Summary: Even in the Valley of the Shadow of Death our Shepherd is with us.
Three buddies die in a car and go to heaven for an orientation. They are all asked, "When you are in your casket and friends and family are mourning over you, what would you like to hear them say about you?"
The first guy says, "I would like to hear them say that I was a great doctor of my time, and a great family man."
The second guy says, "I would like to hear that I was a wonderful husband and school teacher which made a huge difference in our children of tomorrow."
The last guy replies, "I would like to hear them say, ‘LOOK, HE'S MOVING!!!!!'"
Death is such a hard subject to deal with sometimes, but it is one that we all know that we can’t avoid. As a result often times we joke about it, to relieve the stress. Consider if you will the case if a tombstone in England, Remember man, as you walk by, As you are now, so once was I. As I am now, so shall you be. Remember this and follow me. To which someone replied by writing on the tombstone: To follow you I'll not consent, Until I know which way you went.
As followers of Christ, it’s good to know where He went and that He said we could go there with Him. It’s natural for sheep to follow the shepherd and that’s who we are and that’s who He is. We’re the sheep and He is our Shepherd, because of this we have the assurance that we can follow him. We’re going to spend today looking at the passage, “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.” Let’s start today by reading through the entire 23rd Psalm together, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
We’re continuing our walk through the 23rd Psalm but today’s passage marks a change in the attitude to of the sheep. The first three verses are the sheep, specifically David, discussing what the shepherd does for him. All of these things could have been done by one sheep talking to another sheep over the fence between their pastures. Can you picture it? Two sheep from different flocks are talking, “Who’s your shepherd?” “The Lord is my shepherd.” I mean there’s no topping that, there’s simply nothing better, and no where up to go from there.
The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want, because He provides for me and because He teaches me to be content. He makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters, which is often a lot of work for Him too. But I can relax because I can trust the shepherd. Those times that I become downcast, He comes and restores me, and although it’s uncomfortable, He leads me in paths of righteousness to help me never be downcast again.” These are things that one sheep might say to another over the fence. But then change will come for the sheep. The sheep can not always stay in the safety of one ranch, they must move to and from the mountains. See the shepherd would have two different ranches for the sheep, one is the summer pasture and one is the winter pasture. The locations will be many miles apart, one will be in the low lands and one will be up in the mountains.
The journey both ways will be difficult, but it is necessary for the sheep to thrive. Despite their wool they are very thin skinned which means that they are susceptible to the cold of winter and the heat of summer. The best path to get to and from the mountains is through the valleys that occur between them. While this makes sense and may seem comforting to those of us who live in a valley, these valleys are narrow and deep, the shepherds will have moved their flocks through them for generations meaning that the predators know this is where the sheep will be too. The result is that the valley is a dark and dangerous place.