Psalm 23

Part 4

 

Tonight, our lesson comes from one of most well known Psalms, and it used many times at funerals because of its encouraging and comforting message. Many of us in the room could probably quote most of it. Of course I am talking about Psalm 23. Let us begin by reading this precious Psalm.

 

Psalm 23:1-A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.4 Yea, 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.5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.

 

The words found in this Psalm are very comforting, and most Christians can relate to David as he talks about God being his shepherd. Since God is our shepherd that would make us His sheep. So, the first thing we are going to do is talk about the difference between the shepherd and the sheep.

 

I think it is safe for me assume that most of us in this room donít know a lot about shepherds or sheep. Of course, the Bible does gives us some insight about shepherds and sheep and maybe some of us have learned a few things about them from books or from other sources. If you will listen, you will learn more about the shepherd and the sheep and how they relate to us.

 

I would image all of us have seen a picture of Jesus holding a sheep like on the screen, and I think this is a fitting image of Psalm 23 because it captures the love that Jesus has for us as a shepherd, and how He cares for us and will hold us up in His loving arms.

 

Psalm 100:3 ††ÖWe are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

 

Since the Bible teaches us that we are like sheep, we need to learn more about sheep.

 

We need to realize that being called a sheep is not the most complementary term a person can be called because sheep are not very smart. In fact, some say that they are probably one of the lest intelligent animals that God created. Think about it, have you ever seen a trained sheep?

 

We are familiar with the poem about Little Bo Peep, but I am going to give you a slightly different version.

 

 

 

Little Bo peep has lost her sheep

And doesnít no where to find them

Leave them alone and the will never make there way home.

 

This is how the poem should be read because sheep cannot find their way home on their own. Once they get outside their group or accidently get a short distance from their home, they will be hopelessly lost and have no idea what to do. Many times they will walk around in endless circles in a confused state because they have no sense of direction. I bet some of the men in here are thinking to themselves, that sounds just like my wife.

 

Another characteristic about sheep is that they are weak and helpless. I am sure you have seen signs that say beware of dog, but have you ever seen a sign that says beware of sheep? Of course not. I donít think I have heard of an aggressive sheep. If you read hunting magazines, you will run across stories about people that have barely escaped with their lives after encountering bears or lions, but I donít think you will ever read an article about how someone barely escaped with their life because a sheep was after them.

 

Think about some of the sayings people use to indicate strength Someone might say, you are as bold as a lion, or you are as a strong as an Ox, but have you ever heard anyone use a sheep to indicate courage or strength.

 

Could you image a football coach trying to motivate his team to win the game by telling them, I want you to go out there and fight them like sheep. A coach would never say this because sheep are vulnerable and defenseless.

 

Some animals are fast while others have sharp claws to defend themeselves, but sheep donít even have a good growl. They are so helpless that they are at the mercy of any animal that comes along.

 

Mary had a little lamb its fleece was white as snow

 

Again, this is not a true statement about a sheep because not only are they weak and helpless, they are dirty. Their wool isnít nice and fluffy, instead it is greasy and every thing sticks to it. A sheep cannot clean itself, which is why they stink

 

Now that I have described how sheep are weak, helpless, dirty, stinky, and have no sense of direction, donít you think this is a good description of us when we do not have Jesus as our shepherd.

 

The only way a sheep can become clean is if the shepherd cleans it. Without Godís help, we are just like the dirty sheep because we cannot clean ourselves from our sin because we have to have our shepherd Jesus do it for us. Without Him, we could never be purified. Every single person in this room needs Jesus as their Shepherd.

 

 

Just like a sheep, when we try to live our life on our own without God, we are going find ourselves lost and walking in circles. As Jeremiah said:

 

Jeremiah 10:23 O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.

 

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.

 

This is why it so important for sheep to have a shepherd they can trust and rely on, which is why we must learn to allow our shepherd to direct our path:

 

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.

 

Without our shepherd, we are vulnerable to the devil. Remember he is described a roaring lion who is seeking to devour you (1 Pet. 5:8). As we picture ourselves as helpless sheep, we know there is no way for us to defend ourselves from the devil, which is why we must have a shepherd to help us. If we donít allow Jesus to be our shepherd, then the devil is going to have us right where he wants us, and we are going to become one of those wicked people described by Paul in:

 

2 Tim. 3:1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!

 

Paul was talking about what was happening then and is still happening today, and if we continue our journey on this earth without a shepherd, we will be lost and we will be drowning in sin, but the great news is that we donít have to be like this because we can choose to make Jesus our Shepherd and defender.

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2 Timothy 4:18 And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!

 

Isaiah 41:13 For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand, Saying to you, 'Fear not, I will help you.'

 

A great example of what a difference it makes to be a Christian with Jesus as your shepherd verses a nonChristian can be seen in:

 

Acts 19:11 Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul,12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them.13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches."14 Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so.15 And the evil spirit answered and said, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?"16 Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.17 This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.

 

I have always found this to be funny because these Jewish men thought they could simply use the name of Jesus without Him being their shepherd, and that it would be enough to make this evil spirit leave, but they found out that evil spirit wasnít afraid of them and he beat them up because Jesus was not their shepherd, but if Paul had told the spirit to leave, he would have because he knew that Jesus was his shepherd.

 

James 4:7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

 

According to James, whenever we submit ourselves to God and make Jesus our shepherd even the devil will flee from us when resist him steadfast in the faith.

 

Another thing we learn about sheep is that they are easily frightened. If they do not have a shepherd when trouble comes, they will scatter. Since we are like sheep, this teaches us that we need to stay close to our shepherd and allow Him to comfort us and protect us so we donít scatter and become lost.

 

Think about Job for a minute. He was a man that had everything a person could desire. He had a good family, all the money he needed, and the respect of those around him. But in an instant, all that he had was taking from him. The same thing can happen to us today because we donít know what tomorrow will bring. You could lose job or even your family. How can we possible live our lives without fear when we donít know what tomorrow may bring? Itís because we have a shepherd we can trust, and we know that our shepherd will protect us and make things work out for the good in our lives. If Job had not had the faith he did in God, I believe he would have followed his wifeís advice and cursed God and died, but since he trusted in God with his whole being it made it possible for him to endure the hardship he went through, and overall it gave him hope to continue on.

 

Yea, 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.

 

One of the most comforting thoughts that we can have as Christians is to know that we have a shepherd that will comfort us no matter what we go through in this life. He will never forsake as Paul said:

 

Romans 8:38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

David also says in our Psalm, He leads me beside the still waters. Did you know that sheep are afraid of running water and a shepherd has to lead them to still body of water before they will drink? Many animals have the ability to sniff our water and find it on their own, but not sheep. Without a shepherd, they will die of thirst.In a similar manner, God knows what we are afraid of and He knows our weaknesses. He will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can handle (1 Cor. 10:13), and only our Shepherd can lead us to the water of life and keep up from dying of spiritual thirst.

 

Did you know that if a sheep falls on his back that most of the time he cannot get up by himself? The shepherd has to help turn him over and if he has been on his back for very long, the shepherd will have to massage his legs to help him stand up, and sometimes he will have carry the sheep for a while until the circulation gets back in his legs. If the shepherd is not there to help the sheep, the sheep will give up and die.

 

In a similar way, we can find ourselves on our back, and we cannot get back up on our own because of the weight of our sin. Left in that condition, we would become spiritual dead, but when Jesus is our shepherd and we call out for help, He will be there to help us back to our feet. If we need to be carried, He will carry us until we can stand in the pathway of righteousness.

 

Now letís talk more about the shepherd. The shepherd is the leader, and the sheep will follow him. The shepherd knows that sheep cannot be driven like cattle, but they will follow him because they trust him and they know his voice. A great example of this can be seen in:

 

John 10:1 "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.2 "But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.3 "To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.4 "And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.5 "Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers."

 

The shepherd knows his sheep, and the sheep know their shepherd, and they will not follow a stranger. In the same way, you and I should know our Shepherdís voice. The way that we can be sure that we know it is by studying Godís Word and putting into our hearts daily. When we do this, we cannot be lead astray by a stranger who is pretending to be like Jesus, because their words will not match up with His Words.

 

 

John 10: 11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.12 "But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.13 "The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.14 "I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.15 "As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.

 

Without a doubt, Jesus is our Shepherd and we shall not want. The shepherd is willing to give his life for his sheep and that is exactly what Jesus did for all of us even though we did not deserve it. Isaiah prophesied about Jesus giving His life for us in Isa. 53. Notice what part of this chapter says:

 

Isaiah 53: 3 He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

 

Again, we are described like sheep that have gone astray, yet Jesus died for us anyway because He loves us, and He knew His death could save us.

 

From this, we can see the difference between a hireling and a shepherd The hireling was paid to watch the shepherdís sheep for a short while, but since they were not his sheep, if a wolf or some enemy came along, a hireling would run away. But as I pointed out earlier, the shepherd would fight for his sheep until he died because the sheep belonged to him and he loves them. As Christians, it should give us great joy and comfort to know that Jesus is our shepherd and that He knows all of us by name, and that He will always be there for us.

 

Luke 15:3 So He spoke this parable to them, saying:4 "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?5 "And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.6 "And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'

 

The shepherd is committed to all his sheep. If he wasnít, he could have the attitude that 99 sheep was good enough and that the one sheep would just have to fend for himself. Thankfully, a shepherd does not think that way because every sheep is important to him and he will do everything in his power to bring the lost sheep back to its fold.

 

Since Jesus is the Good Shepherd, He has the same attitude because every soul is important to Him, and He will do everything He can to lead that lost soul back to the fold.

 

Just like the shepherd in the parable, Jesus will not scold or beat the sheep back into submission. Instead, He will seek him out and encourage him to come back, and He will extend His loving arms and carry the sheep back to the fold on His shoulders because that is the kind of shepherd Jesus is.

 

With this being said, I want close my lesson in the same way I started it by reading Psalm 23.

 

Psalm 23:1-A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.4 Yea, 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.5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.