GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY
May 2-4, 2020
Pastor Timothy J. Spaude
Text: Psalm 23
Because the LORD is your Shepherd…
1. You have everything you need.
2. Your soul gets restored.
3. You are on the path of righteousness.
4. You have nothing to fear.
5. You are well fed.
6. You are blessed right now.
7. The best is yet to come!
Psalm 23 (NIV 1984) “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3he restores my soul. He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4Even 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. 5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Psalm 23 is one of the most well known parts of the Bible. I was surprised to discover that in my over 25 years of serving as a pastor I had never preached on it. That changes today. The Holy Spirit caused King David to write Psalm 23. There is a little bit of foreshadowing going on here. David was a shepherd before he became king. Jesus is a Shepherd and a King. David, the shepherd becomes a lamb as he writes this psalm. That reminds us of Jesus, doesn’t it? Jesus, the Good Shepherd became the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. The reason Psalm 23 is so well known is because it gets read a funerals a lot! And with good reason. As we go through the Psalm you will see it is a beautiful expression of both comfort and confidence, the very thing that happens at Christian funerals. God’s people are comforted and are confident. But Psalm 23 is not just a comforting and confidence giving psalm for death time. It’s a comforting and confidence giving psalm for earthly life. We’ll see that today as we look at the blessings we have because the LORD is our Shepherd.
Now the first thing you have to understand is everyone has a shepherd. Using the picture of a shepherd and his flock, the shepherd is the one you look to to take care of you, provide for you, protect you and comfort you. Some people have a shepherd named Sam, Uncle Sam that is. And they look to the government as the ultimate source of protection and wisdom and comfort in time of trial. To be sure God Himself established government to rule a country for the physical welfare of its people. But as Jesus pointed out in the Gospel lesson there is only one Good Shepherd. All others are hirelings who do not care for the flock like Jesus does. IF Sam is your shepherd you will be sadly disappointed. Some people choose shepherds named Jim or Jack, Jim Beam and Jack Daniels, that is. And alcohol is what they lean on to get through tough times. Another hireling that deserts you and leave you hanging. Probably the most popular shepherd that people have is named Mimi, you know Me. Me! Again, the Lord God has given to each of us a personal responsibility to care for ourselves and our families as He enables us but…if we look to ourselves as the ultimate shepherd, well, we are hirelings too, and limited in what we can do. Not so the LORD. Remember that is the name God chooses to use in the Bible to communicate that He is the Savior God, the one who uses His omnipotence to save people and show mercy, to always have their best interests in mind. Look now at all the blessings you have because the LORD is your Shepherd!
First you have everything you need. “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” Now I know some of you kids out there are saying, “Hey, wait a minute! I don’t have everything I want. I want more legos. I want to be playing with my friends. I want to be back at regular school!” Oh yes, there are all kinds of things we want. But what the Psalm says is be in want. That means to lack something you need. When the LORD is your Shepherd you don’t lack anything you need. Mark this well. If the LORD has not provided it for you, you don’t need it. You may think you do. You may have your heart set on it, but you don’t need it.
Secondly, because the LORD is your shepherd your soul gets restored. “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters. 3he restores my soul.” King David, who had cared for sheep uses a picture to help us see how well we are blessed. The flock is at rest in an idyllic meadow with a peaceful supply of water. It communicates rest. Rest for the soul. Souls need to be restored. The soul is well, the “us” part of us, the part that feels. And when you live in a world ruined by sin your soul needs to be restored. Our souls falter and grow weak. Sometimes that’s because of sin. Guilt and shame drag us down. The LORD forgives us. Our soul is restored. It feels better. Sometimes we are down because things are out of our control. We face hurt and disappointment in relationships. The LORD smiles on us, assures us He is in control, that He has something much better for us. Our soul gets restored.
Another blessing. Because the LORD is your shepherd you are on the path of righteousness. “He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” The path of righteousness is the only path that leads to heaven. Remember God’s standard. Be holy, perfect because God is holy and perfect. At first glance it might sound like the blessing we have is knowing right and wrong. And it’s true. Jesus our Good Shepherd has clearly told us what is right and wrong. He has stripped away all pretenses that outward behavior is good enough for God and that trying it good enough for God. We know what is righteous and what is not. And knowing that could lead us to despair. God’s demands on impossible! Who can control his thoughts? Who can be perfect all the time? No one! Not true. Jesus was and Jesus is and that means you are too. The paths of righteousness could be called the way of righteousness and remember something our Shepherd said? “I am the way, the truth and the life.” We are on the path of righteousness because we are riding on the shoulders or our Good Shepherd all the way to heaven. He is our righteousness. And what a blessing it is to know right from wrong. Even though our obedience doesn’t get us to heaven any more than our sin keeps us out when we have the LORD as our Shepherd, when we know the paths of righteousness we have a way to show Him our love. Willing obedience to what He says is good and right.
There’s still more. Because the LORD is your shepherd. You have nothing to fear. “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.” There are many things we can be afraid of, germs, heights, the dark. When we give in to our fears it can rob us of the fun and joy of life. I still remember the first time I was allowed to have a friend over for a sleepover. I was in 3rd grade. My friend and I had great plans. We were going to sleep in the basement. There was TV there. We were going to stay up all night and have so much fun. But we watched a scary movie. Sherlock Holmes meets Jack the Ripper. All of the sudden being in the dark basement by ourselves wasn’t fun any more. We just went to bed. Lamest sleepover ever! Fear. Makes you do stupid things. The saddest part is because the LORD is your Shepherd you have nothing to fear. He has a rod to beat off your enemies and staff to pull you back to safety. There may be things you are afraid of, but you don’t have to be. The LORD is your Shepherd!
And because of that you are well fed. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” The picture kind of switches here. Sheep and lambs don’t sit at a table. Still the picture is clear. A scrumptious feast. While it is certainly true that we American sheep are well fed physically, (the scale does not lie!) we are more well fed spiritually. We have God’s faith feeding word available to us in print, online in so many ways. Can’t wait until get to feast on the Lord’s Supper again.
Still more. Because the LORD is your Shepherd you are blessed right now. “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.” Oftentimes at Thanksgiving we are urged to make a list of all our blessings. How about making a list right now? Instead of focusing on all the things that the shutdown has taken away list all those blessings you still have. You’ll get a long one. We are so blessed!
And as good as that is the best is yet to come! “And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” One of the many frustrating things about the shutdown is at this point there nothing to look forward to. Whether it’s your favorite festival, concert or sport or other activity, there is no firm plan on when things will get going. Some of the hireling shepherds are forgetting that people need hope, something to look forward to. Your Shepherd, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is not a hireling. He knows you need hope. He gives it. I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever! What a house! Perfection. Joy. Happiness that knows no end. No matter what happens here, a better life, the best is yet to come. No matter how badly this body breaks down, in heaven we will be perfect, compliments of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
Now as we have been going along I’ve been telling you the truth. I’ve been pointing you to the blessings you have because the LORD is your Shepherd. Faith is the hand that takes what God says is true and makes it personal. Psalm 23 is a personal Psalm. It’s not a third person Psalm or a second person Psalm. It’s a first person Psalm. The LORD is my Shepherd. So now I invite all of you to join me in making this Psalm your very own as you say it as your declaration of faith.
“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3he restores my soul. He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4Even 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. 5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”