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Friday, February 27, 2009

Sermon on the 23rd Psalm


Most people know of the 23rd Psalm, known as the Shepherd's Psalm, having heard it read or sung, often at special services such as weddings or funerals, for it’s a Psalm whose words bring great comfort to people, especially the bereaved.
The Lord is my Shepherd.
These first few words of the Psalm infer that we have received Him into our lives as Saviour. If you have claimed the gift of salvation and acknowledge Jesus as your Lord, then He is your Shepherd.
I shall not want
This phrase speaks of the proper care of the flock Often we are referred to in the Scriptures as ‘the sheep of His pasture.’ Unfortunately, as any good shepherd and farmer will tell you, sheep are not really very smart creatures and are not known for their brains! You need to be able to turn to the Good Shepherd for guidance about all the important matters in your life.

When the psalmist says, I shall not want; he’s not saying that you’ll never want the things that are out there in the world, dangled in front of you by the advertisers. He’s saying that you will never want for the things that God provides. Many years ago I was saved by the stripes of our Lord Jesus Christ. He saved my soul. He provides for all of my needs, and always has done. He cares for me far better than I would ever be capable of caring for myself.
He makes me lie down in green pastures He leads me beside quiet waters
You might think that if you were a sheep you’d want to be on the move eating! However, He makes us lie down and rest. He directs us, knowing what is best for us at all times. Sometimes He says to us, Be still and know that I am God.

Our Shepherd has prepared, does prepare, and is preparing a table for us. A good shepherd will always find the best pasture for his flock, taking care that there are no poisonous weeds and that there is a good supply of pure water. If a shepherd in the earthly sense does so much for the sheep in his care then how much more will our Good Shepherd take care of His flock.

God hasn't saved people just so that they can go to heaven. He wants us to be productive in the kingdom of God.

When the sheep lie down, they begin to digest this green pasture on which they grazed earlier. To be up and moving about in the heat of the day would reduce their productivity. They need to be fat and must lie down for some of the time.

Often we don't obey God. Our Good Shepherd tells us to lie down, but we resist and try to do our own thing. We often find that it’s difficult to be still because our minds are full of the worries and cares of our over-busy lives. But, He is our Shepherd. We should be eager to obey His voice and do His bidding without question or complaint. He always knows what’s best for us and has made provision for us. He will lead us to the still waters from where we can drink our fill.
He restores my soul.
If sheep lie down in one place for too long then they become what is known as cast, and they are unable to get up. They need the help of the shepherd to avoid being left behind. This is another reason why we need to listen and obey the voice of our Good Shepherd.

As Christians we need to always be ready to listen to the still small voice of God that leads and guides us. This is the same voice that brought us to a knowledge of salvation in the first place, the same voice that prompts us every day to do things for others, the same voice that encourages us in our lives, lifting us up to be with Him, When He asks us to do something then we need to obey, so when he says that we should Lie down, we need to lie down. When He says, Get up and do this for Me, then we need to respond immediately. If we try to be our own master - our own shepherd - then we will find that we may become cast and unable to get up in our own strength.

We can be thankful that our God is one who will seek for each one of us if we are lost. Jesus told the story of the lost sheep, the shepherd leaving the ninety-nine safely penned whilst he went to find the one that was lost That lost sheep could easily be me, or you, or one of your immediate family. Aren't you thankful that we have a Shepherd who cares so much about us that He will come and find us? No Christian ever gets into trouble without having heard God calling out to him to stop! No Christian wanders into a state of sin without the Holy Spirit saying No!, over and over. Often, aware of our rebellious natures, God will put things in our way in order to keep us from sin. If you never hear this voice inside you, guiding you, then the bad news is that you haven't given yourself over to Christ, even if you think you have. You haven't yet been saved, even if you think you have. It's quite possible for the devil to have deceived you. You may be doing everything physically right and yet be spiritually dead. If you don't hear God speaking to you, drawing you closer to Him through prayer and longing, then you need to give yourself fully over to His control. Then you'll notice the difference. The change will ignite the fire within you so that you can burn brightly and light the paths of others in His name. If you are a lost sheep what will happen when your Shepherd finds you? Will he scold you for getting lost? No, never! He will pick you up, draw you close to himself and reassure you through His voice and touch. He will calm you, restoring you. He will take you home rejoicing. Our Good Shepherd loves us that much! Don't listen to the devil when he tries to tell you that you don't matter, that you're not important, for everyone is special in the eyes of God. He knows each one of us personally; He loves each one of us personally; He hears each one of us personally. This is the kind of God that we have, of whom the psalmist wrote, He restores my soul.
He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
God's leading is always in paths which are the right way in His eyes, and which will bring honour and glory to His name. We’re not granted salvation and the opportunity to become followers of Christ in order to swell the attendance of one particular denomination or another. It’s for His name's sake, for we are His children, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). We have been redeemed by His blood in order that we can bring Glory to God in and through all things.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, l fear no evil; for MY art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.
For a sheep to be at it's most productive it cannot be fearful. The presence of an enemy such as a wolf or a dog can bring fear with it. As Christians we have many enemies. We are walking through the valley of the shadow of death every day of our lives, sensing the fears that abound. Fear of illness, cancer, aids, financial difficulty or even ruin, broken relationships ... the list is endless. All of these things can be used by the devil to reduce our effectiveness in our Christian walk.

When we’re facing problems we have no need to face them alone, for the Good Shepherd will be there with us, comforting and calming us with His presence. If a shepherd steps in amongst his sheep when they are fearful they will start to calm down, knowing that they can trust him to protect them. We need to learn to recognise our Shepherd so that, in times of fear and concern, we do not run this way and that, but run only towards Him. All the peace and protection that we need we will find in the Lord. If the devil tries to tempt you away, promising you a good time, then know that he’s a liar. He’ll stand by and laugh as you weep at the frustration of a life littered with lost opportunities. The promise of Hebrews 13: 5 stands as firm today as it ever did when the Lord promised us: I will never leave you nor forsake you. If you believe it with all of your heart then you will always be able to turn to Him, knowing that His presence is there to comfort you.
Thou dost prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; Thou hast anointed my head with oil and my cup overflow
As a gracious host God has provided us with all that we need, not simply just enough, but in abundance. Just as the shepherd pours oil onto the sheep to deal with the problems of flies and other parasites in order to protect them, so our Good Shepherd will anoint us with the Holy Spirit in order that we might have His protection. It’s this that will help us when the devil comes to us trying to convince us that we’re poor Christians, and trying to drag us down. He doesn't mind you going to church as long as you don't listen to the message, as long as you don't change your life, as long as you don't serve God, as long as you are weak in testimony. He actually likes Christians who are dead because they don’t threaten him. But, the anointing of the Holy Spirit in our lives will enable us to live according to the Spirit and not to follow the weak leading of the flesh. And how worthwhile it is to serve Him. How good it is to know that He is our Shepherd!
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the House of the Lord for ever.

When we accept Christ's invitation to be with Him then we’re not just visitors for the day. We’re recipients of God's covenant loving-kindness forever. When God provides for us He doesn't look for a place to stop! He provides for us for eternity! Scripture confirms this to us when it says, Surely goodness and loving-kindness will follow me all the days of my life. He will always lead us to green pastures, always to the still waters, that we might eat of the bread of life and drink of the waters of everlasting life for ever. His unchanging love is all the confirmation that we need. We will dwell in the House of the Lord for ever, the place where God is to be found.

Can you read the words of this Psalm to yourself and not be changed. Can you say in truth, The Lord is my shepherd, with conviction and assurance? If you can then you’ll know that you have been saved for eternity, but if not then it’s time to repent and make a confession of faith before Him, receiving Him into your life, letting Him control every aspect of it.


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