Summary: Psalm 23 is often quoted at funerals. But this is not a Psalm about death... it’s a song about life. The life that only the good shepherd can supply.
OPEN: I once read the story about a 1st-grader stood in front of his classroom. The class had been taking turns in front of the room answering the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
This little boy stood up and said, "I’m going to be a lion tamer and have lots of fierce lions and tigers. I’ll walk into the cage and they will growl and roar."
Then he paused for a moment and added, "But of course, I’ll have my mommy with me."
APPLY: That little boy had been to the circus and he’d watched a lion tamer enter a cage full of ferocious lions and tigers. He’d been impressed with how brave and in control that man had appeared. What he was telling his class was that - one day - he wanted to be like that man. He wanted to be fearless. He wanted to be brave. He wanted to be in control.
But THEN it suddenly occurred to him: Hey – that’s all well and good but a guy could get hurt in a place like that… unless someone bigger and stronger were there with him. Someone like his mother.
Hold that thought in the back of your mind for a minute.
I. Outside of church, where would you most likely to hear the 23rd Psalm quoted?
That’s right, at funerals. I’ve heard a lot of preachers complain about that. Because, you see, the 23rd psalm is NOT a psalm about death… it’s a psalm about life.
Think about it. David is sitting on the side of a hill - watching his father’s flock.
Are these sheep dead? … are they even sick? No… there’s not a thing wrong with this flock. They are ALIVE. They are cared for.
David’s sitting there thinking about how GOOD life is for those sheep. They’re peaceful. They’re contented. Life is good and the sheep are at ease…
Other kinds animals may face dangers of predators like lions and bears but not his sheep. His sheep are safe and protected. No one is going to touch his sheep while he’s around. And the sheep have it good because they have a shepherd.
As David ponders on this, he realizes that HIS life is good too - because he also has a shepherd. God has given him everything he wants in life. God has given him:
o and refreshment
o and food
o and guidance
God has removed the fear from his life and given him courage when he’s faced with danger as shepherd out in field.
You see, this IS NOT a psalm about death. It’s a song rejoicing in life… life as only God can give it.
II. NOT ONLY is this a song of life… it’s a song about a LIFE filled with confidence
Remember that little first grader? He wanted to be so brave and fearless and in control and he realized that that kind of confidence if someone bigger than he was was in the lion cage with him.
David recognized something like that too. He recognized HE could be brave - he could have confidence - if God was there with him.
He visualized God preparing a table before him in the presence of his enemies... (Ps 23:5)
Can you imagine that? Imagine all of David’s enemies gathered together in one room and David just walks right on in and sits down to eat. David is the guest of honor at a great banquet, and all his enemies can do is watch and seethe, because
- they can’t touch him
- they can’t hurt him
- they can’t lift a hand against him…
When David walked with God, those who opposed him became powerless. When David prayed to God, and when he sought God’s direction in his life, God led him through the most difficult situations… even leading him thru the valley of the shadow of death.
That’s why, when the flock was attacked bears and the lions, David felt no fear. David simply took God with him and (as David told Saul) "…When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it…. The LORD… delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear..." 1 Samuel 17:34-35, 37
And that’s kind of confidence allowed him to face Goliath when no one else would, saying:
“Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.” (1 Samuel 17:36)
David’s confidence did not lie in his own abilities, but rather in the power & faithfulness of His God.