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2020-05-17 Psalm 23:5 THE SHEPHERD’S REFRESHMENT

The Good Shepherd --- Psalm 23  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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THE SHEPHERD’S REFRESHMENT (Psalm 23:5) May 17, 2020 Read Psalm 23:1-5 – For a sheep, it’s dangerous to be alive. They live their lives behind enemy lines, just like believers! C. S. Lewis: “Enemy-occupied territory – that is what the world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful King has landed in disguise, and is called us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.” The Xn life is spiritual warfare lived behind enemy lines. But we’re not alone! Thankfully we have a Shepherd who is our protector in this war zone – the only answer to life lived behind enemy lines. If you go to Israel, you’ll see Israeli farmers going about their work in very odd-looking machines. To protect themselves from the mortar shells thrown by Syrian soldiers stationed above the Golan Heights, the farmers work in armored tractors. Similarly, we need protection to live in a spiritual war zone. We’ll see the Plight of the Sheep, and the Preservation of the Shepherd. I. The Plight of the Sheep Early on October 12, 1984 at the Grand Brighton Hotel in England, a bomb exploded, sending a 5-ton chimney stack crashing thru the floors and into the basement. It was planted by IRA member, Patrick Magee, to kill Margaret Thatcher who was there for a conference. Five people died, but despite severe damage to her bath, she was spared. Her other rooms were untouched due to the strength of the old building. But next day the IRA issued a chilling statement from Dublin: “Today we were unlucky. But remember, we only have to be lucky once. You have to be lucky all the time.” That’s sobering! Police friends in Northern Ireland at that time attest to that. They said they were never off-duty -- just as likely to be killed off-duty as on-duty. They were constantly on alert. One said, “The threat was as bad coming off the golf course as coming out of church.” But isn’t that a good description of the sheep of God’s pasture? It’s almost like Satan says, “You got lucky today. You avoided the temptation for now. But remember, I’ve only got to be lucky once. And I’m looking for that special moment. I’ll find my opportunity.” One reason Hitler lost WWII was he allowed himself to become embattled on two fronts – the Soviets in the east and Allies in the west. That’s a tough fight, but as believers we’re at war on 3 fronts. Inside it’s the flesh, the sin nature that corrupts natural desires and turns them against us. Outside it’s the world 7 and Satan -- all devilishly inspired to make bad look good and good look best. We live in a culture that is increasingly hostile to the things of God. It is a world at enmity with God, promoting values and ideas contrary to the wisdom of God and increasingly intolerant of any positions to the contrary. Everything is tolerated except age-old and age-tested truths of the gospel. We’re surrounded as you know if you don’t have your head buried like the ostrich! For example, at the cafeteria of Carillon Elementary in Oviedo, FL, a 5-yearold girl bowed her head to say grace before lunch. A lunchroom monitor quickly told the child it was wrong to pray to pray at school, and she must never do so again. In Memphis, TN Erin Snead chose to write about God when given an assignment to write about a hero. The teacher refused to accept the paper and told Erin to remove it from school property bc having it where friends might see it would violate their First Amendment right! Erin was mocked – for talking about God in school. Hundreds of examples could be cited. Bill Maher says, “Religion must die in order for mankind to live.” Many others would agree. We’re behind enemy lines. But isn’t warfare, inward and outward what we’ve been told to expect as normal!? Rom 7:19: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” That’s the ongoing battle with the flesh. And Jesus warned, Mt 10:16: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” In other words, the battle with the world is going to get hot. We’d like to think we’re sent as sheep in the middle of sheep, but Jesus knew it wouldn’t be that way. We’re surrounded by wolves on two fronts. But Jesus also prayed, Jn 17:15: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” Don’t remove them from the battle, but protect them. Bill Bates was a hard-hitting safety with the Dallas Cowboys for 15 years. One day he walked a friend thru the Cowboy facilities during the off-season; athletes were everywhere working out. The friend asked Bates, “How often are you here?” He replied, “Every day – except Sunday – and usually most of the day.” The friend said, “Really? Why?” Bates replied, “Self-defense. If I’m not in great shape, I’ll get killed out there.” That’s a man who realizes, he’s in a battle. That’s the plight of the sheep. Surrounded and at war. II. The Preservation of the Shepherd 7 But we’re not alone! Jesus didn’t tell His disciples to go as sheep among wolves and good luck! He said, Mt 28:20b: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” We’re not alone. We’ve got reinforcements. Most commentators suggest David changed metaphors at v. 5. That he’s gone from Shepherd and sheep to Host and guests. Maybe. But I think it is more likely he’s continuing the Shepherd metaphor. Philip Keller points out that at beginning of summer, the shepherd would lead the sheep to the highlands – the tableland. There, he would take his staff and remove weeds, rocks, any poisonous plants, hidden holes, viper nests and anything else that might threaten the sheep – essentially preparing a table before them in the presence of their enemies. Then he would ring their mouths and heads with oil. Snakes don’t like oil, so he’d rub it into the coat of the sheep to repel snakes and insects. So, our Shepherd goes into battle with us, preserving us in 3 ways: A. His Provision – In an increasingly threatening world, the temptation is to run. Let me out of here! I’ll isolate – stay away from the fray. But that’s not where the Shepherd leads, is it?! No. He wants us to feed on the table He’s prepared for us. Remember Jesus’ prayer: Jn 17: 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. If He wanted us out of the world, He could have sent the chariot the moment we accepted Him. He didn’t do that. He wants us to stay where we are and be fruitful where we are. John 17:18: “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” We’ve signed on and it’s time to live it out. But Jesus also prays that the Father will keep us from the evil one. How does He do that? Jn 17: 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Ah! So there’s the feast He’s prepared – the truth of the Word. He refers to it again in v. 19. We are to be “sanctified in truth.” Sanctified. Set apart. In the world. Among the enemies. Yet separated from them. Sitting at the table. The table He has set for us – the table of His Word. As physical life needs food to sustain us, so spiritual life needs food to sustain us, and that food is the Word. I Pet 2:2: “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.” The food is there, but we have to go for it. Like a baby who won’t stop crying until that bottle is in its mouth. The Word is his provision for us. Jeremiah 15:16: “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my hear, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.” Jeremiah wrote that as his country was being besieged by the Babylonians. Enemies on every hand. But he feasted on the Word and it 7 reminded him he belonged to Yahweh, who is greater than any enemy. So, the Word sustained him. Gave him joy with enemies on every hand. I love how John Wesley stated it: “I am passing through life like an arrow through the air. I want to know one thing – the way to heaven. God himself has shown me that way. For this very end he came down from heaven. He has written it down in a book. Oh, give me that book. At any price, give me the book of God. Here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be a man of one book.” He knew how to feast at the table prepared by the Shepherd. B. His Protection – “You anoint my head with oil” – to drive insects, and potentially fatal snakes. In the midst of enemies, the Shepherd protects His sheep. And if there are injuries, the oil would hasten healing. Oil in the Bible is often used to depict the Holy Spirit. No one was more aware for the need of the Spirit’s ministry in his life than David. When he finally came clean about his sin with Bathsheba, in his prayer of repentance he says, Psa 51:11: “Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your HS from me.” David saw the ministry of the HS as pivotal in his life. So, the Shepherd protects through the truth of the Word lived out by the power of the HS. Surrounded by enemies? Yes. Go on any secular college campus and you’re going to take some hits. What will sustain you? The truth of the Word and the power of the HS. Walk into a secular career, surrounded by people who want to use shady tactics and unprincipled methods to make a sale. How do you walk through that minefield? The truth of the Word and the power of the HS. Feast on the Word at the start of the day, and call on the Spirit to sustain you against the temptations of the enemy. The Shepherd has provided for us; it is for us to live in the good of his provision and protection. John Lennox, Xn prof at Cambridge, had a lifelong friend with whom he had gone to school at Cambridge surrounded by spiritual enemies, mockers of their faith. Now the younger man was dying of cancer. John asked what he would like said at his funeral. He replied, “Encourage the people to do what we did when we were students. Tell them to read the Word together, discuss it, think about it, pray about it, and wait on God until his face appears.” Such good advice from someone who knew how to partake of the table set for him in the presence of his enemies. We need not back away. We need to lovingly, confidently, graciously engage, right? That’s why we’re here. With the truth of the Word and the power of the HS, when we’re in the crosshairs of 7 the enemy, we are not defenseless. We have the belt of truth, the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit – the protection of the Shepherd. C. His Prosperity – David ends this verse with a wonderful observation – “my cup overflows.” This world is not a playground; it’s a battleground. And yet our Shepherd provides so abundantly. The pix here is of the shepherd providing water for his sheep. If there is no gentle stream, he will find a well or cistern. Sometimes, it could be as deep as 100 feet. Yet the shepherd takes his bucket and draws the water time after time, dumping it into stone cups until it overflows and the sheep have had all they can take. And so our Shepherd’s provides for us. Even surrounded by enemies, we can have a peace and joy that the world cannot touch. Our cup can overflow. It should overflow. Jesus said, Jn 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” The world, the flesh, the devil will make promises they can never keep. But while Jesus doesn’t remove trials, He gives us life abundantly in the midst of them. He is willing to give far more than we are willing to take. This is the inner life of the believer, and it’s untouchable. No circumstance, no person, no hardship, can remove us from His love. We’re untouchable. Psa 73:25-26: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26) My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” When you can say that and mean it, you’ve got an overflowing cup. Nothing on earth can touch you. Psa 16:11: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” When all on earth is taken away, if God is our treasure, we have lost nothing. A. W. Tozer writes; “The man who has God for his treasure has all things in one. Many ordinary treasures may be denied him – or, if he is allowed to have them, his joy may be soon tempered by the realization that they will never be necessary to his happiness. Or – if he must let them go one after one, he will scarcely feel the loss. For having the source of all things, he has in one all satisfaction, all pleasure, all delight. Whatever else he may lose, he has actually lost nothing for he now has it all in one – legitimately and forever.” The better we know our shepherd, the more our cup will overflow. Conc – Rosaria Butterfield was a rabid, lesbian feminist – tenured prof at Syracuse when a pastor and his wife loved her to faith in Christ. She left her old life; married a pastor and in time became well-known for the extensive 7 hospitality they practice – home always open to all comers, filled with adopted and foster children. So, one night they were at a church sharing about their lifestyle, only to arrive home to chaos. A kitchen window had been broken, their dog beaten and cowering in the corner, and their house violated and gutted. Precious heirloom jewels from both sides of the family were all gone. They’d been cleaned out. She said, “It is hard to be robbed.” But next day, the cleanup began. As usual they invited church members and neighbors over for Sunday, having forgotten it was Mother’s Day. They ended up with a huge crowd of skeptical neighbors wondering how anyone could react like this, and church members who were helping them recover. Rosaria comments, “It was hard to have God test so powerfully and privately what we proclaimed publicly – that even if you are hurt, people can’t take the things that matter most and that will survive to the new heavens and new earth – your soul, his Word, and your someday glorified body.” That’s someone who has learned that when life takes us beyond our support systems, we can survive and thrive – our cup can run over if we’ll feast at the table set for us by the Shepherd. And their Shepherd – is our Shepherd. Let’s pray. 7
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