Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Lord is My Shepherd Part 1

The Lord is My Shepherd
Psalms 23:1-6
Part #1 of 3
Preached at Immanuel Baptist Church
Slidell, Louisiana
January 28, 2007

1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4Yea, 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 runs over. 6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.

I’m going to deal with the 23rd Psalm in a little different way than I deal with a passage. As we move along, we’ll have words on the overhead so that you can have a clear definition of their meaning.

Let’s start our examination of the 23rd Psalm by just the first two words, “The Lord.” You know it doesn’t say, a Lord, it says, The Lord. That definite article is pointing to the Lord God of Heaven. It’s not “a Lord”. This passage does not speak of a possible choice from a pantheon of gods. The Lord, now Lord, that’s Yahveh God, the God of the covenant who is able to establish a covenant and to maintain it, even when you and I are unfaithful. I’m so thankful that my position in Christ doesn’t depend upon my being good all the time. I’ll tell you, I’m glad when I grew up, my relationship to my parents didn’t depend on me being good all the time. I was still their child. When I embarrassed them by my behavior, I was their child.

I’m so thankful that God loves me in spite of me, I’m going to tell you, there is nothing within me to commend me to God, except the Love of God. You know what your heart is like, you know how you get twisted and turned, how you are occasionally led astray, how you are sometimes distracted by the cares of this world. You know how that goes. Isn’t it great to know that God loves us, even though we’re sometimes, may I say often times not very lovely, God loves us in spite of ourselves.

You see these sweet, lovely couples and you understand how it’s easy for them to love each other. But it is very encouraging to know that there are people who love us in spite of ourselves. If we’re honest most of us would have to admit that we’re pretty fortunate to have anybody that loves us, it’s amazing why anybody want to love us. Listen that love they demonstrate toward us is not dependent upon what we do for them. We have a relationship, a marriage, a brotherhood of believers, a blood kinship which demands love.

So what then is love? Love is acting in such a way as to demonstrate we care about a person’s well being. The Lord, the God of the covenant the one who has promised a redeemer, the one who sent that redeemer, the one who has promised His Spirit, and sent His Spirit, the one who has promised to return and I tell you He will return, that one has established a covenant with those who have become His followers. We are in a personal and intimate relationship with Him. He is the Lord of the universe, not just one of a multitude of gods. He is the one true God.. He is the God of glory, the one who is revealed in scripture. He is the creator. He is the one who spoke the world into existence. He is the one that gave life to every living thing He is the one that separated the darkness from the light and called one day and one night. He’s the one who separated the great waters in the watery deep and put the earth in the midst of them. He is the one that called the seven seas into their locations. The great oceans are scattered and separated the way God wanted them to be separated.

We are kept by God, the Lord of the covenant. He has made a covenant with man and we can stand and believe in that covenant. This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days He says I will write My words in their minds and I will write them upon their hearts. That tells me that the Lord, the God of glory is active in the affairs of men and God puts into our minds understanding and then He puts into our hear the desire to obey Him, the Lord, there is no other Lord..

Then comes the verb, “The Lord is”. Not long ago a prolonged debate on the meaning of the word “is” was promulgated by a certain political figure. When you study other languages you soon learn that mastering the verb “to be” is essential to learning the language. When Scripture says, “the Lord is”, there is no room for equivocation. There is not hint of possibility. There is the proclamation that He absolutely “is”. Scripture doesn’t say that one day the Lord might become, or could grow to be. No Scripture says, “The Lord is.” That is a positive affirmation.

Then the psalmist says, my shepherd . Wow, my shepherd, a shepherd generally has to do with ruling or guiding. A shepherd was charged with the responsibility oh having his sheep in the proper pasture with the best graze, and that they be safe. David is saying here is that the Lord is my boss. My wife gave me a cap for Christmas which says, “ Jesus is my boss.”

The Lord ought to be our boss. He ought to determine where we will go and when we will be there. I often ask people how they came to be in South Louisiana. They give all sorts of reasons, but seldom do they say attribute it to God’s Divine intervention in their lives. Someone might say, “I was in the military in Virginia and met this young lady who was attending University there. She was from the New Orleans area. We married and when I was discharged from the military we looked for a job in South Louisiana.”

We who are believers in Christ, need to learn to God’s Divine providence in orchestrating our lives. We ought to have a sense of God’s leadership in where we live, and what we do. We ought not simply move from one place to another while looking for that perfect job, community, church, or house. It’ll be a great day for us when we understand that our job is to obey the Lord. The Lord is my shepherd.

The word shepherd includes both provision and protection. He is a protector and a provider. His purpose for sending us where He does is so we can do that which honorsHim and glorifies Him. Our purpose is not to bring honor and glory to ourselves but to bring honor and glory to the God of glory. The Lord is my shepherd. He is the one whose responsibility it is to provide for me and mine. My responsibility is to find His will and do it by His strength. I’m so glad that it’s not my responsibility. Let me tell you, we’re pretty flimsy.

I remember on one occasion in India where we were 30-35 kilometers away from the city of Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh. We traveled out by auto-rickshaw only to discover at the close of the service that night there was no transportation available. We thought we might have to stay the night, but the locals were afraid for us because we had stirred up the ire of the militant Hindus in that area. They had thrown rocks into the compound where we were worshiping and attempted to disrupt the proceedings. We prayed and told God it was His problem. If he wanted us to stay the night, we were willing.

God then sent two people on motor scooters to us and they transported us back to the hotel on those scooters. Now these folks had not been out looking for people to give rides into the city. They were moved, I believe, by the Holy Spirit to go to the house of the pastor there. You see, God had everything planned. Our job was to be where God wanted us, doing what He wanted. The details were and are His problem. It seems to me the more we worry the more foolish we appear when God finally reveals His plan. I believe God delights to work things out and God just worked it out. Let me tell you, it didn’t surprise God that those people were agitated against us over there. It didn’t surpriseHim at all. It didn’t surprise God that we needed transportation. The shepherd knows our needs before we ask them.

God knows what’s going to happen to you tomorrow. It will not take Him by surprise. Listen the Shepherd knows our need. He knows where we are. He knows our heart, our fear, and our failings. The Lord is my shepherd.

Now I want to tell you something else. Because the Lord is my Shepherd, “I shall not want.” That word “want” means to have a lack of. So what the Psalmist is telling me here is that I shall not lack in what I have need of. It means my needs will be met. Glory! Glory! Glory! Jesus Christ declared that He came that we might have live life to its fullest. He will provide every necessity for us to accomplish what He calls us to do on this earth.

Consider what He said, “The lilies of the field, they toil not, neither do they spin, yet Solomon in all his glory was never arrayed like one of these.” God doesn’t want us to live our lives with a sense of lack. He said, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall have no lack of what I need.” Wow! I shall have no lack of what I need for living the abundant fruitful life. Now that doesn’t mean that I’ll always be able to have that $200 package with charter cable. That doesn’t mean that I’ll always be able to buy a new car every year. That doesn’t mean that I’ll be able to go to Neiman Marcus shopping twice a year. That’s not what it means. What it does mean is that God will meet every need you and I have to fulfill His purpose for us here upon this earth. I shall have no lack there of. I shall have what I need because the Lord is my shepherd. I trust Him.

When I was a child we would walk up in my Grandfather’s pasture on warm Spring Sunday afternoons, and we’d pick flowers. They seemed to grow everywhere. There was one tiny lily looking flower we called a flag. It was beautiful. Purple running to yellow with yellow pistil. The only purpose of those flowers is to adorn God’s earth with beauty. They fulfilled that function to perfection. Oh, that you and I would seek to fulfill our function to perfection.

Listen to me, dear friends. If God takes care of the flowers and clothes them in such beautiful array why do we have to think that God won’t take care of us, why do we worry, why do we get our lives so convoluted, so messed up, so fouled up worrying about things that we have no control over. God knows our needs, God knows what we have need of before we ask Him. Now He expects us to ask because asking is an act of faith, but God knows our needs.

The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. You know the sparrow is a fairly dull bird. There are untold numbers of them everywhere, it seems. They don’t have the brilliant colors of the cardinal or bluebird. They’re don’t intrigue like the tiny, beautiful hummingbird. But Scripture tells us that God know when one of these seemingly insignificant creatures falls to the earth. Listen Jesus didn’t die for the sparrow. He didn’t leave heaven and walk the dusty streets of that small Palestinian country for the lilies of the field. He did it for me, and for you. Don’t you think that if God cares about the sparrows and the lilies, you can trust Him to care about you?

God really cares about you, God’s really concerned about you and your functioning on your job, He’s concerned about you and your functioning with your neighbors, He’s concerned about you and your work in your family, He’s concerned about you being an influence to your community. God cares about you. It’s a matter of trust, can we trust God to meet our needs, or do we have to go through life worrying because things aren’t going like we thought they should?

Every time I take my mind of God’s plan, I begin to worry. I look at the steel laying on the ground on our property and I know that we simply cannot afford that building in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina’s decimating of our congregation. It is a scary thing to just think about paying the light bill on that building. But I knew 5 years ago God wanted us to build that building. I didn’t know it was going to come as a result of a storm. Listen the steel is paid for. It’s laying on the ground and it’s paid for. I trust God, but there are moments when I’m a little weak, I say, “God did I make a mistake?” But, dear friends, I trust Him. As much as I know about His plan for Immanuel Baptist Church, we’re right in the center of His will in this matter. So I have to feed my faith and starve my doubts. I have read His Word and pray. I have to return to that point where I’m certain He is directing my path. Then I marvel at my lack of faith. How could I doubt Him?

Some of you have made significant personal purchases over the last couple of years. You’ve prayed, you’ve waited, and you prayed some more. You’ve committed your path to Christ, consciously sought His guidance. So don’t begin to fret when things become tight at point along the path. God is capable of providing supernaturally for your personal needs, the same as He does for the sparrows. Just continually submit your self to His leadership, and be willing to do whatever He leads you to do.

Over the last four years, we’ve been able, as a church, to minister to many families. God has used us to put transmissions in cars, to rebuild cars, to purchase cars, God’s helped us to buy beds, and hot water heaters, even air conditioners for people, I don’t know where that money came from. God always seems to provide the funds necessary to accomplish what He wants us to do. Listen, if He does that in the church, He’ll do that in your individual life, but you’ve got to learn to trust Him, and you got to be faithful. Unlike the sparrow, you can choose to obey. You must be faithful to serve God, faithful with your finances, faithful with your trust, learn to obey Him in all things. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. You can place your own name there.

The Psalmist then makes another statement. He makes me to lie down. Think on that for a moment. God, My Lord, my boss, makes me lie down. He expects me to rest, to relax, to lie down. Sometimes God has to get our attention to make us rest, but He delights to give rest to His people. Dr. Adrian Rogers once preached a sermon entitled, “How To Rest in Peace Without a Tombstone.” The theme was that one could live his life even in the midst of the chaos of the environment with a sense of refreshing peace.

It matters not the number of hours you work each day. If you’re going where God wants you to go, doing what God wants you to do, you’ll have all the energy you need to accomplish the task. However, if you’re continually running out of day before you run out of deeds then it may be that you need to reevaluate that to do list. Perhaps you need a “don’t do” list. You might need to make sure that God is arranging your schedule rather than the circumstances of life. After all, we know who controls the circumstances of life, don’t we.

Listen if you don’t let God arrange your schedule, if you don’t let God plan your day, plan your week, plan your month, I don’t understand how in the world you can make it. You’re depending on your own strength and your own power. But I’m telling you that when God is leading us, when we’re doing what God wants us to do, the way God wants us to do it, where God wants us to do it, in God’s power, in God’s strength we’ll have all the energy, we’ll have all the strength, we’ll have all the resources we need to accomplish that task for His glory. I couldn’t serve a God who would tell me to do something and not give me the where with all to accomplish it.

I believe if God told me to jump over this building He’d give me the legs to do it. God’s in that business, that’s what God does. He makes me to lie down. He makes me to rest. Oh how we need to learn to rest in the Lord. It all comes bact to trusting God. If you’re anxious, if you’re easily agitated over your circumstances and situations because you’ve not learned to trust God, you’ll not rest.

I remember as a young man how from time to time something would not arrive when I thought it should have been there. Now sometimes it didn’t happen because I was not diligent to order it in a timely manner. That’s probably happened to you hasn’t it. You’ve procrastinated and then when something didn’t arrive when you needed it, you were upset. Maybe you’ve never done that, but I have. Then there are those times I did everything I needed to do, did it when I needed to do it and it still wasn’t there on time. Man, oh man, I’d pace back and forth. I’d yell and then I’d call the delivery service or the post office and I’d make a complete fool of myself by talking harshly and rudely to them. Now, I sure none of you have ever done such a thing. I want you to understand that was when I was much younger.

Listen, I learned that when I’m doing what God wants me to do and I’ve done it in a timely manner like God wants me to do it, and something’s not happening the way it should, I need to start looking for God’s divine intervention; or I need to start looking to see what I need to learn as a result of this situation. You see, God knows what’s going on, we just have to trust Him, it’s not our problem, it’s God’s problem, and the problem with most of us is that we just haven’t learned to trust God, we haven’t learned to say God it’s your problem, we’ve made it our problem and we’ve taken control of it, we’ve taken responsibility for it, and we intend to see it through if it kills us and everybody connected with it, the fact is, it’s God’s problem when we obey Him.

Now don’t get upset at God or UPS if you’ve been late placing your order, let God teach you a lesson there, do things in a timely manner. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, He makes me to lie down.

Next the Psalmist says, “in green pastures.” “He makes me to lie down in green pastures.” This “green” means a tender, ripe, succulent sprout. My cows and horses love that tender sprout of grass. The problem is that the tender sprout is often not well rooted in the ground, and the livestock pull it out as they’re eating it. But that tender sprout is the most desirable of all the graze. Sheep, cows, and horses are drawn to it like I’m drawn to Lemon Icebox Pie. He makes me to lie down in green pastures.

One must realize that the pasture is the center of the sheep’s existence. He lives there. That is where he accomplishes his life’s work of growing wool and raising lambs. That says to me that God wants us to enjoy our life’s work. Those places of rest are not just any old place. They are the most choice places anywhere. When we’re trusting God and allowing Him to guide us, we can be sure that He gives us His very best for us.

Finally scripture says He leads me besides still waters, He leads. Scripture says that God led the Children of Israel into the wilderness when they left Egypt. Now I know that doesn’t fit contemporary theology, but God does sometimes lead through hardship. He could have led Israel out of Egypt and on to Kadesh Barnea in a very short time, but it took them two years to arrive there by the circuitous route He chose for them. He led them by the difficult path.

Let me tell you that your path may appear frustratingly difficult at times. But you must believe that God leads. You must trust His choice of routes. The Psalmist says He leads us “beside the still waters.” This passage is often pictures as a clear, cool, brook rippling over smooth rocks. But the Bible says these waters are quiet, they’re calm. The quiet and calm spirit which reflects an abiding trust in the Father’s direction, provision, and protection.

Are you resting in the soft tender sprouts of calm and quiet as you resolutely give yourself to again and again to God’s service? Are you demonstrating by your calm and quiet spirit that you trust God’s leadership for your life. Do you and those around you depend upon God’s divine provision and protection?

Today, if you recognize a need, that means God’s Holy Spirit is dealing with you. Will you make Him the boss of your life today? You can’t come to Christ on your own. You must respond to the urging of your heart. My prayer is that this day, you will confess your need of Him as Lord and Savior, and put your trust in Jesus Christ.

If you know that you are a believer, but you’re not enjoying the rest that He has promised to those who follow Him, then it is certain that you have unconfessed and unrepented of sin in your life. I might not some great moral sin, it might be the sin of prayerlessness, or failure to study His Word, or failure to share His grace. It might be that you occasionally give into the pressures of the world, and demonstrate a lack of trust in His guidance, provision, and protection. 1 John 1:9 was written just for you. “If you confess that sin, He is faithful and just to forgive it and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness.” Trust Him today. Take Him at His word.

© Mike Rasberry 2007

1 comment:

Bobby Cohoon said...

I like this Mike; I look forward tot he parts 2 and 3