me when I said at the beginning chapter, Phillip Keller has
a way of pulling at your heart strings. I believe you will also
be inspired and educated through Keller's other book I have
uploaded called "A shepherd looks at the GOOD SHEPHERD."