Jack Graham - Psalm 23 - Part 2
I'm really enjoying this opportunity to come to you on PowerPoint in a different format. And we began last week a series on the Twenty-third Psalm. Just kind of you and me and a Bible study. And we want to be able to talk about this great psalm and the truths of it. Psalm 23 is a beloved psalm. No doubt if you've been around your Bible, you've been around the Christian faith awhile; you love this psalm. But, you know, we need not only to belove this psalm, but we need to believe this psalm. Not just love it, but live it! Live the truth, because these truths are transforming. The very idea that the Lord is our Shepherd, that the great God of heaven, the one who made the universe stepped to our planet and became the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord is our Savior and our Shepherd. And that's what we've been talking about. There's so much in this little short passage of scripture. It's a short psalm; just 6 verses if you will, and these are short verses, but they are so power-packed, every word of it. And you know, one of the problems we can have with familiar scriptures like Psalm 23 is that we're so familiar with them. You know, we say familiarity breeds contempt. And things that are familiar we often, you know if the stars only came out once a year, we would all go out to watch the stars. But, you know, maybe we neglect the stars because we see them all the time. Well this is a star-studded passage of scripture. And maybe we're so used to it that we forget the brilliance of it and the beauty of it.
But I can tell you since I've been knowing this psalm through these years and knowing the Savior who gave us this psalm, it gets dearer and sweeter to me as time goes on. I'm a veteran believer now. I've been trekking with the Lord all my life since I was a child. And in that since I'm a bit like David who wrote this psalm, no doubt, in my view, at the end of his life and he's looking back and he's reflecting upon the goodness and the graciousness of God and how God carried him through every situation in his life. And even the brokenness and the bends in the road. All those things that we go through in life, looking back at that. And just as David was in that position, now I find myself there. I find myself on the journey home. And I can say that as I look back on my life I know, I know that it's true. It's true that the Shepherd leads us all the way. His hand of guidance and blessing has been upon my life. His favor, His faithfulness.
I know that Jesus is walking with me, ahead of me, around me, beside me, before me. He's everything to me. And this is what Psalm 23 really is about. That Jesus is our everything. Our Savior, our Shepherd, is our everything. Because it says: "The Lord is my shepherd; and I shall not want". Which literally can be translated: He is all I need all the time that I need Him, anywhere, anytime, all that I need. Jesus provides, He provides for our needs. He says, "I shall not want". A little girl was quoting Psalm 23. She kind of misquoted it but she was right-on when she said "The Lord is my Shepherd and that's all I want". And it's true, isn't it? When you know Jesus, He is the satisfaction of life.
Have you noticed how so many people are unhappy, even miserable, discontent and dissatisfied, often complaining about their lives and the situation and circumstances? You know, I believe that's an insult to God for a Christian to walk through life complaining and grousing and griping and complaining, when the Lord is our Shepherd. As Christians we should never really complain. Someone said that life is not about the abundance of things but the absence of want; it's about contentment. "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He restores my soul". Some people are just never satisfied.
One of the popular songs of the sixties, came out in 1964-65 maybe; it's been called the most listened to rock 'n' roll song in history and it was done by the Rolling Stones. And you probably have already guessed if you were around in the sixties. "I can't get no satisfaction". It became really kind of an anthem of the sixties revolution and just the emptiness of souls of a generation who was turning from God and saying, "I can't get no... I tried and I tried and I tried and I tried. And now all of us who are baby boomers, we've grown up and a lot of people are old. And they're old rockers, I mean, in fact, have you seen the Rolling Stones lately? They're really old! They sing that song 'Time, Time, Time is on my side.'" Well, let me tell you something: time is not on their side! And it's not on your side either! But a lot of people, you know, they just live their lives without God, without a Shepherd, without a Savior. And now they're still just grinding it out, I can't get no satisfaction.
And so many people... Now, again, baby boomers who, you know, people have gotten older and they're retired and how sad it is that they lived their whole life and there's no satisfaction! There is satisfaction when we follow the Shepherd and Jesus Himself, not things, not our circumstances, but Jesus Himself is our satisfaction. He is the one who satisfies the deepest longings of our heart. It was Augustine, the philosopher theologian who said centuries ago, "We were made for Thee, O God, and our hearts are restless until we find our rest in Thee". You were made for God. God had a purpose and has a purpose for your life, a plan. Every life is a plan of God. You're not a mistake; you're not an accident. Therefore, when you follow His plan, His purposes for your life... it's in following Him that you find yourself fulfilled.
And not only fulfilled here and now, but forever and ever. An unhappy Christian is, that's so upside-down! We are happy in the Lord. He is our satisfaction. All the presence and the power and the provision of God is ours. One of the verses that I memorized a long time ago, and I've memorized many, many scriptures and encourage you to do the same, and meditate upon it. You know, my friend Robert Morgan says, "Meditation is better than medication". And I believe that's true. "A merry heart does good like a medicine". And when you are thinking on the things of God, and scripture becomes a part of your life and your soul, it's so very good. So memorize and meditate upon the scripture. But Psalm 37 and verse 4 says, "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart".
Now that's an incredible promise and principle to life. When you desire Him, when you delight in Him, when you find your satisfaction in God Himself, in the Lord Jesus Christ, that's when He gives you the desires of your heart and your heart is overflowing. As we'll learn later in Psalm 23, your cup will run over. Yes, you belong to Him! The God who holds the world in His hands, the God who holds the planets of the universes in His hands, He also holds you! This is what we love so much about this psalm. So very personal, that God is with us. I remember a friend of mine years ago was a part of a team to put together a new hymnal, a new hymnbook for Baptist, the Baptist hymnal. Remember those? Well, they were selecting those songs, deciding which ones would go in the book, in the hymnal and which ones wouldn't. And they came to that song they were discussing.
These were theologians and pastors and musicians. They were looking at each song and they came to that song "In the Garden". It's an old song and it's not sung that much anymore, but it's a sweet song. "I go to the garden alone while the dew is still on the meadows". And they were talking about this song. And several of the musicians and theologians were saying, "You know, that's song is way too I-centered. 'He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own. I go to the garden.'" They were saying, "It's too self-centered. It's narcistic; it's not a good hymn; it's not about God, it's about us. And we shouldn't include 'In the Garden' in the hymnbook".
And my friend who was quite a theologian himself remembered God's Word. And he just stood up and said, "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He leads me beside the still waters, He restores my soul". And end of story: In the Garden made that hymnbook that day! Because, you know, the Christian life is wrapped up in His person pronouns. I think it was Martin Luther, the great Reformer who said, "The Christian life is all about personal pronouns. It's my God and I. And He does walk with us and He leads His dear children along. He holds you; He keeps you. And you can walk at His pace, you can walk in His peace and always know His provision".
We are in the midst of a very tough year, 2020. And not only have we had the physical illness, the virus to deal with, but now in our country and really around the world, we not only have a medical health crisis, but we have a mental health crisis. The pandemic has pushed us to the edge, and many people have gone over. They've lost, some have lost lives, many have lost livelihoods, lost family and friends with isolation; have experienced mental anguish and anxiety and depression. The stress of this is killing people because stress is a killer. And many think that stress and the result of physical problems that comes as a result of stress will kill more people than the virus. I don't know. But I do know that we do have a mental health crisis. And we need the help of our Shepherd in these days. We need to know in the middle of all this emotional strain and stress and struggle that we can find peace.
And so isn't it good that God says, I lead my sheep to still waters? Literally quiet streams, quiet waters. I believe what God does in times like these, in turbulent times, stressful, stormy days, that God leads us to still waters, and He makes me to lie down. Have you ever felt like in your life and in your experience that there have been times when God made you lie down, just pushed the pause button on your life and forced you to sit still so that you would know that He is God, so that you could rest your soul, relax your mind and feed and drink of the Spirit? I dare say most all of us have experienced that. I know I have. That there have been times in life when I been pushing, pushing, pushing, pressure, pressure, pressure.
And the Lord has just said, "Jack, it's time to lie down". And I'm not talking about taking a nap; I'm talking about God saying, "I'm going to put you on the flat of your back so that you will look up to Me". And maybe you're there today. You could be watching this from a hospital room or a nursing care facility. You may be battling an illness, you may be facing loss and isolation and you're alone, and life seems to have stopped and you may seem stuck. But if you will listen to the Good Shepherd, if you'll look to Him, it just may be that He has led you, that He has brought you to this place of slowing down, and even stopping, and putting you on the flat of your back so that you can look up to Him and love Him more and more with your life. That's what we're talking about here.
The same psalmist, David wrote the words of Psalm 34, one of my favorites. Says: "The Lord is near to the broken hearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous". Christianity is not immunity from affliction and pain and struggle and heartache. "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord (our Shepherd) delivers him out of them all". He may lead you in but I promise you in His own time, in his own way, He will lead you out. The Shepherd is especially near to the broken. Those whose hearts are broken, those whose homes may be broken, those whose hopes may be broken, those who are crushed. And the psalmist here tells us "He restores my soul".
That's actually a word which describes the setting of a bone. And can't you just picture a shepherd. He finds one of his little lambs broken in some way, maybe a leg that is broken. So what does the good shepherd do? The good shepherd picks up that little lamb and puts a splint and sets the bone, and restores that animal. Remakes and reshapes that little lamb. And what a shepherd will do for a sheep, God will do for you; Jesus will do for you. He will restore your soul. So I'm thinking back during the quarantine when we were shut down in so many ways, we were so ready to get life back to normal, get out of the house, get on with our lives. But in that time, if you took that time and you didn't waste that time, it has been an opportunity for us to restore our souls and renew our faith.
Isaiah 40, verse 31 says: "They that wait", did you know that God puts a premium on waiting? The Great Physician has a waiting room? "They that wait on the Lord will renew their strength", that means to exchange weakness for strength, "they shall renew their strength; (They shall fly like the eagle) mount up on eagle's wings, they shall run and not be weary and walk and not faint". Just keep going. Keep persevering. Keep pressing on, looking to Jesus. So if you've been forced to slow down, to lie down, make it a time to pray, to seek God, to restore your soul. Because in this you will discover "a peace that passes understanding"; the still waters. That just speaks of serenity, it speaks of sweet peace.
Paul talked about it in Philippians 4, the power of prayer to produce peace in our lives; that we're "not to worry about anything, but to pray about everything and then the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard our hearts and minds through Jesus Christ". This peace, it is indescribable but it also unmistakable. You know when you have this peace. You may not be able to define it; you may not even be able to describe it; but I can't tell you how many years, how many times as a pastor over the years people have said to me, in the greatest of tragedies and deepest sorrows have said to me, "Pastor, I don't understand it; I can't explain it, but there is just a supernatural peace that I have from God". And that's the promise of the Shepherd.
Read God's Word, believe God's promises, like this one and you can live in a quiet confidence. That's the way to live! In a steady, strong quiet confidence that comes when we rely upon Him and rest in Him. Jesus said, "All ye who labor, are burden, and carrying heavy burdens, Come to Me, all you who labor and I will give you rest". Rest for your soul. That's what our Shepherd does for us and what He will do for you.
A man had a financial collapse and he was so distraught because he felt like he had just lost everything. He lost all of his money. He went to his pastor and he was weeping. He said, "Pastor, I've lost everything"! And the pastor who was very wise, a godly man, looked at him and said, "Oh, I'm so sorry that you lost your character". The man said, "No, no, no. I didn't lose my character; my character is intact. I just lost everything! My house, my money, my bank, I lost everything". And then the pastor said, "Oh, well, I'm so sorry that you lost your faith". He said, "No, I haven't lost my faith. I still believe. My faith is intact". And then the pastor said, "Well, I'm so sorry then that you've lost your salvation". He said, "No, no, no! I've have not lost my salvation. I know Jesus; I know I'm going to heaven. I just lost everything! I lost all my money"!
The pastor looked at him and he said, "Well, if your character is intact, and you still have your faith, and you still have your salvation, it appears to me that you have everything that you need the most". That's good, isn't it? You have everything and more than you need through your Good Shepherd. Clearly this passage, "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; he restores my soul". It's talking about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the Shepherd. Because some people can say I know the psalm, but they really don't know the Shepherd.
It's one thing to know the psalm; it's another thing to know the Shepherd. In fact, there's a great old story about an actor that returned to his little home church in England somewhere, and the people had gathered there. They wanted to hear this famous actor, so they asked him to give a recitation of the Twenty-third Psalm. So the actor rose to his feet, stuck out his chest and with the finest of elocution and beauty of words and language, he quoted the Twenty-third Psalm. Everybody was wowed. They began to applaud and cheer after the actor was done. And then the old pastor of that church. He stood up and he was bringing the message that day on the Twenty-third Psalm. And he quoted the Psalm as well as a part of his message. And when the pastor, that godly old man who had been preaching Christ and the Shepherd all those years, when he got finished, the people were in tears because they were face to face with the Shepherd of heaven.
They later asked the actor what was the difference. For you they applauded; when the pastor spoke, they cried. He said, "Well, the only thing I know to tell you is I know the psalm but our pastor knows the Shepherd". So it's not enough to know the words, it's not enough to say them, but are you following the Good Shepherd? Are you trusting Jesus? You know, a lot of people have an idea who God is, they have an idea what their church may think or believe about certain subjects. They would say they were Christians. If you were to ask are you a Christian? "Oh, yes, I'm a Christian". But they don't have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That could be you.
Do you have this relationship with Christ? Do you know Him? Because this is personal and it is eternal. If you know the Shepherd you have a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ and you have an eternal relationship with Him. That means the salvation that we have is a security that God will never let us go. Our Shepherd will count us all into the heavenly kingdom. Jesus said that in John chapter 10, the shepherd's passage, when He said, "My sheep hear my voice and I know them". And then He said, "They are in my Father's hand, the sheep are in my Father's hand, and no one shall pluck them from my Father's hand". If you belong to Jesus, you are forever secure. You are fulfilled and you are forever His. Have you experienced this in your own life? I promise you this: If you don't know Him, the Shepherd is seeking you. He's looking for you. He's calling your name.
And if you will believe in the one who came, who lived and died and rose again on the third day, who now, the heavenly Shepherd is enthroned and one day is coming to reign and rule upon the earth and forever and ever in the new heavens and the new earth. That Shepherd is seeking you. Jesus told a parable, a story about this. Of a shepherd who had a hundred sheep, 100. And one of them got lost. Maybe you feel like somewhere along the way you've gotten lost. Made bad decisions, made wrong turns like a sheep, you've wondered off. Isaiah 53:6, "All we like sheep have gone astray," the Bible says.
And maybe, just maybe you find yourself alone and feeling very lonely and lost. What did Jesus say about that one lamb that got lost? He said, the good shepherd left the flock, the ninety and nine. He left 99 sheep to go after that one little lost lamb. At personal risk he went after the sheep. With his reckless love, with his enduring love he went after the sheep and rescued his own. What a picture that is of what our Good Shepherd will do for each one of us. And wherever you are in life, wherever you find yourself today, I assure you the Good Shepherd Jesus is coming after you. He's coming after you. His Spirit is speaking to you. His Word is ministering to you. And wherever you are and however you may have fallen or failed, He's willing to pick you up and restore your soul.