Friday, August 29, 2014

“The Hounds of Heaven!” (Psalm 23:6a)

S-1447 11SAP/3A 8/24/2014 Hymns: (O) 740; (S) 279 TLH; LS 620; 629; 628; (C) #722 LSB

Texts: Isaiah 51, 1-6; Romans 11:33-12:8; Matthew 16:13-20

Theme: “The Hounds of Heaven!” (Psalm 23:6a)

Question: “Have you ever had a dog?” 8th in sermon series on Psalm 23

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the 23 Psalm: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6a).

Precious little lambs let me ask you a question: Have you ever had a dog? Do you have a dog now? I know some of you have had a dog and you have a special bond with that critter. Dogs are very friendly and great companions. Dogs bring lots of joy to their owners.

David, the author of the text understood the value of a sheep-dog on the trail. They were to protect the sheep and defend them against wild animals. Sheep-dogs help the shepherd keep an eye out for straying sheep and guard them from an attacking wolf, bear or lion.

In this verse, David speaks to us about the value of a sheep dog. You may say, “I don’t read about dogs in this psalm. But you are mistaken. David highlights the value of the dogs—I call them the hounds of heaven—the twins of God’s grace—goodness and mercy. The blessings that are ours—goodness and mercy on account of the Faithful Good Shepherd, Jesus.

God’s goodness and mercy are the hounds of heaven that help us on our life’s journey. These twin hounds remind us of our privileged position as His very own sheep. These twin companions guarantee that our lives are in the Shepherd’s hands who will take care of all our needs. No matter what we will go through in life, we can be certain and confident that goodness and mercy are with us.

That is easy to say when all things are going well in our lives. When our health is great, when our job is wonderful, and when our family is doing fine; confidence abounds as much as grace and mercy. But it is very often confidence, not in God but in us! But what happens when our health is in the pit? What happens when we lose our job? What is to become of us when we say farewell to someone we cherish and love? What happens when everything that we held dear is taken away from us like it was for the Old Testament prophet Job? Is goodness and mercy still with us? You bet they are! This is the treasure that is given us from God our Faithful Shepherd. Goodness and mercy are not dependant on our circumstances, but on the unchanging God-who is the same yesterday, today and forever; as the prophet Malachi reminds us “For I the Lord do not change” (3:6). PAUSE.

Precious little lambs, in 1977 a TV miniseries called Roots chronicled the life of Gambian–born American slave—Kunta Kinte (1750-1822). While he was in his village (1767) searching for wood to make a drum for his younger brother, four men chased him, surrounded him and took him captive. He is shipped to North America and sold to a Virginia plantation owner.

Kunta attempted to escape slavery by running away. 4 times he ran away and his owner would send people on horseback led by hound dogs to chase him. The hound-dogs would keep running until they cornered him. Eventually they cut half of his foot so he doesn’t run away.

Whether the Root story is true or not, I don’t know. What I do know is that hound-dogs are relentless pursuers. Once a hound dog catches a scent or sees a moving target, it will readily pursue it with no bounds or limits, often to the point of getting lost themselves!

That is what David is trying to convey to us in this verse about the hound-dogs of heaven; their value as instruments in God’s hands for the benefit of His sheep—you and me. The 23rd Psalm is certainly a favorite to many Christians and Jews alike. But I believe that the verse of our text (6a) this morning is one of the sweetest phrases authored by the Holy Spirit and penned by David: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” These words open to us a box of treasure that needs to be examined every day from every angle. It is like looking at a diamond that sparkles with beauty and majesty and reminds us of God’s constant pursuit of us—His wayward children.

God is in the business of pursuing us. In the book of Genesis God pursues Adam and Eve after they sinned. Talk with Joseph and he will paint to you the pursing God who followed him even into the prison dungeon. Visit with Moses and he will tell you of God pursuing the Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years and into the Promised Land. Converse with Jonah and he will inform you that God chased him into the depth of the ocean. Talk to the disciples and they will tell you of their Friend who sought them out in the midst of a terrible storm in the Sea of Galilee. Listen to John the disciple who was all alone (or so he thought) on the Island of Patmos, but God pursued him also. Hearken to Peter as he recounts the risen Savior, pursuing, forgiving and restoring him again to the fold.

Look at Paul the once persecutor of the church. On his mission to destroy the followers of the Way, the Lord Jesus Christ pursued him on the road to Damascus and called him to be His spokesperson to the Gentiles.

All of these godly men can tell you of the goodness and mercy of the Lord—the hounds of heaven. They can tell of the blessings that God bestows upon them and us constantly, continuously and ceaselessly. PAUSE.

David with the greatest of emphasis states, “SURELY” goodness and mercy. I borrow words from Max Lucado who in his book regarding this verse wrote: “David didn’t say, ‘Maybe goodness and mercy shall follow me.’ Or ‘Possibly goodness and mercy shall follow me.’ Or ‘I have a hunch that goodness and mercy shall follow me.’ David could have used one of those phrases. But he didn’t. He believed in a sure God, who makes sure promises and provides a sure foundation. David would have loved the words of one of his great-great-grand­sons, the apostle James. He described God as the one “with whom there is never the slightest variation or shadow of inconsistency” (James 1:17 phillips).

Our moods may shift, but God’s doesn’t. Our minds may change, but God’s doesn’t. Our devotion may falter, but God’s never does. Even if we are faithless, he is faithful, for he cannot betray himself (2 Tim. 2:13). He is a sure God. And because he is a sure God, we can state confidently, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”

And what follows the word surely? “Goodness and mercy.” If the Lord is the shepherd who leads the flock, goodness and mercy are the two sheepdogs [the hound-dogs of heaven] that guard the rear of the flock. Goodness and mercy. Not goodness alone, for we are sinners in need of mercy. Not goodness alone, for we are fragile, in need of goodness. We need them both. As one man wrote, “Goodness to supply every want. Mercy to forgive every sin, Good­ness to provide. Mercy to pardon.’” (Traveling Light, Word Publishing, Nashville pp 146-147).

Goodness and mercy—the hounds of heaven are constantly on our heels. The Hebrew word David used for “follow” is so much stronger. It meant. To pursue, to chase after, catch up to, and clutch him. The hounds of heaven are pursuing us even now to bless us and pour God’s favor upon us. God shows us His goodness and mercy by the gift of His Son, the faithful and true Shepherd of the sheep. God demonstrates His goodness and mercy to us not for a little while but for the rest of our days here on earth and ultimately in heaven with Him.

Again, I will use Max Lucado’s words: And what will he do during those days? (Here is my favorite word.) He will “follow” you. What a surprising way to describe God! We’re accus­tomed to a God who remains in one place. A God who sits enthroned in the heavens and rules and ordains. David, how­ever, envisions a mobile and active God. Dare we do the same? Dare we envision a God who follows us? Who pursues us? Who chases us? Who tracks us down and wins us over? Who follows us with “goodness and mercy” all the days of our lives? (P. 146).

Yes, we dare say so, because we have the twin traveling companions—the hounds of heaven—goodness and mercy. They are God’s gift to us through His Son, Jesus Christ the faithful Shepherd who died in our place and rose again from the grave and is continuing to pursue us even now.

Today, you will taste these hounds of heaven—His goodness and mercy in the bread and wine of His body and blood to guarantee this is Your Good Shepherd—God who loves you not only for today, but for the rest of your lives. Amen.

Now the peace…


Monday, August 18, 2014

“You Anoint My Head!” (Psalm 23:5b)

S-1446 10SAP/3A 8/17/2014 Hymns: (O) #740; (S) #; 59 TLH; (C) # 616LSB

Texts: Isaiah 56, 1-8; Romans 11:1-2, 13-15, 28-32; Matthew 15:21-38

Theme: “You Anoint My Head!” (Psalm 23:5b)

Question: “Have you seen a king crowned?” 7th in sermon series on Psalm 23

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the 23 Psalm: “You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” (Psalm 23:5b).

Precious little lambs let me ask you a question: Have you ever witnessed a King being crowned or a High Priest anointed? There are not many kings or High Priests around, and the likelihood of witnessing or seeing a crowning or anointing of a king and priest is very unlikely. But there was a time when kings and others were crowned and anointed as they took their positions.

Moses tells us in the book of Exodus of God’s command to anoint his brother Aaron and his sons as Priests of God to serve Him and His people: “You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may serve Me as priests. And you shall say to the people of Israel, ‘This shall be My holy anointing oil throughout your generations” (Ex. 30:30-31). This anointing was done in public for all to see the servants of the Lord.

God had a specific recipe to use the best spices for this anointing. Myrrh, Cinnamon, Aromatic cane: Cassia and olive oil (Ex. 30:22-29). When these spices were mixed it made a sweet smelling aroma in the presence of the Lord and that which it touched became holy. God also commanded this anointing oil to be used only for the priests and the Tabernacle furnishings. It couldn’t be used on anyone or anything else. If it was used on someone else, that person would have to be cut off—put to death.

David, the author of the text understood the value of the anointing by God and that is why he wrote: You [God, my faithful Yahweh] anoint my head with oil.” You anoint my head with the oil of gladness to be Your servant and care for Your sheep—the people of Israel. You set me apart to be King over Israel and point them to You my God and Lord. For You are the One to be praised and adored.

It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word translated “anoint” is not, the normal word “mashach,” but (a Piel) of “dishen,” which literally means “make fat.”  Anointing implies a few drops; “making fat” implies a whole lot more—more than meets the eye—more than what appears on the surface or understood by human logic. No, it is so much more because it comes from the gracious hands of God Himself—the faithful Shepherd. Perhaps, that is why John the evangelist writes: “Behold, what manner of love the Father has lavished upon us that we should be called children of God!” (1 Jn 3:1). This is no nickel and dime deity! But a God who gives us more than we ask or desire! PAUSE

God in His Divine wisdom had anointed certain people for certain tasks—Aaron and his sons as High Priests, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha and others as His prophets; Saul, David, Solomon and others as Kings over Israel. But they all failed to do the things God had called them to do.

By the grace of God, Samuel and the elders of Israel anointed David and established him as the King of Israel. We are told that the Lord had chosen David, because he was a man after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). The Lord also promised that one of David’s sons will sit on David’s throne forever. The promise of God was on the condition that the people would be faithful to Him. But David himself and many kings that came from his loins didn’t do what the Lord commanded. Therefore God cut them off the family tree and only a stump remained—the stump of Jesse.

But Yahweh is not a nickel and dime deity! But He is a God who gives us more than we ask or desire. Therefore, the Lord promised that there would be a new David, a king after His own heart once again. The Lord promised He would once again establish this new King, this new David upon the throne. A Messiah, the new David, the King of the Jews, the One who comes in the name of the Lord, a son of David—the Lord of David—Jesus Christ. PAUSE.

The new David—Jesus, was anointed not with oil, but with the Holy Spirit on the day of His baptism to be the Missionary of God for the specific task of Redeeming God’s people from death and destruction. He was anointed for the sole purpose of purchasing them with His own precious blood.

Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit for three different offices—Prophet, Priest and King. And in His earthly life and in His perfect death and resurrection He fulfilled all of these Offices Perfectly for us.

He was the Prophet who spoke God’s Word faithful and joyfully to all without exception. He was the High Priest who offered Himself as the ULTIMATE SACRIFICE—the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world—on the Altar of the cross (John 1:29). He is the King of kings and Lord of lords who rules with justice and truth both in heaven and on earth. And one day, all people in the world will bow their knees before Him and acknowledge Him as the faithful Good Shepherd.

What David couldn’t do—live the perfect life, the new David did much better. The King eternal cast out the enemies of the children of God and conquered them even on the battlefield of the grave. He established His rule forever, and, indeed the throne is filled from everlasting to everlasting. His enemies have been clothed with shame, but on the Son of God the crown shines, and He has clothed us with His robes of righteousness and His garment of salvation.

Though David said, “You anoint my head with oil,” and God kept His promise; yet David couldn’t atone for the sins of the Israelite. But the offspring of David—Jesus the Christ, became the true King who reigns overall and His people rejoice! The enemy is vanquished and the children of the lord are glad and praise His holy name. Blessed is He who sits upon the throne; He is King from everlasting to everlasting!

Jesus fulfills these Office because He is the oil splattered Savior, drenched in oil as God’s anointed One. On the cross He is splattered with His blood for us. His anointing at His own baptism prepares us for our resurrection power. Thus our baptismal anointing—is an event with ongoing power to serve Him and His people.

Did you know precious lambs that you too have been anointed? Indeed you and I have been anointed in our baptism. The Lord has anointed us to be His sons and daughters through the everlasting covenant which was procured through the shedding of His sacred blood. This makes us kings and priests! The Bible calls us ROYAL PRIESTS! He has anointed us to be His ambassadors and agents of sharing the authority and wonder that is the good news of Jesus Christ and Him crucified and raised with all people.

Therefore, today, we join David in saying: “You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” (Psalm 23:5b). And He has! Our faithful Good Shepherd is not just any shepherd, but the Shepherd-King who gives us more than nickel and dime blessings. He gives us abundantly of His grace—forgiveness of sins, life eternal and faith to trust and obey Him.

Precious little lambs, all you need to know that your cup is overflowing is to take time to see all of the blessings He has bestowed upon YOU. They are eternal blessings from His store-house of grace. Thus David’s words become our words: The Lord is My shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” Psalm 23:1-5.

All I can say to that is Amen and Amen.

Now the peace…


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

“You Prepare A Table!” (Psalm 23:5a)

S-1445 9SAP/3A 8/10/2014 Hymns: (O) #740; (S) #623; LS. #622; 623; 618; (C) #775 LSB

Texts: Job 38:4-18; Romans 10:5-17; Matthew 14:22-33

Theme: “You Prepare A Table!” (Psalm 23:5a)

Question: “What’s the most beautiful meal you have ever had?” 6th in sermon series on Psalm 23

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the 23 Psalm: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;” (Psalm 23:5a)

Precious little lambs let me ask you a question: What is the greatest meal you ever had? And where did you eat? I am sure you can fondly remember many meals that you have enjoyed. I remember in 2001 as we traveled to the National Youth Gathering in New Orleans our first hotel was a terrible one. But then we moved to the Ritz Carlton hotel. This hotel provided us with the most elegant breakfast I have ever seen—3 large rooms with tables loaded with food. The biggest challenge was what to put on your plate. It was very delicious and enjoyable and that meal carried us all the way to the supper hour. The youth and their counselors were very happy.

But that feast was nothing compared to what they prepared for King Solomon and his court. According to Scripture here is what he had: “Solomon’s food supply for one day was 180 bushels of flour, 360 bushels of coarse flour, 10 fattened cows, 20 cows from the pasture, and 100 sheep in addition to deer, gazelles, fallow deer, and fattened birds.” (1 Kings 4:22-23 GW). Now that is a spread to be sure.

However, when you and I go out to eat, we pay for the meal and we have servants who cater to our needs. Likewise with King Solomon, he didn’t have to cook, kill the fattened oxen or serve others; his servants did it all.

But notice how David tells us of the Faithful Shepherd’s care for His sheep: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” It is not that He only prepares a table, but He prepares it before my enemies. And the table He prepares is the greatest table we will ever feast upon. PAUSE.

In the book of Isaiah we read these words: “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined” (25:6). Notice who the host is and who the servant is—it is Yahweh the Lord, the Good and Faithful Shepherd. He Himself will prepare it on the mountain for all peoples. There are no exclusions. This meal is offered to all who in faith believe that the Savior, the Suffering Servant, and the heaven-sent Ambassador is giving us what we can’t prepare or have—His gracious GIFT. And what a meal it is.

With vivid colors Isaiah describes this feast, where the rarest wine is uncorked and the finest meat carved. This is God’s activity and doing. And His table is groaning from the weight of the best of foods. And He bids us come to His table and dine with Him, which is by far better than dining at the Ritz Carlton hotel in New Orleans; and much better than with King Solomon. We get to dine with the King of kings and Lord of lords—the Faithful and Good Shepherd Jesus.

David, understood that well when he said: You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” He is not only preparing a table for me…but in the presence of enemies. The enemies of David were Saul and the Philistines, and yet God took care of David, fed and nourished him. PAUSE.

But there are others who needed that invitation to come to the table. Peter is one who needed to hear that personally. Remember the night Peter denied His Lord 3 times saying, “I don’t know the man!” (Mt. 26:69-75). Then he went out and wept. Not just sobbing but wailing. He had denied His Lord and Savior. His sin waited heavy upon Him. His heart was crushed and His conscience troubled and so he went to drown his sorrow by doing what he did before—fishing.

But Jesus didn’t let this situation destroy the disciple who one day would be His mouth-piece and take the message of the Resurrected Lord to Jews and Gentiles alike. No, the caring and loving Good Shepherd invited the one who denied Him to come and eat with Him at His table—and the table was prepared before the enemy—Satan. There on the shore of the Sea of Galilee the Shepherd fed Peter knowing full well that Satan can see everything; and that Christ didn’t cast him out. Instead Jesus forgave Him His sins and welcomed him back to the fold.

Jesus is like that you know. He IS the faithful Shepherd who cares for the sheep does so much to help us in spite of the fact that the enemy wants to destroy us as it did Peter. As Jesus reminded Peter saying, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31-32). Oh, the comfort in these words not only to Peter but to us.

How often have we like Peter, David and many others denied Him, cursed Him, abandoned Him and forsook Him? How often have we said, “We will not do that Lord,” yet, we end up doing exactly what we said we wouldn’t? How often we have neglected His Word, abstained from His presence and avoided His table? How often have we lived like enemies of the Lord! PAUSE.

Children of God, today, if you are sobbing over your sin, if you are burdened, if your conscience is troubled and if your heart is heavy over what you have and haven’t done, then hear these words: The Victor over hell and the ruler of heaven, the destroyer of death and the champion of our salvation invites you to come and dine with Him in the presence of your enemies.

Yes, listen closely to these words and know that Jesus means it: He bids you come to His table the one He is preparing for you so that your enemy may know He holds no grudges against you, but loves you to the end. This is the love that caused Him to pay the deepest and heaviest price for this table—His life’s blood spilled on the cross of Calvary.

Don’t dismiss this thought quickly about His death. He will prepare this meal on the Mountain of the Lord and at a high price. Look at the Lord as He hung dead on the cross. “All who see Me mock Me.” It is our custom to dress up the crucifixion of our Lord. His dead Body is my life. His Blood is my blood. And He gives His holiness for my wretchedness.

We were not there to see the crucifixion of Jesus, but we are seeing it now on TV and the internet as many Christians are being crucified for the sake of Christ. Perhaps, the most disturbing thing about these crucifixions is that these men are men just like us, and I can hardly believe that any other human is capable of carrying out such a hideous act like these murderous Muslims! But there it is. The photos do not lie. The reports do not err. Crucified! Crucified…on a tree.

Just remember this is the most expensive meal you will eat. It is not in a ritzy restaurant or hotel, but on a messy, bloody, and filthy cross—the cross of Christ. And that is okay. Our Lord died the bloodiest, cruelest, and meanest death. Could it be any more vulgar? There He is, dead on the tree, and the image is horrifying. For what? So that He can prepare a table for me—the SINNER, before my enemies.

Precious little lambs, as the beacon of Lady Liberty has welcomed millions to this great nation of ours and live in its freedom; on a far greater scale Jesus, the earner of our salvation and the champion of our freedom invites and welcomes not only millions but ALL peoples to come to Him and receive from His pierced hands the Feast of love and to dine with Him and rejoice in the freedom He offers from sin’s curse and death’s hold.

Today, hear David the shepherd, as He portrays the love of God—His Shepherd who prepares a magnificent table for him and us. The Good Shepherd, Jesus, invites you today to be fed richly through the Word you hear and through His Holy Supper. The gracious Lord, the Great and Good Shepherd, this day is both host and guest. His body, His blood given for YOU. This is the feast of victory! And it is for you!

Therefore, I say to you, come for the table is ready—the table of love—for you the sinner. Come and eat the table He has prepared for you in the presence of your enemies. Amen.

Now the peace…


“You Are With Me!” (Psalm 23:4)

S-1444 8SAP/3A 8/03/2014 Hymns: (O) #740; (S) #861; (C) #922 LSB

Texts: Isaiah 55:1-5; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:13-21

Theme: “You Are With Me!” (Psalm 23:4)

Question: “What are you afraid of?” 5th in sermon series on Psalm 23

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! The text is from the 23 Psalm: “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” (Psalm 23:4)

Precious little lambs let me ask you a question: What are some of the things that frighten you? Some people are afraid of being alone. Others are afraid of the big C-cancer. Still others are afraid of getting the pink slip or losing their life’s saving. Children are afraid of being in the dark or abandoned and couples of getting a divorce. And still others are afraid of spending eternity in hell. But the greatest fear that people face is death. These fears are real. They terrorize us, consume us and cause us to worry, lose hope and sleep.

If any of you have these fears, I am glad that you have been brought here by the power of the Holy Spirit to hear His Word—the Word that will give you comfort, encourage you in your walk of faith and proclaim to you the truth that you will not be abandoned or forsaken by Your Creator God—the faithful, caring, gentle and loving Good Shepherd.

David, the shepherd boy who became King over Israel, confirms to you in the words of the text this blessed promise—a promise that you should know, believe and trust in. “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.” David is saying no matter what I am going through, I know God YOU ARE WITH ME!!!

I am certain you have heard the Chinese proverb that states: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step!” Yet every step we take is fraught with danger and fear. Every move we make we are attacked by an enemy who wants to destroy us and separate us from the gracious hands of our Lord and Shepherd Jesus.

Though the proverb is true that a journey begins with one step, yet, with every step we take we have a companion along life’s highway—that is our Faithful Good Shepherd Jesus. No matter what steps we take, we are never alone nor will we ever be alone. Therefore we take comfort with the words of the Psalmist who teaches us this golden truth: YOU [Jesus] ARE WITH ME!!!

David tells us, God is present with us—His little lambs in all our dangers and troubles. His presence is the ground of our confidence and hope. This hope is found in the One who has proven Himself again and again to be faithful and true by keeping every promise He has made.

Hear me well. This does not mean that we, God’s own redeemed people will not experience and go through evil things; but rather because He is with us—we don’t have to fear evil. Evil is all around us. We see it on our television screens, we read about it in our newspapers and internet blogs. We are seeing the evil as bodies of innocent Palestinians and Israelis are the casualties of war. We see it as the blood of martyrs is being spilled in Muslim nations. Evil indeed is all around us and it is not far from our doors and we experience it.

But we don’t need to be afraid of any evil. Why not? Because, David, the author of the text tells us of Yahweh the caring Shepherd: “You [Jesus Christ] ARE with ME!” He is with me, and you, and you. PAUSE.

In the previous verses David said of God, He will do these things: He makes me to lie down…, He leads me…, He guides me…, He restores me...” But now the pronoun is changed from “He” to “You.” You Are with me, Your Rod and Staff they comfort me. This is the foundation of our faith-the presence of the faithful and caring Shepherd. He will not permit anyone to hurt us. They may hurt our bodies, but they can’t hurt our soul.

David as a shepherd boy valued the rod and the staff, because they were the tools of the trade. These items—Rod and Staff emphasize the power the shepherd has to defend his little lambs and strike down the enemy. The Rod is the powerful instrument the shepherd uses to clobber anything that will endanger the life of his lambs.

Likewise the staff (show it) is used to hook the sheep as they wonder away from the shepherd or pull them out of a hole that they have fallen into. He also uses it as each sheep passes beneath it and he counts them one by one.

These tools are used by the shepherd to restrain them from wandering, bring them closer to him; but he also corrects them when they are disobedient. That is precisely the picture David paints for us of our faithful Shepherd, Jesus. No matter what our journey is like our Shepherd cares for our needs—ALL of them. What comfort these words give us because they remind us that we are numbered amongst God’s sheep as we pass one by one beneath the touch of the Shepherd’s crook. By the Shepherd’s staff we are also set free from circumstances of peril and disaster into which we may fall through our own folly and sin. PAUSE.

David, the great theologian, with these words helps us to look at Yahweh our Good Shepherd saying “You are with me.” I am not alone on this journey. And yet, so many things come upon us that we wonder if the faithful Shepherd really cares for us. We face the evil of the day and satan drives into our minds the thoughts that the caring Shepherd doesn’t care for us. So we ask for a sign from Him.

We cry out to God saying, “give us a sign that You are with US Lord, I want to hear you, see you, know you. Show US that you are truly by our side, sweet Shepherd, Jesus; and defend us from the enemy that wants to destroy us. Reveal Your presence so that our spirits may be refreshed and that we might rejoice. This is the cry of God’s people throughout the ages, from time to eternity: we seek to know that God is with us. And God reveals Himself!

We take comfort that He of whom David is speaking is faithful. In the book of Joshua we read these words: Have I not commanded you?Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord Your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). Isaiah also says: “Fear not, for I Am with you; be not dismayed, for I Am Your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). And Jesus, our Immanuel said: And behold, I Am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Jesus, the Good Shepherd is our Immanuel, God with us—and so it is. God through His grace and mercy fulfilled the sign in His only Son. The light has come into the darkness; God was made flesh to dwell among us—tented among us, to accomplish our salvation. Therefore we rejoice in His presence for which we longed, and lo, God is with us, our Immanuel.

“You Are with me” David said, and He is. He came among us to fight on our behalf a battle that we couldn’t win—against the forces of darkness and evil. We had been cut off by sin and alienated by unrighteousness. We had been under siege by the minions of the evil one. We had been cast out into the dark night, weeping and gnashing our teeth, but the Promised One has come to defend us from every evil. And now we see His loving face and hear His gracious voice!

Christ Jesus, the Good Shepherd is our Immanuel—God with us! Christ Jesus, the face of God, the presence of God! Christ Jesus, the One we have waited for, His advent among us! He came and battled the evildoers and fought the forces of sin and death. The darkness could not overcome Him and He destroyed the evil and overcame the darkness through His death and resurrection. Sin lies bleeding on the ground, the darkness is dispelled by His light, and Satan is chained. Victory is Yours, and Your victory is ours because You are with us—with Me.

Today, we join David by saying, “You, [Jesus Christ] ARE with ME!” You will accompany me every step of the way until I reach the pearly gate. We rejoice at the victory You have won for us and celebrate the gift of salvation and eternal life with you. Amen.

Now the peace…