Summary: Concluding sermon of a series which sees the final verse as a statement of confidence and contentment in the shepherd.
Recently a teacher, a garbage collector, and a lawyer wound up together at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter informed them that in order to get into Heaven, they would each have to answer one question.
St. Peter Address the teacher and asked, “What was the name of the ship that crashed into the iceberg? They made a big movie about it.
The teacher answered quickly, ‘That would be the Titanic.’ St. Peter let him through the gate.
St. Peter turned to the garbage man and, figuring Heaven didn’t “really” need all the odors that his guy would bring with him, decided to make the question a little harder: “How many people died on the ship?”
Fortunately for him, the trash man had just seen the movie on TBS. “1,228,” he answered.
That’s right! You may enter.”
Then St. Peter turned to the lawyer. “Name them.”
We’ve come to the end of our series on the 23rd Psalm, and with it that examination of this loved verse. This passage is often preached at funerals because of the assurance that we receive from the final clause “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Forever with God is a promise that we all love to hear. David begins and ends this Psalm by identifying the Lord as his shepherd.
It’s fitting that he ends the Psalm with a promise about the end of life’s journey, because this Psalm has taken us on a journey and that journey is ending. This Psalm is a journey, just like life is a journey. The first three verses can be said from one sheep to another in the home winter meadows. This is where the sheep spend most of their life. It is the home ground, and here one sheep could be heard whispering to a sheep in another heard. I want you to picture that sheep. On the one side the fields are lush and green. They have been carefully fed and cleared of dangerous weeds. The shepherd has been diligent to keep the heard moving every few days so that none of the fields are over grazed and they reflect his care along with the sheep. The sheep are free of parasites and infections because the shepherd cares for them and inspects them to keep them healthy. The result of this is the pride in the sheep’s voice as he says, “The Lord is my shepherd.”
But picture the sheep on the other side of the fence, the grass is sparse from over grazing, the fields rutted from lack of proper management. The flock infested with scab and other parasites and they look longingly at across the fence. As we read the 23rd Psalm together though I want you to reflect on this question, would these sheep follow the good shepherd if they had the chance?
Consider that as we read these words together. Psalms 23, “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.”