Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 10 months ago

The Lord Is My Shepard


Rev. Christopher Chelpka

Let's turn our attention to psalm twenty three and remain standing, if you're able, as we read God's Word Psalm Twenty three. I'll give you another moment to turn them. The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in Green Pastures, he leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul, he leads me in paths of righteousness. For his namesake, 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of My Enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My Cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the House of the Lord. forevern, you may be seated, testing, testing good. Okay, thank you. I want to preach to you today from Psalm Twenty three, most famous song, one of the most famous passages in the scriptures, and I wanted to do it for a few different reasons. I'm one 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 declining in their health quite a bit. Donna, in particular, has taken quite a turn for the worse and she is likely to pass soon. And over the last several months I've had the opportunity pretty much every week to sit with Donna, 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 because I'm Donna, as you know, is suffering with dementia and not always sure how the mind works, and moments like this, I wanted to pick something comforting and something familiar, with prayers that the Lord would use his word and this psalm to bring hope to her and some stickiness to his word in her mind and in her heart. And so now, I'm as she comes to the end of the days that God has given to her and as we all think about our our own time and brevity in this world, it's a good psalm to think about. It's a good word to rest in, and so 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 and in this difficult time in John Ten, John Ten verse twenty seven, Jesus says, 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 and he 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 very remarkable sheep, right one of the most remarkable of God's creatures in all of history. His life was full of trauma, ups and downs, and ups and downs, and very low downs and very high ups. There was singing and dancing and war and betrayal and deep friendship. There were times when day wood was on the run, seeking asylum, homeless, pursued by enemies wanting to kill him, and there were times when he sat on the throne with servants all around him waiting to serve him. Psalm, seventy eight versus seventy and seventy, seventy to seventy two, speaks about day it as a shepherd. The word says. He chose David His servant and took him from the sheepfolds, from following the nursing us. He brought him to Shepherd Jacob, his people, Israel's inheritance, with upright heart. He shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand. So though David was a shepherd over flocks of actual sheep, on God made him a shepherd king over Israel. But over, in all of those events and all of that time, David was always a 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 those truths expressed by the Lord's servant. David knew that his life was not led by random chance. It was not led by this or that circumstance or by the will of men, whether that was saul or anyone else. He was not led by the will of Pagan Gods or even the results of his own effort. He knew that he was being led in both the ups and downs on the mountain tops and in the valleys, by his shepherd king, by Yah Way, by God himself, and it's from this perspective that he praised this song and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that God helps us to hear the heart, the heart of him, of God himself, and also the heart of those who follow him. So what does it mean to be led by the Lord through the various circumstances of life? The Psalm begins by saying the Lord is my shepherd, and then I shall not want now what he means is that he knows he's not going to lack anything. Nothing is missing. This is a very good place to be. In Hebrews Thirteen, five says be content with such things as you have, for he has said I 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 and gave us that great commission to go and preach to the nation's the good news of the word, discipling them, building them up in all the things that the Lord had spoken, baptizing them the name of the father, son and the Holy Spirit. I will be with you always, he says, even to 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 this way. Christian contentment is that sweet inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit which freely 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 content because we know we have everything we need, and we know we have everything we need 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. We all 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, to take 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 and just say I can't give anymore, I've got to go to bed. That never happens to him. He never needs to go to bed, he never he 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 after being too angry. He never needs to go and say sorry for things that he shouldn't have done. God, as are perfect and heavenly father, does all things perfectly, and so is his children. We can be happy, we can rest, we can know that, as he leads us, we are going 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 this thing or get that thing. I need this degree, I need this job. If I can get this job, then I'll be okay. If I can change my spouse, I'll then I'll be okay, if I can get my if you're a kid and you're thinking, if only my dad would be this or 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 and things 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. If not, then we're not going to be okay. But that doesn't bring contentment because 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. Our chests tighten, our fence fists clench, we pace, we wander, we argue, we fight, we we say this is how and things wouldn't be and I want to be difference so bad.

We get frustrated and we don't say the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want that's the heart of someone who is trusting in the Lord. Contentment is found in not obtaining a new set of circumstances and changing the people around us or the the the culture around 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 only him 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 towards our 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 is my shepherd. All this reminds us that some of us have some repenting to do, and if that's so, then I would invite you to do that with me by looking to the Lord as our shepherd and seeing where he will take us in his love. And where does he take us? The Psalm goes on. He says he makes me lie down in Green Pastures, he leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul, he leads me in paths of righteousness. For his namesake, these verses remind us that God does not, that God puts us into places of safety, places of provision for both body and soul. He fills us up, he restores us, he takes us from a position of frustration and perhaps even in ourselves and our own sin, and he he gives us what we need. He leads us in good paths, paths of righteousness. The world will often say, I can tell 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 this shortcut it's this other thing, it's grabbing, it's it's striking, it's it's grasping for things. But the lord takes us in paths of righteousness and even better than that, he takes us in a path of righteousness that Christ himself provides for us. He doesn't just point to the green pastors and say all you 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're all a bunch of wanderers right. We wander off into the CACTUS over here and we wander off the cliffs over there and there's dangers all around. We're foolish in many ways. So what does he do? He leads us and paths of righteousness, right, kicking us up and carrying us a to on that path of righteousness, to those green pastures. He takes us in Christ himself. He comes into this world and lives this perfect life, fulfilling all of the demands of the law, so that we can come into that place of rest, into that heavenly place of rest, the green pastors and these holy waters, and know that we belong there and we came there the right way. Jesus says, not only is he the shepherd, he also describes him to his self as as the gate...

...right, the the way into the sheepfold right here. We come into this place through him. There's no other way. He is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through him, and so this is God's work from us, this is for us, this is how we come to have peace. Lots of people in this world they try to take shortcuts, they try to 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 in the work that he is done on our behalf, then we can find ourselves in 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 Green Pastures, he leads me besides still waters, he restores my soul. I'm in the 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 place of green pastures, very different than a place of still waters? And yes, those are two very different images. But what the Psalm teaches us is that, no matter what the circumstances of our lives are, this is where God 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 in the whole history of the world. The Valley of the shadow of death a place 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, perhaps you'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 if all 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, that there was no hope, that there was no end. You know, David was not naive about these things himself. If you simply look back at Psalm twenty two, just the Psalm before this song, listen to some of the things 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 a man who has faced the Valley of the shadow of death, man who has felt his bones dried up, is life sucked out of him, people surrounding him, his enemies attacking him, feeling like all is lost. And he describes that more in Psalmen twenty two. But in all of it he knows that it is the Lord who leads him. It's not as though the Valley of the shadow of death isn't the Valley of the shadow of death. It is that it is suffering, it is horror, it is fear and all of these, these things, those are all real, but the Lord is there in the midst of them, and...

...that's why he says, with this great encouragement and confidence, that we too can say, when the Lord leads us, I will fear no evil. I'm moving forward, I'm not going to give up, because it's not me who's in this alone. The Lord is 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 verse five. Now he expands this idea by changing the image slightly. Now we have this image of success and prosperity. He's led through the Valley of the shadow of death and now here he is at a table in the presence of his enemies. This is like ultimate victory, right. It's one thing to gather around a table with your friends and your family and everything safe and that sort of thing, and you imagine sitting down at a table, being anointed as a king in the presence of your enemies and there isn't anything they can do about it. This is this is there. There's a kind of mocking that is going on here. I think in this image a kind of God speaking to his enemies and saying, what you gonna do about it? What are you gonna do about it? Death, what are you gonna do about 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 to sit down and not worry about you. Sure, we're in the Valley of the shadow of death, but we're are not afraid. In fact, let's have them heal. You prepare a table before me in the presence of My Enemies. You Annoy my head with oil. My Cup overflows. Right, this is 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 life and I shall dwell in the house of a Lord forever. It's almost as if, as David is walking through the Valley of the shadow of death, as enemies are surrounding him, as all these terrible things are happening, because the Lord is leading him there. These just he cleans like he can't get away from goodness and mercy. They just keep following him. There, can they 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 the end 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 saying right here, right now, in the presence of My Enemies, while they'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'm going to be comforted because you, oh Lord, are with me and we know that the Lord is with us,...

I think, even better than David knew, and at least intellectually, just a good starting place. Perhaps we can get it even more in our hearts, by God's grace. What am I talking about? I'm talking about Jesus. We know something David didn't quite know at this point, that when we say, and when he says, the Lord would be with us, what comes into our minds is the son of God becoming incarnate, taking on our flesh and blood to die on a cross 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 aside God's wrath, to put the devil to open shame and to forgive all of our sins. Jesus walked through the Valley of the shadow of death in human flesh, carrying us, carrying us through by a virtue of his promises and the 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 figure out, it's not one that we're blazing. It's not one word we're trying to build 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 into heaven, where he is now preparing a place for us, for everyone who puts their faith in him. Jesus faced the darkness of the Cross, the betrayal, the evil that lurked all around him, and he came out victorious 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 of your life, or whether it is a spiritual darkness or something else that is threatening to swallow you, know that Jesus can lead you through and has already gone through himself. The he can guide you through the darkest places because he knows 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 this world be your shepherd, don't let your sinful heart be your shepherd, don't let your circumstances be your shepherd, or your emotions or whatever. Let the Lord Be Your Shepherd. Let Jesus be Your Shepherd. Hear his voice, follow him and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Paul says 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's pray.

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