Summary: This message addresses Psalm 23 from a historical perspective.
The Lord Is My Shepherd
The title of my message this morning is “The Lord Is My Shepherd.” Although I delivered a message on Psalm 23 in March of 2007, this is not the same message. I want to make that clear to those of you who were members back then. Although some of the content will be the same, where I am going with this message is different from the last time you heard it. This message comes out of some struggles I’ve had this week and will serve as a foundation for several messages to come in the next few weeks. Just so you know I have had the type of week this week where I had to remind myself several times that the Lord is my shepherd. I laid awake at night thinking of the importance of this knowledge. Some of the things I had to deal with took my mind to a place where I was starting to think “I” had to work something out but the Spirit of God brought me back to the reality that regardless of what I faced, He was my shepherd. As I stated before, the other reason for this message is that it will serve as the foundation for several messages that will follow pertaining to the names of God. David did a great job through Psalm 23 of introducing us to several of the attributes of God from which several of His Hebrew names derived. David was a shepherd and understood fully what the job entailed and thinking on this he concluded that God was his Shepherd. He understood fully what it meant to take care of sheep and the care and attention that were necessary to do the job right. He speaks to the love that a shepherd has for his sheep and how that love is demonstrated in how he cares for them. As I reflected on this Psalm this week during my midnight hours I was comforted with the gentle reminder that I have a shepherd watching over me and understands everything that is happening around me. Let me set the stage for you so that you can see in your mind’s eye the role of the shepherd as it relates to the sheep which will make Psalm 23 clearer and next week we will begin with the first name of God.
I. Sheep and Shepherd
Psalm 23 comes from David’s experience as a shepherd and one who spent the early part of his life in the field with sheep. When David wrote this, he understood what he was talking about from a shepherd’s viewpoint. Remember what I have shared with you previously that sheep are generally stupid. I am not saying this as an insult to sheep, but it is a statement of fact. Because sheep are “stupid” they are willing to follow their shepherd, but only their shepherd, and depend solely upon him. Sheep are also timid. For example paper blowing in the wind will cause them to flee and storms will send them into a panic. If they get scared they will drown in a stream of water without fighting or burn to death in a fire without trying to run away. They are the classic example of what it means to be paralyzed by fear. Physically, if a sheep is tipped on their backs they cannot get up and will die in that position because of how their bodies are designed. But they love their shepherd and will only follow his/her voice. They will not under any circumstance follow the voice of another shepherd. This is how David described himself in his relationship with God. He saw himself as a stupid sheep needing a shepherd to guide and lead him. Imagine this accomplished man of war who had successfully won many battles by the hand of God saying that he was a timid sheep who could be paralyzed with fear. I am glad to acknowledge in my relationship with God that I am a sheep! Now let’s examine the shepherd’s role. Turn with me to John the tenth chapter.
Let’s begin reading at verse eleven. “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, beholds the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hireling, and is not concerned about the sheep.” (John 10:11-13) Jesus gives the best example of the role of a shepherd versus that of a person who is “hired” to watch the sheep. He says that a shepherd knows his sheep versus that of a hireling. A hireling sees a group of sheep and unless there is something that definitely stands out about one versus another, all he will see is sheep. The shepherd knows his sheep individually and cares for each one individually. A shepherd understands the nature of sheep and their tendency to stray. He is willing to do whatever it takes to care for his sheep. This is not true with a hireling. A hireling will not lay down his life for the sheep that belongs to another. When he sees a wolf coming he will flee to save his life putting the lives of the sheep at risk. A true shepherd would never do this and would actually put his life on the line for his sheep. Remember when David was talking to Saul about facing Goliath and he told Saul about a lion or bear taking one of his sheep and he chased it down and delivered the sheep from the mouth of the bear and lion (1 Samuel 17)? This is attitude of the shepherd is what Jesus was referencing in these verses. The shepherd has a vested interest in his sheep while the hireling does not. If you are a child of God you can rest assured that His Son Jesus Christ does not take His role in our lives as one of a hireling – He is THE Good Shepherd! Now please turn with me to Psalm 23.