Lord Is My Shepherd
Posted by Rev. Jeff Dixon, Senior Equipping Minister at Covenant Community Church on Jul 1, 2000, 12:47
The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside the quiet waters,
he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his names sake.
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 comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil,
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life, and I will dwell
in the house of the Lord forever.
You are familiar with the Psalm written above. It is one of the most amazing and cherished portions of scripture. Even if you are what I call biblically impaired, you are familiar with the phrase, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” I want to invite you in this article to look closely at these verses with me. I think they are the six longest short verses in all of the Bible.
We must be careful that when we come to a portion of Scripture we are familiar with that we don’t allow it to become cliché. There is a T-shirt for sale in the Mall of America that reads as follows: “Though I walk through the Mall of America, I shall fear no evil. For with time and plastic in my pocket there is nothing to fear anyway.”
Let’s take a step back and really look at the Psalm for a moment and forget everything we know about it, so we might see it in a fresh and new way. Although this is a Psalm that is usually used at funerals, remember this, it is a Psalm for the living and it is full of hope and the promise of God.
If I were going to preach this passage I would load it up with what I call Entrance Ramps. Even though I am not preaching but writing instead, let me include a bunch of travel guide notes for you as you move through the verses. As you move through any passage of Scripture you can think of it as taking a journey. These notes will make the trip more enjoyable. Remember these and you will understand the passage better.
Travel Note 1: “for His name’s sake” (v. 3)
This phrase is a gentle reminder for those that know Him. God by His choice, allows His Honor to be at stake in how we are taken care of. In other words he obligates himself to care for us because he loves us! That is amazing when you think about it. The Creator of the Universe loves us so much He promises to care for us, because HE WANTS TO!
Travel Note 2: “He restores my soul” (v. 3)
If you know Him this too is a great promise. In the Hebrew it can be better translated, “I come to life again” -or- “He gives me new life.” The amazing promise of new life and fresh starts should restore hope in each of us.
Travel Note 3: “Though I walk” (v. 4)
Here we see that we will walk through some rough times. Remember there is no shortcut or sprints (as opposed to walking) that will get us through these moments in life. Somewhere they are waiting for all of us out there. In the dark moments, those who know Him will find strength that is reserved for the children of the King. But you are going to have to face tough times, there is no exemption for any of us.
Travel Note 4: The word “shadow”
Let me share an observation. It is not brilliant or could not be considered a great theological insight, but more of a common sense observation. Here it is, if there is a shadow then there must be light source somewhere. We once again find hope. Trust that the light at the end of the tunnel or the end of the valley is the light of love. That gives me hope to keep pushing forward in the dark moments of life.
In the first century BC mapmakers had to work with limited knowledge. As they were drawing maps and got to places that were beyond what they knew, they would fill in the blank spots with drawings of monsters and dragons. The message was clear, unchartered territory was frightening and a place to be fearful of. Once a commander of a Roman Battalion got caught up in a battle that carried him into unchartered territory. On the map he was using, he was now in the area that was filled in with monsters and dragons. He quickly sent a message back toward his headquarters, the message read, “Quickly, please send new orders now. We have marched off the map.”
There are moments in all of our lives that we march off the map so to speak. In those minutes politics, technology, and science aren’t helpful. So how do we navigate? We look to Psalm 23. Let me share with you a couple of truths that remind and encourage me that I am not alone in the moments when I am in the dark times of life. I see hope in 2 key words. The words “though” and “through” and both are found in verse 4; “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.
First is the word: Though. We see that these journeys into the rough times are inevitable. We notice that David did not say “if” I walk, he used the correct word. He is calmly facing what is inevitable in all of our lives. David had discovered like we discover as we journey through the valley that God is there and He bears the brunt of the suffering and pain. Although the pain is tough it is easier because He is there. The suffering is tough and very real, yet it is lightened because He is there with us.
We face tough times in life. I discoverd it helps me to know they are coming. That takes away the element of surprise when they arrive.
Next is the word: Through. We see the indication that we will get through it, it will not defeat us. The valleys that you pass through in life are not resting places. They are places that we face and must move through. We are not to stop and moan. We are not to stop and gripe. We are not to shrug, stop, sit down and cry. We are to keep moving and recognize that we are not alone and that there is an end in sight. Even though we may not see it, God does. We move on in the midst of problems, sorrows, pain, and mistakes. We keep moving because it is a part of the journey of life. Don’t be surprised by it and don’t panic over it. He told you it was coming and you will survive it and that should give you hope!
Texas media mogul Bob Buford, in his book, The Second Half (1994) tells of the drowning of his investment banker son Ross in the Rio Grande river. After 41 trackers searched for him, Buford himself hired airplanes, helicopters, boats, and trackers with dogs (everything that money could buy). Buford walked along a limestone bluff 200 feet above the river, “as frightened as I’ve ever felt” he wrote. It was there that he came to the following conclusion, “Here is something that you can’t dream your way out of. . .You can’t think your way out of it. . .You can’t buy your way out it. . . .Here is something that you can’t work your way out of. . . .This is something that I am going to have to trust my way through.”
He had a point. There are moments that all we can do is trust. That is the message of the Psalm and a great message it is for those living in the world around us. . .Trust. In that Trust we find Hope.
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