Summary: A message about God meeting our needs.
An Oasis in a Parched Wilderness
We live in a day of uncertainties. Any hour can bring danger or disaster or distress.
In an instant, a car could careen across the median of the interstate and take the lives of people who were driving safely and minding their own business.
At any minute, an otherwise quiet and peaceful morning can be interrupted by news that a couple of airplanes have been flown into the World Trade Center…and our whole country, our lifestyle and our security crumble like the twin towers.
Some say the economy is improving. Others say it is a house of cards ready to collapse at any minute.
The germs and viruses that are infecting us can attack and render us totally nauseated and weak in a matter of minutes.
Amber alerts are happening with alarming frequency—and it reminds us how quickly life can change.
At one minute a pastor can be preaching and the next minute, a gunman takes his life.
In the midst of all of this, believers can live with anxiety or fear OR with a sense of quiet trust and rest.
Nothing calms the sheep better than to know the Shepherd is with them.
Isaiah 26:3 “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusts in thee.”
Psalm 3:5 “I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustains me.”
Psalm 4:8 “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for you alone make me dwell in safety.”
In these days of uncertainty, we need a shepherd. We need a caring, present help in time of trouble. We need to sense His presence with us—to know that He is not a God sitting up there on a throne just watching, but that He is right here with us. We need a shepherd who can make us dwell in safety; who can sustain us when our knees are trembling and our shoulders are sagging.
Our study of Psalm 23 reminds us of this helpful shepherd. The Good Shepherd not only gave His life FOR me, He gives His life TO me—he is presently active in my life. He cares about my distress and discouragement. Look at these two verses and see how God cares for us.
I. He makes me lie down in green pastures. This is more than just providing for my nourishment. He gives me REST: I’m tired – and so are most of you. Depending on which survey you read, between 40 and 70 million Americans each year suffer from chronic, long-term sleep disorders each year, and an additional 20 million experience occasional sleeping problems. These disorders and the resulting sleep deprivation interfere with work, driving, and social activities. Doctors have described more than 70 sleep disorders. Researchers have shown that not only does depression cause sleep problems, but lack of sleep causes depression!
Jesus says, Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Rest. Doesn’t that sound good?
Philip Keller wrote A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23. In that book he says that in order for sheep to lie down and sleep, four things must happen:
1. free of fear – from predators
2. free of friction – bullies in the flock
3. free of pests – ticks and parasites, flies that irritate.
4. free of hunger – they won’t lie down until they have eaten enough.
It’s just like us. As long as there is uncertainty and fear, we just can’t rest. As long as there are irritations or friction, we are nervous. We try to rest, but we just can’t shut our minds off. There are so many details to take care of. There are so many things on our TO DO list. And he tells us to REST?
That’s the Mary/Martha syndrome! Martha…slow down, take a break. REST! And God says, Let me deal with the parasites and the predators…let me deal with the bullies and you just sit here and eat and enjoy the lush pastures and let me handle the fears. REST! And let me be your shepherd.
A verse that has been very close to me has been Isaiah 30:15 “The Lord God of Israel had said, “In repentance and rest you will be saved; In quietness and trust is your strength…””
II. He leads me beside still waters. God wants to REFRESH -- because I’m afraid
Sheep are afraid of moving water. They are not good swimmers, they want everything calm and peaceful. They are afraid. So the shepherd knows how to lead them to places where they will not be afraid. I know the verse says “still waters.” The point is not that they are quiet, but that they are safe waters. God does not offer the absence of turbulence, but the absence of fear. Sheep sense what they perceive to be danger. The shepherd knows how to calm that fear.