Wednesday, July 9, 2014

“MY Shepherd” (Psalm 23:1)

S-1439 4SAP/3A 7/06/2014 Hymns: (O) #431; (S) #740 LSB; (C) #370

Texts: Zechariah 9:9-12; Romans 7:14-25; Matthew 11:25-30

Theme: “MY Shepherd” (Psalm 23:1)

Question: “Have you ever worked with sheep?” Armour, SD 1st in sermon series on Psalm 23

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the 23rd Psalm: The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1).

Precious little lambs let me ask you: what is your favorite verse of Scripture? You probably would highlight more than one. In a recent Pew Research Poll, these three (3) verses were the top vote getters: #3 Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” #2 John 3:16; “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” and the last but not the least is Psalm 23 which is the text that we will look at for the next two months.

The 23rd Psalm is a favorite to many because it brings comfort and peace. This Psalm is beloved by many and is often alluded to in popular media and has been set to music over the years. Many Jews and Christians have memorized it and is often used at funeral services. The writer David describes God as His Shepherd. But why is it such a beloved and comforting Psalm? Listen to David as he paints a most beloved picture of God—a picture that draws us ever closer to this God who is My Shepherd.

The first two words in Hebrew and five words in English tell us clearly that “God is My Shepherd.”The author, David, who himself was a shepherd conveys the image of God as His personal Shepherd. A Shepherd is one who cares for you, is concerned about you and considers your every need. Yahweh the Lord was this for great King David. He is this for us too! Thus He is your Shepherd as well. For this reason I titled the sermon “MY Shepherd!” David’s pen had scarcely touched the papyrus and he urges us to see this God in a different way; a God whom you can trust completely and put your hopes in.

David wants us to have a clear and concrete picture of who God is—He is not a God of our making. But He is tangible, touchable and true. He is comforting, consoling and committed to you. He is not like the gods of this earth—the ones we envision like a Genie in a bottle or like a sweet old grandpa sitting in his rocking chair. No, the God we have is above all gods. But as powerful and mighty as He is, yet, He is a Shepherd who touches with His hands of love and mercy the downtrodden, downcast and disheartened—that is you. He is as real as it gets.

In this Psalm David devotes 55 words in Hebrew to explaining the first two “The Lord.” This Lord is the One who made Himself known to Moses; another shepherd in the burning bush and in the splitting of the Red Sea as Yahweh-the GREAT I AM. Samuel heard the voice of Yahweh as a little lad serving in the Temple. David spent time with Him while he fought the lion, bear, Goliath and as he served and was chased by King Saul. Jeremiah was comforted by Him in a prison cell and Isaiah saw His glory as the Temple shook by His presence. PAUSE.

David knew Him intimately and desired to spend every moment with His Shepherd-God. That is why you hear him say: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’” (Ps. 122:1). That is why he teaches us about His Shepherd-God who brings and offers peace, saying: “But with You there is forgiveness, that You may be feared” (Ps. 130:4). For this reason David spoke of God’s salvation stating: “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation…” (Ps. 51:12a). David emphatically declares the power of His Shepherd-God who heals declaring: “Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that You have broken rejoice” (Ps. 51:8).

The Lord is my shepherd David proclaims. And that is our proclamation as well not just today but every day of our lives. Yahweh is the Shepherd who cares for the sheep because they need caring. You see, sheep are finicky and fussy. A sheep will not lie down if it is uneasy, fearful or restless. When the shepherd causes the sheep to relax it will be willing to lie down. The Lord wants us to rest and enjoy His peace; and the Gospel lesson tells us of this truth: “Come unto Me ALL ye that labor and I shall give you rest” (Mat.11:28). He will lead us in green pastures of rich nourishment for our lives and leads us beside still waters of serenity and peace. A sheep will not drink if the water is not still. The Lord wants us to experience this deep peace in our soul, in our heart and in our home.

But sheep are obstinate and dumb. They are of all God’s creatures the least able to take care of themselves. They have no way to defend themselves-with claws to scratch, or fangs to bite. They can’t outrun their attackers, and can’t fend or clean themselves. They often get themselves in predicaments that they can’t get out of.

Doesn’t that remind you of us—His sheep? How often we try to do it our way or tell God we know better. Many of us though we don’t admit it are like Frank Sinatra who sang: “I Did It My Way!” Listen to him boast: “And now, the end is near; And so I face the final curtain. My friend, I'll say it clear, I'll state my case, of which I'm certain. I've lived a life that's full. I've traveled each and ev'ry highway; But more, much more than this, I did it my way.”

Yes, we humans want to do things our way. Forget the easy way. Forget the common way. Forget the best way. Forget God’s way. We want to do things our way. And the Bible is very clear that this is our downfall and demise: Isaiah put it this way: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way…” (Is. 53:6a). Oh how often we have wondered from the fold. But the faithful Shepherd comes to the rescue. He comes to bail us out of our own way that leads to death. PAUSE.

That is why David calls Him MY SHEPHERD! Yahweh is the Faithful Shepherd who will come to the aid of the one in need. And David needed a lot of help! He murdered a man, took his wife and sinned greatly. David needed healing, forgiveness and peace, just like you and I. For we too, have willfully and intentionally sinned against God. Maybe we haven’t murdered anyone literally, but we are all guilty of doing so through hatred and envy. Maybe we haven’t had sexual liaison with another, but we have all lusted after another. Maybe we haven’t robbed a bank or gas station, but we have been jealous of what others have.

That is why today you need to remember your Shepherd who from day one has been ready and waiting to come to your aid and rescue. He came to the lost sheep in the Garden of Eden and promised deliverance. He told Moses He would send a Prophet from among His people (Deut. 18:15) who will bring salvation. That God Himself would be the Shepherd who will be faithful and true to His people. He sent His Son Jesus to be the Eternal Shepherd who will care for all of humanity and deliver them from the power of death and the devil.

The author of the Gospel lesson this morning said this: “When He [Jesus] saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36) In John 10 Jesus taught the multitude: “I Am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). This faithful Good Shepherd did lay His life down for the sheep—you and me on the splinter of Calvary’s wood. He died for the sake of the obstinate and stubborn sheep, by permitting others to nail Him to the cross. He gave His life for you—His sheep by laying in a cold, dark grave.

But He rose from that dark cold prison of death on Sunday morning to give you—His sheep forgiveness of sins, peace, joy, salvation and eternal life with Him who is our Shepherd.

David got it right when He said, “The Lord is My Shepherd.” And so do we! As we confess and declare the same, “JESUS IS MY SHEPHERD!”

That is why we can shout, say and sing our sermon hymn with gusto: I am Jesus’ little lamb, Ever glad at heart I am; For my Shepherd gently guides me, Knows my need, and well provides me, Loves me every day the same, Even calls me by my name.

Now the peace God…


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