The Lord is My Shepherd

Today we are going to begin a four week series where we are going to slow down and camp on one of David’s Psalms. And it is the most famous Psalm ever written. And chances are that even if this is your first time in a church ever you have heard this psalm somewhere. And it’s famous for a reason. Because it is SO GOOD! It really is! And here’s the deal. I say that if you only had two pieces of scripture at your disposal – if you were being sent away and you only had time to memorize two passages of scripture – I’d say – memorize Psalm 23. Memorize the Lord’s prayer and memorize Psalm 23.

As a matter of fact – today we are going to start with the application. I want you to commit Psalm 23 to your memory and I want you to recite it as a prayer regularly.

That’s the big idea today. It’s a call to memorize this and make it a prayer for your heart.

Over the past few months I have been massaging my heart with this psalm. I’ve been reciting it in my heart when I lay in my bed and when I drive my car. And it is just soo good for my heart. It ministers to me, and so I’m going to challenge you – that if you haven’t memorized this psalm yet – you should make a commitment to yourself to do it.

Now I know that sometimes memorizing things is hard, right? And some of you are already going to be like, “Oh man, Phil, I’m just not that good at memorizing scripture. It takes me forever – I’ve just resigned myself to the reality that I’ll never be able to memorize an entire Psalm.” And if that’s you – I have a message for you.

Actually – when I was in Southern California I ran into an old friend and I was talking to him about how hard it is to memorize scripture and he sent me this very inspirational video this week- and so I thought I’d start by sharing this –this is for everyone who wonders if they can memorize Psalm 23 and it’s from my friend Shia Lebuff.

Okay – there you go. Yes you can. So let’s go ahead and read Psalm 23 together here and I’m going to suggest you should memorize it in the King James Version. And I don’t usually recommend using the King James Version – unless you are fluent in 16th century English. And if all you own is a King James then feel free to pick up a free copy of a bible off our table back there in a translation you will understand more easily.

But Psalm 23, and the Lord’s prayer, and John 3:16- all great in KJV. And so read it out loud with me – and if you have it memorized already try not to peak at this – but it reads…

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

 2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

This morning we are going to park it on the first verse. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

Now, you might be wondering why I’m making a big deal about memorizing this piece of scripture. It’s admittedly been a little unusual for me to ask you to do something like this.

I want us to memorize this Psalm because it ministers to a needy heart. See, when we discuss our soul we recognize that we are more than a body – we have a soul. And the soul has components. The heart of a person is the ceo of the soul. It makes decisions – but wow, is it ever capable of making wrong decisions.

So when we commit this psalm to memory we are arming our brain with information to feed a heart that is easily gets off the rails.

So when I read this Psalm – it’s written by David – but to whom is he speaking? Well me, for one, and you for another. But I also think David is speaking to himself! Do you ever talk to yourself? Of course, right? Why? Because sometimes there needs to be communication between your brain and your heart.

And so I want us to read Psalm 23 as though David were talking to himself. And in this first verse he is going to address two major issues of the heart.

1. He is addressing the hearts propensity to become troubled.

2. He is addressing the hearts insatiable thirst to be content.

So let’s start there with the first. Memorizing and praying Psalm 23 will help settle a troubled heart. The heart is easily shaken. We are dog-sitting at our house this week -watching our friends dog while they go on vacation. And we discoverd something on Friday night. The dog is afraid of fireworks. At the first boom – that dog began to tremble. Tiny little dog – looked like it just crawled out of a freezer!

Well the heart is often like that. The first Boom and the heart is buzzing. And let’s be honest – there are plenty of things in life that can blow up on you! Don’t you wish sometimes your life had less fireworks?

Whether it is finances, relationships, work, health – there is no shortage of life events that can cause our heart to become unsettled.

And a troubled heart will often reach for a solution – like worry or anxiety, or a bottle or a pill – which rather than solving the problem – often makes it worse.

Next time you are enduring a season of trouble and your heart wants to turn to worry or anxiety or whatever your soul reaches for when stressed out, I want you to reach into your memory banks and recite Psalm 23 – the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

And if you have come to the place where you have trusted Jesus with your life, and stepped across the line of faith where you are able to say, I’m yours Jesus. I’ll follow you wherever you lead me” – then you have this same assurance.

The Lord is your shepherd.  He is in control of your life.

Recently I was in South Dakota with my sons – and we were at this pond fishing and my friend brought a coyote call. And for fun he turned it on. Aowwww…. And we listened and all of a sudden we heard a response – from a bunch of coyotes and they sounded really close.

Now we were of course never in any danger – but it still was kind of freaky. Your watching your kids out there fishing and to hear these things so close… it gets your imagination going a little.

I wouldn’t want to be a sheep out there! Not without a shepherd.

Sometimes life starts buffering you with issues and it’s easy to feel like you are surrounded by wolves. Surrounded by trouble that is howling all around you. Well, that’s the time we reach for this verse and remind ourselves that the Lord is our shepherd.

Which means he is the one who is caring for us. Providing for us. He protects us. He feeds us. He fends for us. You are incredibly important to God. He knows you by name. He knows every intricate details about you.

Do you know that according to Jesus God has numbered the hairs on your head? He is completely into you. You are cherished. You are his beloved. You are treated by God with tremendous dignity and worth.

And I can hear someone out there thinking if I have such dignity then why am I likened to a sheep? We use that as an insult, right? You’re just a sheep – blindly following the crowd.

But Jesus is a really good teacher. And the deal is that he i simply using metaphors to help us understand the relationship between you and me and God. So Jesus is constantly changing metaphors.

Sometimes, for instance, he likens our relationship to God in terms of a kingdom. Following God is like living in a kingdom where Jesus himself is our ruler. He leads us with great love and compassion.

Another time Jesus said, that God is like a gardener and you are like vines that are growing in his garden. And he takes care of the vines and we produce fruit.

His favorite metaphor to help us understand him is that He is our heavenly father and we are his children. And here he is a good shepherd and we are the sheep that he cares for. The Lord himself is our shepherd. Leading, providing caring and loving us.

Now one thing that is in common with all of these illustrations is that in all of them, God is the one who is in control. He calls the shots. He is the one in control. He is the King. The gardener, the father and the Shepherd. The Lord is your shepherd and He is in control of your life.

And for some people that is a scary thought. You are independent and you have lived many years being self sufficient. The idea of willingly laying down your will and submitting your life to God is too much for you to imagine. It might even be the biggest hurdle you have to faith right now. And honestly I can understand.   It’s scary until you understand what this Jesus is like who is controlling your life.

So we turn to Matthew and Mark, Luke and John- the only four books in the Bible that detail the life of Jesus – and we read what this Jesus was like. Let these words speak for themselves.

When we take an unbiased approach to the gospels we are asking, what is Jesus like? And we will find that – rather than a hard and mean and controlling and angry, Jesus, we instead see a man filled with compassion and integrity and insight into the workings of the human heart. We see a man of gentleness and humility. He was at the same time the most tender human and the toughest human who ever lived. But notice who he was tough on? He was tough on phonies. He was tender to the hurting and the wounded and he was a friend of sinners.

And once we place our faith in Him he promises that he will lead and guide and direct our lives. He takes control of our days – and I want you to know that God is in control and carrying out His plans for our lives.

What is God Like? He is in control. Nothing has ever snuck up on him, He has never been startled, or shaken up, He has never been surprised.   Because He is in control.

He is in control of nature…

He controls nature – Psalm 148:8, “Fire and Hail, snow and frost, wind and weather, fulfill his commands.”

“He directs the snow to fall on the earth and tells the rain to pour down.

He loads the clouds with moisture, and they flash with his lightning.

The clouds churn about at his direction. They do whatever He commands throughout the earth.” Job 37:6,11,12

God is in control of nature, of the seasons and the storms.

God is in control of governments and kingdoms. The Bible tells us that God controls the governments of the nations, He sets up kings and deposes them according to Dan 2:21.

Proverbs 21:1 tells us he directs the hearts of the Kings, like a stream of water – he guides it wherever He pleases.   God is in control of these things. He controls nature, the weather, the kings, the animals, the nations.  God orchestrates the events of life in order to bring about his purpose and plans for your life and mine. Because he loves you and I far more than he loves the weather, and the animals, and the governments.

God is in control of all things and is orchestrating events of your life to accomplish His purpose and plan for your life, and mine. God has a plan for your life, and nothing can thwart God from accomplishing that plan. He is in control.

I don’t know what you are going through today. Maybe your heart is troubled. Maybe your world is listing badly. Sometimes when we get into troubled waters our hearts begin to wonder – God do you know what you are doing?

And it’s in those times we are going to recite Psalm 23 to our heart. Yes we are just going to DO IT! We are going to remind our hearts that The Lord is my shepherd. He is in control.

Secondly – this psalm reminds our heart that Since the Lord is our shepherd and therefore – we lack nothing. We shall not want. It’s just a remarkable claim of complete contentment. We are completely content with the management of our lives.

There is simply nothing I need to have, in order to be fulfilled or complete. I am okay with his shepherding of my life. I lack nothing. This psalm is great to memorize because our hearts are just miserable gluttons. Your heart is a bottomless cavern of desire. It always wants something. Our heart can be a real brat sometimes, you know. It can be so needy. It can turn into this tantrum toddler – I want that! I need that! I must have that to be happy!

Our hearts struggle with contentment. I remember seeing this buffet one time and it had a sign like this on it – “Eat til your hearts content.” How much food does it take to make a heart content? How many pounds of crab legs before it my heart says, That’s it! I have now had everything I need. I’m done. I’m rested. Never, right?

Your heart might say – I’m sick of this – but that doesn’t mean it’s satisfied.

Then I started noticing these other signs – here’s Shop til your heart’s content. Oh yes! Amazon Prime day is going to be awesome! Black Friday is my day! Some of you have been trying so hard to do this – but your heart still hasn’t found the deal it’s been looking for.

Don’t worry – you can always Dance to your hearts content. Grab your clogs and let’s head to the low country for the dance – It might be fun – it will not lead to a contented heart. Neither will Fishing til your heart’s content. Or Smoking – or Cooking or relaxing or reading or scrapping or even Roving. I just don’t know what that means. Hey what are you doing after church? I’m going to rove. Well – rove til your hearts content.

Just be warned – it won’t happen. Your heart is an insatiable monster. Your heart will always believe that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. It always wants more. It thinks it needs more. And even after it has all it can handle – it doesn’t become satisfied it just gets bored. And that’s where real trouble begins.

Our heart – the deal is that it totally reminds me of the Blob. There was this awesome 1958 movie called the blob. And the blob just consumed everything in it’s path. This is your heart. Always searching – never satisfied – UNLESS – unless.

Unless we direct our heart toward the one person big enough to be able to absorb IT. God, being infinite, absorbs us into his vastness. God, and only God, is big enough to be able to bring contentment to our souls.

You know what the apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:8. He writes,

To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ,

You know what a fathom is? It’s 6 feet. And so back before sonar and such they would measure the depth of the waters they were sailing in… and here Paul says, you cannot measure God’s riches. It cannot be measured. There is no bottom to it.

Our hearts are insatiable – and it doesn’t change when we find Jesus – it just so happens that in God we find an inexhaustible supply of goodness – we really can feast on God until our heart’s content. Only God can deliver – the limitless, never ending supply of love, and meaning, and purpose that our heart desires…

So the next time your heart is troubled. The next time it starts giving you garbage – the next time your heart says – I need that to be content – things are out of control. The next time it reaches for worry or anxiety in a plea for stability – we are going to stop and recite Psalm 23 to it.

No no no Heart. The Lord is my shepherd. He is my leader and I can happily follow Him. He is my protector and my provider – and when I am in his pen I am perfectly safe no matter what happens. He is in control of my life and I can rest in him.

His love is unfathomable. His wisdom is limitless, and He is working in my heart and life right now for His good, his purpose. His plans.

He is trustworthy and good. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

 

 

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