Summary: God promises to be with us
Psalm 23 - Part 4 - 2/5/11
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 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 saw the shepherd’s PRESENCE. We saw a day in the life of the sheep
He makes me lie down in green pastures - REST
He leads me beside quiet waters, - REFRESHMENT
He restores my soul. - RESTORATION - he puts us back up on our feet when we fall flat on our backs
He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. - REPLENISHMENT - he takes me to the best areas for feeding and growth. He has my best interests at heart.
In verse 4, we saw the shepherd’s PROTECTION. God is with us in the ordinary days of our lives, but He is also there in the days of trouble, when we go through the valley. We talked last week about how the valleys in life happen to us all - Jesus said, In this world you will have trouble. But the shepherd brings us THROUGH the valley. When we focus on the valley, we are afraid. When we focus on the Shepherd [I’m with Him graphic] - remember last week we saw the picture of the lamb facing the lion and the wolf - when we focus on the shepherd, we have no need to fear. He carries a rod, a weapon to protect and defend us. And he carries a staff, an instrument used to care for us and minister to our needs. And that knowledge brings us comfort.
Today in verse 5 we’ll see the shepherd’s PROVISION and in verse 6 the shepherd’s PROMISE.
READ PSALM - PRAY.
Our shepherd is with us in ordinary days - in days of trouble, when we go through the valley, and he is there to reward us with his love and faithfulness. When we read these last two verses - eating at a table, oil on the head, drinking from a cup, living in a house, we have to ask, What does this have to do with a sheep?
There is a book that sheds a lot of light on the shepherd’s lifestyle. It’s called A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. I have referred to it several times over the last month. Philip Keller, the author, would point out that often large grassy plateaus are called mesas, a word that means table. He takes the view that the shepherd takes the sheep to high grassy grazing areas. He rubs oil on the sheep to keep flies and ticks away. And the shepherd provides clean water for the sheep. And all that is true. But let me offer a different idea to you today.
What David is doing here in this Psalm is using a metaphor - a figure of speech in which an expression is used to refer to something that it does not literally denote in order to suggest a similarity - I’m not really a sheep, but I’m like a sheep. The problem that comes when we use metaphors is trying to make the metaphor apply to everything.
If you are eating lunch today and your son is chewing with his mouth open, making loud grunting noises, you might say “You’re eating like a pig.” You might even go up and look at his messy room and say, Your room is a pigpen! But if he works hard at cleaning it up, you wouldn’t say You’re working like a pig! Instead, you’d say, You’re working like a horse. If he runs out to play, you’d say look at him run like a deer! We don’t carry a metaphor all the way through.
I believe that’s what we see in Psalm 23. David has been using the sheep / shepherd metaphor, but as he focuses on the shepherd and how our shepherd cares for us, he changes the metaphor from God being a shepherd to God being a gracious HOST.