Summary: "I shall not want... I will not fear... I will dwell..." -- three great affirmations expressing confidence in God who provides for our needs, protects us from harm, and promises us abundant and eternal life.
GREAT STORIES OF THE OLD TESTAMENT:
OUR CONFIDENCE IN GOD
(The Shepherds Psalm)
We have been looking at some of the Great STORIES of the Old Testament, stories of people and their encounters with God, stories of how God worked in someone’s life. Today’s sermon, however, is not strictly a STORY. Rather it is a SONG. But in that song we find one of the most beautiful stories ever told. It is a story of God’s love and care for his children.
Psalm 23 is called the Shepherds Psalm, because it portrays God as a good Shepherd, who cares for and looks after this flock. The Psalm is attributed to King David. If anyone was qualified to describe God in this manner, David was. We know from the Bible that David had been a shepherd before he became a king. So David had a pretty good idea of what a shepherd is like. How often David must have gazed up at the heavens on those star-filled nights while he was out watching over his father’s sheep and pondered the very nature of God! There in the depths of his heart he must have pondered how much God was just like a shepherd. His years of shepherding had taught him a few things, and as he contemplated the shepherd’s work, he found there a fitting description of what God does for his people.
We love this Psalm because it speaks so tenderly about life. Of all the psalms in the Bible, this 23rd Psalm is the best-known, and best-loved, of all of them -- not to mention it is the most-memorized. It is read at funerals to comfort the sorrowing, and at hospital beds to encourage the suffering, and to those who have run aground on the discouragements of life. We read it because it is a song of confidence -- a song of confidence in God.
When we read this Psalm we find three great affirmations of confidence in God.
First of all, Psalm 23 expresses confidence in A GOD WHO PROVIDES. David wrote: “The Lord is my Shepherd: I shall not want.”
David remembered well how important it was for the shepherd to watch out for the welfare of the sheep, to see that there was good pasturage. Sheep, by themselves, would not know where the best pasturage is. They need the shepherd to bring them to fields of green grass and fresh water, where they can lie down and rest and be nourished. Then their strength would be restored or renewed.
Rest... refreshment... and renewal... those are the primary tasks of the shepherd in keeping the sheep. For without that they become sickly or ill-fed. They put their trust in the shepherd to take care of them.
God cares for us in the same way. Just as the shepherd cares for the sheep, so God, in a spiritual sense, “makes us to lie down in green pastures, and leads us beside the still waters, and restores our soul.” What David is saying, is that we can trust God for our needs in life. When we rest in God’s love, feed upon God’s word, drink of his living water, our souls are restored. Psalm 23 is a psalm about God’s provision.
This is so important in this day when so much emphasis is put on what we can get in life. There are so many people today who are driven by materialism. They confuse their wants with their needs and are never satisfied.
Did you by any chance see the film Cool Runnings? It came out several years ago. It’s the story of the first Jamaican bobsled team to go to the Olympics. John Candy plays a former American gold medalist who becomes a coach for the Jamaican team. The players grow to like their American coach and affectionately call him “sled-god.”
Later in the story, however, the coach’s dark history comes out. The coach too had been an Olympic bobsled gold-medalist. But afterwards, it was discovered that he had broken the rules by weighting the U.S. sled, bringing disgrace on himself and his team.
One of the Jamaican bobsledders could not understand why anyone who had already won a gold medal would cheat. Finally, he nervously asked his coach to explain.
“I had to win,” he said. “I learned something. If you are not happy without a gold medal, you won’t be happy with it.” 1
This is what many people discover in their lives. They spend their lives trying to get more and more, trying to find happiness and contentment in life, but they discover that in the end they have not really found happiness. They have only found things.
Psalm 23 captures the secret to contentment in life. It is to trust in God, rather than in things to bring happiness.