You Are With Me

This morning we are going to talk about four little words that appear in the middle of Psalm 23 that ought to cause – at least internally – a spontaneous fist pump.  

You know what a fist pump is, right?  Ever watch golf on tv?  Of course you do – ever watch a guy sink a 60 foot putt?  What move does he make?  What move would you make?  He or she spontaneous reflex – fist pump.

I’ve been able to pinpoint a few of the regular ones – I’d say you’ve got, for instance

  • The Train whistle!  
  • the knee slapper – hot dog diggity!
  • The Tiger – which involves a raised knee.
  • You’ve got some form of the Chuck Norris
  • What’s your move – on the count of three – you just sunk a putt and you won the tournament and a million dollars – what would you do?

Well the reason I bring it up is – because this morning – we are going to read four words that ought to cause us to want to stop and give a – righteous, dignified fist pump.

We find the words in Psalm 23.  This morning we are in our third week of studying what many would say is the greatest Psalm ever written.  

King David, who wrote this, was once a shepherd.  And one day he is thinking, you know, the way God cares for me is alot like the way I once cared for my sheep.  And so he sits down and writes this beautiful psalm that has ministered to millions for almost three thousand years now.  

Isn’t it amazing that something 3000 years old, can so powerfully shape our souls?  It’s the power of God’s word.  And that’s why I’m asking you to commit it to your mind and to your heart – because it’s just as powerful today as it was then.

Which is why I’ve asked you to memorize it and pray it.  It’s a wonderful template for prayer.  And so we are going to start this morning by saying it together out loud and let’s see if you can close your eyes and say it along with me.

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 forever.

Were you able to guess – do you suspect you know what four words I believe should cause our soul to give a spontaneous fist pump?

The four words we are focusing on this morning are the words, Thou art with me.  

It’s the heartbeat of this Psalm.  Thou – the good shepherd -art with me.  And if you look through this psalm you find one example after another of circumstances in which we find the good shepherd with you.

Thou art with me.  Such great news!  Because a sheep without a shepherd is in trouble.  And a sheep without a good shepherd is no better off.  But a sheep under the supervision of a good shepherd will thrive.

The reality of God’s presence is almost too much for David to comprehend.  Did you notice the shift in the way David is writing this psalm?  The first four verses David is talking to you and to me about God.  He does this – he does that. But in verse 4 it’s as if he is overwhelmed with the goodness of God and he shifts language.  

He is no longer talking to us about God – now he is talking to God directly.  He just can’t help himself.  And we become bystanders watching this close and personal relationship between man and his God unfold.

Thou art with me.  When is God with us?

Well God is with me when I am living in the green meadows and beside still waters.  

This week I had a chance one night to head out to Memphis Lake out in Ashland – the rest of my family was busy so I grabbed my fishing gear and took off to enjoy the last couple of hours of daylight.

And while I was there I snapped this photo with my phone – check this out.  So tranquil and peaceful.

And I thought – here I am – sitting in a green meadow beside quiet water.  And Thou art with me.  And so I mean I was just about the only person on this lake – it was so refreshing – I could feel my soul being refreshed.  It would have been even better had I caught any fish – but still great stuff.

And there are times when life is like this.  It’s just sweet.  Green.  Lush.  And we should be thankful for them – and sometimes we need to remind ourselves that God is the shepherd who led us here.

But very shortly after I took this photo – as I was standing on the shore I felt this terrible pinch – like someone had jammed a pin into my ankle – and I looked down and there was a fly chomping on me – and it hurt!

And that fly kept coming back and pretty soon I was like a madman!  I’m going to kill you fly! I’m going to tear your tiny wings off and put you on a hook and feed you to these fish!  The Fly was like, “Do tell”.

Isn’t it amazing how sometimes the little things in life can just gnaw at your happiness?  The flies of life are just after you.  Stealing your joy one tiny little bite at a time?  

Sometimes life doesn’t punch you in the gut – it just tries to aggravate you to death.

Well then I remembered that in the trunk of my car I had some deet – it was really strong stuff too – the stuff we use in Haiti – 99 percent deet.  Well I was like showering in that stuff.  I was gargling with it –  and it worked!  I went back to enjoying my time!

Here’s why I bring it up – 3000 years ago – when David wrote this psalm – they didn’t have deet.  But a caring shepherd would apply an oil mixture on the nose and head of sheep in order to keep the flies away.  Because the flies were terrible and could do alot of damage to the sheep.

Philip Keller was a shepherd himself and he wrote a book about Psalm 23 and he wrote that he would do the same thing when he was shepherding his flock – even today.  He would apply an oil mixture to the head of the sheep and he writes,

What an incredible transformation this would make among the sheep.  Once the oil had been applied to the sheep’s head, there was an immediate change of behavior.  Gone was the frenzy, the aggravation, the irritability, and restlessness.  Instead the sheep would start to feed quietly again, then lie down in peaceful contentment.

Thou art with me – when life is irritating and aggravating and pinching and poking and generally driving me crazy – thou art with me.  Thou anointest my head with oil.  

Did you know that with the shepherds help and guidance you can  you can rise above the irritants in life.  In fact, it causes us to be able to be content in any situation.   Because even when things are not going our way, Thou art with us.  And He is caring for us even now.

Thou art with me when life is a green meadow.

Thou art with me when life is aggravating.

Thou art with me when things get dangerous.

Now sometimes life does go for the throat, right?  But we need not live in fear or dread for whatever this day might bring.  Because Thou art with me – and your rod and your staff they comfort me.  Well what in the world is comforting about a rod and a staff?

Well a Rod and a staff are the standard tools of the trade for a shepherd.  A rod was a shorter heavier piece of wood that served two main functions.

The primary purpose of a rod was to protect the sheep.  The rod was a primarily a weapon.  And listen if you are a shepherd one thing you’ve got is time.  And so they would practice throwing these rods and they became quite good with their aim.  Because they needed to be good.

And they used these things.  Because sheep are tasty.  And lots of animals like to eat them.  I came across some stats this week that said in the US more than a quarter million sheep are killed by predators – most by coyotes, but also dogs, bobcats, mountain lions, foxes and bears.  They all love them a little lamb chop.  And you know sheep – they don’t have any ability to protect themselves.  So they need a shepherd who will protect them.

Isn’t it good to know that when we place our faith in Jesus – we are guaranteed his protection?  We fall under his protection.  FIST PUMP!

We do have an enemy of our souls.  Satan is real and demons are real but since we are under the Lord’s protection we are NOT AT THEIR MERCY! Fist pump! They might try to influence us but they do not have free rein to harm us in any way.   Nothing can snatch us from the hand of God.  Fist pump!

Now this of course doesn’t mean that we will live a life without ever tasting pain or suffering.  Sometimes God uses pain and suffering to accomplish in our souls what could not be accomplished any other way.  

And believe it or not a life lived without pain is NOT the highest best life you could live.  Sometimes God allows pain to enter our lives for His purpose.  

But the larger, soul satisfying truth is that even when we are surrounded by enemies, thou art with my – thy rod and thy staff is a comfort to me because they protect me.  And so when you are with me – I can have peace in my heart enough that I can sit down and enjoy a meal in the presence of mine enemies, because Thou art with me.  Even when things get dangerous.

Now if we are honest – Sometimes the danger we face in life is a self inflicted danger.  Sometimes we, like sheep, have gone astray.  We walk ourselves into trouble – often searching for something we think we need.

Which actually brings us to the second purpose of the rod – it is a tool used to correct a straying sheep.  Sometimes a sheep will begin to wander off and a skilled shepherd will use the rod as a way to remind the sheep to get back in line.  Bop!

And listen – there have been times in my life when I’ve needed correction.  And I count myself very fortunate to have friends who are willing to give me a proverbial thump in the head or kick in the behind – should they see something in my life that is evidence of straying away from the shepherd.  

Sometimes it is a friend who points it out – other times we will be reading the Bible and it is the Holy Spirit who begins to point out things inside of us that need correction – 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.

What a faithful God!  Even when we stray – Thou art with us – and we find comfort in the fact that you protect and correct us when we need it.

Thou art with me when life is a green meadow.

Thou art with me when life is aggravating.

Thou art with me when things get dangerous.

Lastly Thou art with me in the darkest valley.

I read an interesting fact about sheep this week.  Sheep – if left untended – will over graze a field – they will eat everything – even to the point where they will dig up and eat the roots of a grass in a meadow.  So a diligent shepherd knows that he needs to move the sheep out of a field and into better fields.

Often times the sheep don’t want to go – the shepherd will use his staff to push and prod and lead and direct sheep into better lands.

I also learned that in the summertime – as the snow pack on the mountain would melt away – it would provide a wonderful source of water that created beautiful lush meadows on the top of these mountains – and so when summer came around the shepherd would force his sheep to head up the mountain to better land – and it would also give the land at the base of the mountain a chance to recover and grow healthy again.

So the shepherd drives the sheep up the mountain and that often meant – traveling through the valleys up the mountain.

These valleys were often treacherous.  For one thing – the predators had a good view of the flock coming up the valley.  Summer storms could produce hail and flash floods.  It was a dangerous but necessary journey through the valley.  On the other side of the dark valley – was a green meadow.

It was just such a journey that David had in mind when he wrote that God leads us through the valley of the shadow of death.  It is traveling through rough, difficult terrain.  It is hard on us.  And sometimes we might fear or face the reality even of death.

But – praise the Lord – even in the valley of the shadow of death – Thou art with me. Fist pump!  

I don’t know what you might be facing this morning.  Or what you might be going through.  The reality is that we might today be in a green meadow and tomorrow find ourselves being ushered through the valley of the shadow of death.  If you are in that valley today – I want to assure you that God is with you.  He is with you there.  Yes he is.  The Lord is your shepherd and he is leading you in a path that is a righteous path.  

I’d like to introduce you now to my friend Becky Moates.  I had the privilege of hearing Becky’s story this week and I’ve asked her to come and share it with you.

Please listen to audio to hear Becky Moates’ Testimony

 

Comments(2)

  1. Janet says:

    Really like your manner of preaching is so down to earth and easy to understand. Was there July 26th with sister Becky Moates and Tom. Thank you for letting me hear her words on August 2nd. Would definitely be in your audience weekly if you were here in Okla. City. So glad I can get your messages on the internet. God Bless

  2. Ryan Albano says:

    Thanks Janet!

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