Summary: God is with us
Psalm 23 - Part 2 - 1/23/11
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. We are going to continue on looking at this Psalm that has been a source of comfort and blessing to many. This is the Shepherd Psalm - The LORD is my shepherd. He knows us individually, loves us perfectly, provides for our every need. We are compared to sheep - very dumb animals that cannot provide for themselves, cannot protect themselves, and cannot save themselves. We saw in verse 1 the shepherd’s PARTNERSHIP - I belong to Him and He provides for me. The focus is not on Him or on me, but on our relationship together. We saw last week the idea of CONTENTMENT - I shall not be in want - The Lord takes care of all my needs. I don’t get everything I want - but I am not in want - I have been given everything I need for life and godliness.
In verses 2 & 3 we see the shepherd’s PRESENCE.
In verse 4 the shepherd’s PROTECTION
In verse 5 the shepherd’s PROVISION
In verse 6 the shepherd’s PROMISE
Today, we want to look at verses 2 &3. As we come to God’s word, let’s pause and ask God to speak to our hearts by His word. Let’s pray. PRAYER
Here in verses 2 & 3, we see a “Day in the life of a sheep” - sleeping - drinking, refreshment - moving on and grazing some more. Now if we were describing our day, we would start describing when we got up in the morning, what we did throughout the day, and when we went to bed. But remember, the Jews started their day at sunset. Remember the Sabbath goes from Friday at sunset until Saturday at sunset. So, here in verse 2, we start with the phrase, He makes me lie down in green pastures. This is not as much about eating as it is about resting. Why is the sheep lying down? Not to eat - because sheep eat standing up - but to rest. So the phrase - He makes me lie down in green pastures - means the sheep is lying down to rest.
Now, for the sheep to lie down to rest, there are four conditions that must be met! The sheep must feel no fear, no friction, no harassment, and no hunger. When sheep are afraid, they will not lie down. Instead, they are ready to stampede at a moment’s notice. What is it that calms them down? It is the PRESENCE of the shepherd. In our lives too, the fear of the unknown is terrifying. We allow ourselves to get all stressed out about what is going to happen. This week was final exam week at OHS, and many students, including my two girls, had high anxiety and stress levels. But as we age, we just hide that stress and fear and anxiety and stuff it down inside- and it shows through ulcers, high blood pressure, and all kinds of other outlets.
For us to truly be at rest, we start by remembering our shepherd is with us at all times. We’ll look more at that idea next week - that even in the untypical days - days of going through dark valleys - our God is still with us. Even in uncertain times, we can be at peace and have no fear. David writes in Psalm 4:8 - I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. David understood that rest and peace came from a focus on the presence of the shepherd.
There’s a little quote that has made its way around in recent years: When you can’t sleep, don’t count sheep - talk to the shepherd! The sheep will lie down to rest when it is at peace, when it does not feel fear.
It also must not feel friction - if other sheep are “butting in” - trying to take over the better grazing spots, the sheep will be on the defensive and will not lie down. It is the responsibility of the shepherd to keep the contention at a minimum with the sheep. In fact, in Ezekiel 34 we see God speaking about this very thing:
I myself will tend my sheep and make them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. . . I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another.