Summary: Seeing that God identifies with us
Psalm 23 - The Shepherd Psalm - 1/16/11
Turn with me this morning to Psalm 23. If you open your bible right in the middle, you probably will land somewhere in the Psalms or just a little right of the Psalms. This is one of the most familiar passages in the whole Bible. The only passage I can think of that might possibly be more familiar to us is John 3:16.
This is a passage that has provided comfort and hope to billions for 3,000 years. We read it at most funerals. We recite it when we are afraid. At times of tragedy and disaster, its words give us hope. It is the topic and text for hundreds of songs in the Christian church. It is quoted in secular music as well - from U2 to the Eagles to Marilyn Manson. It is part of secular tv shows, like Lost. What is it about this Psalm that touches the heart of so many people?
The book of Psalms was the songbook of Israel. In it we find David and others giving us songs to sing that reflect the depth of meaning and emotion that we all feel in life. The Psalms are not just an account of what David [or another psalmist] was feeling, but rather the psalmist bares his soul to us, draws us into his world, and calls us to share his feelings and emotions as he uses practical examples to show us his point.
The Psalms were constantly on the lips of Jews. My mother always was singing around the house - whether washing the dishes or weeding the garden or putting up wallpaper. Half the time she forgot the words, and made them up; but the rejoicing spirit was what was important to her. Dave Roever, a Vietnam War hero, once said, music isn't what you hear, it's what you feel; the feeling is the important thing.
When you go to the Smithsonian - "To Fly" - you actually see what the pilot sees
*Hersheypark - Cinemascope - you get dizzy, scared, nauseous
What questions are crying out in your heart? You will find them asked in the Psalms. What emotions are rushing through you? You will find them expressed in the Psalms. And you will also find comfort and answers in the Psalms.
And this Psalm, the 23rd Psalm, is one of the greatest of all the Psalms. It is a Psalm of David, who grew up as you remember, as a shepherd boy. And it is his reflections on how the relationship of a shepherd and his sheep compares to the relationship of God to His people. We don’t know when in his life David wrote this: maybe as a young shepherd, maybe after defeating the giant Goliath, maybe when running for his life, maybe in later years when his kingdom was firmly established. Many times in his life match the themes in this Psalm. And that’s what is so wonderful about it and what has touched billions of hearts. The theme of this Psalm is one we can all identify with.
Hopefully by now you have found the passage. Many of you may have memorized it in other translations. I’ll be reading it out of the NIV. In fact, it’s printed on the tearoff of your bulletin. David writes this:
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
Let’s pray that God would speak to us from this passage: PRAYER
The first thing we want to see here in this passage is David, a shepherd, calling God a “shepherd.” Remember back to the Nike commercials of 20 years ago - with Bo Jackson, a famous baseball player, cross training and doing all these different sports: Bo knows football, Bo knows tennis, Bo knows weightlifting.
That’s what David is saying here: God identifies with us. To David, a shepherd, he looks at his God and says, My God understands me! God knows what it is to be a shepherd. So many times it is easy to push away people who try to get close by saying, You just don’t understand what I’m going through. But David sees that God DOES know what its like for him to be a shepherd.