Tuesday, August 12, 2014

“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…


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