Summary: God Is Now Here 1) To provide 2) To protect 3) Perpetually
The Journal ran an article last week about the need to screen vanity plate applications so nothing offensive or obscene gets embossed on government issued license plates. For example an Ontario woman’s request to put her maiden name on her vanity plate was denied because the plate would have read: WEED. The Ontario government obviously doesn’t want to be thought of as condoning drug use. The fun thing about vanity plates is that they often have more than one meaning. For example there is a plate that reads: U R NXT. If you’re tailing this vehicle the meaning seems obvious. You’re the next vehicle in line. There must be another, more macabre meaning however because this plate, U R NXT, belongs to a hearse.
It often takes a moment to make sense of a vanity plate when you first see it. For example, if you saw a plate with the following letters on it, GODISNOWHERE, what would you think is the intended message? It depends doesn’t it? Is the owner of that car an atheist? If so, the plate should read “God Is Nowhere.” If on the other hand the owner of that vehicle is a believer, then the plate must read: “God Is Now Here.” Perhaps the way YOU read the plate says more about you than the owner of the plate. “God Is Nowhere.” “God Is Now Here.” Let’s face it; we’ve felt both to be true at times haven’t we? Today’s sermon text, the well-known Psalm 23, assures us that God is now here to provide, to protect, perpetually.
Psalm 23 begins, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul” (Psalm 23:1-3a). If you were to hike around Ireland, you would see sheep everywhere lying down in green pastures because water is abundant on the “Emerald Isle.” Keep in mind, however, that Psalm 23 was written by King David. He had been a shepherd in the hot, dry, dusty Middle East. It would have been no easy thing for a shepherd there to find lush green grass and flowing water for his sheep to enjoy. One Bible commentator, who himself had been a shepherd in east Africa, wrote that a shepherd would have to work hard to provide green grass and water in a climate like the one David worked in. He would have to cultivate and irrigate a patch of ground to provide those comforts for his sheep. That was hard, dirty work. Yet the shepherd who did this obviously loved his sheep.
And so it is with God. He loves us very much and works hard to provide what we need so that our soul will be at rest. Then how come we have sleepless nights? How come we worry about the state of affairs in our household? Why do we look at what we have, or don’t have and think: “If God is here, he must be asleep because he’s not doing a good job of caring for me!” Such an attitude shows a lack of trust in God’s power and concern for us. It’s a sin for which we need to repent. And it’s a sin that we all struggle with because we live in a society that says more is better. But that wasn’t David’s attitude. He said, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want” (Psalm 23:1). In other words, with the Lord as my shepherd I really have everything I need. Or to put it another way, if the Lord doesn’t provide it, I must not need it. The Apostle Paul got it when he wrote: “But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:6-9). God IS now here, Brothers and Sisters. He is caring for you. Even right now you are lying down in green pastures even though you may not have the kind of home, car, or health you would like. Stop pining for these things and let your heart be at peace.
One of my most vivid memories of a backpacking trip I took in Ireland was seeing a thin ribbon of white undulating over the green mountainside. When my buddies and I got closer we saw that a shepherd was leading his flock from one pasture to another. And so, says David, our God also leads us. “He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:3b, 4).