Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 7 months ago

The Lord Is My Shepard


Rev. Christopher Chelpka

Let's turn our attention to psalm twentythree and remain standing, if you're able, as we read God's Word Psalm Twentythree. I'll give you another moment to turn them. The Lord ismy shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in GreenPastures, he leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul, he leadsme in paths of righteousness. For his namesake, even though I walkthrough the Valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, foryou are with me, your Rod and your staff. They comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of My Enemies. Youanoint my head with oil. My Cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shallfollow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the Houseof the Lord. forevern, you may be seated, testing, testing good. Okay, thank you. I want to preach to you today from PsalmTwenty three, most famous song, one of the most famous passages in thescriptures, and I wanted to do it for a few different reasons. I'mone of the main ones is a particular circumstance that is occasioning this song.Many of you know that Donna, Wendy's mother, and also Jinny Bryce's mother. Both of these ladies have been on hospice for some time and they're decliningin their health quite a bit. Donna, in particular, has taken quite aturn for the worse and she is likely to pass soon. And overthe last several months I've had the opportunity pretty much every week to sit withDonna, I'm ginny as well recently, and need a psalm twenty three,over and over and over and over again. One reason I've done that is becauseI'm Donna, as you know, is suffering with dementia and not alwayssure how the mind works, and moments like this, I wanted to picksomething comforting and something familiar, with prayers that the Lord would use his wordand this psalm to bring hope to her and some stickiness to his word inher mind and in her heart. And so now, I'm as she comesto the end of the days that God has given to her and as weall think about our our own time and brevity in this world, it's agood psalm to think about. It's a good word to rest in, andso I want to invite you to do...

...that with me to the day,even as we also pray for the morth ones and grieve along with them andin this difficult time in John Ten, John Ten verse twenty seven, Jesussays, my sheep hear my voice, I know them and they follow me. My sheep here my voice, I know them and they follow me.Psalm twenty three is a song, a prayer from one of those sheep.Inspired by the Holy Spirit. David pours his heart out to his shepherd andhe gives us a sense of what it means to follow Christ, or,to put it another way, what it means to be led by Christ,what it means to have the Lord as our shepherd. David was a veryremarkable sheep, right one of the most remarkable of God's creatures in all ofhistory. His life was full of trauma, ups and downs, and ups anddowns, and very low downs and very high ups. There was singingand dancing and war and betrayal and deep friendship. There were times when daywood was on the run, seeking asylum, homeless, pursued by enemies wanting tokill him, and there were times when he sat on the throne withservants all around him waiting to serve him. Psalm, seventy eight versus seventy andseventy, seventy to seventy two, speaks about day it as a shepherd. The word says. He chose David His servant and took him from thesheepfolds, from following the nursing us. He brought him to Shepherd Jacob,his people, Israel's inheritance, with upright heart. He shepherded them and guidedthem with his skillful hand. So though David was a shepherd over flocks ofactual sheep, on God made him a shepherd king over Israel. But over, in all of those events and all of that time, David was alwaysa sheep himself. He was always one who was being led by the Lord, and in this Psalm we hear of that heart. We hear of thosetruths expressed by the Lord's servant. David knew that his life was not ledby random chance. It was not led by this or that circumstance or bythe will of men, whether that was saul or anyone else. He wasnot led by the will of Pagan Gods or even the results of his owneffort. He knew that he was being led in both the ups and downson the mountain tops and in the valleys, by his shepherd king, by YahWay, by God himself, and it's from this perspective that he praisedthis song and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that God helps us tohear the heart, the heart of him, of God himself, and also theheart of those who follow him. So what does it mean to beled by the Lord through the various circumstances of life? The Psalm begins bysaying the Lord is my shepherd, and then I shall not want now whathe means is that he knows he's not going to lack anything. Nothing ismissing. This is a very good place to be. In Hebrews Thirteen,five says be content with such things as you have, for he has saidI will never leave or forsake you.

Be Content with everything you have,because God has said I will never leave you or forsake you. This is, of course, what Jesus said before his ascension, when he spoke andgave us that great commission to go and preach to the nation's the good newsof the word, discipling them, building them up in all the things thatthe Lord had spoken, baptizing them the name of the father, son andthe Holy Spirit. I will be with you always, he says, evento the end of the age. And because the Lord is with us,we are called to be content. Jeremi I borrows a puritan defined contentment thisway. Christian contentment is that sweet inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit whichfreely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition. Contentment is a trust. Contentment flows from faith. We can be contentbecause we know we have everything we need, and we know we have everything weneed because we have him who's providing for us. I am a father, and earthly father, and I do my best to provide for my children, but, as you all know, it's not a perfect right. Weall struggle to provide for the people that we are called to provide for,to be there in the ways that we are called to be there, totake care of them as we ought from whether you're a father or a mother, or an employer or a friend or any relationship you have in life,you all know about the limitations that we have, the struggles that we have. God does not struggle, God does not go to sleep at night andjust say I can't give anymore, I've got to go to bed. Thatnever happens to him. He never needs to go to bed, he neverhe never needs to eat, he never needs to go make more money,he never needs to take a break, he never needs to cool down afterbeing too angry. He never needs to go and say sorry for things thathe shouldn't have done. God, as are perfect and heavenly father, doesall things perfectly, and so is his children. We can be happy,we can rest, we can know that, as he leads us, we aregoing to be okay. We often struggle with contentment when we forget that, when we think that we're only going to be okay when we get thisthing or get that thing. I need this degree, I need this job. If I can get this job, then I'll be okay. If Ican change my spouse, I'll then I'll be okay, if I can getmy if you're a kid and you're thinking, if only my dad would be thisor that thing, if only my mom would be this or that thing, then I'll be okay. We're always looking in places and in places andthings to think that if these things, if our circumstances were just different,then we'd be okay if we can get what we want or right. Ifnot, then we're not going to be okay. But that doesn't bring contentmentbecause those things can never prove vide for us will only God can provide.Instead, with those things lead us to anxiety and fear and worry. Ourchests tighten, our fence fists clench, we pace, we wander, weargue, we fight, we we say this is how and things wouldn't beand I want to be difference so bad.

We get frustrated and we don't saythe Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want that's the heart ofsomeone who is trusting in the Lord. Contentment is found in not obtaining anew set of circumstances and changing the people around us or the the the culturearound us, or the government around us, or whatever it is we're looking at. Contentment is only found by resting in the Lord, because it's onlyhim that can provide for us everything that we need and who is supreme enough, who is omnipotent enough, to direct all the circumstances of our lives towardsour good. Only he can do that, and so we must rest in him. When the Lord is Your Shepherd, and when your heart submits to that, you become a person who says I shall not want the Lord ismy shepherd. All this reminds us that some of us have some repenting todo, and if that's so, then I would invite you to do thatwith me by looking to the Lord as our shepherd and seeing where he willtake us in his love. And where does he take us? The Psalmgoes on. He says he makes me lie down in Green Pastures, heleads me beside still waters, he restores my soul, he leads me inpaths of righteousness. For his namesake, these verses remind us that God doesnot, that God puts us into places of safety, places of provision forboth body and soul. He fills us up, he restores us, hetakes us from a position of frustration and perhaps even in ourselves and our ownsin, and he he gives us what we need. He leads us ingood paths, paths of righteousness. The world will often say, I cantell you what you need. It's this right you need into this thing,and the way to get it is rarely a path of righteousness. It's thisshortcut it's this other thing, it's grabbing, it's it's striking, it's it's graspingfor things. But the lord takes us in paths of righteousness and evenbetter than that, he takes us in a path of righteousness that Christ himselfprovides for us. He doesn't just point to the green pastors and say allyou have to do is walk perfectly on that line, on that path,and you'll get there. That, of course, it's true. But we'reall a bunch of wanderers right. We wander off into the CACTUS over hereand we wander off the cliffs over there and there's dangers all around. We'refoolish in many ways. So what does he do? He leads us andpaths of righteousness, right, kicking us up and carrying us a to onthat path of righteousness, to those green pastures. He takes us in Christhimself. He comes into this world and lives this perfect life, fulfilling allof the demands of the law, so that we can come into that placeof rest, into that heavenly place of rest, the green pastors and theseholy waters, and know that we belong there and we came there the rightway. Jesus says, not only is he the shepherd, he also describeshim to his self as as the gate...

...right, the the way into thesheepfold right here. We come into this place through him. There's no otherway. He is the way, the truth and the life. No onecomes to the father except through him, and so this is God's work fromus, this is for us, this is how we come to have peace. Lots of people in this world they try to take shortcuts, they tryto establish these things in their own righteousness, and they will not have peace.But when we give ourselves over to the Lord, when we trust inthe work that he is done on our behalf, then we can find ourselvesin places of safety and provision, because the Lord himself has brought us there. Now some people doubt these promises. He makes me lie down in GreenPastures, he leads me besides still waters, he restores my soul. I'm inthe Valley of the shadow of death. Right, how do those things connect? Isn't the Valley of the shadow of death very different than a placeof green pastures, very different than a place of still waters? And yes, those are two very different images. But what the Psalm teaches us isthat, no matter what the circumstances of our lives are, this is whereGod is leading us, in both the hard times and, we would say, even through the hard times. This is where God is leading us.This phrase, even though I walk through the Valley of the shadow of death, is probably one of the most striking phrases that has ever been written inthe whole history of the world. The Valley of the shadow of death aplace that we all have experienced to some degree, a place of darkness,a place of loneliness, a place it feels like impending doom. Perhaps you, at some point in your life, have been close to death, perhapsyou've the death of your body, perhaps you have felt being end nearing,or perhaps fear and anxiety were so strong on you that you felt as ifall was lost. Perhaps you've been in a place of depression so dark,so deep, that you thought you would never come out of it, thatthere was no hope, that there was no end. You know, Davidwas not naive about these things himself. If you simply look back at Psalmtwenty two, just the Psalm before this song, listen to some of thethings he says, things that our Lord and Savior took upon his own lips. It starts, my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me from the words of my groaning? Oh my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I do not find rest. The sounds like aman who has faced the Valley of the shadow of death, man who hasfelt his bones dried up, is life sucked out of him, people surroundinghim, his enemies attacking him, feeling like all is lost. And hedescribes that more in Psalmen twenty two. But in all of it he knowsthat it is the Lord who leads him. It's not as though the Valley ofthe shadow of death isn't the Valley of the shadow of death. Itis that it is suffering, it is horror, it is fear and allof these, these things, those are all real, but the Lord isthere in the midst of them, and...

...that's why he says, with thisgreat encouragement and confidence, that we too can say, when the Lord leadsus, I will fear no evil. I'm moving forward, I'm not goingto give up, because it's not me who's in this alone. The Lordis my shepherd. The Lord is my shepherd. You are with me,your Rod and your staff. They comfort me. This image is expanded on, or that the idea is expanded on, is the as David moves to versefive. Now he expands this idea by changing the image slightly. Nowwe have this image of success and prosperity. He's led through the Valley of theshadow of death and now here he is at a table in the presenceof his enemies. This is like ultimate victory, right. It's one thingto gather around a table with your friends and your family and everything safe andthat sort of thing, and you imagine sitting down at a table, beinganointed as a king in the presence of your enemies and there isn't anything theycan do about it. This is this is there. There's a kind ofmocking that is going on here. I think in this image a kind ofGod speaking to his enemies and saying, what you gonna do about it?What are you gonna do about it? Death, what are you gonna doabout it? Sickness, what are you going to do about it? Satan? We're eating, we're celebrating, we're going to rejoice, we're going tosit down and not worry about you. Sure, we're in the Valley ofthe shadow of death, but we're are not afraid. In fact, let'shave them heal. You prepare a table before me in the presence of MyEnemies. You Annoy my head with oil. My Cup overflows. Right, thisis this is a feast of abundance. And then he concludes with verse six. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my lifeand I shall dwell in the house of a Lord forever. It's almost asif, as David is walking through the Valley of the shadow of death,as enemies are surrounding him, as all these terrible things are happening, becausethe Lord is leading him there. These just he cleans like he can't getaway from goodness and mercy. They just keep following him. There, canthey stay with him? There, they're like these walking partners on this pike, on this on this dangerous, treacherous journey he's on. There's goodness,there is mercy and there's the Lord. He's protected, he's provided for,he's going to these places of safety and provision and he just relaxes at theend and he says, I shall dwell in the House of the Lord forever. David's contentment isn't tied to his circumstances, is it? He's not saying,well, Win I get to heaven, then I'll be content. He's sayingright here, right now, in the presence of My Enemies, whilethey're here, while they're surrounding me, while I'm feeling this impending doom,I'm not going to be afraid, I'm going to be at rest and I'mgoing to be comforted because you, oh Lord, are with me and weknow that the Lord is with us,...

I think, even better than Davidknew, and at least intellectually, just a good starting place. Perhaps wecan get it even more in our hearts, by God's grace. What am Italking about? I'm talking about Jesus. We know something David didn't quite knowat this point, that when we say, and when he says,the Lord would be with us, what comes into our minds is the sonof God becoming incarnate, taking on our flesh and blood to die on across to face the greatest enemies that mankind faces, the wrath of God,the the Devil himself, the the sin that enslaves us and to turn asideGod's wrath, to put the devil to open shame and to forgive all ofour sins. Jesus walked through the Valley of the shadow of death in humanflesh, carrying us, carrying us through by a virtue of his promises andthe covenants that were made. Jesus, our chief shepherd, went before us. This path that we're on, it's not one that we're trying to figureout, it's not one that we're blazing. It's not one word we're trying tobuild as we go. It's already done, it's already provided for us. Jesus has already died on the cross, resurrected from the dead, ascended intoheaven, where he is now preparing a place for us, for everyonewho puts their faith in him. Jesus faced the darkness of the Cross,the betrayal, the evil that lurked all around him, and he came outvictorious because of his righteousness. And so, whether you are on death's door,as we say, whether you are finding yourself close to the end ofyour life, or whether it is a spiritual darkness or something else that isthreatening to swallow you, know that Jesus can lead you through and has alreadygone through himself. The he can guide you through the darkest places because heknows the way and because he promises to take you and finish that race.He knows the path of righteousness because he is righteousness himself, and so beloved. Cling to him, follow him. Don't let the silly things of thisworld be your shepherd, don't let your sinful heart be your shepherd, don'tlet your circumstances be your shepherd, or your emotions or whatever. Let theLord Be Your Shepherd. Let Jesus be Your Shepherd. Hear his voice,follow him and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Paulsays that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.So cling to him and find your safety and your rest in him. Let'spray.

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