Psalm 23 TALK: The Lord is my Firefighter

PSALM 23 TALK

THE LORD IS MY FIREFIGHTER

(THE SHEPHERD WHO GUIDES AND PROVIDES)

(All bible quotes from The Holy Bible, New International Version)

INTRODUCTION

 My original poem or song for Psalm 23 was written after the Melbourne fires of 2009 known as Black Saturday. It concerned the story of firefighters helping people escape from a small town called Marysville.

A more recent example of this was in my own Suburb of Springwood / Winmalee in the Blue Mountains (Australia).  My Son in law and two young grandchildren were stuck in the midst of another great firestorm on 17th of Oct. 2013. Some 54 people went to local look out of Yellow Rock because it had been burnt out a few weeks before and this was the only safe place they could think of going to that could save them from the deadly flames of the fire. After a couple of hours there some brave firefighters moved them to a home and stood outside to protect them from the flames. Later the firefighters and police led them all out in their cars single fire to safety.

This kind of story made me think of the God, described by David in Psalm 23 as “My Shepherd”. Just as the firefighters acted as a guide and protector through the valley’s and ridges of a ragging fire, God leads us, when we trust in him, through the dark threatening times of life.

David might have written psalm 23 early in his life as he worked as a Shepherd or later in life as he reflected on his time as a shepherd. This Psalm is not just a Psalm about death but any difficult time of life. David is saying God helped him like a Good Shepherd helps his sheep by guiding them, providing food for them and protecting them when under attack by wild animals.

Psalm 23 has actually three figures, Shepherd, Guide and Host. David goes beyond the Shepherd concept as he describes how God loves and helps his people all the days of their lives and continues to do this in heaven after we die.

The brave firefighters only offer a glimpse of the far greater heavenly firefighter and shepherd who is Jesus our Saviour and Lord, The Good Shepherd.

This Psalm can be divided up into five parts:

  1. THE LORD THE SHEPHERD  (verse 1)
  2. THE LORD THE GUIDE  (verses 2 -3)
  3. THE LORD THE PROTECTOR  (verse 4)
  4. THE LORD THE PROVIDER   (verse 5)
  5. THE LORD THE HOPE OF ETERNAL FELLOWSHIP            (verse 6)

Lets read Psalm 23

 1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not be in want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside quiet waters,

3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his names

Sake.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,

for you are with your rod; your staff, and me they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my

head with oil; my cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the

house of the LORD forever.

  1.   THE LORD THE SHEPHERD  (verse 1)

 Sadly you often only hear read Psalm 23 at a funeral and many associate this Psalm because of that with death. The reason that Psalm 23 is read at funerals is probably because of 2 reasons. The first reason is the words in verse 4 that read,

“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”.

The second reason is because of the picture of the hope of heaven in verse 6, which read,

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever”.

Even though this Psalm is and has been a great comfort to people who have lost a love one it is not a Psalm I feel has only relevance to grieving souls but has just as much relevance to Christian’s living for God at any time in their lives but particularly as we face any kind of difficult times in lives.

The Psalm commences with the simple but profound image of our God pictured as a Shepherd,

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want”.

In Australia Shepherds or Sheep Farmers as we call them, live usually on large properties and look after vast numbers of sheep with the help of Australian cattle dogs and motor bikes. This is not the picture David has in mind here.

Sheep herders or Shepherds in the middle are quite different and their job in bible times was often hard and difficult. They lived with their sheep out on the pastures and good pastures in dry desert country were not always easy to find. They had to guide their sheep to grassy areas. They also had to protect the lives of their sheep and in ancient times there was

lions and bears in the Middle East. David speaks of his shepherd fighting days to king Saul when he was preparing to fight Goliath,

1 Samuel 17:34-36,

“But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God”.

So when we read the words, “The Lord is my shepherd” what picture of God should we see?

I think the description of  “The Good Shepherd in John 10 is very helpful here. John 10: 10 – 11,

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”.

So Jesus is our Lord and he is the Good Shepherd who lay down his life for us to give us life and as John 10: 10 says life in all its fullness. Jesus gives us eternal life, which is not “pie in the sky when we die” but a new life that commences once we truly put our faith and trust in him.

  1.   THE LORD THE GUIDE  (verses  2 -3)

 What a Good Shepherd really means is now spelt out in this section of the Psalm and the next.

First of all, The Lord or Jesus, The Good Shepherd promises to guide us. We read in verses 2 and 3 these words,

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters”

The first role of a Shepherd in the Middle East is to guide his small flock of sheep to green or nourishing grassy areas for his sheep to feed on. As I said in the last section, if you live in a desert or arid area of the world like Israel this was no easy task.

When I was a new Christian I was encouraged to memorise important scriptures to help me in my day to day walk with the Lord. Some of these scriptures are still in my mind and one has become very important to me on many occasions when I face difficult times. The verses come from Proverbs 3: 5 – 6,

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart 
and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight”.

God promises to guide us throughout our life and these verses teach us that just as we are saved by faith alone, so we are guided by faith alone. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart 
and lean not on your own understanding” is a neat way of saying, have faith in me (The Lord) alone. If we do have this faith in God he will guide us.

I have used these words so many times in my life I have lost count and I can testify that God has never let me down once. Sure he has given me the yellow light of “wait” and the red light of “no” but many times he has also given me the green light of “go” and doors of opportunity have opened up to me.

Note in the Psalm the Good Shepherd not only leads his sheep to green pastures but he makes his sheep (us) to lie down in them. I wondered for a while what this might mean and I came across this explanation by Robert L. Waggoner, “This is a picture of safety, satisfaction, and contentment. Sheep are defenceless. They do not lie down when being stalked, or when hungry. They lie down after having satisfied themselves from eating”. Yes we are, in the cross fire of a great spiritual battle as Paul says in Ephesians 6: 12,

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

We are also sheep, weak, defenceless and often very silly animals and therefore we need God’s guidance to safe and nourishing places and there and only there can we lie down and rest.

The image of being in God’s place, or where God is guiding us has one more phase; “He leads me beside quiet waters”.

I read on the internet that sheep cannot drink out of fast flowing water ways, they prefer still water and The Good Shepherd would cup the water in his hands for the sheep to drink out of it if he couldn’t find still waters for his sheep to drink out of.

What is this picture telling us about how God Guides us in the Christian life?

As before I think this concept of water supply is similar to food supply being green grass, so God is promising to provide us with all we need in our new lives in him. Jesus promises us “Life and life in its fullness or abundance” and Paul says we have in Christ, “God’s abundant provision of grace and the gift of righteousness” Romans 5: 17.

The still waters also gives us the impression of peace which Paul describes in Philippians 4: 7 as,

“The peace of God which transcends all understanding”.

This does not mean we will not face or avoid problems and difficulties in life but wherever God leads us he is with us providing us all we need and giving us a wonderful inner peace as he constantly helps us.

Verse 3 adds a little more to the concept of God the shepherd who Guides his sheep with these words,

  “He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his names

sake”.

Again God is not promising a cushy existence, in fact because we are sinful, fallen and flawed beings, sheep, he knows we will go astray. When we do go astray as Jesus teaches in Mathew 18: 12 he will,

“Go and look for the one that wandered off”.

Therefore “he restores my soul” and of course this whole process is God showing us how much he loves us. Hebrews 12:5-11, teaches us that God disciplines us like a father disciplines the son he loves,

“And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 
 6because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.

7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it”.

This passage in Hebrews also teaches us that the paths God wants us to walk in is,

“Paths of righteousness for his name’s sake”.

I am constantly reminded in my life the way God wants me to go is not the broad road everyone is walking upon but a narrow road that sometimes seems less trod. As we see in Matthew 7: 13 – 14,

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it”.

This is the paths of righteousness as described in Psalm 23 or “straight path” as described Proverbs 5: 6.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart 
and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight”.

God promises to guide us throughout our life and these verses teach us that just as we are saved by faith alone, so we are guided by faith alone. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart 
and lean not on your own understanding” is a neat way of saying, have faith in me (The Lord) alone. If we do have this faith in God he will guide us.

I have used these words so many times in my life I have lost count and I can testify that God has never let me down once.

Sure he has given me the yellow light of “wait” and the red light of “no” but many times he has also given me the green light of “go” and doors of opportunity have opened up to me.

Note in the Psalm the Good Shepherd not only leads his sheep to green pastures but he makes his sheep (us) to lie down in them. I wondered for a while what this might mean and I came across this explanation by Robert L. Waggoner, “This is a picture of safety, satisfaction, and contentment. Sheep are defenceless. They do not lie down when being stalked, or when hungry. They lie down after having satisfied themselves from eating”. Yes we are, in the cross fire of a great spiritual battle as Paul says in Ephesians 6: 12,

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

We are also sheep, weak, defenceless and often very silly animals and therefore we need God’s guidance to safe and nourishing places and there and only there can we lie down and rest.

The image of being in God’s place, or where God is guiding us has one more phase; “He leads me beside quiet waters”.

I read on the internet that sheep cannot drink out of fast flowing water ways, they prefer still water and The Good Shepherd would cup the water in his hands for the sheep to drink out of it if he couldn’t find still waters for his sheep to drink out of.

What is this picture telling us about how God Guides us in the Christian life?

As before I think this concept of water supply is similar to food supply being green grass, so God is promising to provide us with all we need in our new lives in him. Jesus promises us “Life and life in its fullness or abundance” and Paul says we have in Christ, “God’s abundant provision of grace and the gift of righteousness” Romans 5: 17.

The still waters also gives us the impression of peace which Paul describes in Philippians 4: 7 as,

“The peace of God which transcends all understanding”.

This does not mean we will not face or avoid problems and difficulties in life but wherever God leads us he is with us providing us all we need and giving us a wonderful inner peace as he constantly helps us.

Verse 3 adds a little more to the concept of God the shepherd who Guides his sheep with these words,

  “He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his names

Sake”.

Again God is not promising a cushy existence, in fact because we are sinful, fallen and flawed beings, sheep, he knows we will go astray. When we do go astray as Jesus teaches in Mathew 18: 12 he will,

“Go and look for the one that wandered off”.

Therefore “he restores my soul” and of course this whole process is God showing us how much he loves us. Hebrews 12:5-11, teaches us that God disciplines us like a father disciplines the son he loves,

“And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 
 6because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.

7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it”.

This passage in Hebrews also teaches us that the paths God wants us to walk in is,

“Paths of righteousness for his name’s sake”.

I am constantly reminded in my life the way God wants me to go is not the broad road everyone is walking upon but a narrow road that sometimes seems less trod. As we see in Matthew 7: 13 – 14,

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it”.

This is the paths of righteousness as described in Psalm 23 or “straight path” as described Proverbs 5: 6.

  1.  THE LORD THE PROTECTOR  (verse 4)

 The second way God, through Jesus is the Good Shepherd is as a protector of the sheep. David knew what it meant to protect his King Saul before he fought with Goliath,

“When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it” (1 Samuel 17:34 – 35)

So he sees God as his protector and in fact in that same passage he acknowledged God’s protection as the reason why he could do this for his sheep and would do it to the Giant Soldier Goliath in 1 Samuel 17: 37,

“The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

David here and over and over again proved his own words true in Psalm 23 when he says in verse 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”.

Of course many seem to understand that “the valley of the shadow of death” is death itself or reading this Psalm at funerals would be meaningless. May I suggest that this term actually is a picture of any peril in life and of course death is just one of them.

The picture is of the sheep moving through some kind of area were danger or peril has come upon them but they are safe because they have their Good Shepherd to fight for them and protect them. Psalm 27: 1 – 3 has a more full explanation of this concept of God’s protection in the face of peril,

“The LORD is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear?

The LORD is the stronghold of my life of whom shall I be afraid?

When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall.

Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, 
even then will I be confident”.

This is what David is telling us, no matter what danger we face physical or spiritual he is the God Shepherd who is with us and will help us and will fight for us, so why should you be afraid.

As I mentioned in my introduction when I studied this poem, the first time to write an original poem based on it I read the story of some brave policemen who helped save over 200 people in a place called Marysville, here is a extract from a interview by a ABC TV reporter named Richelle Hunt with Senior Constable Peter Collyer from the Marysville police.

“Leading Senior Constables Andrew Walker and Ian Hamill of Alexandra Police, Senior Constables Ian Thompson and Peter Collyer from Marysville Police, and Leading Senior Constable Ken Dwight of Woods Point, all worked calmly to save the people trapped in Marysville.

When they arrived at the Gallipoli Oval Evacuation Point on Black Saturday, around 50 cars were waiting on the grass.

The trees surrounding the oval were already up in flames and the sky was black with smoke.

It was a life and death situation, and people were paralysed with fear and confusion

They were looking to the police for direction.

Leading Senior Constable Ian Hamill says his colleagues kept calm as they worked out how evacuate the people to the nearby town of Alexandra”.

I like this story for two reasons, firstly it reveals real bravery in the face of great danger by those Maryville police but secondly it is a beautiful picture of how God saves and protects us “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death”

As Paul says in Romans 8: 31,

“If God is for us, who can be against us?”

The final word in Psalm 23 on God’s protection is that of, “your rod and your staff, they comfort me”.

What is the significance of Rod and Staff comforting us?

The shepherds staff or rod brings together the two concepts of God as Our Shepherd as the Bible times shepherd used it to both guide and protect his sheep.

Lets have a brief look at each of these.

  1. The Staff to Guide

The first way the Shepherds staff was used was to direct a sheep in the direction the Shepherd wanted the sheep to go. While the curved end could be used to pull the sheep toward him and away from danger. It was also used to chastise a disobedient sheep. With the staff in his hand, the shepherd would lead his sheep to pastures, water and the sheep fold in the evening.

We have an example of the Image of God Shepherding his people with the staff Micah 7: 14,

“Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance, which lives by itself in a forest, in fertile pasture lands. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in days long ago”.

I have mentioned before that Bashan was a very fertile area in Israel for sheep and cattle to graze.

So we will find comfort when God guides us to be he wants us to be in life and death and saves us when we go astray.

  1. The Staff as a means of Protection

H. C Leupold points out that Shepherds staffs often had “heavy club ends reinforced with nails driven into it or with a ball of bitumen which hardened to rock like consistency” and were therefore used to “guide and defend”.

David would have known how to fight with the staff as well as how to use it to guide his sheep. The concept that God goes before his people to help them fight the battles of life is a concept right through the bible. David of course knew God fighting for him on many occasions. Christians in both the New Testament and throughout history have experienced God fighting for them.

One of my favourite New Testament stories of God fighting or protecting Christians is the story in Acts 16 where we read of Paul and Silas in Prison in Philippi and how at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, God caused a violent earthquake shaking the very foundations of the prison and smashing open the prison doors. However Paul and Silas don’t escape and when the jailer, thinking they had escaped, tried to kill him and Paul and Silas stop him. This led to a most amazing conversion story. Let me read it to you from Acts 16: 29 – 34,

The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.

33At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptised. 34The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family.

Here we see Jesus The Good Shepherd protecting and saving his faithful followers Paul and Silas and this miracle of God helping his people leads to the conversion of the Jailer and his whole family and household.

  1. THE LORD THE PROVIDER   (verse 5)

The image of the Good Shepherd now shifts to one of an ancient banquet host although the provision of food and comfort has been strongly put in the Shepherd leading his sheep to green pastures of food for his sheep. People in ancient times put special efforts into special times of banquet celebrations. Many cultures today still have this firmly rooted into their lives. The closest times for us modern westerners from Australia are times like family Christmas day dinners and wedding banquets and special birthday party celebrations. I am always fascinated with the American custom of Thanksgiving and am sometimes amused by how so many American movies have stories of family traumas centered on getting together for thanksgiving dinners.

The bible has lots of references to the Jewish Banquet customs and Jesus set a few of his parables in different types of banquets. I can still hear ringing in my ears the chorus of the children’s song that goes,

I cannot come to the banquet

Don’t bother me now

I have married a wife I have bought me a cow

I have fields and commitments that cost a pretty some

Pray, hold me excused, I cannot come.

I will quote the last verse of this song in a minute because it has what I call the real message line to the song.

So God is here presented as that wonderful host who really makes everyone feel hospitable. He prepares the table, anoints the everyone’s heads and fills everyone’s cups to overflowing. In ancient times these would have been the marks of a really great party and great host for pulling it off. I am sad to admit I think some Christians have lost the art of how to put on a good wholesome dinner party and maybe our heathen neighbours with their discussing drunken parties have been reacted to in the wrong way by some Christians today.

Note the reference to the cup overflowing; the first miracle of Jesus in Johns Gospel is set in of all places at a wedding banquet in his home district of Cana in Galilee. Here Jesus turns water into wine. What do the guests say about this new wine Jesus makes out of water, let me read them to you,

John 2: 9 – 10,

“And the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realise where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realise where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

The point here is the stronger and more expensive wine usually came first but after the quests got a little effected by the wine the cheaper wine came out. Jesus of course does not turn water into cheap wine but strong and expensive wine (by the way I am a total non drinker owing to medical problems I have with any form of alcohol)

Many say they could not even consider becoming a Christian because they don’t wont to give up having a good time. If having a good time is getting drunk and fighting and other things like that than they have a point. But if they mean having a good time means really enjoying ones self in the company of happy and loving people than all I can say is they don’t really know what they are rejecting.

God calls us into a wonderful new family who have something to really celebrate together and the only way into this new family is through faith in The Lord Jesus Christ who provides us with the reason to celebrate, new life, eternal life and a whole new wonderful worldwide family.

The last verse then of that children song “The Wedding Banquet”

Now God has written a lesson to the rest of mankind

If we’re slow in responding he may leave us behind.

He’s preparing a banquet for that great and glorious day

When the Lord and Master call us, be certain not to say.

I didn’t mention anything about the phrase, “in the presence of my enemies”. This wonderful banquet is in the “presence of my enemies”. What on earth does that mean?

Well as I said before I think some Christians have lost the art of celebration and even enjoying themselves. However when I have been with Christian brothers and sisters and had a wonderful happy time of fellowship, sometimes it has crossed my mind the thought “what a wonderful time non Christians are missing out on”. Maybe in that final big banquet in the sky, so to speak, will be enjoyed by those who have answered the call and those who missed out will be looking on wishing they had made different choices in life.

  1.   THE LORD THE HOPE OF ETERNAL FELLOWSHIP   (verse 6)       

 In verse 6 the Shepherd figure is fully abandoned and a summary of God’s

great help and provisions are given.

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the House of the LORD forever”.

Please note first of all, as quoted wrongly at funerals, this is not talking just about heaven. God’s goodness and love is for us all the days of our lives. Many non Christians think Christians are only looking for what they call, “Pie in the sky when you die’. Like those crazy Muslim extremists who blow themselves up to go to heaven to enjoy 24 untouched virgins. No the real Christian hope is for now and always.

Eternal life does not start when you die but from the moment you put your faith in The Lord Jesus Christ. Paul speaks of our salvation as passing from death to life in Romans 6: 13,

“Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life”.

So God promises us his “goodness and love” all the days of our life and forever. This is a direct reference to the Covenantal God of love spoken about in Deuteronomy 7: 9,

“Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands”.

Of course all God wanted of his people was their love in return shown by their obedience to his commandments but Israel continuingly failed to love God and turned instead to other Gods. For this they faced the judgement of God.

Jesus gave a us a new covenant with a new commandment as we read in John 13: 34 – 35,

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

So God is good and Loving and he demonstrated this in Jesus who gave his life for us. The cross brings together the two main attributes of God, Justice and Holiness (sins must be paid for) and Love (he pays for them by his son dying on the cross for them).

I have told the story many times over many years of “The Loving Judge” that explains both what God has done and is therefore like. The story goes that a young teenage boy one night sneaks out to steal an expensive car so that he could simply have a good time driving it recklessly and fast. He smashes the car and is arrested by the police. The next day he comes to court and stands before a judge (or magistrate in Australia). The judge happens to be the teenager’s father. He asks the boy how he pleads and his son says, “Your honour” I am guilty as charged”. The judge then says, “You are guilty and will pay the full penalty for your crime”. The penalty is $10,000 plus the price of the car which is $50,000 and if you cannot pay it you will go to jail for 5 years. The boy says, “I guess I will have to go to jail then because I haven’t got $60,000.

The judge then takes off his judge’s clothes and as the boys father goes to the clerk of the court, pulls out his chequebook and pays the maximum penalty of $60,000 for his son.

The Judge in this story is Just and Loving and both The Judge and the loving father just like God is to us. He set the sentence for sin, death and paid it by sending his Son to be born as one of us and then dying on the cross for our sins.

How Good and Loving is our God?

The closing words of the Psalm are probably the most relevant for a funeral for they speak of the Hope of heaven. Dwelling in the house of the Lord, which I spoke of in Psalm 15.

The heavenly home is what we are all headed for if we believe in God who sent down his son to die for our sins on the cross to make the way to that heavenly home for us.

I would like to close this exposition of Psalm 23 with the words from Hebrews 12: 2,

’Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”.

Let me read to you the poem now a song based on this Psalm

THE LORD IS MY FIREFIGHTER

(Based on Psalm 23 and the recent fires in Victoria)

The Lord is my fire fighter

In him I have everything.

He leads me through to fields of green

From the fields of fire,

To pools of fresh reviving water.

He watches over me every hour.

The Lord gives me hope to live

His strength makes me strong.

He guides me and shows me the way

Even when I go through living hell,

And death is all around me,

He makes a place for me to dwell.

The Lord is always with me

Even if I lose everything

I know the Lord will pull me through.

So I will not be afraid,

For the Lord will take my hand

And lead me to a place he’s made.

The Lord invites me to a banquet

Where with friends we will gather.

He treats me as an honoured guest.

He always makes a drink for me

And even in my darkest hour

His blessings overwhelm me.

The Lord gives goodness and love

He will be with me all my days

And one day I will go to be with him

In a house he has made.

A house that cannot be destroyed

For their real joy will never fade.

Jim Wenman (2009)

3 NEW TESTAMENT APPLICATIONS OF PSALM 23

 1.      Jesus the Good Shepherd

 As I mentioned earlier Jesus is our Good Shepherd and in John 10: 7 – 11 Jesus speaks of himself as both, “The Good Shepherd” and “I am the Gate”, that is the gate to the sheep pen.

In ancient times Shepherds often slept across the opening to their sheep enclosures so that sheep could only leave and wild enemies and thieves could only enter over the dead body of the shepherd. Jesus is a Good Shepherd not thief or robber as he laid down his life for us, his sheep. As Paul says in Romans 8: 31,

“If God is for us, who can be against us?”

The confidence of Paul grows and grows in this passage to he writes in Romans 8: 37 – 39,

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

2.    Jesus our Guide and Provider

 In John 14: 6, Jesus calls himself “The Way”, which means he is our Guide to God and ultimately heaven. The way could be translated road and of course a road leads us to somewhere and Jesus is telling us trust in me and I will lead you to God and his heaven.

Jesus is not only our Guide but our provider as well.

In John 6: 35 – 41, Jesus declares that he is “The Bread of Life” which means that he will provide for us all we need. These words are set in the context of the story of a large group of people who chase after Jesus after he fed them as part of 5,000 other people with just a small child’s meal. These people wanted a free feed and easy life but had not recognised who Jesus really was. Jesus had not come to give us a free feed and easy life, in other words he was not some kind of worldly leader or king but the one who came to make the way back to God in heaven and provide all we need both physically and spiritually once we had real and true faith in him.

In Matthew 6: 25 – 34 Jesus tells us not to worry about material things.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life [?

28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in his entire splendour was dressed like one of these.

30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

The key to knowing Jesus as the provider of everything for our lives is found in this passage in verse 33, where we read,

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”.

Once we put Jesus first in our life all our priorities fall second to that and Jesus promises to then Guide and provide for us.

3.   Jesus the Source of Eternal Fellowship

 In John 11: 25, Jesus declares, “I am the resurrection and the life”, which means that through him we have access to the gift of eternal life which I have already said, starts now and continues after death with God in Heaven. The key is Jesus wants to have fellowship with us, he wants to be part of our lives Guiding and providing, fighting for us and leading us to heaven like a Good Shepherd guiding his sheep to good pastures.

Paul was not afraid of death, in fact he seemed to be looking forward to it Philippians 1: 23 – 26 we read,

“I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith,

26so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me”.

Paul is saying, for him, it does not matter if he lives or dies because in both states he has Jesus with him and he determines when he will die and depart to be fully with him forever.

CONCLUSION

 We have learnt from Psalm 23 how God through Jesus is our Shepherd who

Leads and provides for us, even during the tough times as well as the good times of life. Our response should be to simply follow. We provide absolutely nothing towards how and if we are saved or helped by God. God out of Grace does our salvation, love that is not deserved. Of course once we realise what God has done for us our response is to love him back so much we begin to actually live the way we were meant to live and do the things God wants us to do. I close with Paul’s words Ephesians 2: 8 – 10)

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”.

 Let me read to you again the poem now a song based on this Psalm

 THE LORD IS MY FIREFIGHTER

(Based on Psalm 23 and the recent fires in Victoria)

The Lord is my fire fighter

In him I have everything.

He leads me through to fields of green

From the fields of fire,

To pools of fresh reviving water.

He watches over me every hour.

 

The Lord gives me hope to live

His strength makes me strong.

He guides me and shows me the way

Even when I go through living hell,

And death is all around me,

He makes a place for me to dwell.

 

The Lord is always with me

Even if I lose everything

I know the Lord will pull me through.

So I will not be afraid,

For the Lord will take my hand

And lead me to a place he’s made.

 

The Lord invites me to a banquet

Where with friends we will gather.

He treats me as an honoured guest.

He always makes a drink for me

And even in my darkest hour

His blessings overwhelm me.

 

The Lord gives goodness and love

He will be with me all my days

And one day I will go to be with him

In a house he has made.

A house that cannot be destroyed

For their real joy will never fade.

Jim Wenman (2009)

 

PRAYER

 Father in heaven, thank you for sending your Son, Jesus Christ, to this world to die and rise for us. Thank you that he is our Shepherd who guides us even through the darkest times of life. Help us as a result of this go out into the world each day to serve you by doing the good works you have prepared for us to do. In Jesus name we pray this amen.

 

 

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