GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOR – JESUS CHRIST OUR DIVINE SHEPHERD.
This past week I was talking to little Guenther Tharp about THE 23rd PSALM and he repeated the first verse this way: “The Lord is my Shepherd; that’s all I want.” I have no argument with Guenther’s translation – I don’t think the psalmist would either. “The Lord is my Shepherd; that’s all I want.” is really the point of David’s Psalm – isn’t it?
That confession of faith can be stated many ways. David states it at the start of his Psalm, explains it throughout his Psalm, and then restates it again in the words of our text this morning – “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the House of The Lord forever.”
At the close of day, as David leads his flock on the homeward journey, he thinks of the twilight hours of his own life. He looks at the past and present and knows “Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life”- it is a good life – there have been problems – there have been hardships, but God has been with him and he can continue to confess “The Lord has been and still is my Shepherd.” “Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life”.
The year of 2017 is already 239 days old – already it is a year of birth and death – of laughter and tears – of experiences high as mountain tops and low in the valleys of shadows of death. During the next 126 days, we may see prosperity – we may see annihilation – we may see mediocrity – we may see civil unrest on all sides of the spectrum and, throughout the year and all of life, the drum every one of us has within us will continue beating the cadence to which we march even after the heart has beat its last. It can be a cadence of self-gratification and self-pride or it can be a cadence of surrender to The Great Shepherd Whose Word of God staff leads us through these temporal years confessing in our words and in our actions “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my temporal life.”
For some, such a promise is all they ask. To them, today is all that matters. Let death and the next stage of life – if there is one – take care of itself.
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR DIVINE SHEPHERD AND LAMB OF GOD WHO TAKES AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD.
As the hour grows late it’s time to return to the compound or fold. The pastures the flocks pass through have already been grazed – no food available there – but David the good shepherd has anticipated this and is able to feed his flock from a reserve of fodder he keeps in the night compound. He puts up a briar type fence around the flock so the sheep can eat undisturbed in the middle of their enclosure. As the sheep dine those who would prey on them can only stand and watch from afar.
Elsewhere in Judea, two men engage in a verbal dispute that becomes a shoving match. Jesse, having been shoved by Eli, falls and hits his head on a rock. The blow is fatal and Jesse's family seeks revenge. Eli flees to the tent of a Bedouin sipping his evening coffee. An ancient Middle Eastern custom - still practiced by Bedouins to this day - requires only that a man touch the flap of another man's tent to receive the hospitality of a good meal and sanctuary from his enemies. The table would be a large piece of leather upon which the host would place the best food and drink he had and after dinner, his guest could sleep peacefully without fear inside that tent.
In the homes of Judean believers, the same rule of sanctuary applies. I heard of examples where an Israeli or a Palestinian has offered a night of sanctuary to an enemy they knew they may face in battle days later.
Fearless with Our Divine Shepherd in the Valley of the Shadow of Death
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOR – JESUS THE CHRIST.
Several weeks ago, we looked at the dawn of our faith in Christ as we were called out of our common sheepfold world through Holy Baptism and fell into step behind Jesus with a cadence of life which proclaims “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” In the weeks since, we have seen physical and emotional hunger, thirsts, and fatigue taken care of by The Shepherd Who: “makes us lie down in green pastures and leads us beside still waters” and Who “restores our soul and leads us in paths of Righteousness for His Name’s Sake.”
Our text today has the feel of late afternoon – almost evening. The hot sun is no longer centered above us, but appears to be coasting toward the western horizon. A beautiful sight – perhaps – but for the Holy Land shepherd and his flock, we are now truly in the valley of the shadow of death.
Well, let’s just take a moment to look at that valley of the shadow of death. I’ve been there literally – and, as members of Christ’s human flock, we all have been there figuratively. In the Ephrathah region of Judea – where David cared for his father’s sheep – the Judean landscape is made up of little barren valleys nestled along hillsides and even at the foot of high ridges. With the rising or setting of the sun, the land is a mass of shadows – of places where the wolf Jesus speaks of in JOHN 10 can easily hide until it catches the sheep and scatters them or worse. The valley also provides good hiding places for human thieves wanting someone else’s sheep for supper or for a lion like the one Samson fought to protect his flock. The sheep and goats walking on the dry dusty paths raise thick dust clouds which provide additional cover for those seeking to snatch one or more of them. It takes a committed shepherd to lead his flock through what for the sheep is truly a valley of the shadow of death, yet David is still able to confess concerning his own life that “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil”
Notice how David says “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” - not “Yea if I walk”. There is no doubt whatsoever in David’s mind that his life’s journey will carry him “through the valley of the shadow of death”. David’s words are not some formalized hypothetical statement of a faith he has been taught to have when and if things get rough in life. David’s words are a creedal confession he lives by every day on his paths of life.
Throughout this summer, we have thought of how many theological thieves and robbers in shepherd’s clothing beckon us to follow them.
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND LAMB OF GOD WHO TAKES AWAY THE SINS OF THE WORLD AND THEIR POWER.
Last Sunday, we confessed with the Psalmist David, “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.” Of course, our ultimate enemy in our valley of the shadow of death world is death itself which is total separation from God and the relationship God created us from the very beginning to have eternally with Him.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. It was a perfect universe with all the parts fitting together in a totally symbiotic pattern. As the pinnacle of His creation, God created human beings - created us in The Image of God so that only people in all creation can know God and live with God in an eternal relationship of Love and Faith.
To love someone or something, you must have the ability to love, to hate, or to ignore. To have faith in someone or something, you must have the ability to believe, to doubt, to completely disbelieve or to ignore. God made His choice perfectly clear. To enable human beings to make our choices and live our lives by those choices, God created the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
God said, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Did Adam and Eve love God enough to obey the one commandment God told them never to violate or did they ignore God or, worse yet, challenge God and His Authority? Was their faith in God strong enough to believe Him when He said that in the day that they ate the forbidden fruit their lives would no longer be eternal and they would surely die.” They failed and left their Eden Paradise to enter the valley of the shadow of death world. And we – their descendants - have followed them into that world.
The Shepherd Who Restores Our Souls and Leads Us in Paths of Righteousness
“THE SHEPHERD WHO RESTORES OUR SOULS AND LEADS US IN PATHS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS”
Text – PSALM 23:3
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN DIVINE SHEPHERD – JESUS CHRIST.
The past two weeks, we have thought of how many human wolves in shepherd’s clothing beckon us to follow them - pagan agendas, idolatrous religions like Islam, fallacious political correctness, the basest of human desires and temptations, addiction, greed, loss of purpose, loss of identity as members of our Divine Shepherd’s human flock. In the media, in the halls of higher education, in political arenas, even in the church itself – they all beckon “follow me”.
David, as a shepherd was always aware of how totally his sheep depended upon him and he was even more keenly aware of how much more dependent he himself was upon The Lord Who alone is worthy to be our Shepherd. Everything David had – including his very life – was a gift from God and was totally sustained by God. When David destroyed the relationship God had established with him, God was quick to forgive and repair that relationship. Whether David always acknowledged it or not, he was totally dependent upon God and upon God’s faithful commitment to him.