TEXT: Psalm 23
TITLE: PAUSE TO APPRECIATE Psalm 23: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I Shall not want. . .”
TOPIC: God’s provision / self control
OCCASION: Burnside Christian Church, March 7, 2010
PROP.: God’s abundant provision leaves us not wanting!
INTRODUCTION: Good morning!
We are in a sermon series called: PAUSE.
Today we start a sermon series within a sermon series. For the next 4 weeks, we are going to PAUSE TO APPRECIATE Psalm 23. Because I believe that Psalm 23 is taken for granted!
You see, Psalm 23 is the refrigerator light of the Bible. It gets so taken for granted that the only time we notice it, is when it doesn’t seem to be working! The only time we may think about Psalm 23 is at funerals.
In fact, your reaction when I just gave to you our text for our sermon today was like: “Psalm 23. Really? I mean, what can you possibly teach us about Psalm 23 that we don’t all ready know?”
Well the truth is, I was tempted to preach through Psalms and skip over Psalm 23 because I thought it would be so regular, so typical, so predictable that I was hesitant to launch into this mini-series.
But as I studied this passage, I have come to realize and appreciate why this passage is a source of comfort for so many Christians throughout the years. I mean this Psalm is read at just about so many funerals that we associate David’s Psalm with death. But listen, This Psalm was intended to bring comfort to the living!!!
So if you are mentally rolling your eyes at Psalm 23 thinking that you know everything there is to know about Psalm 23...sit up, take notice and remember that the word of God is LIVING and ACTIVE. And so I hope that you’ll pause to appreciate that which is familiar…that which we tend to take for granted.
So let’s begin this morning by asking a question. Imagine for a moment that a non-Christian…a non-believer…someone who doesn’t follow Jesus asks you this question:
What are the benefits of living the Christian Life?
What would you say? Think about that. Have you ever had someone press you about what you’re so fired up about? Did you have a good answer? The sad thing is that so many times Christians are pressed about something like this, and they don’t know how to answer. Or what’s worse yet, they know the answers but they are not experiencing it.
They could tell you about JOY, but not experiencing it.
They could tell you about PEACE, know that I’m supposed to have it…but I don’t have it.
They know the answers but not really experiencing the answers. And listen to me Christians…that’s really sad.
Well, you know almost 3,000 years ago, there was a shepherd boy who wrote a psalm. It’s the 23rd psalm. It has brought phenomenal comfort, peace and fulfillment to the people of God throughout the ages than almost any other passage of scripture.
And Psalm 23 is David’s answer to the question I asked of you. “What exactly are the benefits of the Christian life?” That’s what the 23 Psalm is all about. So we are going to be going over, the LAVISH BENEFITS of life experienced in the 23rd Psalm.
Psalm 23. Turn there.
No portion of scripture, old or new testament is so universally celebrated by believers and non-believers alike.
David, the great Psalmist and King of Israel, reflects on his personal experiences with God. And in the 23rd Psalm he compacts it down into some incredible statements. In fact, in this mini-sermon series, we are going to be looking at 4 phrases of Psalm 23 so that we will be able to gain a better APPRECIATION for God and his work in the lives of those who believe in His son Jesus Christ.
Let’s read the entire Psalm 23 this morning:
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death, [a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
T.S.: So today we are just going to focus on verse one of Psalm 23.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.”
What we are going to do is break down this phrase into two parts. And because I want you to know just how much of a creative genius that your preacher is not to mention a spiritual giant…So here is my creative outline. I have three points. Here is my first point…
I. I SHALL NOT WANT
There it is! But I mean you can’t really improve on it! Well I think we learn three things about this statement…first we learn that
A. This is a statement of SUPPLY
I think this statement begs the question…“Shall not want what?” Well I think it would be helpful to note that this is not an isolated promise! There are other scriptures that claim this same promise - that God’s commitment to HIS CHILDREN are such that we shall not be in want.
Scriptures like: Psalm 84:11 - For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.
Psalm 34:9 - Fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing.
Matthew 6:33 - But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Philippians 4:19 - 19And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
Time and time again, the Bible asserts this promise that God is incredibly interested in SUPPLYING His children! He doesn’t want us to be in want.
Now part of defending the truth is exposing what’s NOT true. I wish I didn’t have to talk about this, but we must because there is some very false teaching looming around about WHAT exactly God supplies. And people are taking it and distorting it. And as a result, the Children of God are expecting God to do things that He’s NEVER promised to do. And as a result, there is a LOT of frustration that comes with that.
“I shall not want” DOESN’T MEAN:
There are those who believe that God promises to all of His followers riches. That if you are truly following God and living according by faith- then you will absolutely prosper financially - that’s a fact.
And they would say - Look at King David he was rich. And look at Abraham, he was rich. And look at Solomon.
To which I would reply - What about Elijah? He was poor. Look at the apostles, they were poor. Look at Jesus Christ HIMSELF who said, ‘I don’t even have a place to lay my head down’
There is no connection between prosperity and faithfulness in the Gospel. There are a LOT of rich people out there today WHO DO NOT FOLLOW GOD!
When the scriptures promise that we shall not want, it’s not promising financial prosperity. And whoever is telling you that it does promise that is distorting God’s word and setting you up for disappointment. Got it?
Secondly, not only does it not promise wealth…it doesn’t promise…
There are some who would say that every person who comes to the cross of Christ, every person who receives Christ personally, will never get sick. And if you get sick, it’s just because you have a lack of faith. And the atonement of Christ not only includes forgiveness of sins, but health throughout your life!
Does the Bible teach that? They will quote passages like Isaiah 53:5 which says:
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
You see? Healing! Healing! No. First of all, the concept of healing in the Bible is used many times in a figurative way. Healed from the effects of sin. Healed eternally! And if you have any doubt about that, just read the next verse, Isaiah 53:6
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the SICKNESS of us all?
No. The INIQUITY of us all. The healing is the removal of sin! The Bible does not promise health to everyone.
The apostle Paul himself had a thorn in the flesh that the Lord did not heal him from.
Now, having said that, let’s not back up too far. Because I do believe that God can and does heal! I believe God heals his Children as an answer to prayer! God doesn’t heal on demand. God doesn’t heal every person all the time. But he certainly does heal!
And lastly, the Bible doesn’t promise
I shall not want doesn’t mean happiness. It doesn’t mean that you will never be discouraged. It doesn’t mean that you’ll never had a bad day. And so don’t be so hard on yourself thinking that the Bible has promised something that it hasn’t! Remember the Psalm of Lament by David? He was facing real tough times that challenged his faith.
God never promised that our lives would be easy and perfect.
So I shall not want doesn’t promise wealth, health or happiness. Are you ready to know what it DOES promise? Good! Me too!
“I shall not want” DOES MEAN
--God will supply our basic needs of life.
So many people become anxious about the basic needs of life. And God HAS PROMISED that His children will not go hungry. God’s followers will not go naked.
This is just one place in scripture where God makes a promise to supply our basic needs.
But there is something deeper here I think than merely basic needs.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…”
--I shall not want…another SHEPHERD!
I do not want another master; God will be my only master; my only guide. I am completely content with his management of my life! And though my life is difficult, He has not failed me. And though there have been disappointments, His promises hold true. And He is everything that I need Him to be! The Lord is my shepherd…and I don’t want another one!
Really, when you think about it…
B. This is a statement of (CONTENTMENT) SELF CONTROL
“I shall not want”. Think about all the pain in life that is caused by wanting. Have you ever convinced yourself that you wanted something so badly and if you could just have it, that your life would be better; more complete?
How did that work out for you? We sacrifice the JOY found in the present trying to make the future better. And in our efforts to do so, we are left discontent with the way things are and disconnected from the ones we love because, “I can’t talk now…I’m trying to make a better life for us…”
Think about your life. How much pain and frustration come into your life because of things you WANT?
“I SHALL NOT WANT…” Ohhhh…to come to the place in life where if someone were to say to you: “Wouldn’t your life be better if you had more of…” No!” LISTEN: I SHALL NOT WANT…it’s a statement of self control.
But it’s also
C. A statement of CONFIDENCE
Notice David’s confidence. I love it. He doesn’t say: I might not want. I hope I do not want. He says: I SHALL NOT WANT!
But notice this as well. He doesn’t say - “I did not want.” He doesn’t say “I do not want”. He says…I (past, present or future? FUTURE) SHALL not want.
David is saying - “The more I follow my shepherd…the more time I spend with him…the more I see Him reducing in my life my desire for other things.” When I’m close to Him - don’t want much else. Far from him; caught up chasing all sorts of non-sense. What a phenomenal statement made by David. He is saying, “I believe if I keep going in the direction I am going - following the Shepherd - there will come a day when I don’t want anything else!” Such a statement of confidence! Lord, may we have such confidence as David in your provision!
Point #2 is just as earth shaking as the first…
II. MY Shepherd
How great it would be for God to give us a life of supply, contentment and confidence to trust in his provision. Of course, all of this is rooted in MY SHEPHERD!
Did you know that over 200 times, God’s relationship to his children is compared to the relationship between sheep and a shepherd?
A. The Need for a shepherd
We NEED A SHEPHERD! You know why we need a shepherd? Because we are like sheep!!!
There are so many animals that we could be compared to. The eagle. The lion. A stallion! But no. We get the sheep. And for good reason. We are like sheep!
First of all,
--We are prone to follow
Boy, human beings have the herding instinct don’t we? We do what’s in style. What everyone else is doing. “If all of your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?” YEAH. PROBABLY.
Second, we’re like sheep because
--we are vulnerable
We are weak. So are sheep. You know, most farm animals exist pretty well without human supervision. What do you call someone who shepherds chickens? Well…chickens don’t have a shepherd. You’re right. And neither do cows. And neither do horses. Sheep! They get a shepherd! Why? Because they need one! Why? Because they are vulnerable. Because they are weak.
We are also like sheep because
--we are stupid
Now this is NOT what God calls us. But I’m going to go ahead and say it…SHEEP ARE DUMB!
ILLUSTRATION: When Lindsay and I were serving at Oak Missouri, there was a lady there who had sheep. She still has sheep to this day. Her name is Joyce Kagay. I talked to her about sheep and would listen to stories about how she would care for them. And as I listened to the stories, it became clear to me that sheep are stupid. Did you know that sheep will gather together for warmth - and they will gather together so tightly that some sheep have actually been known to suffocate?
Sheep will blindly follow the sheep in front of them…(OPTION) THE YOUTUBE VIDEO CALLED - Stupid sheep thinks it’s a deer by Muckel6
And so it’s true…we need a shepherd…but here’s the good news!
B. We have a shepherd
Our shepherd is Jesus Christ the lord.
Over and over in the New Testament, Jesus reveals himself as our shepherd!
Mark 6:34 - When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.
1st Peter 5:4 - And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
Revelation 7:17 - For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd;
he will lead them to springs of living water. and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
How is he like a shepherd?
--He leads us
Jesus doesn’t DRIVE us. He leads us. Shepherds lead out in front! Isn’t it great to know that there isn’t a low place or a dark place where the sheep go where the shepherd has not led.
--He protects us
Sheep need protection from thieves and predators. And the enemy of our souls would steal our focus and the shepherd protects us. That’s why I’m here today - because the shepherd led me here today and he wants to fill my mind with good things and he wants to protect me!
Well the phrase MY SHEPHERD is a very
C. Personal statement
The most important word in this statement is: MY! It denotes ownership! It does YOU no good if the Lord is Mark Nichols’ shepherd. Everything I have shared with you today is hopeless and useless if you cannot say from your heart - THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD!
And in order for the Lord to be your shepherd you have to make a personal decision! Christ calls all men and women everywhere to turn from their sin and follow him!
You either are or aren’t led by the shepherd. “well, I think he’s my shepherd.”
Because you don’t have to think that He’s your shepherd…you can KNOW that he is your shepherd!
In John 10 we can KNOW that the Lord leads us. And I’ll give you a little two point test. And you can answer the questions honestly, and then you’ll know. Then you’ll know honestly if the Lord is YOUR shepherd.
John 10:27 - “If the Lord is MY shepherd then…”
“My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me!”
There it is! Are you one of His sheep? Do you hear his voice? Do you hear the Lord speaking to you through His word? As truth is being spoken into your life, do you hear God speaking?
Do you follow Jesus? After understanding what God expects of you, do you FOLLOW Him?
And you say, “Well I’m not following perfectly.” No, but you’re following him! And you say, “But I stumble sometimes.” Yeah, but you get up. You’re following Him.
Are you? Maybe you’re not! Maybe you never think about Him. Maybe you could hardly care less? Then you can’t say - the Lord is my shepherd.
And so the most important word in the 23rd Psalm is MY. Because if you haven’t claimed the shepherd as YOURS…then what are you doing here?
III. The LORD is
A. A VERY personal care
This word reveals a VERY personal care! The word translated LORD is important! It’s the Hebrew term that is translated 6800 times in the Old Testament. It’s the special, unique, name for God.
The Hebrew word has just four constantans. It’s been translated sometimes Yaweh. Sometimes Jehovah. But those who translated the Old Testament considered this word so sacred that they wouldn’t even speak it in it’s original form.
And honestly, the translators of scripture have done us a dis-service, by translating it LORD. Because Lord is a title. It’s not a name. It’s a title. And God doesn’t want to be known by a title.
If someone were to say to you: Don’t call me BOB, call me DOCTOR. And I said, Don’t call me Mark call me PASTOR. What is the message I would be sending? I’d be saying, “back off! Don’t you know who I am? I have a title!” Of course I wouldn’t do that.
And here in the 23rd Psalm is not the TITLE of God…it’s the NAME of God. Because God wants to be known…and God wants to know us personally! It’s not some big group of people and you’re just a number. God knows you personally! Intimately!
And here’s the last thing:
B. It’s a POWERFUL care
This sacred term reminds us that God is to be revered. He is holy. He is beyond us! And we have not just some ordinary guide. Some ordinary shepherd. WE have the LORD as our shepherd! The God who has revealed Himself to us through what has been made. The Lord who is mighty to save! The Lord who is above all powers!!!
THERE NO NAME UNDER HEAVEN BY WHICH MEN ARE SAVED!
What a powerful assertion! THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD, I SHALL NOT WANT!
CONCLUSION: This morning, it is my hope that you understand this blessing. That you experience this gift on a daily basis. That you know what it means to have God as your shepherd. But perhaps you have taken it for granted far too long. Or maybe you’re here today and you don’t know the Lord as your shepherd. You’ve never committed your life to Him. You’ve never confessed before anyone that Jesus is the lord of your life…you’ve never accepted Christ at the waters of baptism.
Wouldn’t you like to? This time of decision is for you! Won’t you come to know the good shepherd? Let’s stand and sing. And if you have a decision that you need to make today, won’t you do so?