Promise: The Lord will Guide You

In his book, A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm, Phillip Keller shares that, “Sometimes … a shepherd will actually hold his staff against the side of some sheep that is a special pet or favourite, simply so that they ‘are in touch’.  They will walk along this way almost as though it were ‘hand-in-hand’.”[1]   

Psalm 23 shows that Christians can comfort themselves with assurance of perseverance due to God’s ever-present, personal care while Jesus, “that great Shepherd of the sheep,”[2] leads them by the hand through this life into the next.

To get the sense of sensing Christ’s constant nearness, note that verse one begins more literally, "The Lord is the one shepherding me.”

The Lord Jesus came to earth to personally guide you into heaven through His death, resurrection, and ascension.[3]  Notice that just before and after Psalm 23 are the prophesies of Jesus dying as the Lamb of God and ascending into heaven as the eternal high priest.  As J. Douglas MacMillan’s professor taught: “One is the psalm of the cross, the next is the psalm of the crook, and the third is the psalm of the crown.”[4]

You have never gone through anything without Jesus.  And He will always take you through everything focusing on the Celestial City.  For as MacMillan reminds us, “A life that is being led by Jesus and is following Jesus has not only direction but destination.”[5]

Psalm 23:6 promises such assurance: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.  And while the Psalm is guaranteeing God’s guidance through this life, it especially points to His sure shepherding through death into the next life.[6]  Verse four proclaims: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.

John McNeill tells of a young boy who casually attended Sabbath school.  One day, he laid down to die in a room alone and unresponsive.  When McNeill’s friend recited the first part of Psalm 23:6 in the Scottish Psalter, “Goodness and mercy all my life Shall surely follow me”, the lad “propped up on his elbow, and with a gleam in his eyes, as though a great light were breaking, finished the Psalm: ‘And in God’s house for evermore My dwelling place shall be.’  … he fell back, and … passed away.”[7]

MacMillan offers two touching stories that bear such testimony.  First, the morning of his own father’s death:

“He was very weak, but he looked at me and said … ‘What do you see out of the window, Douglas?’  So I looked and told him, ‘Well, I see the sheep just beginning to come down.’  … He said, ‘It’s strange, you know’—and a smile came over his face. (I had noticed a strange light in his face as soon as I went into his room.) … ‘I cannot see that now at all … I’m looking out of the window and it’s as if I was looking into an orchard.  It’s a very beautiful place, and I can see people and I know a lot of them.  I can see my mother and I can see your mother.’ … Then he smiled again and said, ‘Do you think I am seeing into heaven? I think I am.’ He said, ‘I have been on the doorstep for three weeks … and I am going to go over it today.’  Then he said, ‘For … 40 years I have prayed for grace to die like a Christian.  I have always been afraid secretly—never admitted it, but I have always secretly been afraid that I wouldn’t get grace to die … Don’t be afraid of death, it’s going to be wonderful.’”[8]

Next, he shares of another minister he had visited weeks before his death:  “His wife and son (also a minister) … told me that two hours before he died, he sat up in bed … and a light came on to his face and he said to his son sitting beside him, ‘Get your mother, bring them all down.  I am seeing into heaven and I can see the Saviour.  He is with me.’”[9]

Beloved brethren, be assured that such a testimony also will be true for you at your last hour.[10]  Because the Lord is your Shepherd unto your life’s end and beyond!  Hold on to His promise, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.[11]  You are never lost nor alone, because, The Good Shepherd Will Always Guide You.[12]

Grant Van Leuven has been feeding the flock at the Puritan Reformed Presbyterian Church in San Diego, CA, since 2010.  He and his wife, Fernanda, have seven covenant children: Rachel, Olivia, Abraham, Isaac, Gabriel, Gideon, and Giulianna.  He earned his M.Div. at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA.

[1] Phillip Keller, A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm, in The Shepherd Trilogy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 90.  He adds, “The sheep obviously enjoys this special attention from the shepherd and revels in the close, personal, intimate contact between them.  To be treated in this special way by the shepherd is to know comfort in a deep dimension.  It is a delightful and moving picture.”

[2] Hebrews 13:20.

[3] See John 10:2-5, 14, 27-29 and 1 Pet. 5:4.

[4] Speaking of Psalms 22 and 24.  J. Douglas MacMillan, The Lord Our Shepherd (Bryntirion, Bridgend, Mid Glam.: Evangelical Press of Wales, 1992), 21.

[5] Ibid, 41.

[6] MacMillan writes, I think that the psalmist is talking about the reality of physical death.” Ibid, 68.

[7] John McNeill, The Twenty-Third Psalm, 2d. ed. (London: Pickering & Inglis, 1930?), 92-93.

[8] MacMillan, 70-71.

[9] Ibid, 71-72.  These personal accounts are just like Stephens at his death in Acts 7:55-60.  Notice that Stephen saw Christ standing from His throne to welcome Him into heaven with Him, the only time we do not hear of Christ authoritatively sitting on His heavenly throne in the Scriptures.

[10] The author’s own testimony is that the Good Shepherd indeed is with His sheep always even through the shadow of death, as he observed his first wife’s awareness of the presence of angels a week before her passing into glory while he and their four wee lambs sang her through her coronation from her bedroom into heaven’s throne room while singing Psalm 23 during her last breaths on earth.  Just as Christ was there ministering to them all while he first preached this series of sermons through Psalm 23 during her last year’s trek through the gruesome foe of colon cancer until age 38.  Further, the Great Shepherd has continued to guide the author and his children to another wonderful wife who has just given them another sister (after already bringing two more sons into their fold).  Though they were indeed terribly frightened and grieved, the Good Shepherd has always personally guided them, and so He does yet still.

[11] Hebrews 13:5.

[12] To listen to the author’s sermon by this text and title (the first of a four-part series through Psalm 23), visit


Grant Van Leuven