The Lord Is My Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastors.
The sheep know their Shepherd and they know his voice. They will follow Him.
He leads me beside the still waters. He leads me in paths of righteousness.
Introduction: Reference: Psalms 23.
Psalm 23 is undoubtedly one of the best-known passages in all the Bible. Most of us learned it as children and it continues to be a comfort to those who are dying, or those who have lost loved ones. Maybe it’s so well-loved because it is so personal and individual. When we read it, we don’t think of David shepherding his sheep 3,000 years ago. It applies to us. “The Lord is my shepherd”.
1. When Jesus taught the people He used language and associations that were familiar to them.
2. The people were familiar with shepherds tending their flocks.
3. Jesus compared his relationship to those who believed in Him to that of a shepherd and his flock.
4. Isaiah 40:11- had prophysied that “He shall feed His flock like a shepherd.”
5. But Jesus was foretold to be more than a Shepherd to us.
6. He was to be the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world.
7. But, He is also the door to the sheepfold. He is the way to God.
8. Jesus said no man cometh unto the Father except by me. I am the way, the Truth and the Light.
9. There is no other name under Heaven by which man may be saved but Jesus.
10. There is no other way to receive justification and peace with God, but by Jesus.
11. Many have come presenting other objects for faith,
…..other ceremonies and systems have been presented to fool the people,
…………..other Gods have been offered to take the place of Christ,
12. But there is only one Door to the sheepfold. That is Christ.
13. It is not Allah, not Buddha, not Hari Chrishner, not fame, Money, Power..
14. Christ is the door to the fold. Any man who enters in not by the Door is a thief and a robber.
(This Chapter 52 in Desire Of Ages is a beautiful Chapter. There is so much meat in it. I wish I had time to break it down for you today, but I don’t. I invite you to read it for yourself.)
Unfortunately, we live in a society where tending sheep is not your ordinary occupation.
In fact, I dare say that none of you even know a shepherd, much less are familiar with what a shepherd’s life is really like.
And so I think we have a tendency to lose a little bit of the meaning that David intended when he wrote these words.
1. The Lord is My Shepherd, I Shall Not Want
David was himself a shepherd. He was known as the “Shepherd King” of Israel.
But he saw Jehovah, the Lord God of Israel, as his shepherd.
He speaks in this psalm as if he was one of the flock, one of the sheep. And it is as though he literally boasted aloud,
“Look who my shepherd is — my owner — my manager! The Lord is!”
“The Lord is my shepherd.” He chose us, he bought us, he calls us by name, he makes us his own and he delights in taking care of us.
Notice that our Lord supplies our every need, not our every want.
As Paul told the Philippians, “And my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 4:19).
The same one who sustained the children of Israel,
…. the one who fed Elijah by the brook,
……..the one who provided the needs of the disciples sent out without staff or shoes, has promised to provide our needs both physical and spiritual.
Let me tell you what a good shepherd is like. He loves his sheep.
For him there is no greater reward, no deeper satisfaction, than that of seeing his sheep contented, well fed, safe and flourishing in his care. That’s what his life is all about, and he gives everything he has to it.
He goes to a great deal of trouble to provide them with the finest grazing, ample winter feed and clean water. He provides shelter from the storms, protection from the enemies and the diseases and parasites to which sheep are susceptible.
That’s the kind of shepherd we have. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11). Truly, “the Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.”
(Red, Yellow, Black, and White; they all are precious in His sight. God says that color, size, or how much money you have is not important. But the god of this world says color, size, and money matters.
God can take a black cow, feed it green grass and make it produce white milk and yellow butter. That is how awesome our God is.)
2. He Maketh Me to Lie Down in Green Pastures: He Leadeth Me Beside Still Waters
It’s not easy to get a sheep to lie down. A strange thing about sheep is that they will refuse to lie down unless four requirements are met.
(1) They must be free from all fear.
(2) There must be no tension between members of the flock.
(3) They must not be aggravated with flies or parasites.
(4) And they must be free from hunger.
It is the shepherd who must see to it that his flock is free from any disturbances.
Sheep are very easily frightened. A stray jackrabbit jumping out from behind a bush can stampede a whole flock.
When one startled sheep runs in fright, all of the others will follow behind it in blind fear, not waiting to see what frightened them. But nothing quiets a flock of sheep like seeing their shepherd in the field with them.
Like sheep, we also are easily frightened. We live in an uncertain life. Any hour can bring disaster. And generally, it is the unknown, the unexpected, that frightens us most.
But nothing quiets our souls like knowing that our Shepherd is near.
In every animal society there is an established order of dominance or status.
In chickens, it is known as the pecking order.
Among sheep it is called the butting order. Sheep maintain their status by butting and driving away other sheep from their favorite grazing spot. When there is this tension in a flock, the sheep can’t lie down and rest. They must always stand up and be ready to fight. The result is that it wears the sheep out, they lose weight and become irritable. But whenever the shepherd is around, they forget their rivalries and stop their fighting.
That’s a lot like people, too, isn’t it? There is a struggle for status in our society, to “keep up with the Joneses”.
There is a struggle for self-assertion and self-recognition. Most of us fight to be “top sheep” or Top Dog.
We butt and quarrel and compete to get ahead. It is impossible to relax in that kind of environment. You have to always be ready to stand up and defend your rights. But things change when our Shepherd is around.
The Lord’s presence puts an end to all rivalry.
And sheep will not rest until they are free from hunger. A hungry sheep is always on its feet, searching for another mouth of food, trying to satisfy its gnawing hunger. Keep in mind that in Palestine where David wrote this psalm, it’s a dry, brown, sun-burned land. Green pastures didn’t just happen by chance. Shepherds had to search hard for green areas or cultivate them themselves. But when a sheep had eaten enough, when it was free from fear, tension and aggravation, it would lie down.
Our shepherd provides us with the spiritual food we need. If we hunger and thirst after righteousness, he has promised to fill us. All of our needs are met in Christ. That’s why “he maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”
He also “leads us beside the still waters”. Sheep also need water to survive. And they will not drink from noisy, turbulent water. They require a well or a slow-flowing stream, “still waters”.
Jesus made it clear that the thirsty souls of men and women can only be fully satisfied by coming to him. In John 7:37, he stated, “If any man thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” Our Shepherd leads us beside the still waters.
3. He Restoreth My Soul
There is an Old English shepherd’s term called a “cast” sheep.
This is a sheep that has turned over on its back and can’t get back up again. It happens frequently. And when it happens, all the sheep can do is lie on its back, with its feet flaying frantically in the air. Sometimes it will bleat, but usually it will just kick.
If the shepherd doesn’t arrive within a short time, the sheep will die.
That’s one of the reasons why a shepherd is always looking over its flock, counting them to see if they are all on their feet. If one is missing, he thinks, “One of my sheep is cast and I’ve got to find it.” This is the thought behind the parable of the 99 sheep and the one that went astray.
Many times a shepherd will search for hours for a single sheep, only to find it on its back, lying helpless.
He will turn the sheep over on its side, rub its legs to restore circulation, then lift it to its feet. After a while the sheep will stumble and stagger, and then eventually walk steadily and surely.
That’s probably what David had in mind when he said, “He restoreth my soul” because that’s how our Lord treats us.
We stumble and fall, we become so helpless. And yet our shepherd is patient and tender and helpful in getting us back on our feet.
4. He Leadeth Me in the Paths of Righteousness For His Name’s Sake
Sheep must be lead; they cannot be driven as cattle from behind.
We are a lot like sheep. As humans, we prefer to follow our own fancies and turn to our own ways. “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way.” (Isaiah 53:6).
And so we need a shepherd who can lead us in paths of righteousness, and our Lord does just that. Notice that our shepherd is not a driver but a leader.
He doesn’t stand behind us with a stick, saying, “Go on, and do that.” No, he goes ahead and leads the way for us. “For to this you were called, because Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps.” (I Peter 2:21).
Our Lord leads and he always leads us in the paths of righteousness. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).
5. Yea, Though I Walk Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will Fear no Evil: For Thou Art With Me
A Shepard is more than a sheep dog.
Most humans truly are like sheep
Wanting nothing more than peace to keep
To graze, grow fat and raise their young,
Sweet taste of clover on the tongue.
Their lives serene upon Life’s farm,
They sense no threat nor fear no harm.
On verdant meadows, they forage free
With naught to fear, with naught to flee.
They pay their sheepdogs little heed
For there is no threat; there is no need.
To the flock, sheepdog’s are mysteries,
Roaming watchful round the peripheries.
These fang-toothed creatures bark, they roar
With the fetid reek of the carnivore,
Too like the wolf of legends told,
To be amongst our docile fold.
Who needs sheepdogs? What good are they?
They have no use, not in this day.
Lock them away, out of our sight
We have no need of their fierce might.
But sudden in their midst a beast
Has come to kill, has come to feast
The wolves attack; they give no warning
Upon that calm September morning
They slash and kill with frenzied glee
Their passive helpless enemy
Who had no clue the wolves were there
Far roaming from their Eastern lair.
Then from the carnage, from the rout,
Comes the cry, “Turn the sheepdogs out!”
Thus is our nature but too our plight
To keep our dogs on leashes tight
And live a life of illusive bliss
Hearing not the beast, his growl, his hiss.
Until he has us by the throat,
We pay no heed; we take no note.
Not until he strikes us at our core
Will we unleash the Dogs of War
Only having felt the wolf pack’s wrath
Do we loose the sheepdogs on its path.
And the wolves will learn what we’ve shown before;
We love our sheep, we Dogs of War.
2d Bn, 327th Parachute Infantry Regiment
101st Airborne Division
There are going to be valleys in life for all of us.
Some of us have many valleys, some few.
Some of us have deep valleys, some not so deep.
But, somewhere in our journey, we must all cross the valley of the shadow of death, for “It is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27). Its time may be unknown, but it’s certain to come.
And we must walk it one by one, unless we walk it with Christ.
We cannot walk this valley with our husband or wife.
We cannot walk it with our business partner. We cannot take our friends or relatives.
As we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we walk with Christ or we walk alone.
6. Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me
When a shepherd is out in the fields with his flock, he carries very little with him.
Today’s shepherds will carry a rifle, a staff and a small knapsack. In the Middle East the shepherd carried only a rod and a staff.
The rod is kinda like a club. The shepherd learns from childhood how to throw it with amazing speed and accuracy. It becomes his main weapon of defense for himself and his sheep. He uses it to drive off predators like coyotes, wolves, cougars or stray dogs. In the brush it is used to beat away snakes.
But it is also used for discipline. If a sheep wanders away or approaches poisonous weeds, or gets too close to some danger, the rod is thrown to send it back to the flock.
The staff, on the other hand, is a long, slender stick, often with a crook or hook on one end. The shepherd will use the staff to guide sheep along a new path or through a gate. He doesn’t beat the sheep. He just nudges them along. At times, the staff may be used to get a sheep out of trouble, to pull it from the water or to free it from thorns.
To those of us who are God’s sheep, the authority, power, might and guidance of the Lord are indeed a comfort. “Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
7. Thou Preparest a Table Before Me in the Presence of Mine Enemies:
This has always struck me as an unusual image. I’ve never seen sheep sitting at a table. In much of the world, though, the high plateaus of sheep pasture are called “mesas” which is Spanish for “tables”. This seems to be fairly common language and David probably means the pastureland has been prepared.
In the spring, after the snows melt, the shepherd will take his sheep up the mountain to finer pastures. But first he will go up into the rough, wild country to check it out. He will take along a supply of salt and minerals to distribute over the range. He will decide where his camps will be located. He will make sure the vegetation is sturdy enough. He will check for poisonous weeds and uncover any snakes.
In similar fashion, our Lord takes care of us in the presence of our enemies. In effect, he has gone ahead and checked things out. He has already been “tempted in all points like as we are.” (Hebrews 4:15). He has known our sorrows and endured our struggles in order to help us through. “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies”.
8. Thou Anointest My Head With Oil; My Cup Runneth Over
A particular problem sheep have is insects — flies, mosquitoes, gnats. Sheep are especially bothered by the nose fly, or nasal fly.
These flies buzz around the sheep’s head trying to deposit eggs on the damp nose of the sheep. If they are successful, the eggs will hatch to form small worm-like larvae.
They crawl up the sheep’s nose and cause a great deal of aggravation.
So, at the beginning of fly season, shepherds will mix up an oil concoction.
In Palestine, they used a mixture of olive oil, sulphur and spices. It would then be applied to the heads of the sheep. Oil is also used to cure scab, which is a highly contagious disease among sheep. This is just another way of saying, “Our Lord takes care of us.”
In fact, our Lord gives us everything we could need and more.
Paul expressed that thought in this way, “Now to him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to power that works within us.” (Ephesians 3:20). It is true that “my cup runneth over.”
9. Surely Goodness and Mercy Shall Follow Me All the Days of my Life: And I Will Dwell in the House of the Lord Together.”
The sheep with a shepherd like this knows that he is in a privileged position.
Our Lord truly cares for us as a good shepherd.
No matter what else may happen, we know that goodness and mercy will follow us.
The sheep with a shepherd like this knows that he is in a privileged position. Our Lord truly cares for us as a good shepherd.
No matter what else may happen, we know that goodness and mercy will follow us.
And we are so content in our flock and in our shepherd that there is no desire for a change
I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” But we can only confidently state this last verse if we can state the first one — “The Lord is my shepherd”.
The Lord desires to be our shepherd. He wants to bless us. He wants to care for us.
But Jesus never hesitated to make it clear that when we come under his management and control there would be a new and unique relationship between him and us. There would be something special about belonging to this shepherd.
It’s a sad fact, but I think a true one that many people who have never submitted their lives to him in obedience still try to claim that “the Lord is my Shepherd”. They seem to hope that by merely admitting that he is their shepherd, they will enjoy all the benefits of his care without ever being marked. Not so.
The Lord is my shepherd. What a difference that little word “my” makes. It is all the difference between joy and sorrow, purposefulness and meaningless, eternal life and eternal death.
A famous actor, like Denzel Washington, was once the guest of honor at a social gathering where he received many requests to recite favorite excerpts from various literary works. An old jack-leg preacher who happened to be there asked the actor to recite the twenty-third Psalm. The actor agreed on the condition that the preacher would also recite it. The actor’s recitation was beautifully intoned with great dramatic emphasis for which he received lengthy applause. The preacher’s voice was rough and broken from many years of preaching, and his diction was anything but polished. But when he finished there was not a dry eye in the room. When someone asked the actor what made the difference, he replied “I know the psalm, but he knows the Shepherd.”
Is the Lord your shepherd?
(Smith, Allan; White House Church Of Christ, 205 Spring St.,White House, Tennessee)