I was sitting over there thinking about 20 years ago, 25 years ago, I was a rookie pastor in Northern California. And I remember a conference came up that I was going to attend on a weekend in Los Angeles and it was a Friday Saturday deal. And I thought, oh yeah, that’ll work great. And I’ve got some time coming.
I can take that. And then I thought, you know what, I’m gonna stay over Sunday and I’m gonna go hear Chuck Swindoll at that new church, that new, they got a new building at Fullerton church. I’m gonna go down and hear him. And I thought, oh, this is gonna be great. Had a great conference. And got up early to get a seat at church on Sunday and get in there, open the bulletin and somebody else was preaching.
Some of you, you know what I’m talking about? You came from outta state. You flew in on a tour. The building’s here. The lights are on, you got your Bible, but Chuck’s not here. Let me say to you folks, I feel your pain, I really do, but if you got your Bible, let’s turn to Psalm 23. I think Psalm 23 I really do believe this, I think it’s the most dangerous Psalm in the Bible. And you say how in the world can a Psalm be dangerous? I think a Psalm can become dangerous because we know it so well. Many of us have known Psalm 23 since we were kids in Sunday school.
This is one of the first things we ever memorized for a memory verse. The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want, even if you’re new to the Christian life, to knowing Christ, Psalm 23 is probably familiar to you. Probably as many non-Christians as Christians are familiar with Psalm 23, you can hardly go to a funeral service of of a family member or a friend without someone referring to Psalm 23.
And I think therein lies the danger. I think Psalm 23 for many of us is so familiar that it’s lost its bite. It’s lost its significance. It’s lost its edge. Psalm 23 to me is a remarkable Psalm. To me it is I think Psalm 23 is a cliff note to the entire Christian life. Now some of you have no idea what a cliff note is.
But I’ll fess up. I know what a cliff note is. I went to college in Southern California about 30 years ago and 30 pounds ago and played a lot of basketball. And a lot of volleyball spent a lot of time on the beach. Never let academics get in the way of my college education. I remember on a Sunday night looking over my notes, cuz I had to go to class and remembering, oh, I got a paper due tomorrow.
On war and peace and I hadn’t quite got around to reading the book. So what do you do? You go down to the bookstore. There’s a rack of black and yellow covered books called cliff notes. Cliff notes are compendiums. There are there’s summaries. So instead of 800 pages of War and Peace and 80 pages, you get the gist.
I think Psalm 23 is a cliff note. It’s only six verses. But they’re powerful. They’re potent. Each line is pregnant with meaning and they all revolve around that verse one, which is the theme, which is the central idea. That’s the heart, it’s the gut of the Psalm. Quite frankly, the Lord is my shepherd.
I shall not want Psalm 23 is written from the perspective of a sheep. Now David wrote this thing and he could have written it under inspiration of the holy spirit. He could have written it from the perspective of being a shepherd because when he was a kid, that’s what David did looked out for. His dad’s sheep.
He took on the bear. He took on the lion, but he doesn’t write from the perspective of being a shepherd. He writes from the perspective of being a sheep, the Lord is my shepherd. What does that make him, makes him a sheep over 200 times in the Bible. God calls his people sheep. I realized that about 15 years ago and I thought if God calls me a sheep 200 times, I better do some homework on sheep.
And I did. It’s been a couple days researching sheep, and I gotta tell you folks, that’s not real flattering. Three things stood out to me. First thing I found out about sheep is this – sheep – are stupid. now I don’t know any other way to put it. They are very stupid animals when our kids were younger almost every year, we’d go to the Ringling brothers, Barnum and Bailey circus.
And we just kept going back year after year, we probably went six, seven times. We it was such a great show. Matter of fact, it’s the greatest show on earth. I It’s worth going to and every year it was different, but every year they’d have trained animals. And over the years I’ve seen at that circus, I’ve seen trained seals.
I’ve seen trained tigers. I’ve seen trained lions. I’ve seen trained poodles, never seen trained sheep. you know why sheep are stupid. And over 200 times in the scripture, God calls me a sheep and it fits because I’ll do something stupid. And then I’ll say to myself, gosh, I’ll never do that again. And then, you know what I do sure you do because you’re sheep too.
You know exactly what I’m talking about. , I’ll never do that again. And then what do I do? I go do it again. I’m not half as bright as I think I am. I keep digging myself in the situations and see when you’re not all that bright and when you’re not all that wise and when quite frankly, you’re stupid, you desperately need a shepherd.
Second thing I learned about sheep is this sheer not only stupid, but cheaper defenseless creatures, I’d never thought of this most animals that God has created have some kind of defensive mechanism to protect themselves from an enemy, not sheep. There have been no instances of a Raven or a Crow sweeping down on the head of a sheep and plucking out its eyeballs.
And that’s a horrible thing. Let me ask you something. What’s the sheep gonna do? Bark. What’s he gonna do amid obnoxious odor what’s he gonna do claw the bird to death. He’s not gonna do anything. Cuz he’s a sheep and sheep are defenseless. We’re concerned about defense. We live in a time where there are no safe places.
You can’t send your kids to school anymore. Without being concerned about ’em you buy a new home in Dallas comes with a security system you punch in. When you get in you open the door, you punch. Four numbers. Everybody knows it’s your birth.
That’s all I need to know about you and I can get right in and then when, and then you hear the beep when you feel a little safer and then on your way out, you hit the four numbers and beep see, because you don’t wanna be without the fence we get in our cars be we got panic, but we’ve got, see, we got all these defenses, but as much as we do to defend ourselves, we really can’t.
The Psalmist almost in another portion of scripture said the Lord is the defense of my life. Whom shall I fear? See folks, we really are defenseless. And if you’re defenseless, that’s why you need a shepherd. You need a shepherd that can go. You’ve got young kids, you’ve got grandkids. You need a shepherd that can go with those kids.
24 hours a day, seven days a week. Doesn’t matter where they are. He’s with them. And he’s around. the Lord is my shepherd. David says third thing about sheep that I found out sheep are, they’re dirty. They’re very dirty creatures. I grew up in the city. I figured pigs were dirty, but sheep were dirty.
Sometimes in Palestine and Israel, they have drought and the lush green pastures get overgrazed and they turn from green to brown and just dust and dirt. And that dust and dirt accumulates in the thick, heavy wall coat of the sheep, days will go by weeks, will go by. Months will go by. There’s nothing the sheep can do to clean himself up. Maggots will begin to develop in his coat. He is absolutely helpless to clean himself up. I find as I go through life, sometimes I have dirty thoughts.
Sometimes I have, dirty attitudes to Mary, to my kids. Sometimes I have dirty responses. And what happens is when I get dirty, I got a problem because I can’t make myself clean. See, that’s why I desperately need a shepherd to come along and make me clean. Everybody in the world has a shepherd.
I don’t care who you are. You’ve got a shepherd. The shepherd of your life is the person or thing, which is most important to. for some people it’s money, they’re pursuing money. they’re getting up early. They’re going late. They’re just running gut. They’re trying money. Other people it’s power.
Other people it’s control other people. It’s this it’s that it’s it’s fame. It’s popularity. Everybody is a shepherd. Jesus said something interesting in John chapter 10, Jesus said this. He. My sheep, hear my voice and they follow me and I give eternal life to them and they shall never perish back in the days of Jesus.
It was not uncommon for shepherds to bring their flocks to the same, watering hole to the same spring and what would happen. All these sheep would intermingle and you might have seven, eight, 900, 1,000 1,500 sheep, all drinking at the same area. Now they didn’t mark sheep back then they didn’t brand sheep.
They didn’t put tags on their ears. Like we do cattle today. So how in the world could the shepherd separate his sheep from all the other hundreds of sheep was actually very simple. What the shepherd would do when he was ready to leave, he would just simply call out to his sheep. Now all of the sheep would hear his voice, but the difference was this, his sheep would hear his voice and his sheep would follow him.
See the question is who’s your shepherd? the, the question also has to be, who are you following? Who are you pursuing? Who’s number one in your life, the safest and most secure and wisest thing that any of us can ever utter in our lives is to say, the Lord is my shepherd only six verses in this song.
We’re gonna have to hustle in the two hours. We have remaining to cover all this, every other line, every other verse in Psalm 23 in some way, shape or form accentuates amplifies on the central theme. The Lord is my shepherd. It’s almost as though use your imagination here. It’s almost as though David is looking at the shepherd. He’s looking at the Lord Jesus. And what he does in Psalm 23 is that he’s telling us something that’s true about the great shepherd of the sheep. And he’s telling us what he does for us at sheep. He starts in verse two and he begins by telling us that the shepherd provides rest.
Now that’s why would he start there? Notice that he says he makes me lie down. In green pastures. My kids are older now. I’ve got two in college. We just have one left in high school. When my kids were younger, it amazed me. My kids were never tired ever. Now they may be so tired. They can’t stand up straight.
Their speech may slur. they, they may have trouble. I’ll say, Josh, are you tired? No, dad, I’m not tired. Why is it kids won’t admit to being tired because if they admit to being tired, their parents will do the worst possible thing a parent could ever do to a child, which is to make them lie down. Worst thing a parent can do to a kid is to make them take a nap.
Now the parents would kill for a nap. We’re exhausted. I remember when John was just a little guy he’s 20 now and big strapping guy. He was about 18 months old and I’m getting him ready. For a nap. And he knew what was coming. I’m changing his diaper. He whole time daddy, no nap. And we just keep going.
I put him in his jammies, you know, his little jammies with the feet in him. I love those jammies. I wish they came in my size, but anyway, I’m putting him in his jam. The time daddy, no nap. No. we just keep going, walk upstairs, put him into his crib, put him down on his tummy. I say goodnight, John. I walk out, I shut the door and I just stand there cuz I know what he’s gonna do. I gave him about 45 seconds. I hear him in there huffing and puffing. I open the door and he’s looking out over the rail at me. I walk back in, I put him down on his tummy and this time I stand right next to him, put my hand on his back. He didn’t like that daddy, no nap daddy. One more pressure.
About 60 seconds. He’s out like a light. Just like some of you are you know, little kids, aren’t smart enough to know when they need rest. And, you know, folks, neither are the big kids, we’re going so fast. Aren’t we, we get up early that alarm. In fact, at our house, we don’t even have an alarm. You know what we’ve got, we got a starters gun from a track meet. Boom. We come out of that bed.
And we’re running we’re gunnin and we’re eating we’re faxing, we’re emailing, we’re beeping we’re cell phone and we’re soccering, we’re Bible stuff. we’re exhausted. I have to tell you, this is absolutely true. Two weeks ago, I’ve gotta catch a flight. I’ve got about an hour and a half. we’re transitioning some things and I’m having to cover some things that I normally don’t. I was almost outta gas. I pull into an Exxon station. I put the deal in the tank. I jumped back on the car. I’m looking at my daytimer thinking if I do this and this, I can still get to the airport and I’m trying to sort this.
And I got it clear in my mind. I said, great. Let’s go, boom. I drive off. And I still got the thing hanging out of the side of my tank. And I thought, Steve, you need some rest. it’s crazy. Isn’t it. Yeah,we’re so busy. we live such incredibly intense lives. Tim Kimmel, my buddy, Tim put it the best.
He wrote a book called Little House on the Freeway. what a great title. folks, that’s our lives. When the Lord is your shepherd, he looks at our lives and you know what? He knows what we need. when the Lord is our shepherd, he has the right to interrupt our lives at any time. See, we’ve got our Palm pilots. We’ve got our Daytimers, we’ve got our seven year strategic plans. He’s free to interrupt at any moment. And he often does a lot of people in the last four weeks, six weeks who a year ago were doing very well and enjoying good salaries and benefits and stock options. A good existence. Their lives have been interrupted and not just them, but 3, 000 of them at one firm, 4,000 here, 6,000 layoffs are everywhere. Maybe you’ve been laid off in the last three weeks. Can I remind you of something the Lord has still your chef? So I can’t believe they laid me off.
The shepherd was behind that. He knows exactly what he’s doing in your life. Have you ever talked with someone who has had a threatening anxiety producing experience and you talk to ’em a year down the line, a job layout and you talk with them and they say, gosh, I didn’t know how that was gonna sort out. And that, just scared me to death, but, you know, greatest thing ever happened to me. See, sometimes folks were so cotton pick and busy. We can’t even hear the voice of the shepherd. So he interrupts our lives. He makes us lie down because he wants to redirect us. He wants to teach us. He’s got a little different course. He’s calling the shots. He knows exactly what he’s going to do.
If you’ve been laid off, he knows how much your mortgage payment is. He knows how much the tuition. It, he hasn’t forgotten you. He knows exactly what he’s doing in your life. And if we could talk a year from now, you’ll be able to look back and say, look what he did. Sometimes you talk with someone that’s had a heart attack and they said, I wouldn’t wanna go through that again.
But, did I ever learn some things? Sometimes he has to make us lie down because we’re just exhausted. And we don’t have time to hear what he has to say to us and see that’s part of his leadership, which is in the next line. See he’s leading us. it says it, but I’m jumping ahead. He makes me lie down in green pastures.
And lemme say a word about the green pastures, green pastures is what the sheep want. Green pastures mean green. It means green grass. That’s what the sheep are after sometimes when God makes us lie down, we look around and we say, this doesn’t look like green to me. I have a theory in my theory, is this in the Christian life, there are many shades of green and one of them is brown.
When he makes you lie down, you look around and you say, I don’t see any green here, but isn’t it true at year down the road, five years down the road, you look back and say, that was the toughest thing that ever happened to me. I’d never want to go through it again, but thank God that he took me through it.
Almost every one of us in this room can say that, see, that’s part of his leadership and the next line he says, he leads me besides quiet waters. not too long ago. I was up at four o’clock in the morning watching raw Hyde on television. Now I’d had a wisdom tooth pulled and it wasn’t going real well. I couldn’t sleep.
So I got up and I turned on the TV just to see, I hadn’t seen Rawhide in years. What a great show that was. Now, if you’re under 35, you don’t have a clue. What I’m talking about. Rawhide was on CBS for seven years. It was about a cattle drive. Gil Faber, Rowdy Yates. Wishbone drove the chuck wagon. What a great show that was – the great thing about Rawhide if you ever missed an episode, you didn’t miss anything. Hey, I missed last week. What’d they do. They drove the cattle last. They drove the cattle for seven years. They never got there. but it was a great show. The greatest thing I think about Rawhide was the theme song.
You remember that Frankie lane? Rolling. Rolling. Rolling. Rolling. Let’s stand and sing that together. we’ll sing the first and the fourth verse. No, I’m just kidding. Sometimes I get criticized for using too much humor, but I feel real secure here because that’s one of the things I love about Chuck. I just like to hear that guy laugh and we ought to be able to laugh. Don’t you think? Think about that song for a minute. Rolling. Rolling. Rolling. Rolling. Rolling. Rolling. Keep them dogies rolling. Rawhide. No time to understand them, just ride and rope and brand them. I’m grateful that 200 times in the Bible, God didn’t call me a dogie. That’s a tough life. No time to understand them. Just ride and rope and brand them. Hey folks, we’re not dogies we’re sheep. There are two ways in the world that shepherds lead their sheep. David says he what? He leads me two ways.
Shepherds lead their flock and the Western hemisphere. I grew up in a little town called Bakersfield, California, and just Southeast of Bakersfield or the attache mountains, more sheep and attache mountains than anywhere else in the world. Except Australia, New Zealand. You can still see the basque sheepherders. That are leading their sheep. You know how the basque sheepherders do that. You know how they do it in the Western hemisphere? You know how we do it? It’s just like a cattle drive. The sheep are out in front. The shepherd is behind pushing the sheep, driving the sheep, just like a trail drive.
You go to Israel, you will never see a shepherd behind the sheep. You know, where the shepherd is in Israel. He’s out in front of the sheep, leading the sheep.
Some of us walked in here with anxiety, little fear, usually when anxiety and worry comes into our lives. It’s about the future. Something that’s not clear something that’s uncertain my best friend as Gary Rossberg. And, some of, you know, Gary you’ve heard him on the radio. a couple years ago, his wife, Barb had a procedure and they were having to do a biopsy and I called him and said, Gary, what’d you find out?
He said, Steve, we’re not gonna know the results for 16 days. Gosh, did Gary and Barb have a little anxiety, 16 days in the future? Yeah. Or maybe you’ve heard a rumor. You haven’t been laid off, but maybe there’s a rumor going around in 30 days at your company. There might be layoffs. So your anxiety. 30 days out, maybe, you’re in the middle of a problem pregnancy. Your due dates six months from now and your worry and anxiety is six months out. Can I remind you something about the greatness of Jesus, your shepherd? Are you worried? 16 days out the Lord, Jesus is already 16 days out in front of. leading you 30 days out. He’s already 30 days out because he’s in front of you leading you six months out, worried about that birth.
He’s already there with a solution that you, if you had eternity to try to come up with, you’d never think of it. He is the great shepherd of the sheep. He knows what we need. He is out in front with a plan that is the best possible plan folks. I was saying to the guys Wednesday night, is it not true? Most of us will never have a biography written about our lives, but is it not true that you can look back over your life?
And is it not true that your life breaks up into chapters? Just like a biography. can you not see definable chapters in your life where God’s hand was upon you through the hard times? The good times? He’s got chapters ahead of you that he’s already written. He knows precisely what he’s doing.
That worry, that anxiety. How am I gonna get through? He’s your shepherd? He will lead you and that begins to take the anxiety away. You’re not in this by yourself.
Verse three. See folks, honestly, we could spend an hour on every verse. I, I’ve been studying Psalm 23 for 15 years now. I found a book two weeks ago, written by a Puritan preacher. It was 400 pages thick. Those were his sermons on Psalm 23. Spent an hour on each line. He gives me rest. He gives me leadership.
Verse three also tells me that he gives me restoration because sometimes I need it as a sheep. It says he restores my soul. He guides me in path of righteousness for his name sake. Christ is out in front of me. He’s leading me. He wants me to follow him in paths of righteousness. But sometimes I think I know better.
Sometimes I wanna veer off the path of righteousness. Sometimes I want to go my own way. Sometimes I want to go over here. I wanna take this exit. I don’t wanna follow the path that he has marked for me. Every night at twilight, the shepherd does the same thing. What he does is he counts his sheep and let’s say on a particular evening, he realizes he’s one sheep short. And a lot of times it’s a young sheep. It’s an immature inexperienced sheep, oftentimes a male sheep. what he has to do is he has to leave the other sheep and he has to go look for this young buck, sheep who thinks he knows what he’s doing. This sheep has wandered off. This sheep is stupid. He doesn’t realize that there are predators out there that could take him out in 30 seconds.
He doesn’t realize he could get up on the side of a mountain. He could slip, he could fall on the rocks below. So the good shepherd goes out and pursues him might take him several hours, but he goes and finds him. Puts him over his shoulders. Have you ever seen those paintings of Jesus with the sheep little sheep around his neck?
He’ll walk him back to the flock. Several nights later, he counts the flock and that little sheep. Once again is gone. He’s gotta leave the other sheep. Gotta go look for this wandering sheep. Isn’t interesting. What the Bible has to say. All of us like sheep, Isaiah said all of us, like sheep have gone astray.
We have turned each one to his own. The old hymn says “prone to wander prone to leave the God.” I love he goes and finds this other sheep. Now he can’t let this become a habit. So he does something that’s absolutely uncharacteristic of the good shepherd. When he finds this little wandering sheep. Second time, he’ll put the little sheep down on his side.
He will kneel down next. Hold it in place with one of his knees, then he’ll take one of the sheep’s little legs, put it across his leg. And with a quick swift thrust of his heavy staff, he’ll just quickly bring it across the leg of the little sheep and he’ll snap the leg of the sheep. Now, why would the shepherd do what seems to be such a cruel act?
Little sheep. Doesn’t understand it. He cries out in pain. Once again, the shepherd picks up, the little sheep puts it around its neck on his shoulders. Takes him back to the flock. He’ll prepare a little splint, splint that little leg up the next few days. He’s gotta carry the sheep on his shoulders. After a few days, he can put the little sheep down, the little sheep.
It’s all the little sheep can do to hobble and stay up with the others. Why would the shepherd break the leg of a little sheep? That little sheep is gonna survive. He must learn the central lesson of being a sheep. And the central lesson of being a sheep is if you are a sheep, you must learn to stay close to the shepherd, or you’re not gonna make it.
Some of us, in fact, a lot of us, if I guess is right, a lot of us walked in here with limps, not physical limps. We walked in here with limps of the heart. Oftentimes when God breaks our leg, he breaks our heart. Why does he have to do that? Because folks were so stubborn. We’re bound and determined.
We’re gonna go that way, but he loved me too much to let me keep going that way. So he snaps my leg. Gosh, I don’t wanna go through that again. I don’t want to take this course over and we learn, see, that’s how we learn to stay close to the shepherd. he’s not trying to ruin us when he does that. He’s trying to redirect us.
He’s trying to give us life. He wants his hand on our lives, but we’ve gotta learn to submit to his wisdom. Verse four is often read, at a funeral service, very familiar to us. . verse four says this very familiar words, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for thou art with me. this might be rendered, this way, even though I walk through the valley of deepest darkness, I will fear no evil.
There is no valley deeper or darker than death. If you’ve lost a spouse, if you’ve lost a child, perhaps recently lost a parent, someone close to you. That’s the deepest, darkest valley that anyone can possibly walk through it. it’s grievous. I was just with a pastor friend of mine in Atlanta, 20 years ago, they were so excited because his wife was giving birth to their first baby. That was before they would actually 25 years ago now. And they hadn’t done the Lamaze. They were still the old school and he wasn’t in with her. He couldn’t wait and they walk out and say, I’m sorry, but the wife and baby died. There’s no valley deeper or darker than that folks. But there are valleys other than death that are very deep are very dark.
If you’ve lived with an abusive husband, that’s a very deep valley and a very dark valley. Divorce is very deep and very dark a child who goes off the wrong path that they’ve been taught and ruins their lives that breaks our hearts. That’s deep and it’s dark. Quite frankly, life is full of deep and dark valleys.
We lived in Coppel for about eight years and we had a nightlight. We had two nightlights, we had one in the upstairs hall. We had one in the downstairs hall. My kids thought I put those nightlights in for them, but I didn’t. I put ’em in for me, see my kids and they still do. they think I’m not afraid of the dark.
But I’ll be honest with you. I don’t like dark. I don’t like it at all. That’s why, if I hear a noise at three in the morning, I say, Mary, go down and check that out. Will you ? No, I gotta go check it out, And you’re the dad, that’s your job. But if I gotta go check out a noise, I wanna know if Rachel left her skates in the hall.
If it’s dark, I can’t see what’s there. I might slip. If I’m downstairs, maybe John left his bat. See when it’s dark, we can’t see what’s there. Have you ever been to Carlsbad Caverns? That’s worth going? I’ve been there twice. You can take that self-guided tour and you put the headphones on.
And as I recall, you’re going 48 stories below the earth. I like to know the guy that went down there first. I mean, what was he on? I mean, that’s nuts. But, but we’re going now. It’s safe. They got asphalt paths and this soft lighting. So you can see what’s going on. as you put this, self-guided tour this thing around your neck and put on the headphones.
The very first thing they say to you is in case of a power outage stay where you are. They didn’t have to tell me that if the lights go out in Carlsbad Caverns, I’m not movin. There are still pits. They don’t know how deep they are. It gets so dark 48 stories below the earth. You go like this, you don’t see your hand.
Life gets that dark. You’ve been there. Some of you are there right now. You’re going like this and you can’t see your hand. It’s never been this dark. And when it gets that dark, it enters our mind. I’ll never get through this. Never. let me ask you something. Who is your shepherd? See, the fact of the matter is David says, even though I walk through, not around, not tunnel under, even though I walk through the valley of deepest darkness, I will fear no evil for thou art with me. Thy rod, Thy staff, they comfort me. The shepherd is with you. When life gets that dark and life gets that hard. So you’re not trying to make it through the week. You’re trying to make it to lunch and you’re not sure you’re gonna make it and see you’re unclear. What do I do? See if you take a wrong step, when it’s that dark, if you take a wrong step, it could be your end.
You don’t know where to step. You can’t see. There are no night lights. what do you do? You get up in the morning and say, Lord Jesus, I need to hear from you. Show me open your Bible, start reading Proverbs. I need some wisdom. Talk to Christian friends, and he’ll give you the next step. And what he’ll do is he’ll lead you the next step.
He’ll want you to step here and it’s dark. And so you go, okay. Okay. So wait a minute. What now? What am I gonna do tomorrow? It’s not tomorrow yet. It’s today. Tomorrow, he’ll give you that step. And then the next day he’ll give you that step and he’ll get you through six months from now. He’ll get you through a year from now. He’ll get you through two years from now. That’s what he does.
Where is the shepherd when you’re in the darkness? Now I know he is everywhere. I know he is omnipresent, but in the purposes of this context, where is he? Is he behind you? No. Is he to the side of you? No, he’s in front of you leading you, verse four tells us that he’ll protect me.
That’s what that’s all about. He’ll walk me through the valley of deepest darkness. Some of you desperately needed to hear that this morning, cuz it’s never been this deep. It’s never been this dark. And your hope is starting to flicker. Listen, you just hold onto the shepherd and watch him work. There’s no dark to him.
He knows precisely what he’s doing say, but Steve, I got, it’s not like that. I got enemies. I got people that are against me. then verse five is for you. He says this. He says that is prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. If, you’re a sheep, the last thing you want is a rookie shepherd.
If you like football, it’s not unusual to watch a game and what’ll happen is the starting quarterback will get. And then the backup comes in and then he gets hurt a quarter later and you’re stuck because all they got left is some rookie quarterback from east Appalachian state. This kid doesn’t even speak the language. He doesn’t have a clue. He’s got the plays written on his wristband. The thing about a rookie is they have no experience. They have great potential, but no experience.
So the rookie comes in. He takes a snap from sinner. he scrambles and on pure athletic ability gains 20 yards. Everybody goes crazy. And then, so everyone’s pumped. Then the next play he goes, takes the takes. The snap goes the hand off, but the play’s going over there. So he gets sacked and fumbles and turns it over.
See, that’s a rookie great, potential, no experience. If you’re a sheep, you don’t want a rookie shepherd. You want a veteran shepherd. The number one job of a shepherd is to feed the flock, just like a. Sometimes when there’s drought in Palestine, the shepherd has to take his flock out of their normal geographical boundaries to find grass.
They might be out two weeks, three weeks looking for grass pasture land. Say one morning, he’s out in front of the sheep. Leading the sheep. He comes over a little rise and they’re down before him is a little, just a little pasture of 20, 25 acres, full of grass. The rookie shepherd is gonna take the sheep run ’em right in there, never the veteran. Veteran shepherd will leave the sheep over here by himself. He will go over the rise into the little pasture area of 20, 25 acres. And what he will do is he will walk every square foot. He’s stooped over. He’s looking real close to the ground. Now, what’s he looking for?
He’s looking for holes on the ground about this size. The veteran shepherd knows that in certain parts of palest. Not all parts. There are poisonous snakes called adders and Palestine live 18 to 24 inches below the ground. They’re notorious for coming up out of the hole and nipping the nose of a grazing animal, killing it within minutes with their venomous bite.
Now, what if he sees those holes? you know what he does takes that flask off his belt, full of linseed oil, and he carefully lubricates each hole, lubricates the lip, making sure the oil goes deep. Might take him several hours, depending on how many holes he finds. Once he’s done that, he goes, he gets the sheep.
He brings him in the sheep, see the grass. That’s what they’ve been after for a couple weeks. Sheep are having a great time. They’re happy. They’re content. They’re chewing as they’re it’s. It’s great. Life’s good. As they’re doing that, the adders hear them. The adders are tempting to get up to bite their nose, but because of the wisdom cuz of the foresight.
Of the shepherd, the adders slippery skin up against the viscosity of the oil. They can’t get out. They’re trying and unbeknownst to the sheep. The sheep are literally eating in the presence of their enemies. God has never said that he will take away our enemies.
He’s just said, I’ll take care of you in the presence of your enemies. So if you got an ex-husband or ex-wife that every time the kids are with them, they’re tearing you down. Don’t you do that. You bless them, not evil for evil insult for insult, but you give a blessing instead. Someone at work that’s got it in for you. Should you have gotten that promotion? He’ll take care of you in the presence. He did it for Esther. He did it for Mordachai. He’ll do it for you.
I’m gonna jump to verse six, cause we’re about out of time. it verse six, sums it all up. David says, surely goodness and loving kindness will follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. now folks, let’s just be real honest here. Would this not be more accurate?
If it said surely goodness and loving kindness will follow me most of the days of my life. Our son, Josh, when he was born, we had some friends in San Diego that had a little girl born about the same time, and we were all excited and staying in touch on her. second birthday, they took her in for her physical, everything appeared to be fine.
They got home. The red light was going off on the answering machine. It was the doctor’s office asking to bring her back in immediately. And by six o’clock that night they knew their little two year old daughter had leukemia. Now this says surely goodness and mercy, surely goodness, and loving kindness will follow me all the days of my life.
What about that day? I have a friend in South Carolina and a buddy has just bought a small plane for his business. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon after church. He said, Hey, bring your boy over. Let’s go fly around a little bit. He did two guys, their two sons hit the side of that hill. Both boys killed.
My friend in a body cast for 10 months, thought he’d never walk again. Surely goodness and loving kindness will follow me all the days of my life. What about that day?
When my daughter Rachel was born, she was so cute. I had to get a new camera. I had this old one, but it wasn’t, it just. I know anything about cameras. I talked to a buddy of mine and he, I got a thing of my Exxon credit card bill, and it was a 35 millimeter camera with three lenses in a bag. And I said, what do you think about? He said, that’s actually a good deal.
I got it. I don’t think about cameras, but I got this thing and I’d stand here. And it comes with a normal lens. I don’t, it says something in Japanese. I think it’s as normal. And you stand here. And I, when I stand there, I just see everything like I do now. But I can reach into my bag and I can stand in the exact same place and I can get this lens that’s longer and narrower.
And I put it on and standing in the exact same place. My perspective changes, with a telephoto, I can focus on a doorknob 75 yards away and not see anything else. When leukemia and divorce and bankruptcy, and rebellious kids and drugs and whatever it is, and cancer comes into our lives. We put on the telephoto lens and all we can see is the pain and the hurt and the brokenness and that’s okay. We’re just sheep. We’re just people.
Did David know anything about pain? He know anything about broken heart, know anything about grief? Gosh, and a lot of it, he brought on himself just like us. How in the world can David say surely goodness and loving kindness will follow me all the days of my life. You know what I think David did.
I think David here had reached into his bag. He grabbed another lens that was shorter and stub. And when he puts that lens on, it’s called a wide angle lens. Say, how do you know it’s a wide angle? look at the last verse he says, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. David is looking at his whole life from the wide angle and you know what David says, he says, whatever has come into my life, whatever events, whatever circumstances, whatever heartache, whatever heartbreak, whatever has occurred in my life in some way, shape or form, it’s been the goodness and mercy of God.
You say Steve, that can’t be true. Then Romans 8:28 isn’t true. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good. For those who love God to those who love God and are called according to his purpose is bankruptcy. Good? I don’t think so. Is divorce good? I don’t think so. Is cancer good? I don’t think so. What’s the worst thing that someone has ever done to you? For Joseph. It was the day his brothers sold him into slavery.
Isn’t it remarkable that years later he looked his brothers in the eye and he said to them, the worst thing that ever been done to him, he said to them, you intended it for evil, but God intended it for what? Good. See the shepherd is bigger than anything anyone can do to you. The shepherd is bigger than the pain.
He’s bigger than the hurt. And in some way, shape or form, he’s able to fashion it into good in some way, shape or form in your life because he’s the shepherd. He said, I don’t know how he’s gonna do that. Of course you don’t. I don’t either. C.S. Lewis said when we die and go to heaven, the first words out of our mouths will be, of course. We can’t see it now, but folks one day, we’re gonna say it, but in the interim let’s trust him because he knows what he’s doing. This bow prayer father. We thank you for the greatness of Jesus. He who entered Jerusalem to hosanna was the great shepherd of the sheep. We honor him today. Remind us Lord this week, as we encounter, perhaps some valleys that the Lord is my shepherd.
And perhaps Lord, we have some friends here who have never asked Christ to be their shepherd. They’ve never submitted their hearts and minds and wills to him. We pray Lord that your spirit would draw them to yourself and that they would ask the shepherd to come in and rule and reign. Forgive them of their sin. Thank you for the truth. We love this truth and we’ll live on this truth in Jesus’ name. We pray. Amen.