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Psalm 23-The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads 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 You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs 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. Silent Prayer There was a business executive years ago who had a little motto on the wall of his office for all to see. It said, “If you have anything important to say, say it in five minutes.” Well, it only takes about forty-five seconds to read Psalm 23. It is brief, but for us who belong to the Shepherd, it’s really all we need to know. The Lord is my shepherd.  I shall not want.  Because the Lord is my Shepherd I have everything I need.  As a sheep in the Lord’s fold, I am inside the 1. Pasture of Provision Vs. 2 tells us that “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” The good shepherd leads his sheep to a lush pasture where they have plenty to eat and their stomachs are soon full. Here, then, is a picture of a sheep so completely satisfied, that there isn’t the least bit of desire for anything more. He’s so content he lies down in green pastures. But did you notice the wording? David said, “He makes me lie down.” Sheep sometimes have to be forced to lie down. Sometimes we are so busy and preoccupied with the busyness of life that we don’t take the time we need to be refreshed and restored.  I hear some people even get so busy that they forget to eat; not that that has ever happened to me. Sheep won’t lie down when they are hungry.  When they’re hungry, they’re up because they are restless and roaming, looking for something to eat.  When sheep are lying down in green pastures, it means they have their tummies full. They are satisfied.  They have had their fill. Didn’t Jesus say, “I am the Bread of Life.  He that comes to me will never be hungry and he that believes on me will never thirst?”  (John 6:35)  He said that because the way He supplies in our lives, we are satisfied in Him. Our kids can get so stimulated by the game they’re playing, the time they are having with friends or the movie they are watching that they wouldn’t choose to eat or sleep when it was time to.  Sometimes we have to make them turn off the TV, make them come to the table, or make them get ready for bed.  We’re probably the only parents with that issue. But you and I are much the same.  We are easily distracted. It seems the older I get, the easier it is for me to be distracted.  Just this week, I called Rachel to let her know I’d be about fifteen minutes late getting into the office.  I dialed the phone and set it down while it rang so that I could put spray butter on my toast and it wasn’t until five minutes later when the phone started beeping at me that I realized I had forgotten about Rachel and she had been at the church listening to me eat my breakfast, holding on as long as she could until she had to take another call.  I mean seriously. Beyond being easily distracted, the truth is, we don’t really even know what we need.  So we rely on a loving shepherd who is never distracted or out of touch with what we really need.  When we claim Him as our Shepherd, He makes us lie down in green pastures as He provides for our needs.  Philippians 4:19 says, “My God shall supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” That means we can experience satisfaction and contentment in the Pasture of Provision.  Not only do we have what we need through being made to lie down in green pastures, but He also provides for us as He leads us by still waters. Did you know that sheep will not drink from fast-flowing streams?  They aren’t strong swimmers.  They are afraid of the water, yet it is the water they need to quench their thirst and to sustain them.  So often the shepherd would temporarily dam up a stream so the sheep would go to get a drink.  Otherwise, the sheep would avoid doing the very thing they needed to do. You could read verse 2 to say, “beside the stilled water.” He makes it possible for us to drink deeply because he’ll dam up the stream, He’ll fight off our enemy, He’ll send us help, He’ll reroute us so that we can do whatever it is that will be for our benefit. He literally leads us through pastures of provision, making every step possible and refreshing us along the way. Philippians 4:19 says, “My God shall supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”  Do you see that Paul and David had the same relationship with God.  They both talked about their Provider being personal.  The Lord is MY Shepherd.  My God shall supply . . . God in Christ is our Source.  A spouse is not our Source.  Our friends are not our Source.  Our jobs are not our Source.  We are not our Source.  It is God who supplies all of our needs.  It is God who shepherds us in such a way that when we follow Him, we lack nothing. Psalm 34: 9 Fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing. 10 The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. Jobs will come to an end.  Friends may come and go.  Spouses may disappoint us, but God will never fail to supply all of our needs if He is the One we are trusting and following. My God SHALL supply all of your needs.  Did you know that God has never made a promise that He has not kept. If He tells you he will do something then you can bank on it. He promises us that He will meet all of our needs, and that is a promise that He will not break. When Pastor Thom has met with people for life coaching, he has often discovered a common flaw in many people.  They “over promise and under deliver.”  They want to please people, help people or have people like them so they promise they’ll do or be or provide something that they can’t actually follow through with.  Maybe they get over committed.  Maybe they don’t have the resources in the first place to deliver the goods.  That’s humanity. But I want you to know that when I am talking about My Shepherd, My God, I’m talking about the One who can deliver anything He promises.  He has all of the power and resources needed to back up His promises.  That’s why Paul says, “My God SHALL supply all your needs,” and why David says, “I SHALL NOT want.” In this pasture of provision, He restores our souls and guides us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.  (verse 3)  Here we see God providing direction and guidance.  A careless shepherd might lead his sheep over steep and dangerous paths where they could fall. But a caring shepherd leads his sheep over paths that are safe.  “He restores my soul.” I love Phillip Keller’s details about a “cast-down” sheep and what the shepherd does to get him back on his feet in order to restore it to the fold. “When sheep lay on their back, gas begins to collect in their stomach.  (Perhaps some of you who are glued to your recliners each evening can identify.)  The gas hardens their stomach, cuts off the air passage and they suffocate. Not only that, but their legs go numb in that position. They need a shepherd to restore them. When a shepherd restores a cast down sheep, it doesn’t just happen immediately. It takes time. The shepherd lovingly massages the four legs to get some circulation back. Then he begins to talk in a reassuring tone to the sheep, “You’re going to make it.” Then he gently turns the sheep over and lifts it up because it cannot stand up on its own. He’ll hold the animal there while the sheep begins to get some equilibrium. The blood begins to flow in the legs again and it begins to get some stability. When the shepherd is sure that the sheep can stand on its own, then the shepherd will lovingly have the sheep follow him home.” What a picture! When you’re on your back and the emotional pain of guilt, grief or grudges are overwhelming you, will you remember that the Lord is your Shepherd? He lovingly comes with tender hands and reassuring words, picks us up and sets us up straight until we can get on our feet again and then says, “Okay, now follow Me home.” Are you cast down today?  Hear the voice of the Shepherd.  He’s coming to you with reassuring words.  He wants to pick you up and restore you to His fold. There is no greater provision than the shed blood of Jesus which gives us forgiveness of sin.  There is contentment, refreshment, satisfaction, fulfillment and restoration in the Pasture of Provision. Not only does the Shepherd lead me in the pasture of provision, but also He takes me through 2. a PASTURE OF PEACE. We have peace first of all because we quit trying to be our own Source.  There is no faster way to insanity than trying to be your own source for salvation and satisfaction.  We experience peace when we rely on Jesus to supply our needs and that brings peace and rest to our lives.  But what does verse four say?  4 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.  True peace isn’t the absence of chaos or difficulty, but true peace is an absence of fear in the darkest of places like the valley of the shadow of death.
    This is the central verse of the psalm, and the personal pronoun changes from he to you. David is not speaking about the shepherd here, but he is speaking to the shepherd. Sheep lack good vision and are easily frightened in new circumstances, especially where it’s dark, and the presence of the shepherd calms them. We don’t know where we are supposed to go. We can’t see clearly where the road will lead ahead, but the presence of the Shepherd means we don’t have to.  When we can relax and let someone more qualified be in charge, we have peace. I took several mission trips while in college.  I went to Santa Domingo, Trinidad and Tobago and Germany and France.  Each time I followed the lead of someone who had been there before.  I didn’t worry where we would go, what we would do, where we would sleep, what we would eat, or if I’d get back home.  I was with someone every time who had been there and done that.  It was my confidence in the leader that gave me peace to follow. Jesus has been ahead of you on every road trip.  He knows all of the twists and turns.  He has seen it all and done it all, so you can walk behind him with confidence knowing He’ll get you home.  When it’s dark and tough to see, all you have to see is Him. Do you realize we live in the shadow of death? As someone has said, the moment that gives you life begins to take it away from you. All of us are in death’s valley. The shadow of death is on us. But, all the while I walk through that valley, I will fear no evil. Why? Because “You are with me.”  God’s very presence brings peace. A 1st-grader stood in front of his classroom to make a speech about “What I want to be when I grow up.” He said, “I’m going to be a lion tamer, and have lots of fierce lions. I’ll walk into the cage, and they will roar.” He paused for a moment, thinking through what he had just said and then added, “But of course, I’ll have my mommy with me.” I’m convinced that when darkness and death roars its worst at us, we need not fear, for our Savior is with us. Whether we brush the edge of the valley of death or actually walk through it, He promises, “I’ll be there with you.” The rod was a heavy club with which the shepherd could stun or kill an attacking beast, and the staff was the shepherd’s crook, which he used to assist the individual sheep. We can be at peace because God is ready to defend us. At evening the shepherd would have the sheep pass under the crook one by one so he could count them and examine them. It gave the flock peace knowing that the shepherd was concerned about each one of them individually.  Each one was tended to. Brothers and sister, hear me this morning, God knows your name.  He knows what you are going through.  He sees you. You’re not lost in the crowd. He wants to tend to you.  Nothing you are experiencing has taken our Lord by surprise.  He wants to help you find peace with God and experience the daily peace that comes from knowing He is leading, even in the darkest of times.  You can rest as He leads and defends you. When someone you love is away from you, have you ever called “just to hear their voice” because you were unsure of something or anxious about something?  You knew that if you could hear their voice, you’d experience a sense of calm or peace or that all was okay.  We had a young lady spend the night at our house last week from Hannah’s school.  It was her first sleepover ever.  She made it through the night, but she must have called her mom every twenty minutes for three hours before bed.  Something about hearing her mom’s voice reassured her. “My sheep hear my voice,” says Jesus in John 10:27, and I know them, and they follow Me.”  The voice of the shepherd brings peace as He speaks reassuringly, gently, and lovingly to us. In Micah 5:4 we read, “He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace. We live securely in the pasture of peace. Finally, we also walk in the 3. Pasture of Protection. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Flat places in the hilly country were called “tables” and sometimes the shepherd stopped the flock at these “tables” and allowed them to eat and rest as they headed for the fold. After each difficult day’s work, the aim of the shepherd was to bring the flock safely back to the fold where the weary sheep could safely rest for the night. Sometimes at the fold, the shepherd would spread out food in a trough, because sheep lie down and rest after they have eaten. As they slept, they would be protected by a stone wall that surrounded them, and the shepherd himself would sleep across the opening and be the door. During the night, thieves and dangerous animals might approach the fold, but there was no way they could reach the sheep because the shepherd himself was the door to the sheep pen. We are securely protected by Jesus, our Shepherd.  He said, 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. What could it mean that God prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies?  Who prepares a table?  A host or hostess does.  Someone who has spent time thinking of something good to prepare for you, something you’ll enjoy, perhaps something that will entertain you.  If you come to our home for a meal you’re likely to get apple butter chicken, cheesy potatoes, corn casserole, and green beans because that is my one fool proof guest meal.  If you stay very long you’ll probably be dazzled by the vocal stylings of Hannah Pratt or be amazed at the unusual and creative break dancing moves of Joshua Pratt.  Rest assured, you’ll be in for a good time. The idea that God prepares a table for you means that He wants to host you.  He’s got something good prepared for you, something you’ll enjoy, perhaps even something that will entertain you.  The fact that He invites you to this party in the midst of your enemies says to me that He wants you to be focused on His presence, and not the presence of your enemy.  He wants you to be enjoying what He wants to give you, not what the enemy wants to throw at you.  Think about it.  There is no better time to throw a party or have a great meal with God than when your enemy wants to take you down. The Psalm ends with the Shepherd anointing the sheep with oil.  You see, the shepherd would examine the sheep as they entered the fold to be sure none of them was bruised, injured, or sick from eating a poisonous plant. To the hurts, he applied the soothing oil, and for the thirsty, he had his large two-handled cup filled with water. He would also apply the oil to the heads and horns of the sheep to help keep the flies and other insects away. The sheep knew they were safe and they could sleep without fear. What about you?  Are you wounded today?  Do you need some oil applied to some hurts in your life? Are you cast down? Are you cast down?  Flat on your back from the difficulties of life?  Jesus wants to help you up.  Everything the Shepherd does for the sheep in this Psalm He does gently and tenderly.  “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11 A famous actor was an after dinner speaker at a big function and when he stood up to speak, he invited his audience to choose a poem for him to recite. There was a long silence until a retired clergyman raised his hand and asked for Psalm 23. The actor was slightly taken back, but agreed to do so provided the clergyman would recite it after him, which the clergyman reluctantly agreed to do. The actor recited Psalm 23 and received a standing ovation. When the clergyman recited the Psalm, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. The actor came over to the clergyman and said in front of all the guests. “Do you know the difference between his version and my version? I know the 23rd Psalm but he knows the Shepherd.” Do you know this Shepherd this morning?  Have you experienced His provision, His peace, and His protection?  If you haven’t or if you’ve strayed and you need to return to the safety of His fold, this morning you have that opportunity.
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