James Merritt - Listen To The Music
Well, good morning. I wanna welcome you to our service today. I wish you were in the building, as we heard just a moment ago, the worship was just absolutely out of this world. And it leads me to talk about the tough difficult times that we're in. When I was in college, our country was going through, one of the toughest periods in our history. On a positive side, the Civil Rights Movement was going full bore and although the cause was just, the cost was great racial tensions were boiling over, the poison of racial prejudice and discrimination was being uncovered and the conflict, and the chaos, and the consternation, and the confrontation was necessary for us to really be a nation with liberty and justice for all.
It was also during that time that the Vietnam War sparked this huge outcry, particularly on college campuses, where I was. I mean, everywhere, there were sit-ins, there were protests, there were demonstrations, and oh, by the way, then you throw in Watergate. And I can just tell you, back in that day when I was in college, the mood of our nation was not good. It was a tough, tough time. Well in 1972, in the midst of all of that unrest, there was a song that came out, that's still one of my favorites. As matter of fact, every time I listen to this song, it puts me in a good mood. And it's one of those songs, I never get tired of listening to it. I have a playlist on Spotify and it's at the very top of my playlist. It was written by a man named Tom Johnston who sang with one of my favorite groups, you may remember them, the Doobie Brothers.
Well, this song came to him literally in the middle of the night. And even though he wrote quite a few of their hits he said, when he finished writing this song, at about 4:00 in the morning, he said it was the only song he ever wrote that he knew this was gonna be one huge hit. Well, the song failed to achieve that goal. But Johnston was on to something. Because see, he knew there is this incredible, emotional, psychological, physiological and even spiritual benefit to music. For example, here's just a few of them. Listening to music, decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which releases anxiety. It causes your brain to release dopamine, the feel good chemical in your body. It can help you fall asleep faster, wake up less often during the night, leave you feeling more rested in the morning. Promotes the production of an antibody called, immunoglobulin A that attacks viruses, bacteria and even cancerous cells. It causes blood vessels to expand, increasing blood flow and improving cardiovascular health.
Just listening to music. And see, I believe that God knew way before we did, the benefits of music. I think that's one of the reasons why God created it and God gave it to us. He knew there was something about music that could help us deal with stress, it could help us be healthier and happier and maybe even holier. And that may explain why the largest and the longest book in the Bible is a musical book. It's a book filled with music. It's a book filled with songs. Now, they're called Psalms. But if you've read the Psalms as I've read many times, you know just reading these Psalms can soothe frayed nerves and they can calm worried hearts.
So about, I don't know, a couple of months ago when all this started, God laid on my heart that we ought to do a series on one particular song that a king named David wrote. We're gonna call this series, Pitch Perfect. Because over the next several weeks, we're gonna listen to a song that God gave to this shepherd who became a king, his name is David. As a matter of fact, if the Book of Psalms was a 150 song album, the 23rd Psalm would be God's greatest hit. The 23rd Psalm of all the chapters in the Bible is probably the best known chapter in the entire Bible. We're going to look at the lyrics of the song one stanza at a time. There are six stanzas in this Psalm. We're gonna look at them one at a time.
Now here's kind of a little factoid for you. In the English language, the song's only 118 words. I mean, if you played this on the radio today, you'd have to play it about five times to you know, have a really full song. It's only 118 words and yet, it is probably the most familiar 118 words in the hundreds of thousands of words that are found in the entire Bible. And when you listen to this song and let me tell you, I've listened to it over and over and over and over, getting ready for this series. You realize even in these dark days, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You listen to this song, you realize there's a sun that is shining behind these dark storm clouds that we're all in right now. And by the way, as we begin the study of this first verse, which by the way, for anybody that's ever heard it, most everybody knows how it goes. Everybody knows the first verse. It's not just the first verse. It is the foundational verse.
You might want to say it with me, but it goes like this. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want". It may be the most familiar nine words in the Bible. Those nine words may have been spoken more, by more people around the world in the history of the world, than any other nine words in the Bible. But in that one little stanza, David gives us three reasons why no matter what happens going forward, we don't know how all this stuff's going to turn out, you don't know, I don't know. But no matter how it turns out, here's what we learned just from that one little stanza, faith ought to be in, fear ought to be out. Worship ought to be in, worry ought to be out. Prayer ought to be in and panic ought to be out. Because if what David says is true, those of us who are followers of the shepherd, those of us who know the shepherd, can say three things that are true about us, every day of our life.
Here's what I know. I have a shepherd who leads me. I have a Shepherd who leads me. Now surprisingly, this entire song is about a shepherd taking care of His sheep. So you gotta keep in mind, He begins with these words. "The Lord is my shepherd". Two words, "The Lord is my shepherd". Now, that tells me that I'm a sheep, you're a sheep. Because sheep are the animals that have shepherds. You know, various countries have adopted certain animals to symbolize their national spirit. So the United States, we've chosen the eagle. Russia has chosen the bear. Great Britain has chosen the lion. And normally, a nation would choose an animal that symbolizes strength and power and independence. But God chooses to represent us as sheep. Sheep are talked about in the Bible over 500 times and over 200 times, that's what we're called. God calls us sheep.
Now I hate to tell you this, but if you want to think about sheep, that's not really flattering. Because first of all, sheep are not the smartest animals in the world. Back in the day, when there used to be circuses, it's all closed down now, but back in the day, when there were circuses, I went several times to the circus when I was growing up, and I used to see trained lions, I used to see trained tigers, I used to see trained horses, but I never saw a trained sheep. Just not the smartest animal, not the sharpest knife in the door. And it's amazing. I mean, sheep can just wander off and get lost. Sheep will just walk off a cliff into their death.
And by, on their own, left by themselves, they just won't last very long. Because what sheep have to have if they're going to survive, they've got to have a shepherd. One of the things that moved the heart of Jesus was what He saw in a big crowd of people. I want you to listen to what He saw. "When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless". Now watch this. "Like sheep without a shepherd". There is nothing more helpless, nothing more heartbreaking, nothing more hopeless, than a sheep without a shepherd. And that's why this is such a great statement. Because listen, we have none other than the Lord is our shepherd.
And that ought to encourage you. That ought to bless you. Even in these tough days. You know why? Because a shepherd is a 24 hour a day job. Shepherds never take a vacation. They never get away from caring for the flock. And the shepherd is totally responsible for the needs of the sheep. Because the sheep depend entirely on the shepherd for everything. They depend on the shepherd for food, for water, for shelter, for safety. And you're going to see, as we study this Psalm, being a shepherd is an around the clock job. Now that ought to be music to your ears. Because the welfare of the sheep is the work of the shepherd. The shepherd's got one job, just one, take care of that sheep. Look after that sheep. Make sure that sheep is taken care of.
So who's responsible to meet the needs of the sheep? Well, the shepherd is. So think about it. The Lord, our shepherd, God who made us said, "You know what? I'm not just created you. I'm not just made you. I'm not just put you on this earth. I have taken on the responsibility to meet every one of your needs". And by the way, so notice who this shepherd is. He's no ordinary shepherd. It says, "The Lord is my shepherd". The Lord, that speaks of His deity. Shepherd speaks of His humanity. He is a sovereign and He is a shepherd. He is divine. He is human. He is God. He is man. Now, does that remind you of anyone? You know who this shepherd is? Do you know who David is talking about? He's talking about Jesus.
That's why in John 10:11, "Jesus is called the good Shepherd". And Hebrews 13:20, "He's called the great shepherd". In 1 Peter 5:4, "He's called the chief shepherd". See, here's the beautiful thing. Listen to me. When you decide to accept Jesus as your savior, the Savior becomes your shepherd. And by the way, hope if you're watching us online right now, that you'll be chatting with us and talking to us. If you're out there right now listening, and you need a shepherd and you'd like to know how to know that shepherd, pop a text, get on the chat line and talk to us. We've got people waiting to talk with you and share with you exactly how you can make that happen. But see, for those of us who know the shepherd, for those of us who love the shepherd, He is our shepherd.
See, I'm limited by time and space. My shepherd is not. I don't know what's going to be happening tomorrow, but my shepherd does. I don't know what's over the next hill, but my shepherd can see and He will lead me over it. And here's the beautiful thing, the shepherd who leads me will never leave me. Even if I tend to let go of Him, He will never let go of me. This Shepherd, He sees what I can't see. He hears what I can't hear. He knows what I do not know. And wherever I am, I know I'm gonna get to wherever I need to be, because I have a shepherd who leads me. So remember this. You've lost your job. You don't even know if you'll get it back. You're not even sure how you gonna pay your bills. You're not even sure what's gonna happen tomorrow. You have a shepherd, the Lord who leads you.
Number two, I have a shepherd who looks after me. I don't just have a shepherd who leads me, I have a shepherd who looks after me. Now, listen to the second half of this verse. Listen to this. "The Lord is my shepherd". And then he says, "I shall not want". Now that word that is used for God there, is one of the seven names used for God in the Bible. He's called here, Jehovah-Raah, which literally means, "The Lord my shepherd". Now, I've told you how the shepherd is supposed to take care of the sheep. How he's responsible for the sheep. Well, actually the shepherd had three parts to his job description.
Number one, his job was to guide the sheep to shelter. Number two, it was to guard the sheep from danger. And number three, it was to give the sheep their food. In other words, the shepherd's job is to make sure every need that the sheep has, he meets that need. That word there for want, "I shall not want," literally means lack. And the NIV translates it this way. "The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing". Why did David say that? Why did he put it that way? I believe David was thinking back to something God said to Moses. Let me take you back, actually about a thousand years before David, Moses. Moses had a big job. He was kind of a shepherd of the sheep of Israel. And God gave Moses the job to lead the sheep of Israel to the promised land. Well, you know, because of their disobedience, they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years.
Now, I don't have to time the time to tell you about the Herculean task that Moses had. Think about leading somewhere around 5 or 6 million people in a wilderness for 40 years. Wait a minute. No Home Depot, no Publix or Kroger supermarkets, no fast food restaurants no takeout service, 5, 6 million people for 40 years. And yet, here's what the Lord reminded Moses, it's amazing. He said "The Lord, your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These 40 years, the Lord God has been with you and you have not lacked anything". I've got my mind. Not for one second, of one minute, in one hour, in one day, in one week, in one month, in 40 years, did Moses or those people, ever lack anything.
Now there's a New Testament counterpart to Psalms 23:1. You maybe know what it is. It's Phillipians 4:19. "And my God will meet all your needs". In other words, "my God will see to it, you lack nothing, according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus". Now there's a lot of people that read that verse and misapply and misunderstand it. That verse does not say, God will meet all of your greed. It says, God will meet all of your need. The shepherd never promises to give the sheep everything they want. He does promise to give to the sheep, everything they need. I love to read history books and those that know me, know that I like particularly American history.
And there's a book I read. I highly recommend it that I read years and years ago by Stephen Ambrose. The title of the book is "Undaunted Courage". For those of you like to read, Stephen Ambrose, "Undaunted Courage". It is the story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition that opened up the American West. And Thomas Jefferson realized that when Lewis and Clark reached the Pacific Ocean, they wouldn't have any money, any clothes or any provisions. So to deal with that situation, Thomas Jefferson did something, that had never been done before in the history of our country, and it's never done since and probably will never, ever be done again. He provided a letter of credit for Lewis authorizing him, to draw on any agency of the US government, anywhere he went for anything that he needed. Listen to what he wrote in this letter.
This is mind boggling to me. "I also asked of the consuls, agents, merchants and citizens of any nation, to furnish you with those supplies which your necessities may call for. And to give more entire satisfaction and confidence to those who may be disposed to aid you. I, Thomas Jefferson president of the United States of America, have written this letter of general credit for you with my own hand and signed it with my own name". It is the most unlimited, letter of credit, ever written in the history of the world. In other words, what he said to Lewis and Clark was this. "Anywhere you go, anything the government's got, you've got it. Anything that you need, we are going to pay for it".
Listen to me. This shepherd has done exactly the same thing for his sheep. He's given us over 7,000 promises in the Bible. And every one of those promises is a blank check, promising that whenever you come up against a real need in your life, he will meet that need. This shepherd has given his word. You will not lack anything. Let me just stop right here, because I know what some of you are thinking right now. You may have even put this on the chat room. You may be sending us a, wait a minute, I have a need that God hasn't met, or I had a need in the past that God did not meet. Well, that's just not true. I want you to listen to me. If God didn't meet it, then it really wasn't a need. Cause I want you to remember this. If you have a real need, God will meet that need in His will. If God doesn't meet it, then it wasn't a real need in His will.
Give you an example. One day we're gonna die. And some of us are going to die from a disease that God is not going to heal us of. Now we may think at that moment, I'll tell you what I need. I need God to heal me. No, that's what you think is your need. You don't need God to heal you temporarily, you need God to heal you permanently. So I wanna say it again. This God does not lie. You have a shepherd that not only looks after you and looks after your need, you've got a shepherd that leads you. So no matter what you're going through, how long you go through it, at the end of the day, if the Lord is your shepherd, you will not lack. I have a shepherd who leads me. I have a shepherd who looks after me.
But here's the last thing. I have a shepherd who loves me, a shepherd who loves me. Now, this is a sweet verse. It's a great verse. It is a comforting verse. It is an encouraging verse. However, I have to tell you, there's a little word in this verse. It's a little tiny word, you better hear clearly. Because it is the one word that determines whether or not this stanza is for you. This song is for you. There's this little word in this song. And that little word is this word. "The Lord is," and you can say this out loud at home with me, "my shepherd. The Lord is my shepherd". David, didn't say "the Lord is the shepherd," though He is. He didn't say, "the Lord is a shepherd," though He was. He said, "the Lord is my shepherd".
So let me just be very frank, If you can't say the word, my, this song's not for you, This song does not apply to you. Because that little two letter word my is the golden key that unlocks the door to God's treasure chest of blessing that you will find in this song. See, you may know God as a shepherd. You may even believe that God is the shepherd, but here's the question, I'm asking it right now to you. Can you really say the Lord is my shepherd, my shepherd? See that amazing thing happens in your relationship to God, when you come to know Jesus as your shepherd. Here's what happens. When you finally come to that point, And I pray some of you will today. When you finally come to that point, where you say, "I want you to be my shepherd". At that moment, you know what God says? "I want you to be my sheep".
When you say "my shepherd", that's the supreme act of faith. When he says "my sheep", that's the supreme act of grace, so listen carefully. There's only one way to know, that the Lord is your shepherd. And that is to make that shepherd, your Lord. There's only one way to know that the Lord is your shepherd and that is to make that shepherd your Lord. You know what are the most amazing things I see when I go to Israel and I hope someday you'll get to go with me. One of the amazing things when I go back, I always can't wait to see it. We'll take a trip from Jerusalem and we'll take a bus. And we go down to the Dead Sea and to a place called Masada. We're really riding through the Judean desert. And every time you go, you'll see Bedouins out there with sheep. I mean, they'd be out there in the middle of nowhere. It's just a desert country.
You'll see a man, you'll see his wife, you'll see his children. They live in a tent, they're shepherds, they've got sheep. They've done it for hundreds and thousands of years. And every time I see this Bedouin with a flock of sheep, all those sheep looked the same to me. I mean, just you know, one sheep you know, just same as every other sheep. But they don't look the same to those shepherds. This is incredible to me. Several of those shepherds can get together for, you know, maybe get together for fellowship whatever. They can get together out in the desert. And so one flock of sheep, will start mingling with another flock of sheep. And that flock of sheep will mingle with another flock of sheep. But guess what?
When it's time to go and it's time for them to go their separate ways, here's a unique thing. Every shepherd knows exactly which are his sheep. And every sheep knows exactly who their shepherd is. Fact, I was reading the other day. "A good shepherd", listen to this. "A good shepherd can locate one of his own sheep, out of a flock of 2,500 sheep". Think about that. If he's only got one sheep and a flock of 2,500, he can pick out that sheep in less than five minutes. By the way, he holds his head, by the way he bleeds, by the way he walks. A shepherd can look at the ground where sheep's been lying down. He could tell by the condition of the grass, by the droppings they leave behind or even by one look in their eyes. If that sheep is sick. You know why? Because a shepherd, listen to this. A shepherd has a personal relationship with every single one of those sheep.
Do you know why David is comparing Jesus, our God? Do you know why he compares the Lord to a shepherd? Because this shepherd knows you, better than you know you. Did you hear that? This shepherd knows you better than you know you. Jesus knows me better than I know me. He knows Teresa my wife better than she knows herself. See, you may think you know what you need but Jesus knows what you really need. Jesus knows how to forgive your past. Jesus knows how to frame your present. Jesus knows how to fulfill your future. And here's the beautiful thing, this shepherd wants to have a personal relationship with you, but understand it again. The Lord cannot become your shepherd, until the shepherd becomes your Lord.
If Jesus Christ is not your Lord, the Lord is not your shepherd. In just a moment I'm gonna invite some of you watching right now to make the Lord your shepherd. But let me just say one last thing. There's one other thing about this shepherd that is different from every other shepherd. What's so different about the Lord being a shepherd from every other shepherd who's ever lived, ever will live? Listen to this. Ordinarily, the shepherd gives the sheep whatever they need. I told you that, right? So he protects them, he provides for them, he gives them food, he leaves them the water. We're gonna see all this in this Psalm. He takes care of every need that the sheep has. But this shepherd, this good shepherd, this great shepherd, this chief shepherd, He doesn't just give His sheep everything they need, He is everything they need.
See if you're hungry, He's the bread of life. If you're thirsty, He is the living water. If you're in the dark, He is the light of the world. If you're lost, He is the way. If you're confused, He is the truth. If you're dying, He is the life. If you need it, He has it. If He doesn't have it, you don't need it. So even now as we're still in the thick of all of this stuff that we've walked into, without ever knowing we would be where we are. Here's what I want you to do. Stop and listen to the music, because of this one statement. Here's what I know. I don't know what some of you are going through. And I'd be the first one to admit it, some of you are going through a lot tougher time than I am.
And I want you to know, I do sympathize with you. I don't take what you're going through lightly, but please hear me. I don't know what you're going through but you don't have to go through it alone. You don't have to stay up at night and walk the floor. You don't have to stay up at night with your blood pressure going out the roof. You don't have to stay up at night and not able to sleep because you're just not sure if you're going to make it or not. Because if you will listen to the music, you will hear loudly and clearly. I have a shepherd who leads me. I have a shepherd that looks after me. I have a shepherd that loves me, like no other shepherd ever has, ever can, or ever will because this good shepherd laid down his life for His sheep. This good shepherd, was crucified on a cross. This good shepherd, came back from the grave.
You know why he did that? So he could be your shepherd to lead you, look after you, and love you. Here's my question. Who right now is listening to me and just be honest. He's not your shepherd. Oh, you may believe He is a shepherd. You may believe He's a great shepherd. You may believe He's the chief shepherd. You may believe there's never been a shepherd like him. But He's not your sheep. Can you really say the Lord is my shepherd, not in your head, but in your heart? So how do you do that? How do you make the Lord, your shepherd? Well, first of all, you've gotta admit you're a sheep in need of one. Are you willing to admit that? I need a shepherd.
If you're a sheep that needs a shepherd, spiritually speaking what you're saying is, I'm a sinner that needs a savior. That's exactly right. That's the first step to making Jesus your shepherd. You've gotta admit, I'm a sheep that needs a shepherd, I'm a sinner that needs the savior. And once you get that, then the rest is just downhill. You say, look, I believe you died for me. I believe you came back from the grave. I believe you did all of that to come and live in my heart. So you could lead me and look after me and love me. I want you today to be my shepherd. If that's what you're saying right now, why don't you just say it to him in this way? Why don't you just say:
Lord I'm a sheep, I need a shepherd. Lord I'm a sinner, I need a savior. Today I'm asking you to become my shepherd. I thank you that you're making me one of your sheep. I ask you to forgive me of all of my sins. I repent and turn away from my sinful life. Today, I trust you as my saving shepherd. Today, I trust you the Lord, now my shepherd. I surrender all of my life to you. Thank you for becoming my shepherd.
I believe there are people right now. You prayed that prayer with me, didn't you? And you meant it. Yes, I did. And now you know, not just Lord is a shepherd of the shepherd, but you know, the Lord is your shepherd. Yes, I do. I want you to do something right now. I want you to go into your computer or your phone, go to crosspointechurch.com/decision or to make it even easier, Just text "YesJesus" to 31996. Just right now, do that. If you today, prayed with me, and the Lord went from being a shepherd or the shepherd to your shepherd. I want you to either go to this website, crosspointechurch.com/decision or text "YesJesus" to 31996. And when you go there, just let us know about your decision. We wanna follow up with you and just kind of help you make that new transition to being a sheep that now has the Lord as your shepherd. If you have a prayer request, do the same thing. If you've got a need, let us know what that need is. Let us know how we can pray for you. We want to hear from you.