Jack Graham - Everything I Need
The title of this message is "Everything We Need". Psalm 23 has been called the greatest poem penned in any language. And in reality it is a poem and it is a song. It is a song of the people, and it sounds the chords of human experience. Beginning at verse one, read along with me: "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the 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. And with crescendo, verse 6: Surely Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever".
Let's begin as we take this apart, and one of the challenges of speaking and listening to something that you've heard many times, a passage that you've heard many time before, is we can take it for granted. So I've really asked the Lord to give me keen insights as to how to deliver this today, and some fresh insights as to just what this means when we talk about first, the presence of the Shepherd, our Shepherd. Verse one begins, "The LORD is my Shepherd", the LORD! It's a word in all caps in your Bibles because it refers to the proper and personal name of God which is almost impossible to define or to describe. It is the word we know as Yahweh some perhaps Jehovah, but it is that covenant name of God, that revealed name of God, who He is! "The LORD is my Shepherd"! The Lord!
That name was given to Moses at the burning bush. When God was calling and commissioning Moses to deliver the children of Israel, Moses halted, but God said, Take your shoes off. Exodus 3:14, "I AM that I AM"! It's a word which literally means I exist! It is descriptive of the self-existent God, eternal God! The Bible begins with these words, "In the beginning God"! You say, "Explain that"! I can't! No one can explain the eternal existence of God! But the reality, the fact of God exists! "In the beginning God"! The Lord is! The Lord is! "Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever"! So that means that God is eternally great and glorious! You know, God's not older now and can not do what He used to do. No! God is Almighty! He is the great I AM, "The Lord is"!
And when David thought about that and then realized the Lord is, this great God, the Great I AM, "He is my Shepherd". Because David understood that not only the immensity of God beyond our imagination and contemplation, but he also understood the eminency of God, and the intimacy of God. "The LORD is my Shepherd". And just as David cared for his sheep and tended the flocks and watched over them, he said my God is my Shepherd, The Lord is my Shepherd and He is watching over me. Frankly, shepherds by the time of Christ, though David was a great shepherd king and noted as a shepherd, by the time of the birth of Jesus, the shepherds truly were, that was a lowly profession. It may sound romantic to say, I'm a shepherd, but in the time of Christ the shepherds were actually considered low-lifes. If you couldn't get a job doing something else, be a shepherd.
And so to think that the great God of heaven, God Almighty, the great I AM stoops to be a shepherd. Jesus said in John chapter 10, verses 10 and 11, that "The thief comes to kill and steal and destroy, but I have come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly". And then He added, "I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep". Insert the Good News of the Gospel right there! The prophet Isaiah weighed in on our Good Shepherd. This is such a sweet verse I wanted to make sure you heard it today. Isaiah 40:11: "He will tend His flock like a shepherd. He will gather the lambs in His arms. He will carry them in His bosom and gently lead those who are with young". This is our Shepherd.
Jesus told a very powerful and personal story regarding shepherds and their flocks. He said, "A man, a shepherd, had a flock of 100", this is in Luke 15, "a flock of 100 sheep". And when he was putting them down for the night after a long day, he's counting them. No only does God know our name, He numbers His sheep. He knows who we are, where we are. And so when he counts them he realizes that one is missing. So what does he do? Well, I'll tell you what he didn't do. He didn't say, "Well, too bad, so sad. I've got 99. I can lose one. It's just one. It's only one. I've still got 99. It will do". That's not what he did. Jesus said this shepherd left the ninety and nine, the 99, and he went looking for that one lost lamb at personal risk and sacrifice the good shepherd stayed after that wayward sheep until he found that little lamb and brought him back to the flock.
I never hear that story, I never think about what Jesus said about that shepherd that I'm not reminded that this is our call as the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. We could say, "You know what, we got a big crowd here, we got 99, one missing won't hurt. Why would we reach one more? Why would we go for some more? Why would we go for any more? Why would we keep going? Why would we keep searching? Why would we keep giving? Why would we keep sharing the Gospel? Why"? Because as long as one is lost, Jesus cares; and we should care also! That's why we keep going and keep sharing the good news of Christ. And I'm so glad that the Lord included me, that He came looking for me. And if you don't know Him, He's looking for you as well.
Now here's the thing about sheep. They're not very smart. In fact, they're pretty much clueless and helpless without a shepherd. They'll wander off. They'll follow their noses. They'll follow the crowd. Sheep are sort of mob centered. They'll just follow. You know, one sheep will follow the other sheep. You know, sheep will get out there "Oh, come over here! There's a little grass over here". Then they get a little closer to the cliff. "Come over here! There's a little grass over here. Come over here! There's", a little closer to the cliff. "Come over here! It's not so baaaaaaad! Right over the cliff", and they'll all go with him! Because sheep are weak and they're frankly stupid! And they're aimless, and anxious, and they'll blindly follow any thing.
So, no offense, but they're a lot like us! This is us! Right? Because the Bible says, "All we, like sheep, have gone astray". We've turned every one to our own way. This is our spiritual condition apart from the Lord Jesus Christ. That's why it's so good that He came looking for us and He brought us into His flock, and into His family. We are His sheep; He is our Shepherd. That's His presence. But then think for a few moments about the provision of the Shepherd. Verse 1, again, says: "The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want". This means the Shepherd provides for our needs. I like the way the Living Bible puts it: "Because The LORD is my Shepherd, I have everything that I need". It's true, isn't it? I have everything that I need. Psalm 23:1 is the theme of the entire psalm. "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want".
Our Shepherd is all sufficient to adequately and abundantly meet all of our needs. And so verse 1, if you will, is the text, just like when we preach, we take a scripture, and then we amplify it and expound upon it, what it means and explain it. That's called exegesis or it is exposition of the text. Well that really is what is happening here in Psalm 23 because the text is verse 1, and verses 2 through 6, that's the explanation. "The LORD is my Shepherd, and that's all I need"! That's all I want! He's everything I need! A little girl was quoting this, our little granddaughter Dillion, she's 5, she's already memorizing Psalm 23. It's a great one for children, of course, to memorize. But a little girl was memorizing it and she got it just a little off when she said, "The LORD is my Shepherd, and that's all I want"! But it's true, isn't it?
When the Lord is your Shepherd He's everything you need. And when you can say that, every provision is ours in Christ, our Shepherd. I will not need for peace because "He makes me to lie down in green pastures". I will not need for provision because "He leads me beside the still waters". I will never lack for hope or encouragement because "He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His namesake". I will not lack guidance for "He leads me in the paths of righteousness". I will not need deliverance even when I walk through the deepest valleys! I will not lack companionship for He is with me. I will not lack for protection for "His rod and His staff comfort me". I will not lack for blessing because "He prepares a table before me in the presence of mine enemy". I will not lack for health or healing in my life because "He anoints my head with oil". I will not lack for abundance! I will not lack for anything because, "My cup runs over"!
He meets our needs, all of them, physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally, materially! We all have three basic needs. There are external needs, there are eternal needs, and there are internal needs. External needs, we all have them for food and water, for clothing, housing, the necessities of life. We have external needs. We also have, all of us, God made us this way, eternal needs! The Bible says "He has set eternity in our hearts". So we were made not just for now, not just for the now life, but for the next life. We have eternal need for forgiveness and salvation and to know God, to have a relationship with Him. We have this eternal need for heaven! And we have internal need for meaning and purpose and love and courage and peace and happiness, all of those internal needs and desires that we have. So those three: eternal, internal and external. Our Shepherd is sufficient to meet every need we have.
There's one final thing that I want to say-so much could be said obviously-has been said over the years regarding Psalm 23. But let's finish with the protection that our Savior-Shepherd gives us. Right in the middle of this message, this psalm, verse 4: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me". It's translated in some Bibles, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death". "Yea"! That doesn't mean yay for my team; it means "yes, I will walk through the valley of the shadow of death, even though, yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death". The Shepherd sometimes leads us through dark valleys in life, doesn't He? The same Shepherd who leads us in the paths of righteousness, righteous paths for His namesake at times leads us through rigorous paths. Deep valleys where dark shadows.
When David spoke here of the valley of the shadow of death, there is a literal place that you can visit to this day in Israel that is named the Valley of the Shadow. It may have been the very place David was referencing in Psalm 23. It's called the Wadi Qelt. I've been there many times. We've taken our children there. And it is a cavern or a canyon that begins between Bethlehem and Jerusalem, up north, and crevices it's way, snakes it's way through the Judean Desert. It starts up high. It began as a small stream no doubt and just cut it's way through and now it's this massive canyon and it goes down, down, down, down, down, down, down all the way towards the Dead Sea which is the lowest spot on earth. And this cavern is right there, this Wadi Qelt, the Valley of the Shadow.
And it was dangerous for shepherds to take their sheep through this canyon, though it was necessary at times. The shepherds were taking their sheep from the upper lands to the lower lands, to the shadow lands because down at Jericho where it was warmer there was grass, there was pastures. And so they needed to go through this desert and down this canyon and down this pathway into this valley and through. And it was dangerous because thieves and robbers were there. Wild animals were there like leopards and bears and all the rest. And at some times very dangerous to walk. Only twelve feet from side to side in the cavern, and you could fall, obviously. So it was a very dangerous place and a very dark place. So when David says "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death". Even though. Yea though, crosses every path of every believer. It's going to happen!
Life is a journey and when the Lord leads us sometimes we are led into the Shadowlands, as C.S. Lewis called it. And, of course, we're not talking about real valleys here, but real problems. Problems that we all face like illness, suffering, that's a valley, addiction, bondages of all kinds, a valley, kids in trouble, you're in that valley; a marriage breaking apart, you're in that valley; or loneliness, you feel like you're so alone and maybe even depressed, that valley! All these valleys, a loved one in some kind of a crisis! "Yea, though, even though" happens to all of us. Every Christian enters those valleys, sometimes multiple times in life, with all of the valley's sorrows and all of the valley's shadows.
But notice, praise God, this is a "into and through" passage. David did not say they went into the valley and never came out! This is not a deadend; this is not a cul-de-sac; this isn't a cave! It's a canyon, it's a valley! You go in it and you go through it and you come out the other side! Even when there seems to be no way, He makes a way! He gets us into and through! The same God who leads us in will lead us out! That would be a good place for an Amen! The same God who leads us in will lead us out. A man was asked who had been walking with the Lord and been through many trials and tests and valley's in his life. He was asked, "What's your favorite text? You favorite scripture passage"? And he said, "That's easy: 'It came to pass'".
Many times in the Bible, talking about an event, It came to pass, and it came to pass. He said, "In my life I've seen it over and over again. It came to pass but it didn't come to stay". And that's what our Savior-Shepherd is promising us. A brighter day! A better future! For Christians, now don't miss this, for Christians, our problems are temporal, but our blessings are eternal! Now if you're not a Christian, if you're not following the Shepherd, if you don't know the Lord your Shepherd, then the opposite is true. Your blessings are temporal and your problems are eternal. This is why we all need Him! And remember this about shadows. Shadows can scare you but they can't kill you.
When we look to the Light, the shadows falls! And while death is a fearsome foe, no doubt about that, death can frighten you but it cannot destroy you! There is a sense in which, in fact, it's not just a sense, it is reality, Christians never die! Jesus said, "Because I live, you will live also". We never die! And so when the shadows come and fall, loved ones and friends, you yourself, you can say, "I will fear no evil". I will not be afraid because that's just a shadow. Not real. Jesus took what was real and now we have His promise, His protection, His provision along the way. David turns now in this psalm the rest of the way into a personal prayer. Before He's been talking the third person, talking about the Lord. "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still water".
Third person. But when he goes into the valley of the shadow, Christ, the Shepherd was never closer to him, and thus he begins talking not about the Lord, but to the Lord! And he says, "You are with me. Your rod and staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over"! I know this, dear people, that the Shepherd will never be nearer and dearer to you than when you walk with Him and follow Him through deep valleys. I've experienced it; I've seen it time and time again. "Yea, though I walk through", and on to the other side. No wonder he closes: "Surely goodness and Mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever".