Following the Shepherd
Have you ever felt so desperate, alone and helpless that you just wanted to be taken care of?
When I was divorced, before I met my husband, Ray, sometimes I just wanted to be taken care of.
I remember how it felt when I bought a good used car from a Christian brother that had been advertising on the local Christian radio station.
He was so honest and forthright. He did not try to take advantage of me or talk me into a vehicle I could not afford.
When I took the vehicle in for servicing, he made sure everything was done right.
All I could say was that I felt taken care of. I had not felt that way in a long time. This man was a stranger, except for the fact that he was my brother in the Lord.
God holds out his arms of love and beckons us to follow the good shepherd who provides for his people in every conceivable manner.
The great provider.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want” (Ps 23:1)
The Message renders it thus, “God, my shepherd! I don't need a thing” (Ps 23:1).
Can you imagine a life like that! “I don’t need a thing.”
It all starts with God.
The great provision
“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters” (Ps 23:2).
Physical restoration of the weary.
“Green pastures”-“lush meadows” in The Message
A cool place of rest
“Quiet waters”- “You find me quiet pools to drink from”
Thirst quenching refreshment
Illustration--My son, Christian, used to be a runner. He ran from middle school through college. Particularly on a hot day, after a cross country meet, when the race was finished, he and his friends would lie in the cool grass and drink from their water bottles. They needed refreshment after all the exertion. The coaches would be sure they got the rest and refreshment needed. A good coach shepherded the kids to where they needed to be for physical replenishment.
“he restores my soul” (Ps 23:3a).
Emotional and spiritual renewal.
The shepherd cares about the entire sheep.
God cares about that which concerns us.
“He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake” (Ps 23:3b).
Points the way..
The shepherd shows the sheep the right, the best direction to go.
If we let him, God will not let us get lost.
Illustration—I had breakfast with a friend this morning. We get together around once a month and normally have a lot of catching up to do. She told me of the vacation she and her husband took a couple of weeks ago. After rafting with a group, her husband was exhausted and could not catch his breath. He was taken to a hospital in the next town. They were completely unfamiliar with the area. Donna, the wife went the way she thought she had been told to meet the ambulance and her husband at the hospital. She had to stop five different times for directions. Over an hour later she arrived.
God’s directions are quite the opposite. Not only does he direct us in the ways of righteousness, but he escorts us all the way.
“for his name’s sake” because of who he is, his character.
“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” (Ps 23:4)
Protection from danger.
He walks with us when we are afraid.
Rod and staff
Lead and catch a sheep when falling or wandering off.
Comforts sheep-Reminiscent of Isaiah’s words, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isa 41:9-11).
Fear can be seemingly tangible at times, something that can overtake you. Do you remember what it was like to be afraid and have your tall, big Daddy take your hand when you were little and fearful?
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” (Ps 23:5).
Party—feasting in front of enemies.
Right in front of them—God’s marvelous provision.
The Message “You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing”
May have felt beaten down by enemies, but God raises us up.
The great promise.
“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Ps 23:6).
Rather than enemies, blessings follow.
The Message “Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life.
I'm back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.”
Illustration-It is a good thing that it is goodness, love and blessings that are chasing me. Though my son, Christian was a very good runner, I could never run. I remember the humiliation of gym class when we would have to run. I was always last. If someone had been pursuing me to harm me, I would have been easily caught. But God’s blessings pursue and overtake us, how wonderful. I do not mind getting caught by them.
“…for the rest of my life” The Message. That could be interpreted two ways: 1. for all of my life or 2. for the best kind of rest ever, the “rest of my life.”
God’s rest “"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28).
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11)
Jesus is that shepherd for us. The key to the provisions in Psalm 23 is the relationship to the Lord. It is only if he is yours and you are his that you are taken care of by Jesus, the good shepherd. Following him assures us of a right relationship to God and each other.
He washes and cleanses us by the washing of water and the word.
As our host, he prepares a table for us, the bread and wine of his body and blood which we will partake of shortly. Let us follow him.
Hymn of the day which immediately follows sermon
The King of Love My Shepherd Is
The king of love my shepherd is, whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am his and he is mine forever.
Where streams of living water flow, my ransomed soul he leadeth and,
Where the verdant pastures grow, with food celestial feedeth.
Perverse and foolish oft I strayed, but yet in love he sought me,
And on his shoulder gently laid, and home, rejoicing brought me.
In death’s dark vale I fear no ill, with thee, dear Lord, beside me,
Thy rod and staff my comfort still; thy cross before to guide me.
Thou spreadst a table in my sight; thine unction grace bestoweth;
And, oh, what transport of delight from thy pure chalice floweth!
And so, through all the length of days, thy goodness faileth never.
Good Shepherd, may I sing thy praise within thy house forever.
Evangelical Lutheran Worship #502