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Psalms primary point: How do we live a life of praise to the Lord
Psalm 1’s answer: Make Him Lord
Psalm 8’s answer: Make Him the only Lord
Today we enter into what is probably the most popular Psalm in all of the Psalms
It’s actually a poem
My daughters trying to rhyme
This is not my daughter’s poems
Perhaps the most popular chapter in all of the Bible
That is Psalm 23.
As we saw last week, God has many titles given to Him throughout Scripture.
Like Yahweh and Adonai
There are also metaphors and pictures given to us of our majestic God
They help us understand Him
His character, nature, holiness, goodness, power and love.
God is compared to all sorts of things throughout Scripture
And the image we see today tells us of His compassion and concern, His protection and guidance, His insight and attention to us
It is the image of a Shepherd
But not just any shepherd. And Psalm 23 is not a standalone Psalm. It is the middle part of a trilogy
Sandwiched between Psalm 22 and 24 where He is depicted as a King
Psalm 22 creates the image of a suffering King
It begins with “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Psalm 24 creates the image of a sovereign King
It begins with “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.”
Psalm 23 creates the image of a Shepherd King
Beginning with “The Lord is my Shepherd.”
It’s an image the NT writers repeat.
20 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep,
4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
And also an image that Jesus himself uses
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Each of these find it’s beginnings in Psalm 23.
This dense, rich, beautiful poem
James Boice wrote, “The twenty-third Psalm is the most beloved of the 150 psalms in the Psalter and possibly the best-loved (and best-known) chapter in the entire Bible … [it] is a masterpiece throughout”
J. P. McBeth said, “The 23rd Psalm is the greatest poem ever written”
Let’s read this masterpiece and then we will dive in
A psalm of David. 1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
This poem is so rich we could literally break down a verse for the next 6 weeks and still not cover it all
But what I want to do today is talk about 3 things that our “Good Shepherd” does.
Verse 1-3 tell us that:
Our Good Shepherd Provides
Our Good Shepherd Provides
A sheep only has one Shepherd and the Lord is ours through faith in Him and trust in His perfect plan.
We are called to complete surrender
God’s promise is to provide our every need
We may not have all that we want, but we will always have everything we need for joy and the fulfilling of the Lord’s perfect will for our lives
Left to themselves, sheep lack everything. But cared for by a good shepherd, they lack nothing.
Our Good Shepherd thinks first and foremost of his sheep’s welfare.
He leads us to Himself so that our hunger and thirst will be quenched
He is the bread of life (John 6:35)
He is our living water (John 4:14)
He also provides rest
David says, “He refreshes my soul.”
The Lord revives us when we need strength.
He renews us when we stumble and fall
He puts life in proper perspective
He restores, refreshes, and allows rest through His personal presence in our lives and His powerful Word.
How different it is for those who do not know the Good Shepherd. Who do not believe in our Good Shepherd, who do not follow our Good Shepherd.
Marci Hornok wrote an antitheses to Psalm 23 to show the frustration and disappointment that so many experience away from the Good Shepherd
Exalting Jesus in Psalms 1–50 He Gives Us Rest (23:3)
The clock is my dictator, I shall not rest.
It makes me lie down only when exhausted.
It leads me to deep depression.
It hounds my soul.
It leads me in circles of frenzy for activity’s sake.
Even though I run frantically from task to task,
I will never get it all done.
For my “ideal” is with me.
Deadlines and my need for approval, they drive me.
They demand performance from me, beyond the limits of my schedule.
They anoint my head with migraines.
My in-basket overflows.
Surely fatigue and time pressure shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the bonds of frustration forever.
He also provides guidance
“He guides me along the right paths.”
He lovingly and compassionately guides and corrects and cares
He does not manipulate or trick us
He leads us right where we need to go
By His Spirit and Word He guides us to do the right thing, to say the right things, to live the right way
And that verse ends with “for His name’s sake.”
He meets my needs, He gives me rest, He grants me guidance, putting His reputation on the line.
God wants everyone to see his glory and goodness.
He wants you to know it and he wants the world to know it
For His name’s sake.
What if we began to do everything with that perspective?
What if we began to pray like that?
God use me for your name’s sake
God make me like you for your name’s sake
God grant me wisdom here for your name’s sake
God provides and is all that we need
Our Good Shepherd protects.
Our Good Shepherd protects.
Walking through the woods and telling the girls I would protect them from the bear
He protects us in the darkest of times
David here begins to give insight to what life can be like
It can sometimes feel like you are walking through the darkest of valley’s
it is unclear, uncertain, dark
And even if there are people around you, you can not see them
It is often lonely and confusing
Yet, David says, “I will fear no evil.”
Even when we move through the deepest and darkest valleys of life
Even when life is caving in and seems that there is no way out
Even when your thoughts overwhelm you, your life is as expected, or the news you just received is too difficult to process
We do not need to be afraid. Why? How?
The next line gives us our answer
“For you are with me, your rod and your staff they comfort me.”
Don’t miss the point David is making here
It can radically change your life
We are going through the deep dark valleys because our Good shepherd is leading us
The dark valley is a part of our path of righteousness.
Why? Why would a Good Shepherd lead us through such a difficult place? To get us to a better one
The 2 instruments He uses?
The rod and the staff
The rod is an instrument of protection to provide safety
The staff is an instrument to comfort and guide
In dark valleys, do not fear, for you have the one you need and He has the tools He needs to lead and guide us to a more wonderful place
He also protects us against our enemies
The imagery changes a little here from fields and shepherds to a table and banquet
But it’s not a completely different idea
Our Good Shepherd is with us and caring and guiding in the fields and the valleys but He also seats us at His table and in His house.
So, notice the progression here, He brings us from the fields, through the valleys, into His home
Here we are both utterly safe and satisfied.
Enemies may surround us, but God sustains us
“He anoints my head with oil.”
This is: He publicly acknowledges us as honored guests.
So where our enemies means harm, the Good Shepherd protects
Where our enemies would starve us, the Good Shepherd feeds us
Where our enemies would enslave us, the Good Shepherd honors us
And David says, my cup overflows.
Our Good Shepherd doesn’t do this with a scarcity mindset, He does this for us in abundance!
The Lord’s cup never runs empty, it never even gets half filled
It is always full and running over
What the world and our enemies offer us pale in comparison to the good things He has done and does for us
Our Good Shepherd Promises
Our Good Shepherd Promises
He promises us His love
His goodness and love follow after us, chase after us
The loving kindness of our Good Shepherd draws us to repentance
It’s His faithfulness and goodness that never end
You can not outrun God, You can not outlast God, You can not out give God, You can not out love God
And this goodness and love is following after us all the days of our lives
God doesn’t check in and think, well they didn’t read their Bible today so I’m gonna check out too
Or they didn’t pray to me so I’m gonna turn my back on them
Or they chose this over me so I will choose something else over them
Through all my days, through all of your days, God is after you
His goodness and love will follow
Even in our inconsistencies, He is always consistent and persistent
Jesus isn’t interested in you checking all the religious boxes
He wants to be your Good Shepherd
He promises us acceptance
David says, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
One of the scariest parts about following Jesus is, you don’t know where He is going to take you
He may call you to lead where you are for His name’s sake
He may call you to ministry for His name’s sake
He may call you overseas on mission for His name’s sake
He may call you to suffer
He may call you to say goodbye to pleasures, people, and possessions all for His name’s sake
But the promise is this: When He finishes using you for His name’s sake, He will bring you into His house as His child for the rest of eternity
What greater privilege for a sheep?
What an upgrade!
From sheep to son
From sheep to daughter
And the upgrade is permanent
We will dwell in His house forever!
HOW DOES THIS FIT IN OUR THEME?
How do we live a life of praise to the Lord?
Realize He is all that we need.
Everyone needs a Shepherd! Why?
1 Peter 2:25 (NIV)
25 For “you were like sheep going astray,”
Sin confuses us, deceives us, and makes us promises it can not deliver.
It starves us, leaves us defenseless, and enslaves us.
But there is an answer
Micah makes us a promise
2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” 3 Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor bears a son, and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. 4 He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth.
We have a Shepherd! A shepherd for this life and for eternity.
He finds us and rescues us.
He saves us!
He provides, He protects, and He promises!
He provides all that we need by giving Himself up for us.
He protects us from sin, death, and hell.
And He promises us this in Rev 7:16-17
16 ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”
This is our Good Shepherd
The Shepherd who provides, protects, and promises and He does it all for those who will say....
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need.”