Delivered on 8/14/16
1 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.
Jesus, now states the illustration of how this chapter of John started, of Jesus being “The Good Shepherd”. Jesus as the “Good Shepherd”, does more than to risk His life for His flock. Jesus, willingly gave His life, enduring death to save sinners like you and I. The sacrifice that Jesus made was for the “sheep”…the lost. It is for those whom the Father has given Him. It is for those whom, through the death of Jesus on their behalf, will be justified and enjoy having fellowship with our God.
For the message today, we will focus on a very familiar Psalm…a famous Psalm that we all know and have heard quite a few times. Since this psalm is so familiar, we’re in danger of missing the depth of its meaning. And, because it’s setting is in the world of sheep and shepherds, many of us who has never lived in a farm can slide right past its richness. But, before we get into this Psalm, let me tell you a quick joke…
A typical blonde had gotten sick of all the blond jokes so one day she decided to get a makeover,cutting and dying her hair. After buying a new convertible, she set out for a drive in the country where she came across a herd of sheep. She decided to stop and talk with the shepherd. After a few minutes of chit-chat, she said I have a proposition, if she could guess the total number of sheep can I have one. The shepherd agreed but was absolutely shocked when she guessed correctly… 382. He kept his promise and allowed her to pick one out to take home. After the woman picked out her sheep and put it in her car, the shepherd said he had a proposition for her, If I can guess your real hair color, can I have my dog back?
Here is the Psalm…
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Yea, 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. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.
In order to help us better understand this powerful Psalm and unlock the Psalm’s secrets, let us break it down to a clearer understanding, of…why a great warrior like King David, would write such a powerful psalm in regards to our Lord being his Shepherd. The image of our God as a Shepherd is untiringly rich, meaning that our Lord as our Shepherd, he will never run out…there is no end to Him being our “Good Shepherd”.
The shepherd stays with his flock. His sheep are totally dependent on Him for food, water, and protection from wild animals. Remember that David was tending sheep before being anointed as king.
In the New Testament, Jesus is reveled as the Shepherd of His church. Which, we have just read from our opening verse of John 10:11. Let us now take a look at this Psalm, broken down. There are two main characters in this Psalm, The Shepherd and his sheep. And there are three main ideas. Psalm 23:1-3, our Lord being personal in His ownership.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
God provides for us personally because of who He is. Look at the first phrase of verse 1: “The Lord.” This is the name “Yahweh” and was the name first revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14: “I am who I am.” Ordinary Israelites considered this name too holy to be spoken by human lips. In fact, it was so revered that it was only pronounced once a year on the Day of Atonement, and then only by the high priest in the most holy place of the Temple.
David chooses in the opening verse of Psalm 23. The great “I AM” is “my” shepherd. This is very similar in thought to Psalm 8 where we read, “O Lord “Yahweh” our Lord.” He is other than us and yet He for you and I.. He is powerful and He is personal. He is majestic and He is mine, as David has written. He is a consuming fire and yet He is my sensitive shepherd. I love the image of Yahweh as shepherd in..
He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young.
Because the Lord is my shepherd, He cares for for you and i personally. We see four ways that His provision is personal in verses 1-3. God’s provision makes us content Verse 1. The last part of verse 1 tells us that since the Lord is my shepherd I will not lack anything that is really necessary and good for me: “I shall not be in want.” God always provides. Short Sunday school story…
A substitute Sunday School teacher asked his class one day, “How many of you can quote Psalm 23?” Several of the children raised their hands, including a little girl who was only four years old. The teacher was surprised that someone so young would know Psalm 23 so he asked her to recite it for the class. She stood up and said, “The Lord is my shepherd. That’s all I want.”
She may have had the words mixed up, but understood the message perfectly. Church.., if Jesus is your shepherd, everything else should be secondary. We could say it this way: “If the Lord is my shepherd, then I shall not want. If I am in want, then the Lord is not my shepherd.”
When our God makes a promise of provisions, ( house, food, and clothing, etc ). He will provide, and we will lack nothing.
Psalm 34:9 (NIV)
Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.
This is really the main idea of the psalm. Since God is our shepherd all of our needs are taken care of. One of the best definitions of contentment I’ve ever heard is this: Contentment is not having everything you want. Contentment is wanting everything you have.
When someone says, “I shall not want,” we need to sit up and take notice because we live in an age of discontentment. Listen to these words by Max Lucado…
Our discontentment as the “prison of want.” Its prisoners want something bigger. Nicer. Faster. Thinner. If your happiness comes from something you deposit, drive, drink, or digest, then you’re in the prison of want. Are you hoping that a change in circumstance will bring a change in your attitude? If so, you’re locked up. You’re in a cell of discontentment. Allow the powerful simplicity of verse 1 to permeate your personal life, what you have in your shepherd is greater than what you don’t have in life.
Do you believe that?
God’s provision nourishes us mentioned in verse 2. “He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters.” Notice that the shepherd “makes” me lie down. The shepherd would take the sheep and fold their legs in such a way that they would become paralyzed for a while and therefore had to lie down and get their much needed rest. At one time or another, we have been made to lie down as a result of discipline, or to persevere. Whether it from a broken bone, some other health problem, heartbreak, or even the loss or change of job. The shepherd has slowed us down, “make us lie down”…stay down for a reason.
By nature, sheep are nervous,timid, and fearful. When they know the shepherd is with them, they can relax. They know that they are protected. Isaiah 43:5 Do not be afraid, for I am with you. If there is fear, or friction in the flock, a sheep can’t sleep. Instead of lying down, they stand up and keep themselves on high alert. The shepherd tries to minimize the tension of the flock by separating those who cause trouble. A good shepherd keeps an eye out for those small things that can frustrate or damage the flock.
A hungry sheep is forever on its feet, looking for food. The shepherd makes sure that they are in “green pastures,” where they can feed among the rich, sweet grass and lie down on the carpeted pasture. Lie down, relax, I Am is with you. Some of us never slow down enough to chew on the green pastures of God’s Word. We are so used to being in a hurry, that we miss out on what our Shepherd has to say. We’re filled with fear or we’re in friction with others in the flock.
We’re good at allowing the small frustrations of life to knock us off center and we loose our focus on the richness and sweetness of Scripture like we should. God wants us to lie down in the midst of the Shepherds abundance.
After being fully fed, the sheep are then led to still waters. Sheep by nature are afraid of running water and will refuse to drink unless everything is still and quiet. Shepherds would often divert water from a rushing river to make a private pool for the sheep to drink.
Even with the sweet waters the shepherd has to lead the sheep to the good water because otherwise they will stop and drink from polluted puddles where they can pick up parasites. Meaning, false teaching, false doctrine. We’re a lot like that, aren’t we, at one point or another? God has provided so much for us and yet we often drink from places that will only harm us. Know your Shepherds voice, and listen!
27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.
The sheep will listen to Jesus, “The Good Shepherd”, and they will follow only Him. These believers will have a new direction and commitment in their lives. The Son of man, acts like a Shepherd, separating the former into eternal life, and sending the latter away into eternal punishment.
God’s provision restores us Verse 3. Because sheep are careless,and curious creatures, they often need to be restored. Look at the first part of verse 3: “He restores my soul.” The word, “restore” means to “bring back to a former or normal state, to make new.” Sheep can get lost faster than any other animal. This can be serious for many reasons. They may fall and get hurt. A predator may pounce on them, and lead them astray. Again…know your Shepherds voice. ( Big S )
God’s provision guides us, second part of verse 3. “He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” The word used for “paths” refers to a “well-defined and well worn trail.” This is one more bit of evidence about how gullible sheep really are. Even when the path is perfectly clear, sheep will still stray. Since the shepherd knows the trails, he can guide them in the best way. Almost everybody here has gone on a hike, correct? The path has been cleared, its visible, the park rangers made sure that we stay on the path where it is safe.
God longs to lead us in paths of righteousness. Most of us know the right road we should take but our selfishness and sinfulness often lead us astray. We need the shepherd to guide us in the right way because like sheep, we often have no sense of direction. As we submit to the shepherd He will lead us in paths of righteousness. And He does this for the sake of His name. Listen…God will not let you and I ruin His name. That is why He said in His words “ righteousness for His name sake”. God guides us for His sake, not for ours. His reputation is at stake. His character is on display. His name is Yahweh and He will accomplish His purposes and lead us on proper paths.
God’s provision is personal and can be seen in the fact that He gives us contentment, nourishment, restoration and guidance.
Now, as we continue on to Psalm 23:4 When we come to verse 4, we notice a couple changes in this psalm. In verses 1-3, the sheep are in the sunshine. In verse 4, the sheep are in the shadows. God not only takes care of us through the delightful times, He guides us even through those dark seasons of our life.
Yea, 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.
Notice also that the words have changed. In the first half, David is extolling the virtues of the Shepherd, using “He” and “His” to refer to God. Now, when we come to the second half, he speaks to the Shepherd directly: “You are with me, your rod and your staff…you prepare…you anoint.” When times are tough, God becomes more real to David. Sounds familiar in your life, at one point or another, we have experienced that? Correct! The promise-keeping God guides us through times of deep gloom and despair. In fact that is where the “Good Shepherd” shines, whenever we go through the hard times, He is quick to remind us the “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want”.
We see that God’s protection is pervasive, covering every aspect of life, from green pastures to the shadows of death. Because God will protect us…David is confidently saying, that there is no need to fear death. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…” The picture here is of the shepherd leading his sheep back home in the evening. As they go through the rocky ravine and narrow paths, that can, frighten the flock. The shepherd knows from experience that predators like bears and wolves can take cover as they wait in ambush and danger the flock. David could also be referring to the approach of autumn when the sheep are forced to find other fields and get ready for the coming winter. During this time the flock is entirely alone with the shepherd and must follow closely to avoid danger.
Notice it says that we …walk through the valley. We don’t have to stay there. We’re passing through. Through the blackness there is brightness. Through the gloom there is glory. Notice also the word “shadow.” In one sense the shadow of something is more ominous than what it represents. On the other hand, the shadow of a dog cannot bite and the shadow of death cannot harm us if we stay close to the shepherd. When there is a shadow there must be light somewhere….
1 Corinthians 15:55
“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?
This verse reminds us, that the Redeemer has removed the sting of death, and only the shadow of it remains. David continues, “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” The rod was like a club that often hung from the shepherd’s belt. It was used to protect the sheep.
Shepherds were very accurate in their aim and would throw this club at attacking animals.( Show Pics 1 &2 ) The staff was a slender pole, with a little hook on the end. It could be hooked around the leg of a sheep to pull him from harm. It was also used to direct the flock, and occasionally to discipline the sheep. Not once do we read of sheep carrying rods and staffs. They must rely completely on the shepherd for safety and direction. Likewise, we must lean on the Lord for all that we need and find comfort in his power and corrective discipline.
When the sheep could see the rod and the staff, they knew that they were protected. They could walk through dark valleys as long as the shepherd was with them. We can be strong even in the face of death because we have a protector who has overcome the grave.
As we continue on with Psalm 23:5-6
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me, All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
David, in these verses are saying that, there is no need to fear enemies. In verse 5, David writes, “You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies.” Some commentators suggest that David is switching here to that of a gracious dinner host. There might be something to be said for that but I think he’s using a common expression to describe what a shepherd does to “prepare a pasture.” Ideally, the best place for the sheep to graze is on a flat area.. Before letting the lambs roam around, the shepherd inspects it for poisonous plants and makes sure there are not any predators prowling around. The sheep can eat and rest even though there are enemies nearby because the shepherd is doing His job.
I think David is still submerged in the sheep and shepherd relationship in this part of scripture. In ancient Israel, shepherds used oil for three purposes, to repel insects, to prevent conflicts, and to heal wounds. Sheep are really bugged by bugs. Flies like to deposit their eggs into the tender membrane of the sheep’s nose. When the eggs would hatch, larvae would drive the sheep insane, causing them to beat their heads against rocks and trees. When sheep see flies they freak out. They shake their heads up and down for hours. The shepherd knows what flies can do so he covers their heads with an oil-like repellent. This oil then is also used to prevent injury.
Sheep can get pricked by thorns and receive cuts from the rocks. This oil serves as an ointment to protect their sores from getting infected. Wow!!! What a beautiful picture of what the Shepherd does for you and i. He deals with our problems by protecting us from those things that can hurt. He helps us have harmony with others. And, He comforts us and heals us when we’re beat up, and bruised. We are wounded sheep in need of a healing Shepherd. Do you have any wounds today? Let the Good Shepherd heal it!
Because God’s protection is pervasive, we don’t have to dread death, we don’t have to be anxious about what enemies may do to you and i, and we don’t have to be paralyzed by our problems or circumstance. We come now to the final truth of Psalm 23, God’s pleasure is important… its supreme.We’ve already seen that God guides in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. God’s pleasure is demonstrated in two ways.
God gives us more than we need right now as mentioned on verse 5. Look at the last part of verse 5 and the first part of verse 6: “…My cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life…” This picture has two meanings as well. The shepherd would often carry something to drink and would share it with his sheep when they needed it. He would be generous because he knew they had to have some liquid or they would perish. God’s goodness and love will follow us. The word “follow” literally means, “pursue.” in another translation.. translates it this way: “Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life.” WOW!!! For those who have put their faith in Jesus, we have been given much more than we deserve and we have more than we need. That is how good, our “Good Shepherd” is.
We’re also recipients of his love and mercy, by not receiving what we deserve. If God gave us justice, we’d be punished for our disobedience. But because of Jesus we can have confidence in His mercy. His goodness and love. Love led Jesus to the Cross, where the shepherd gave his life for his sheep. Why does the Lord do all this for us? His motive is to display the honor of His name. It brings Him great pleasure to overflow in goodness and love toward needy sheep, ( you and I ). He’s with you and I, right now to bless us with more than what we deserve.
God is preparing us for everything we’ll need later as mentioned on verse 6. We have more than we need right now and we’ll have everything we need for eternity. Look at the last phrase of verse 6: “…And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” That has not happened yet, and yet the “Good Shepherd” has already prepared it.The psalm begins with the joyous statement, “The Lord is my shepherd” and closes with an equally positive affirmation of faith: “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” The sheep have been following the shepherd to green pastures and through shadowy valleys. The seasons have changed and now they’re coming home. The flock is now ready to winter in the safe harbor of the Good Shepherd’s home. They are so satisfied with the flock to which they belong and with the ownership of the Shepherd that they have no desire to change a thing. They want everything to just go on forever.
Because we enjoy the presence of the “Good Shepherd” and have more than we even need in this life, we can’t wait to spend eternity with the Lord in His house. Forever we’ll praise Him, giving glory to His name as we recognize that His pleasure is important Psalm 84 tells us…
Blessed are those who dwell in Your house; They will still be praising You.
The Lord is looking for lost sheep right now. If you have never asked Jesus save you from your sins and shepherd your life, you are not yet in His flock. You are missing out on the best part of being with “The Good Shepherd”. Stay close to the shepherd. Many sheep will come to the shepherd daily and rub against his legs and wait for a pat on the head. They want the assurance that the shepherd is there for them. Sheep that stay close to the shepherd reach the water first. Those next to the shepherd get to the sweetest grass first. But most of all they get to enjoy it all with the shepherd by their side. When we stay close to the shepherd, He will make sure all of our needs are met.
Unfortunately, many of us like to stray. Sometimes as a last resort, a shepherd will discipline a straying sheep by putting a leg across his staff and with one quick motion, pull down on the leg to break it. Because the sheep cannot walk, the shepherd then carries the sheep from field to field, sometimes even putting him on his shoulders.
Show Pic 3
Do you know what happens as a result of this discipline? That sheep never strays again. He becomes so used to being right next to the shepherd that he can’t imagine going his own way ever again. He had to be broken in order to be healed. After going through Psalms 23, it makes me wonder why some sheep choose to leave the flock? Is the “Good Shepherd”, removing the threat to the flock? Or Maybe…just maybe, this sheep needs to be broken in order to know that He, or She…Needs the Good Shepherd!
Pastor Richard Santos
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