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Sunday, September 20, 2020

“The LORD Is My Shepherd” [Matt's Messages]

“The LORD Is My Shepherd”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
September 20, 2020 :: Psalm 23

As I was preparing this message, I jotted down a short sentence at the top of my notes to guide me as I wrote my sermon.

And it was simply this, “Try not to ruin it.” Try not to ruin Psalm 23 for your flock.

Because the 23rd Psalm is so precious to us, isn’t it? 

It’s so familiar and reassuring and comforting and beautiful.

It’s so personal, and it’s so powerful. Psalm 23 preaches itself. Just read it! 

King David wrote a beautiful song about his relationship with the LORD, and it has  blessed every generation of God’s people ever since.

David piles meaningful metaphor upon meaningful metaphor and lovely image upon lovely image to wondrously convey the most wonderful and comforting and fortifying truth of what it means to really belong to the LORD.

And I just don’t want to ruin it for you. It’s too good!

I don’t want to dissect it and analyze it to death and give it back to you in over-explained pieces.

I just want us to read it and receive it for the fortifying and comforting song that it is for us. Because I think we need Psalm 23, the Shepherd Song.

This last week, on my prayer retreat I walked and prayed for all of the families in our church family. Thank you for sharing your praise and prayer requests with me.

And also for sharing with me what you feel that you need to be “fed” through the preaching this Fall.
A lot of insight here. Let me read you, anonymously, a few of your comments:

“I think at this particular time, I just need to be continually reminded of God’s love and care for us, that He is the same God yesterday, today, and forever. Just as His eye is on the sparrow, He is watching over me.”

“No matter what is happening, God is still in control.”

“Please keep encouraging us with God’s love and sovereignty.”

“Guidance living in this wicked, messed-up world.”

“I am a constant worrier. I know worrying is a waste of time, and I need to learn how to stop! Maybe you could write another book!” I don’t think so on that one! 

And then this one. “No fear in life. We are hidden in Christ. Encouraging us in that truth as we walk into and through difficult times.”

That sounds like Psalm 23 to me.

Because even though the Psalm is encouraging and positive, it also recognizes the difficulties and pain of life. Psalm 23 is not saccharine or sentimental. Trouble and dangers and enemies are real and lurk in the background. 

In his song, David doesn’t hide the darkness of life; He just promises that the Lord will lead us safely through it.

Because, as the song begins, “The LORD is my shepherd.”


“The LORD is my shepherd.”

Now there is a lot to be amazed by in that short statement.

Here’s what amazed me the most this week:

This “LORD” (capital L-O-R-D, Yahweh) is the same big God that we have been learning about the last few weeks.

It’s the same majestic Yahweh of Psalm 8, also written by David. “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.”

It’s the same eternal Yahweh of Psalm 90, “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”

It’s the same sovereign Yahweh of Psalm 93, “The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed in majesty and is armed with strength...The LORD on high is mighty!”

And that LORD on high is, according to David, His personal shepherd.

That’s mind blowing!

Because a shepherd (and David knew about shepherds! A shepherd...) is a personal caretaker.

A shepherd is not a mighty and majestic figure (though they are powerful especially in comparison to a sheep!). Shepherds are “roll up your sleeves and get the job done caring for a very silly and needy animal called a sheep” type of people.

And David says that the LORD stoops to do just that for him.

And we know that He does it for us, as well.

Yahweh is my shepherd.

Providing, protecting, and pursuing me for my good.

Three times in Psalm 23, David gives us a short little sentence that sums up what that means for him personally. 

And so I want to structure this message around those 3 declarations.

Here’s number one.

The LORD is my shepherd, therefore:

#1. I SHALL NOT BE IN WANT.

“I shall not be in want.”

That means, “I will have everything I need.”

The LORD will provide for me. He will take care of me. 

I will not be forgotten or neglected by God.

He says what this is like in verse 2.

If you think of me like a sheep, my shepherd takes good care of me.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.”

This is what a sheep needs. Sheep need green grass to eat, and they need peaceful water. Because if they are agitated, they don’t eat and starve. 

Sheep, by the way, are dumb. My favorite thing to point out about sheep is that they can get lost walking into a garage. They walk in and get lost. They can’t just turn around and figure out their way out of a garage. 

And I believe the Lord made sheep to give us a living illustration of what we are often like!

I don’t know about you, but I get anxious easily. I was anxious about something on Saturday, and I called my dad, and he was a real shepherd to me. Calmed me right down.

That’s what the LORD is like. He is a good shepherd who provides everything that His people need, even to the refreshment of our souls.

I’m glad that it is the LORD Who is the Shepherd because we need Him to be all of those things we’ve been reading the last 3 weeks. 

We need Him to majestic and be high over the heavens or else He wouldn’t have the resources to provide us with the green grass.

We need Him to be eternal without beginning or end or there would be an end to His provision.

Ne need Him to be sovereign over all the chaos or we would get buried by it.

But He isn’t just up there transcendent in the heavens. He is right here and near to us.

Do you see how personally involved He is? Read verse 2 again.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.”

He doesn’t just send somebody else. He does it Himself. Personally.

Not just His provision but also His protection. V.3

“He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.”

He takes the sheep on the right paths. The paths that lead to the right destination. And for us those are holy paths. The paths of blessing are the paths of wisdom which are the paths of righteousness.

And He personally guides us into them, and here’s why, “for his name’s sake.”

His reputation is on the line.

He personally does this work for His own glory.

And sometimes these right roads lead through dark and dangerous territory. V.4

“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.”

Did you hear something change there?

David changes from the third person to the first.

He stops singing about the LORD and starts singing directly to Him.

The song becomes even more personal!

And it’s point #2.

The LORD is my shepherd, therefore:

#2. I WILL FEAR NO EVIL.

Again, this ultimate. It doesn’t mean that David never felt fear. I’m reading through 1 and 2 Samuel right now, and David certainly felt fear! You see it again and again in his psalms.

But ultimately, David reminded himself and sang back to the Lord that he had nothing ultimately to fear.

Even if he died!

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”

That means even if I get COVID or cancer or hit by a truck, I have, ultimately, nothing to dread.

This last week, I learned of someone else that I knew that has died from COVID-19.

I’m thankful that they were a believer in Jesus Christ so I know where they are today, in the arms of Jesus.

Because that’s the only really safe place. It’s wherever the Lord is.

Notice, especially, the reason why David is not afraid. He tells us in the song.

Even though I go through the darkest, most dangerous valley, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me;”
“For you are with me.”

See if Yahweh is with you, there is no reason to be scared.

And if you belong to Jesus Christ, then Yahweh is with you.

He is with you. The Lord is near.

Say it to back to Him. “You are with me.”

“You are with me.”

You know what? That is the exact center of this psalm. It’s the very heart of the song. Right at the very middle.

“You are with me.”

Imagine that?! That Yahweh, the God of the universe isn’t just on that unbudgeable throne from Psalm 93. He is right here with you.

“You are with me.”

So “I will fear not evil.” Not evil outside or even evil inside.

“...your rod and your staff, they comfort me."

Those are shepherd tools. The rod is for defense and the staff is for discipline.

The rod is a cudgel for beating off our external enemies.

And the staff is a hook with a crook for keeping the sheep in line. Keeping me on the path of righteousness.

And both of them are comforting!

That the Lord would beat off all of our enemies, but also not let us go astray.

“I will fear no evil.”

And then in verse 5, David switches the metaphor. He goes from talking about the LORD as a shepherd to the LORD as a host, a friend offering lavish hospitality. V.5

He’s still singing directly to the LORD.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

It’s even better than being a cared-for sheep. We are favored guests.

The LORD is providing not just our needs but so much more.

In this metaphor, we are eating a sumptuous feast in the presence of our enemies!

We have enemies, but they are apparently so ineffective that we can eat right there with them in the room! 

I guess the picture is enemies who have been defeated and subdued? They are tied up and bound and have to sit by and watch as we eat our dinner?!

This is the very picture of safety and security! We are so safe that we can have our dinner right there while our enemies as witnesses.

Like at the end of the movie when the bad guy gets locked up in jail and the good guys all go out eat smiling into the sunset.

But that’s not the most surprising thing in verse 5. The most shocking thing is Who is setting the table!

It’s the King of the Universe!

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

The LORD personally honors this guest, even though this guest does not deserve it.

This is a picture of amazing grace.

We get this song all wrong if we think that David believes he deserves this kind of royal treatment.

No, this song is a song of astonishment about just how good it is to belong to Yahweh because we do not deserve it in the slightest.

And yet, he pours it out on us.

So much so that our cups overflow!

Blessed beyond measure.

Pursued by blessing. That’s where David goes in the last verse. He talks about pursuit.

The LORD does not just provide for or protect us but also pursues us with His goodness and steadfast love. V.6

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

That’s number #3.

The LORD is my shepherd and, even more, my gracious host. Therefore:

#3. I WILL DWELL WITH THE LORD FOREVER.

Because He’s always chasing me with His goodness.

I love verse 6 because David was so often on the run, he knew what it was like to be hunted by his enemies.

But David says that because He belongs to Yahweh, he gets chased by the LORD’s goodness and loyal love.

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

The Lord is dogging David’s heals with blessing!

Not just in the short run, but in the longest run, forever.

Same words we read last week to describe how long the LORD’s throne will last.

How long? For length of days. For all eternity. Forever.

Because David belonged to the LORD.

The LORD was his shepherd.

And the New Testament reveals that Jesus is also Yahweh in the flesh.

So that we know that this Lord being talked about in Psalm 23 is the same person who  proclaimed in John chapter 10, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep...only to take it up again” (vv.11 &17)

So that all who put their faith in His death and resurrection have Jesus as their Shepherd and will live with Him forever.

With every need supplied so that I will not be in want.
With every enemy subdued so that I will fear no evil.
With every blessing poured out as I dwell with Him forever.

“The LORD is my Shepherd.”


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