Today, we wrap up our journey through the Psalms. We’ve been talking
about psalms of orientation, psalms of disorientation, and psalms of
Psalms of new orientation express a confidence in God as the source of
new orientation. The experience of the past causes the rejoicing of the
present which leads to confidence of the future. That’s why many of the
psalms of new orientation are thanksgiving psalms — they express thanks
for God’s actions in great times of need!
We wrap up this journey with a message that I think is very timely with
the hurricane disaster this past week. Psalm 23 is a psalm about
provision and protection.
Psalm 23 incorporates two metaphors: 1) shepherd/sheep, and 2) a royal banquet hosted by the Lord.
The Psalmist makes three "I" statements that will guide our talk today. The first is …
A sheep’s greatest need: “I have everything I need.”
"The LORD is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest
in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my
strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name." (Psalm 23.1-3)
God provides the essentials! Because the Lord is my shepherd, I lack
nothing, I have everything I need. My greatest need – my only need – is
to follow the shepherd.
"Jesus is the great Shepherd of the sheep by an everlasting covenant,
signed with his blood" (Hebrews 13.20). Jesus is called a "chief
shepherd" (1 Peter 5.4). And in John 10.11b-16, Jesus talks about the kind of shepherd he is.
God leads us to resting places (lush meadows) where allows us to eat an
rest. There God renews our strength and refreshes us. God also leads
us along right paths (ones that lead to pastures, wells, or the fold)!
Our response: Follow the shepherd!
The second "I" statement is …
Rough terrain ahead: “I will not be afraid.”
"Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be
afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect
and comfort me." (Psalm 23.4)
The image here is of a shepherd leading his sheep through a dark ravine where predators may lurk.
Sometimes life can get pretty rough. Sometimes it’s our own doing. For
example, about two months ago, shepherds were taking a break for
breakfast while their sheep, about 1500 of them, were grazing in a
field. One sheep decided to go off on its own, and went off a cliff.
That was bad enough, but the other nearly 1500 sheep decided to follow.
450 of them died, but they provided a soft pile for the others to fall on.
But sometimes, the rough road is not our own doing, but a sad part of
life (e.g. hurricane Katrina this week). Fact is, we don’t know what’s
around the next bend in the road, where the next dark ravine will be.
We must live ready for whatever comes our way.
“Live ready. If you have to get ready when opportunity comes your way,
you are too late. Opportunity does not wait, not even while you pray.
You must not have to get ready; you must live ready.” (Smith
Thankfully our shepherd leads us in the way we should go. A shepherd’s
implements include a staff, used to guide and control, and a rod, to
club to fend off wild beasts, to protect.
Our response: Don’t fear, the shepherd is near!
God’s love chases us down: “I will live in the house of the Lord forever.”
The image shifts here to a royal banquet hosted by the Lord.
"You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You
welcome me as a guest, anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows
with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD
forever." (Psalm 23.5-6)
God’s loyalty and devotion not only follows us, it pursues us, it
chases us down. That’s grace. God’s grace keeps chasing after us, never
giving up on us.
Our response: Return to God!
Our response to God’s commitment to us ought to be commitment to God. "I will live in the house of the Lord forever."