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Jack Graham - Psalm 23 - Part 1


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    Jack Graham - Psalm 23 - Part 1
TOPICS: Psalm 23

Hello everyone, and this is a very special edition of PowerPoint. Typically, of course, we in our pulpit at our wonderful worship center in Plano, Texas. But we thought we would take a few weeks to just study the great Twenty-third Psalm. And I wanted to look right into this camera and right into your living room or your hand-held device, however you're watching this, and just speak with you and bring you messages from, well, the Twenty-third Psalm which, of course, is the classic psalm of the Bible. Most of us know the Twenty-third Psalm very well. We learned it as children. I know I did; I'm sure you did as well. It's been quoted on battlefields; it has been shared at funerals; talked about at weddings; and of course, at the end of life many people rely on the Twenty-third Psalm and especially when we "walk through the valley of the shadow of death". But what a great psalm this is!

Six verses, and we're going to take them one by one over the next several weeks. And it's been described as six strings on a harp. Of course, the psalms are songs. They're songs of the people; they're songs that God has delivered to us, and particularly through the pen and the penmanship and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit through David. David who was himself a shepherd, grew up in the shepherd fields outside of Bethlehem. He ultimately as a shepherd became a singer. I've often thought as to how David composed so many of these psalms, songs that are written in God's Word. No doubt as a young boy, as a shepherd boy, he looked out in the starlit nights on Bethlehem's hillsides and he contemplated the greatness of God. He would say things like "O God, what is man? What am I? Who am I that you are mindful of us"?

And, of course, on and on, he expressed his emotions and his fears, his anxieties, as well as his hopes and his aspirations, and it's all worship. No wonder David is called "a man after God's own heart". He wasn't a perfect man by any means, and he sinned and sinned greatly, but he was also forgiven in a great way by the grace of God. But ultimately David the shepherd, the singer, became the sovereign, the shepherd king of Israel. He was also a soldier, fighting the great giant Goliath and, of course, leading armies throughout battlefields in the Middle East. And so David! What a man was this man. So when you consider his own heart for God, when you consider how he contemplated who God is and he often did this in Scripture, but ultimately he reflects on God as the Shepherd. And that's why Psalm 23, verse 1 says: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want".

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. David, whom I believe was looking back as older veteran now, believer, as he had followed the Lord, the heavenly Shepherd all of his life, and he's looking back. There's just no question in my mind that this was not written early in David's career. It's not even at mid-life, but looking back. An experienced, a mature man now, a great man. He's thinking about who is God and what is God like. And of all the experiences of life and the many trails that I have trekked with Him, who is He? "The Lord is my Shepherd". And he said, "I shall not want". Now this psalm, Psalm 23 certainly is a masterpiece. It is a classic song.

Now I like classic songs. In fact, if you were to go to my playlist on my hand-held Apple device, or even look at my CD collection, you would see a lot of the classic music. I like to listen to way old classic music, but I really like the classics of the sixties when I was a teenager. We remember songs, the emotions of when we heard the song, when we sang the song, maybe a love song. And so on. Classics that cover the soundtrack of our lives. Well, this isn't a silly song but it is interestingly enough, it's a scriptural song, but it is a simple song As a matter of fact, it is so simple that most of the words are one-syllable words. Nine out of ten of the words in the Twenty-third Psalm are one-syllable words. In typical translations it's about 119 words. And again, 92 of the 119 words are one-syllable words! Amazing, isn't it?

When God wanted to communicate this beautiful testimony of His care for us, He made it simple, He made it sweet, He made it short. Again, a harp with six strings. We need peace, protection, security, stability. We've just come out of a rough and tumble political campaign, an election. The division, of course, we've been going through this pandemic through this year. People are concerned about their future and the chaos that's going on all around us. And if there was ever a time we needed some simplicity and some serenity, it is right now. So what an important time to study Psalm 23. Of course, we turn to Psalm 23 when life is difficult, when life is hard. And we all know that life can be hard. We live in these chaotic times when it seems that everything is changing, but I'll tell you what hasn't changed; I'll tell you who hasn't changed, and that is the One who is our Shepherd. And our Shepherd, according to Jesus Himself, is the Lord our Shepherd, Jesus our Savior. Jesus our Savior is Jesus our Shepherd. And that is Good News!

The Shepherd has not changed. This psalm was written 3000 years ago! But it is as fresh as this morning. And our Shepherd, our Savior, according to Hebrews 13, verse 8, "is the same yesterday, today and forever". And what the Savior/Shepherd did for David the king, He will do for you and me. "The Lord is my Shepherd". He is again, looking back and remembering the faithfulness of God, and the blessing of God. It's all about abundance; how God abundantly provides for us. Especially to know that we can simply trust in a very simple way, a simple faith. "Simply trusting" the old song goes, "Simply trusting every day".

I was thinking, it's sort of like floating in a pool. If you want to float in a pool... Remember when you learned how to float in a pool? The way you float in a pool is just to relax and let the weight of the water carry you. If you fight, if you resist, if you say, well, the way to float in a pool is to try really, really hard, that's no way to float! The way to float in a pool is to simply relax your body and let the water carry you. And you rest there. And to me that's a lot like trusting God. It's not just trying. So many people think the Christian life is trying harder and harder and harder, and resisting and working harder. No, it's letting the weight of Christ hold you up; it's letting the Good Shepherd carry you through. Trusting is like floating and it's just giving up and giving in. I'm talking about surrendering and yielding our lives to the Lord who is our good and great Shepherd.

Many say the Lord is my Savior; I hope you can say that. At the close of this message I'm going to give you an opportunity to put your trust and faith in the Savior. I hope there's been a time and a place in your life when you've opened your heart to say "Jesus, be my Savior and be my Lord". But this psalm is not so much about Jesus the Savior, but about Jesus the Shepherd, and how the Savior Jesus carries all of us along, and leads us and guides us and guards us and protects us and provides for us. All the things that we're going to discover in this little study, this meditation of Psalm 23. And one thing I would encourage you to do and that is to meditate on these words and also to memorize. Perhaps you'd want to put them on your iPhone or your hand-held device and just put the words there and look at them, or maybe write them on cards, write them somewhere where you can see them.

If you haven't memorized these words or if maybe you've let them slide and you're not remembering them all these days, I want to encourage you to meditate upon God's Word, and we do that by memorizing and then turning it over and over and personalizing the Scripture and making it our own. "The Lord is my Shepherd". And that reminds me to tell you that this is so very, very personal. "The Lord is my Shepherd". Not a shepherd, not the shepherd, but my Shepherd. And you cannot say the Lord is my Shepherd until you first say the Lord is my Savior. Then when Jesus is your Savior, He begins shepherding you through life. Now when you look at the very first verse, it says "The Lord is my shepherd" and you may note in your translation of the Bible that all the letters in LORD are capitalized. And that is because, and this is true in most authorized versions of Scripture that the word LORD is capitalized because this is referencing the personal and covenant name of God, the sacred name of God, the eternal name of God.

It was the name of God that was revealed to Moses at the burning bush, When Moses was there in the very presence of God. And what did God say when Moses asked, "When I go before Pharaoh who shall I say sent me"? And God said to him, "Tell him, I AM sent me". And there it is, the I AM! That's the covenant name of God, that's the word which means eternal God, eternal Lord and Savior. That name is so sacred that orthodox Jewish people would not even say it out loud except in particular times of the year. If they wrote it in transcribing the Scripture, if they wrote the name Yahweh or you may know it as Jehovah. I AM. They would then throw away the writing instrument because they had written the sacred name of God. It is precious, it is pure and it is powerful. I AM. It speaks of the eternal presence of God.

So when it says "The Lord is my Shepherd", the Lord is the Eternal One, the Ever present One, "the same yesterday, today and forever". And therefore, this Lord, the God of heaven, He is the one who provides for our every need, and shepherds us through life's wilderness and through life's mountain peaks as well. "The Lord is my Shepherd". The Lord is, and that just kind of says it all right there. The Lord is. He exists; He's eternal. There was a great preacher by the name S. M. Lockridge. His full name is Shadrach Meshach Lockridge. A great name. He was a Baptist pastor out in the San Diego area and I heard him preach a message one time. An incredible preacher, orator, great content to what he said. But he preached a message just on three words right out of this passage. The Lord is. And then he said this. He said, "You know, the Lord is. He always is is; He always has been is; and He always will be is". And then He said, "You know that's not necessarily good grammar but you can't worry about the grammar when you're talking about the Lord".

Ha, it's true! The Lord is I AM. And in one way, you know, the idea of I AM, and Jesus took the great I AM name for Himself many, many times. This is what got Him in big trouble with the religious crowd in Jerusalem because when He would say I AM the Good Shepherd as He did, when He said I AM the Bread of heaven, when He would say I AM the True Vine, when He would say I AM the Water of life. Again, and again, He ascribed to Himself this covenant name of God. This is why He was accused of blasphemy. The Lord is the great I AM. And in one way it is a kind of fill in the blank.

When Jesus was walking on the water and He came to them walking on the water in the middle of that storm. You remember that story if you know your Bible. Jesus is walking on the water and He said to them, "Do not be afraid; I AM"! In the midst of the storms Jesus says "I AM". I AM what? He is totally God; He is God who is forever God. But He's also saying fill in the blank. I am whatever your need may be. You fill in the blank. I am strength for your weakness and I am health for your sickness and I am grace for your sin, I am love for hate. All the greatness of God, the glory of God is in this little phrase. The Lord is. And so therefore, we can know that when He is our Shepherd, He is with us forever as we trust in Him. This is very, very personal as I was saying. And you need to be able to say I know that I know that the Lord is my Shepherd.

Now here's an interesting thing about Psalm 23. It's actually a part of a trilogy: three psalms, back to back to back, 22, 23, 24. And each one of these three psalms connected in the psalter, the psalms had to do with the work of the Lord, the work of Jesus Christ. When you read Psalm 22, it is as though the writer is standing at the foot of the cross because he's speaking. It even begins "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me"? And, of course, these are words that Jesus spoke from the cross. And when you read Psalm 22 it's clearly a portrait of the cross and a prophecy of the Savior's, the Shepherd's cross and His suffering on the cross for us.

When you flip over to Psalm 24, that's all about the Shepherd's crown, the Savior's crown because it's speaking of the Lord's return and the Lord's reign and how Jesus is sovereign. How Jesus suffers in Psalm 22 and how Jesus sovereignly reigns in Psalm 24. But right in the middle between the past, what Jesus did for us on the cross, and the future, what will happen when Jesus returns again and His throne is established. "Your throne forever and ever". In the middle of that is life, isn't it? In the middle of this is the wilderness in which we walk. Like sheep we need a shepherd, and so this is the Lord. Someone described it as the Lord's cross, the Lord's crook, the Shepherd's crook, and the Lord's crown. So that's a very powerful truth. When David says of the Shepherd, the Lord, that's talking about Jesus because Jesus is the Lord. He claimed this in John chapter 10. He said, "I am the Good Shepherd who gives His life for the sheep".

So when you're talking about God, when you're talking about the Lord, you're talking about Jesus right here and right now. I know there's a lot of God talk sometimes. We hear it from people on the street. Sometimes we hear it from politicians. There's a lot of talk, even God talk, and there's been debate about who said God enough in certain conventions, political conventions and so on. And I'm always grateful for the name of God to be honored and to be spoken publicly. I really am. I'm so glad that in the motto of this country it says: In God we trust. And in our Pledge of Allegiance it tells us that we are "one nation under God, under God". Because if we become one nation without God, we will no longer be a great nation. We need to be a nation under God.

So the name of God. I like the name of God, of course. But really sometimes I'm not all that impressed when people bounce around the name of God in a flippant way, or even in a political way, and they never mention the name of Jesus. I tell what impresses me is when someone talks about Jesus because they're identifying their own personal faith in Jesus Christ, their relationship with God through Jesus Christ. So if you're talking about God, if you're talking about the Lord right here, the Shepherd, you're talking about Jesus. David the sweet singer of Israel, is praising God, our loving and living Lord, who supplies all of our needs.

As Philippians 4:19 says, "according to His riches in glory in Jesus Christ". I really am glad that He said that God supplies our needs according to His riches in glory in Jesus Christ, not out of but according to. You say, "well, what's the difference"? Well, it's a big difference. If you asked me for some money, a loan and I said to you, "Okay, I'll give you a loan" and I reach in to my pocket and I find a dollar bill and I hand you a dollar bill, and say, "Okay, be blessed". That would be giving out of my riches because I got more money than that. Not a lot of money but I got more money than a dollar. But if I was really going to give you according to my riches, maybe I'd give you my debit card or a credit card and say, we used to say a blank check, we don't write many checks these days, do we? But I could just give you my debit card and say simply, you know, "Here it is; whatever you want is yours".

Now that would generous giving; that would be over the top giving; that would be giving according to my riches, not just out of my riches. And God didn't just tip us a little bit when He promised to meet our needs. He said, "All that I am is yours. And all that I have belongs to you". When I was a kid at youth camp, we learned a song that said, "I belong to the God of the mountain; I belong to the God of the sea; I belong to the God of the universe, and He belongs to me". That personal note in that song is the personal note in this great Shepherd song. The Lord belongs to us and we belong to Him. We are the sheep of His pasture. And He promises to meet our every need.

"The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want". The God who created us and made us is our Shepherd and leads us in all the days of our lives, from the womb to the tomb. The God who made you, who created you, who formed you in your mother's womb. Life is sacred. Life begins in the womb. And the God who made you there will be with you all the days of your life from the womb all the way to the tomb when you follow Jesus the Shepherd. The God who made you, loves you. The God who came to this world, the Savior who so loved the world that He gave his own life on the cross for us. John 15:13, "No greater love than this: that a man would lay down his life for His friends".

The same Savior-Shepherd who rose again on the third day and one day will return as King of kings and Lord of lords. That is the Shepherd we're talking about. How do you know if you're following the Shepherd? Well, you may want to take your Bibles and just turn with me to John 10:27, John 10 and verse 27. And here Jesus is referencing Himself as the Shepherd. And here's what He says about the security and, yes, the serenity and the peace and the promise that comes from following Him. He says, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me".

How do you know if you're a Christian? How do you know if you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ? Jesus tells us right here. "My sheep hear My voice". In other words, the Spirit of God through God's Word (the Scriptures) speaks to us and we listen. If you are one of God's sheep, you listen to your Shepherd. And He is speaking and He is talking to you. And He says, "I know them". A lot of people may say, "Oh, I know Jesus. I know God". But they really know about God; they don't really know Jesus, because Jesus says, "I know My sheep". I can tell you, I can try to impress you with celebrities I know. You know, famous people I know. I know such and such. I don't really know them. The question is: Does that person know me? I can say, well, you know, I know George Washington.

Well, I don't really know George Washington; I know about George Washington. George Washington certainly didn't know me. But I say that to say Jesus said if you're a Christian I know your name because you listen to Me, and here's the key word: He said they follow Me. So who is your shepherd? Who do you follow? Do you follow your partner; your husband, your wife? Do you follow your psychologist? Do you follow a professor, what someone is teaching you? Do you follow your parents? Do you follow your priest? Do you follow your pastor? The question is: Do you follow Jesus?

It's good to have the input and the influence of others who are believers in our lives, but we don't follow anyone but Jesus. Do you listen and follow your friends? So many people just listen to the culture. What's the culture say? How am I to live? And we've got all these trends and so-called truths of every generation. Are you following the latest trend? The latest truth that comes along? Or are you following Jesus? Are you following what people say or listening to what God says? Psalm 23 reminds us at the very outset that the only one worth your life, the only one worth following is Jesus the Savior, the Shepherd. "The Lord is my Shepherd". Can you say that? Can you trust Him?
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