Summary: We are called sheep, but we tend to get into some wooly situations simply because we aren't sheepish. It is time to learn to be sheep and to follow The Shepherd.
Pt. 3 - The Path
500 times. More than any other animal mentioned in Scripture. So engrained in the mindset and culture of the Bible that they instantly understood and comprehended the meaning associated with the comparison throughout the Old and then into the New Testament. Jesus, the Son of God, the King, the Messiah, is understandable to us as the Lion but to the people of His day the description made sense when He is described as the Lamb of God. The problem is we aren't as familiar with the idea of sheep and shepherds so we struggle to be as sheepish as we should be. And yet, for most of us the text today resonates at such a deep level that it is used at almost every funeral. However, I am convinced that although it resonates deep within us we don't really understand it and therefore we don't apply it to our daily walk and then we find ourselves in some wooly situations. We simply aren't sheepish enough. So over the next few weeks I want us to dive into this passage and learn to be sheepish again.
Text: Psalm 23
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not 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 the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I 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 have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Most of the attention to Psalms 23 is given to the sheep or The Shepherd. However, there is another subject matter that is clearly addressed in this passage and that is "The Path." The Psalmist captures it in such a poetic way that we typically look or read right past it but he tells us about the up, down, easy, hard, pleasurable and painful moments of this journey we are on as we sheepishly follow our Shepherd. Notice what he says. . . There will be times that as we follow find our path taking us into green pastures and beside still waters but then we also go into the valley of the shadow of death and even into the presence of our enemies. This teaches us that . . .
1. Our Shepherd has destination in mind.
The Word teaches us clearly that our steps are ordered. Ordered means intentionally chosen. Selected. Lined out. An end in mind. We live this life as if it is a haphazard, zig zag, disconnected series of stops and sights. David knew better. He recognized the orderedness of our path. He says it like this . . . He leads in me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake. This is a critical statement in the Psalm. This is the ultimate sign of being sheepish. Surrendered to the lordship of the Shepherd to such a degree that whether the path is a vacation destination or the scariest most painful place on the planet I will follow Him there because I know it is intended/ordered to produce righteousness in me and to produce glory for His name. You may be enjoying the journey or hate every step but as sheep we must continue to walk where we are led and we must trust the heart of our Shepherd! He is trying to get us somewhere! Today, may I remind you that He has an ordered end and that end is for your good but you must follow. If we don't keep that in mind we will forfeit destination by becoming distracted by the journey. The path chosen for you has purpose. With that understanding we need to become more sheepish so that we know some things about the path.
The path can not determine obedience.
Too many of us never develop righteousness and bring very little glory or attention to our Shepherd because as soon as the path steps out of the green pastures/still waters scenery and the valleys and enemies come into view . . . we quit following. The Path doesn't determine obedience the Shepherd does. We know His voice but we also know His heart so we follow. No one would choose the valley over the green pastures but if and when He does we follow. Why? Because we desire His presence more than we desire pleasure. We have got to back to the place Moses came to in Exodus 33:15 when he said, "If Your presence does not go with us, do not send us from here!" God had just given Moses a word that He was going to send the now free Children of Israel on their way, on their journey and they would be victorious and take the Promised Land. However, He then says He would not go with them. Moses steps up and sheepishly says the Promise without your presence isn't an acceptable exchange. Remember a land that flows with milk and honey but with no shepherd. Moses refuses and so should we. If we have to choose the easy road alone or the painful road with His presence then we choose the valley!