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When Crisis Strikes

Then Sings My Soul  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  42:39
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Submitting to direction from a wise & caring Shepherd enables us to positively traverse unknown circumstances.

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This has been a tough week for me. As your shepherd I have prayerfully listened to many opinions online and in person.
On the same weekend that we celebrate independence, some are calling on business and organizational leaders to infringe on that same independence. I have listened to both unsolicited opinions and responses to leaders’ decisions. I’ve considered both the March Faucci and the June Faucci, both the March Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the June KDHE. There are so many voices claiming to be right.
What does “we are an evangelical church for the whole community” look like when those in the community cannot agree upon what is the right and loving thing to do? Do people feel exposed if others do not wear face coverings? Do people feel devalued if others expect them to wear an uncomfortable (or unhealthy?) face covering?
If last week’s Psalm described where we turn when life seems unfair, this week’s Psalm describes the whispers of a person in crisis who needs direction. Today’s text reminds that the guide for our souls is not on either Fox or CNN, He is neither on Television or Facebook.

The Shepherd (vv.1-4)

Who leads me? (v.1)

1. YHWH guides me.
· The Lord, as often in the Psalms, occupies here the first and emphatic place[i]
a. In the ancient world many religions considered their god to be their guide. The arrangement of the Hebrew words emphasizes the LORD as if it was assumed everybody has some guide.
b. To paraphrase: David is saying “The LORD (YHWH), He is my guide; but He isn’t some distant, mystic guide. He guides me like a nearby shepherd.”
2. YHWH guides me
a) I am substituting the guidance of v.2 as the verb form of the role of shepherd in this verse.
b) In the word shepherd, David uses the most comprehensive and intimate metaphor yet encountered in the Psalms[ii]
c) By choosing “guide” I am attempting to get you to conjure images of one who is near, one who helps, one who responds.
The intimacy that David draws is the difference between a recipe in a cookbook, a hand-written recipe card with stains from previous use, watching Food Network or spending time in Grandma’s kitchen.
3. YHWH guides me.
· and the my reveals a pledged relationship which dares to link The Lord (is) … with the incongruous I shall … Everything in the psalm flows from that[iii]
· Because He is, I will… (this is the application of this Psalm that I will come back to later)

He Does what comforts (v.2)

This video from a little East of here has shown up in my Facebook feed a few times in the last 2 weeks. To me it is a perfect illustration of the abundance and peace that God provides in our native land.
Play video at https://www.facebook.com/kansanjayhawk/videos/10217957236785079/
1. But cattle are not sheep and ranchers are not shepherds. What comforts a herd is not what comforts a flock.
2. We know the difference between nutrition of February bluestem and April bluestem. Our ranchers know that lush fields without cedars require special work to provide good pastures. Similarly, the Shepherd ensures the flock grazes in grassy pastures that provide the easiest nourishment.
Almost a year ago I watched some of you show lambs at the County Fair. Unfortunately, it was just announced that I will not be able to watch that this year. You may correct me if I’m wrong, but I noticed that each animal category had to be handled differently. The dogs, sheep, swine, and cattle each had very different techniques used to judge showmanship. David, as a shepherd, says that the Lord knows how to make me comfortable and make me calm.
3. Sheep are unusually nervous. Sheep cannot find food or water without help. Every deer knows where to find food; even rabbits can locate water. Animals for the most part have keen survival skills—not sheep. Left alone, sheep will stay in one place, eat the grass down to the roots, and ruin the land. Unless someone leads them to green pastures, they’ll stay there on the barren land and bleat until they die. Sheep are so easily frightened that if a cool stream bubbles and splashes too much, they will not approach to get life-giving water because they’re afraid of the sound. That’s why a good shepherd will often dam up a stream and create a pool or a quiet place where the flock will not be afraid to get a drink.[iv]

He does what benefits (v.3)

1. Restore – This means that the Shepherd knows what we’ve been through and what is necessary to make us ready for the future.
2. Right paths – This describes the right way to the right destination. As flocks tended to over-graze a pasture, a good shepherd forces them to move along unfamiliar paths.
3. His reputation – He does this not only for the good of the individual sheep, but the shepherd knows he will be judged by others based upon the way he manages the flock.

He does what protects (v.4)

1. Sometimes traveling the right path to the right destination means that we have to go through uncomfortable or frightening experiences.
2. If you’ve heard the story of the Good Samaritan taught, you most-likely heard that the direct road between Jerusalem and Samaria was known as a dangerous stretch. The Disciples where shocked when Jesus said
John 4:4 (ESV) — And he had to pass through Samaria.
3. I’m going to come back to “fear no evil” later in this sermon. But now let me point you to the 3 realities that gave confidence to the psalmist.
a. The Shepherds presence. Any child who has ever asked to climb into mom and dad’s bed after a dream or during a storm knows the value of trusted presence.
b. The Shepherd’s rod – This was the Shepherd’s primary defense. It was a short club kept in the waistband that was used to fight off predators.
c. The Shepherd’s staff – besides the shepherd’s voice, this was his primary offensive tool—used to proactively get the sheep in the right place. The straight end was used to prod the sheep in the right direction and the crooked end would pull it back if it began to wander off course.
John Goldingay is a British theologian in the Anglican tradition who is now a Professor Emeritus at Fuller Seminary in California.
As a young member of the parish council in his own church he asked, “Why do we spend so much time praying the Psalms?” To which his wise pastor responded, “Young Man, one day you will NEED the Psalms.”
His first wife suffered from Multiple Sclerosis and in her case it has mental implications in addition to her physical symptoms. I saw a video of him saying that he would sit on the sofa crying out to God and he found himself praying the very words that he had though were a waste of time. To him the Psalms had become very personal.
Here is his translation of the words used by David in Psalm 23:
1 My shepherd is Yhwh; I do not lack—
2 he makes me lie down in grassy pastures.
He guides me by completely restful waters;
3 he restores my life.
He leads me in faithful paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even when I walk in the darkest canyon,
I do not fear disaster
Because you are with me; your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.[v]
Transition: After briefly, but thoroughly, abiding in YHWH’s comfort in the pasture, the setting changes to the Dining Room or the Banquet Hall. In the last 2 verses, the Shepherd becomes…

The Host (vv.5-6)

Now (v.5)

1. Nourishment/Celebration
The simplicity of green grass and pooled water now morphs into a set table.
I enjoy fried chicken on the tailgate during harvest or foilpacks by the campfire as much as the next guy. But there is something about sitting down to a meal with a set table and cloth napkins. Field food taste great because we are usually quite hungry. But table food comes with the awareness that somebody has labored to make you feel special.
2. Vindication
a. Notice that this meal is held in the presence of persecutors.
Imagine with me the community swimming pool. At the pool there may be some older boys who find unusual pleasure in taunting those who are smaller or younger. The guards do all they can to scold the bullies, but their presence is still felt
When the whistle blows for the mandatory breaktime, these 2 bullies make their way to the water-fountain on the side of the building because they don’t have any money for the snack bar.
Meanwhile, you, the smaller, picked-on child head over toward your babysitter who pulls out a cooler and prepares an ice-cold juice pouch for you. As you are sipping on that she offers some orange sections that are already peeled and separated for you. As the bullies watch from across the way, your sitter offers you a choice of either butterscotch or chocolate pudding pack as she puts a fresh coat of sunscreen on your shoulders because you’re starting to get a little pink.
b. About this time the guards rotate and blow the whistle to re-enter the pool. How refreshed do you feel? How do you think those bullies feel about now?
3. Soothing Hospitality
I chose the pool and sunscreen illustration intentionally because that is the idea of anoint my head with oil.
Because we were just speaking about a shepherd and here we are in a dinner, I don’t think David has a ceremonial anointing in mind. It is more the idea of a hot towel to refresh oneself at the end of a flight. Or a handi-wipe handed out at a picnic that cleanses and moistens.
This is the anointing that happened to Jesus. When nobody offered face moisturizer/head oil and the woman lavishly poured expensive ointment. Or when nobody washed feet, so Jesus wrapped himself in a towel. These where acts of hospitality meant to bring comfort and honor to dinner guests.
4. Abundance
Most of us have been to a variety of receptions for anniversaries, weddings, retirement, etc.
I have seen receptions that are portion-controlled. Sometimes it is a tiny piece of cake that a person is served; or it is the one coupon that can be used for a beverage.
I have been in other celebrations that are much-more generous. Sometimes that looks like a buffet, rather than plated portions. Sometimes it is hors douvres before the guests of honor are announced or the crème d la crème is when the dessert table has multiple cheesecake flavors AND a chocolate fountain.
NOTE: I’m not trying to shame anybody! Our own wedding was cake, mints, nuts & punch because we could not afford a full dinner for all our guest.
More often than not, if I drink anything besides water at a restaurant, I drink iced tea and one of the quickest ways to a 20% gratuity is to never let that cup get below half. On the other hand, I’ve been to placed that charge extra after that first glass is empty. Whether we talking water, tea or coffee, you probably could name a place that was exceptionally good or notably bad at filling that cup.
David is saying that when we sit at the Lord’s table, He is aware and responsive of our desires.

Future (v.6)

1. Because God is such a complete and generous host, the psalmist has absolute confidence that He will continue to be able to perform that role.
2. We read of this house after the text follow me all the days of my life and in our Christian mindset forever equals the afterlife.
3. Those who understand the language that David wrote explain that our English translations may lead to a wrong impression. The words translated forever are literally “according to the length of days”.
4. This leads commentators to explain that a better understanding of this last verse is: “God’s goodness and steadfast love are present every day of my life, so however long those days may be, I will choose to move toward God’s presence.
5. The “house of the Lord” is where I find goodness [purity and benevolence] and Chesed [The relational, covenant-based loving-kindness and steadfast mercy upon which one can depend]
Transition: We’ve seen God’s protection and provision in 2 metaphors, but what response do these pictures prompt?

3 Responses in this Psalm

I will have all I need (v.1)

1. The division between wants and needs is an ever-present challenge.
*[[2. One social framework demands that the inalienable rights that include life, liberty and pursuit of happiness also includes a human right to health.
Because we are a church that unites under the common teaching of the Bible, our congregation is made up of diverse political opinions where we agree to disagree, and to do so peaceably and respectfully.
3. Some of us have a much higher expectations of government to provide or protect health. Do we select local, state and national leaders with an expectation of their obligation to our health? Do we have an expectation of their obligation to our wealth? Where is the dividing line between governments obligation to protect my pursuit of happiness, and their obligation to provide my opportunities?
This weekend many of us have been reminded of the founding document of our Country and the questions I have just asked reveal our differences as the people of God who are living in this nation.]]*
4. David [[viewed his needs differently. He]] chose to trust in the Lord’s supply, not his king’s. Because he trusted in YHWH’s goodness, and His ability to protect and provide, David is able to say, “Whatever the Lord provides, that is what I need.”
5. This is hard to say during times of critical illness, during grief, during bankruptcy, when we become aware of injustice, when our neighbor drives home the new Ford SuperDuty.
6. The key to contentment is to either increase my possessions or to change my expectation. Can we say with David, “What the Lord supplies will be all I want”? Can we say with Job (immediately after being informed that all his belongings had been destroyed and his children and their families had been killed)…
Job 1:21 (ESV) — And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

I will not be afraid of evil (v.4b)

1. Evil can be activities, inclinations or personified.
2. If the first commitment of David is to be satisfied with provisions from YHWH, the second is that he commits to be satisfied with the events that YHWH allows.
3. If we trust the shepherd’s use of his rod to destroy enemies and we trust the staff to keep us in the place within His protection, there is no experience that can harm us in a way beyond the Shepherd’s will.
4. In the New Testament Jesus experiences real temptations by Satan to step out of obedience to the Father’s will. He later teaches the disciples to pray “do not let us be led into temptation”.
5. Close to the shepherd is a place of safety where it is safe to presume an absence of evil. By evil I mean any activity that is contrary to God’s perfect will.

I will dwell (return often) to the Lord’s House (v.6)

1. David may have been referring to the Tabernacle where God’s presence dwelt. No Temple will be built David’s son builds it. But I don’t think this “house of the Lord” is either Heaven or the Tabernacle. Knowing of David’s experiences in the field as a shepherd, and his time on the run when Saul was hunting him. I think David is talking about wherever those places are that he intimately communes with God and senses His presence, His comfort, and His provision.
For this season many who have compromised health circumstances are choosing to fellowship with us and commune with God in a distributed manner. There are right now houses where the Lord is being encountered all across Chase County. If recent history is any indication, through the internet there are houses right now worshipping with us in Pennsylvania, Missouri, Kansas City, Oklahoma, Texas, and Arizona. Through like-minded churches and ministries, there are houses on every continent of this world that are places where the Lord God’s goodness, mercy, provision & protection are especially manifest. There are assisted-living centers, military chapel tents, and hospital rooms where people are choosing to be in the Lord’s presence.
2. Yes, there is a unique way that the Lord is present when we physically gather and I would never minimize the importance of gathered worship. But David is setting the example for us, that even if we can’t gather with other believers, we can choose to rest, dwell, abide in the Lord’s presence.

Conclusion:

From all the voices that try to lead me, I choose to view God as my close-by, personally-interested, more-than-adequate protector and provider.
And because YHWH leads and guides like a shepherd…
· I will have all I need (v.1)
· I will fear no evil (v.4)
· I will dwell in (return frequently to) the Lord’s House. (v.6)
[i] Derek Kidner, Psalms 1–72: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 15, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973), 127.
[ii] Derek Kidner, Psalms 1–72: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 15, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973), 127.
[iii] Derek Kidner, Psalms 1–72: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 15, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973), 127.
[iv] Chip Ingram, Finding God When You Need Him Most (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2007).
[v] John Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament: Psalms 1–41, ed. Tremper Longman III, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 344.
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