Summary: The Lord is My Shepherd, in the heavens and the earth all I want is Him!

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Psalms 23

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The 23rd Psalm is arguably one of the most beloved chapters in the entire Bible. This “pearl of all Psalms,” has “dried many tears and supplied the mould into which many hearts have poured their peaceful faith.” Millions have memorized this passage and pastors frequently turn here to help comfort those going through trials and tribulations, illness and on the brink of physical death. In Psalms 23 King David describes his intensely intimate personal relationship with the Lord, one in which he unequivocally places his trust in God for protection and providence. While tranquility in life is not always attainable, one can walk through the darkest valleys of life without fearing evil because the Lord as our shepherd provides and protects those He calls His own. In the following sermon, I am going to explore five things that the sheep of the Lord’s flock experience: contentment, assurance, security, safety and satisfaction. Before I do so I would like to thank D.A. Carson whose sermon “The Psalm of the Sheep” has become the backbone of this sermon.

The Sheep Experience Contentment

“The Lord is my shepherd.” The word “Lord,” which means “I am who I am,” is a personal name for God first used by Moses and then repeated more than four thousand times in the O.T. While David could have used many different metaphors to describe God such as infinite, immense, good, omnipresent, immanent, holy, perfect and full of grace and mercy; it is God as shepherd that David focuses on. Since Near Eastern monarchs described their roles as protectors and administrators of justice as “shepherding,” it is likely that David in this passage is referencing God as his king. David is in awe that the God of the universe has chosen to be “HIS” personal shepherd! In Israel, as in other ancient societies, a shepherd’s work was considered the lowest of all works. For a holy God to spend twenty-four hours a day nourishing, guiding and protecting the “stiff necked” (Deuteronomy 32:9), unrighteous (Romans 3:9-18) people He calls His own (1 John 3:1); is truly a testimony of how deep and wide His love is for us! This is the kind of love in which God’s own Son, Jesus, the “Good Shepherd” (John 10); laid down His life for the sheep so that the path to come to know Him might forever be established and open to all who believe! O what sense of contentment it is to know that God has not and will never abandon His relationship with His covenant children!

“I lack nothing.” We live in a discontent society that derives their sense of fulfillment and self-identity from the accumulation of material wealth. Over the last half century disposable income in Canada has risen a staggering 600 percent! Those who forsake the springs of living water to dig their own cisterns of carnal pleasure will not be content for moths, thieves (Matthew 6:19) and ultimately time (1 Timothy 6:7) will rob them of true happiness! When David said “I lack nothing” he was not saying that God shepherded him by giving him the carnal desires of his heart but rather that his trust in God who is “self-sufficient, inexhaustible and uttered unchanged by time,” has led to him never lacking anything that he truly needed. The sheep in Psalms 23 follow the shepherd not because he offers a materially rich, easy life but because their hearts truly desire God who is “the strength of their hearts and their portion forever” (Psalms 73:25-26)!

“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters.” Since the lands of the Bible are mostly dry, rocky and having sparse water, it would be quite a feat for any shepherd to find “pleasant places full of all the necessities of life: green pastures of grass and quiet streams providing water for drinking.” God not only finds these oasis’ for His sheep but also provides the peaceful conditions necessary to get the sheep to “lie down” and rest. Phillip Keller, a pastor and author who was himself a shepherd, states that it is not until the fear of predators, friction from other sheep, the torment of flies or parasites and the possibility of going without food are removed, that the sheep will lie down and rest. Likewise, the Good Shepherd invites all who are weary and burdened (Matthew 11:28) to cast their anxieties upon Him so that they might never again go hungry or thirsty again (John 6:35) but instead experience peace (John 14:27) and contentment.

The Sheep Experience Assurance

“He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths.” “Since the word translated “soul” is actually “life,” and since the metaphor here is that of shepherding, the words probably mean “the LORD restores me to physical health.” Keller sheds some light on what David meant in this verse through his description of a “cast sheep.” This is a sheep that lies down in a hollow or depression in the ground, rolls on its side and has its feet no longer able to touch the ground. When this happens the center of gravity will shift enough to force the sheep to lie on its back which will in turn result in gasses building up in the sheep’s body and within a few hours will result in death. The shepherd constantly counts his sheep to see if any have wondered off and become cast. We as Christians are often like the cast sheep of this verse. We tend to wander on the broad path only to become captured or snared by the evil desires in our hearts (James 1:14). When this happens, we are on our backs, going nowhere in our spiritual lives. The Good Shepherd searches for us “lost” sheep (John 10) and once found invites us to repent (1 John 1:9) so that once again we might allow Him to guide our footsteps (Psalms 119:133) towards the green pastures and quiet waters of His kingdom.

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