Summary: This funeral message was for the adult daughter of a lady from my Church. The Mother is a committed Christian, but the deceased’s commitment to Christ was uncertain, and I never met her. This message might be used for either a Believer or a Non-Christian
Your Comforting Shepherd
--Psalm 23:1-6 (Text: Verse 4)
I have a clergy brother who testifies that he never has preached from the book of Psalms. When he was ordained, he wanted to save one book in the Bible that he would never study for preaching or teaching purposes but would reserve for his own, personal devotional time alone with God. The book he chose for that purpose was the book of Psalms.
I think I have only preached one other sermon from the book of Psalms. As I recall the text we were given to prepare our sermon for ordination as an elder was the Psalm One. Although I try always to use the Twenty Third Psalm in a memorial or funeral service, I have never selected it either to preach as a sermon or to teach as a Bible study. Today, the Lord laid Psalm 23:4 on my heart as the text for our message as we have come to pay our last respects to Edith:
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil;
FOR YOUR ROD AND YOUR STAFF, THEY COMFORT ME.
For the next few minutes I want to invite us, Harriet, Steven, and all the other family and friends of Edith, to come into the presence of “Our Comforting Shepherd,” for He alone is our source of strength, help, and encouragement in this hour and in all the days that lie ahead of us.
God is the Shepherd who takes care of His sheep, the people of Israel in the Old Testament. In the New Testament Jesus is our Good Shepherd, who died for us to give us eternal life. He assures us in John 10:11-15, “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the Good Shepherd; I know My sheep and my Sheep know Me—just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father— and I lay down My life for the sheep.” Jesus as our Good Shepherd is our source of comfort and strength now and forevermore.
The word David uses for comfort in the Hebrew originally meant “to breathe intensely because of deep emotions.” The tone of Psalm 23 is deeply emotional. In looking to his Lord as his Comforting Shepherd David is not trusting one who merely offers casual sympathy to his acquaintances. His faith is in his Good Shepherd who stands by to support his sheep with wholehearted empathy. David is trusting in a Shepherd who has “walked in his shoes, who has sat where he sits.” He is looking to a Compassionate Shepherd who understands his deepest feelings, thoughts, attitudes, emotions, and pain.
Harriet, Steven, family and friends of Edith, Jesus understands your deepest feelings, emotions, hurt, pain, and sorrow in your loss today. We remember the words of Isaiah 53:4-5, “Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” Jesus is your Comforting Shepherd who carried your sorrows with Him to the cross, and it is by His wounds that your sorrow, hurt, and pain are healed.
Jesus always understands fully the deep sorrow, hurt, grief, and pain we suffer in times like these. At the tomb of His friend Lazarus when He cried, the Jews marveled, “See how He loved him.” On the Cross as He gave Himself for us, He was concerned that John would take care of His Mother Mary; therefore, He tenderly said,
“‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’”
Jesus is your Comforting Shepherd, for He has “walked ahead of you in your shoes and sat where you sit.” He is our eternal Best Friend who always “weeps with those who weep.” Jesus fully understands your sorrow, your hurt, your grief, and your pain.
In Scripture it is most often the LORD who comforts his people. Many times
we see our “Comforting Shepherd” described as being “gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.”
Let’s take just a moment to break down this word “comfort” into its two parts. It comes from two Latin words “com, or cum” meaning “with, together, or along side of” and “fort” meaning “strength.” Our Good Shepherd Jesus is the One who is with us, or comes along side of us to give us strength in times grief and sorrow.