Is the Lord truly your shepherd?
Psalm 23 contains a short yet beautiful portrait of our relationship with God. It promises comfort and protection to those who remain close to the Shepherd and demonstrates how our spiritual needs are met in the Lord.
Joel Preston originally wrote this message and I thought it was great. I tweaked it a little to fit my mentality, though, but I want to give him credit.
-This is one of the most familiar passages of Scripture in the Word of God and it’s familiarity is only rivaled by John 3:16.
- The Psalm was written by the would-be king of Israel, David the son of Jesse, who spent much of his early life tending to the sheep of his father.
- Interestingly, it is written not from the perspective of David as the shepherd, but from the perspective of a sheep and his relationship with the shepherd.
- The idea of the sheep and shepherd relationship is taught in the Word of God to describe the relationship between believers and their heavenly Father.
*Psalm 95:7 “For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.”
-Let me remind you what sheep are like.
* First, sheep are stubborn
- Sheep can get easily lost because they tend to go their own way. Like sheep, believers have a tendency to go their own direction rather than follow the divine Shepherds plan.
- Psalm 119:176 “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.”
*. Second, sheep are smelly
- Sheep do nothing to cleanse themselves. They do not bathe, roll, scrape, or lick. They remain filthy until the shepherd finds a way to clean them. The same is true with Christians; we cannot cleanse ourselves without the help of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Psalm 119:9 “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.”
*Third, sheep are stupid
-Sheep need the guidance of the shepherd for food and protection from harmful and poisonous weeds. They will eat anything. Similarly, believers have a propensity for eating up the latest trends and Christian “cures”, when what we really need is to find our guidance for life in the Word of God.
* Psalm 119:105 “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
- In the first verse of Psalm 23 we learn that it is possible to live free from wants. Most people in our society are consumed with the idea of getting more and bigger stuff. People strap themselves with huge mortgages, heavy car payments, high credit card bills and still they are constantly looking for more.
- You will never find true satisfaction until you learn to accept what God wants you to have and you become content with Him!
* Hebrews 13:5 “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”
Often times, we read this passage as a simple comforting Psalm. We say it in monotone, no feeling, no emotion, no passion. I believe David had passion about the Lord when he wrote this Psalm.
Illustration about passion in marriage
THEREFORE, WE MUST make sure the Lord truly is our Shepherd
*I. BY TRUSTING THE SHEPHERDS PERSON V. 1
- Psalm 23:1
- Notice the phrase, “The Lord…”
- This Psalm begins and ends with, “the Lord” (Vs. 6). This establishes the importance of the relationship of the sheep to the shepherd.
* There are several names for God not used in this Psalm. It does not say, “God (Elohim) is my shepherd,” for that speaks of Him as the great and mighty Creator who is separate from the world. Neither does it say, “The Master (Adonai) is my shepherd.” That speaks of a servant slave relationship. Rather, it says “The Lord (Jehovah) is my shepherd.” This is a term of personal relationship, which means that you can get close to Him.
* Why is this important?
*Jehovah is God’s name!
What does “Jehovah” mean?
*“the existing One”
*the proper name of the one true God
- For example: My name is Brian. The truth is that you can call me Preacher, Student, or Brother. While I am all of those things, my name is Brian. My wife can call me Husband or any other choice word, my Mom can call me son, my kids can call me Father or dad; none of those are my names. They describe what I do or who I am in the relationship. My name is Brian.
* Those who are not satisfied in the Lord have not come to the place where they completely trust or are willing to give their lives to the Lord and let Him have complete control.
* The real problem is that: It is an issue of surrender.
- The condition of any sheep is totally dependent on the care of the shepherd. If the sheep do not follow the shepherd, the sheep will be sickly. Conversely, if the sheep are diligent, they will be healthy.
- He is deserving of control and is capable of managing our lives because of Who He is.
* Who is He?
* First, He is our Creator
* Psalm 100:3 “Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”
- The wonderful truth of the Word of God is that the Creator of the universe is big enough to rule it all and yet is personal enough to reside in my heart and have complete control of my life.
* Second, He is our Savior
* Isaiah 53:6 “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
- We are privileged to have a relationship with God. A personal relationship that is based on His unconditional love for me, and my trust in the Person of His Son – Jesus Christ!
* John 10:11 “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”
- We can never truly trust Him apart from complete trust in Christ’s Person!
*We should not only trust in the shepherds person but also
*II. BY TRUSTING THE SHEPHERDS POSITION V. 1
- Notice the phrase, “Is my shepherd…”
- Grammatically speaking, these are key words in this verse.
* First, the present tense verb – “is”
- What does the word “is” imply?
* Some try to live on past experiences with God, i.e., “The Lord was my Shepherd.”
* Others only plan to get close to the Lord-Shepherd in the future, i.e., “The Lord will be my Shepherd.”
- Yet, David plainly stated that “the Lord is my Shepherd” – present tense!
* This means two things.
Right now – the Lord will care for you and protect you today!
*Right here – you don’t have to go some place else to get into the Shepherd’s care! He will care for you and protect you right where you are!
* Exodus 3:14 “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.”
-- Little story: My name is “I AM” I was regretting the past and fearing the future. Suddenly my Lord was speaking: “My name is “I AM.” He paused. I waited, He continued, “When you live in the past with its mistakes and regrets, it is hard. I am not there. My name is not ‘I WAS.’ When you live in the future with its problems and fears, it is hard. I am not there. My name is not ‘I WILL BE.’ When you live in this moment it is not hard; I am there! My name is ‘I AM!’
- David had complete assurance that he belonged to God. There was no “if”, “but”, or “I hope so” in David’s mind.
* Second, the personal pronoun – “my”
* Notice that David did not say, “The Lord is a shepherd,” for that makes Him one among many? Who or what is your shepherd? Your Job? Family? Bank account? Retirement fund?
- Also, he did not say, “The Lord is the shepherd,” for that makes important, but impersonal.
* He did not say, “The Lord is our shepherd,” for that makes Him relate to me in a crowd. “I’m only one among many!”
* Rather, David knew that he belonged to the Lord and that the Lord belonged to him.
* Song of Solomon 2:16 “My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies.”
- Only when you fully understand that you belong to the Shepherd will you find true satisfaction and peace.
-- ILL: Branding Phillip Keller wrote in his book “A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm,” about when he bought his first thirty sheep. He wrote, “Each shepherd has his own distinctive earmark which he cuts into one of the ears of his sheep. In this way, even at a distance, it is easy to determine to whom the sheep belong. It was not the most pleasant procedure to catch each ewe in turn and lay her ear on a wooden block, then notch it deeply with the razor-sharp edge of the knife. There was pain for both of us. But from our mutual suffering an indelible lifelong mark of ownership was made that could never be erased. And from then on every sheep that came into my possession would bear my mark.”
- The same is true with us. God has forever connected us to Himself through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and the wounds that he suffered for us. However, the Lord also put His mark or seal upon us.
* 1 Corinthian 6:19-20 “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
*For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
* Ephesians 1:13-14 “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise,
*Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”
- You see, a shepherd may be the owner of the sheep, but more than this he is always the manager of the sheep! He guides them everywhere they go and literally makes their decisions for them!
- The greatest decision that you will ever make as a believer is that you are no longer in charge of your life and decisions. Rather, you completely surrender to Him and put your trust in His position as your shepherd!
*We need to not only trust his person and position, but also
*III. BY TRUSTING THE SHEPHERDS PROVISION V. 1
- Psalm 23:1
- Notice the phrase, “I shall not want.”
- This means that He has completely satisfied me. As one little boy said, “The Lord is my Shepherd, He is all I want.”
- One of the greatest problems in our American society today is that of materialism. We have been brainwashed into believing that we must have more and more all of the time!
* 1 Timothy 6:6-10 “But godliness with contentment is great gain.
*For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
*And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
*But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
*For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
* Notice what the Shepherd has provided for us.
* First, He has provided eternal life
* John 10:27-29 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
*And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
* My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”
- The eternal security of the believer is just one of the many reasons that we can implicitly trust Him. Not only has he provided the way to heaven, but once we know Christ we can never ever lose Him.
* Second, He has provided abundant life
* John 10:10 “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
- The happiest people you will ever know are those who have a strong trust in the Lord’s provision. They understand that the Christ-life is full of true joy, unfathomable peace, spiritual strength, and everlasting satisfaction.
*Because of God’s blessing to His children.
* Psalm 68:19 “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.”
* We lack nothing with the Lord as our shepherd.
* We shall not want
* Want, in this context, does not refer to the desires we have, such as I want a new car or boat.
*Rather, it means: to lack, be without, decrease, be lacking, or have a need
Let’s go through the rest of the chapter and look at how we will not be in wanting.
*v2: “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”
* I shall not lack rest…
Sometimes, it is good just to relax and reflect on what God has done for you. When you are focused on Him and the blessings you have received, you will feel refreshed.
*v2: “He leadeth me beside the still waters.”
*I shall not lack refreshment…
As a side note, water is always the symbol for life. If you look at a river, it is almost always greener beside the river or pond than it is in the rest of the pasture. God wants us to not only be refreshed, but to grow.
By the way, if we want Him to lead us, we have to follow. Follow means to be on the same road as. We can’t claim that we are following God and then try our own path. It doesn’t work that way.
*v3: “He restoreth my soul.”
*I shall not lack restoration…
*v3: “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”
*I shall not lack guidance…
NOTE: We have to listen to Him if we want Him to guide us. It doesn’t do any good to pray for His guidance, then try to do it our own way.
*v4: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.”
*I shall not lack companionship in the hours of trial…
We may not always have a human friend beside us, but if we are walking with God, He is always beside us.
1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us: That there is no temptation or trial that God does not make a way to get through it. He will not allow us to suffer anything that we are not able to handle.
*v4: “Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
*I shall not lack comfort…
NOTE: the rod is used for protection. It was like a club that the shepherd used to beat predators away from the sheep.
The staff was used for correction, to bring the sheep back into the fold. We often look at our correction as a bad thing, its not. God says He chastens or disciplines those whom He loves. If you feel God is disciplining you, feel the love.
*v5: “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.”
*I shall not lack provision…He will meet our needs, not necessarily our wants.
*v5: “Thou anointest my head with oil.”
*I shall not lack power…
When we are walking with Christ, the Holy Spirit is active in our lives and will give us the power to accomplish what He has us to do.
*v5: “My cup runneth over.”
*I shall not lack satisfaction…
He doesn’t just fill us part way, when He does something, He does it right.
* John 10:10 “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
*v6: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”
*I shall not lack joy… If we allow the Lord to be our shepherd, He will fill our lives with true joy.
*v6: “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
* I shall not lack a home…
We have an eternal home waiting for us.
Sheep have a tendency to wander away from the flock in search of what they think is greener pastures. You may think there is not much wrong with that, as long as the sheep comes back into the fold. The problem is, too many times, a single sheep straying away can lead a whole group away.
We can be the same way. If we are not diligent in our lives to follow Christ and allow Him to be our Shepherd, we stray from the fold. But we often take others with us. We influence those around us more that we realize.
We can only know true satisfaction through trusting in the Shepherd’s person, position and provision.
*If we don’t trust Him as our Shepherd at all times, and in all things, we truly don’t trust Him at all.
Illustration: I once saw a short clip of a wedding. The bride had her fancy wedding dress and the groom had his nice tux. The preacher begins the ceremony and when he gets to the vows, the bride stops him and says that they have written their own vows. Of course, the preacher wanted to accommodate them, so he let them begin. The groom went first and said how much his new bride meant to him and that he was looking forward to them spending the rest of their lives together. The bride began her vows much like the groom, but then a twist came. She said that while she loved him and wanted to spend the rest of her life with him, she wanted one day a year to act like a single girl. She wanted one day a year to visit with and date old boyfriends without worrying about what her new husband would say. She asked if the groom was going to have a problem with that request.
Well, the groom’s jaw just dropped. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He told her that he wanted all of her, not just part. He said that she, and her family, must be nuts if they expected him to share her with other guys, even one day per year.
You know, we are a lot like that with Christ. We claim that we love Him and want to serve Him, but then we do things like the world does. We say we want His guidance, then we do things our own way and we don’t follow Him. We say we want His blessings, comfort, peace and grace on a full time basis, but we don’t do our part of acting like a Christian full time. Most days, an unbeliever may not even notice a difference between us and the rest of the world.
We chase after money, boats, houses and other personal items, but the things of this world will never satisfy you. Yes, you will enjoy them for a season. They won’t fill the hole that the Lord wants to fill in your life. Rather, these things have a tendency to produce in us an insatiable desire for more. This desire can never be quenched.
* True satisfaction in life comes only
*through our trusting in the care of our Shepherd.
* Only when we can truly say, with the passion that David did, that, “the Lord is my shepherd,” will we ever be able to say, “I shall not want.”
I go back to my first question I had for you this evening. Is the Lord truly your Shepherd?