#5 “The Lord Is With You” Series
"THE LORD IS WITH YOU IN THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH!"
TEXT: Psalm 23:1-6
INTRO: A Pastor had a silk threaded bookmark that on one side had a motto that was clearly readable. The back side of the bookmark however looked like a mess ... a bunch of jumbled up threads that crisscrossed with no apparent design. This Pastor used it when he did visitations on Christians who were undergoing trials that didn't seem to make sense. He would first show them the back side of the bookmarker and ask what they saw ... their response was always the same, "nothing except a bunch of tangled silk threads." Then he would turn it around and let them see the design that after all did exist, and the motto that read, "GOD IS LOVE." That side made sense; it had definite order to it. He would then explain that this is often the way we see life, we see it from the backside, a tangled hodgepodge of threads that don't seem to have any design, yet when viewed from God's position it makes perfect sense, even the more painful and unpleasant moments help create the overall design that read: “GOD IS LOVE!” This is getting the clearer and bigger picture!
David in writing this most famous of Psalms does this ... he weaves a picture of God as Shepherd, and we as His sheep ... and the overview of our entire life; even the most unpleasant part of life we call death!
It is here that we learn that the LORD “IS WITH US EVEN IN THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH ... we need not fear any EVIL!”
PROP. SENT: While life contains good times it also holds trips through the “valley of the shadow of death!” While it is easy to sense God's presence during the good times it's also important to know that God is present “in the valley of the shadow of death!”
I. LIFE’S DIRECTIONS 23:1-3
A. No Negligence! 23:1
1. Notice how carefully David refers to God in this passage, as he writes about “the BIG PICTURE.”
a. God is not referred to here as a King sitting in a palace to rule over His people from some distant or majestic place while we run around on the planet getting by the best we can!
b. David calls God “a Shepherd” ... they are unique in their profession because they don't punch a time clock ... and they don't live separate lives from the sheep they watch over!
c. Shepherds ate, slept, walked, fought, and lived right along side the sheep ... where He went they went, and where they went he went!
2. A king might know his citizen’s needs ... but he might forget them or ignore them while busying himself in his own palace ... but a shepherd cannot ignore his sheep, he lives with them, experiences everything they do, foregoes the luxuries of a king for the difficulties of life with sheep!
3. For sheep this is a wonderful relationship ... shepherds provide the framework for the entire needs of sheep in everyday life!
a. Protection from enemies.
b. Guide for proper food.
c. Security and sense of well-being.
d. Leading to adequate supply of water.
e. Knowledge about dangers while traveling.
f. The sense of greater power to handle the unknown.
g. The knowledge that life is not lived alone or without purpose.
4. Since the “LORD IS MY SHEPHERD ... I SHALL NOT BE IN WANT!”
B. Notices Needs! 23:2
1. The metaphor of "green pastures" means "ALL THAT MAKES LIFE FLOURISH."
a. It is a place of rest – contentment and peace.
b. It is place or renewal. (The food that provides our daily strength)
c. It is place of revitalization. (Lying down indicates the sense of security the sheep feel from the shepherd ... sheep don't easily relax!)
2. "Leading beside quiet waters" is a metaphor for a resting place.
a. It is a place of refreshing. (The symbol of water)
b. It is a place of relaxing. (Quiet waters ... lack of turmoil)
3. The point of these two things indicates that God notices the needs we have as His sheep and He provides those needs willingly and joyfully!
ILLUS: PHILIP KELLER, ONCE A SHEPHERD HIMSELF, WROTE A BOOK ENTITLED, "A SHEPHERD LOOKS AT PSALM 23" AND HE DESCRIBES THE FACT THAT SHEEP NEED 4 THINGS BEFORE THEY WILL LIE DOWN ... IT IS THE SHEPHERD'S JOB TO TRY AND BRING THESE 4 THINGS;
1. DUE TO SHEEP'S TIMIDITY, THEY MUST BE FREE OF ALL FEAR ... HENCE QUIET WATERS.
2. DUE TO THEIR SOCIABILITY, THEY MUST BE FREE FROM FRICTION WITH OTHER SHEEP.
3. THEY MUST ALSO BE FREE OF PARASITES AND FLIES IN ORDER TO RELAX.
4. THEY MUST BE FREE FROM HUNGER BEFORE THEY CAN RELAX AND LIE DOWN; IT IS ONLY THE SHEPHERD WHO CAN PROVIDE THESE 4 THINGS! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
C. New Name! 23:3
1. "He restores my soul." Our Shepherd is not only concerned about our material well-being; He is also concerned about our spiritual well-being!
a. The implicit understanding here is that our soul is in need of restoration!
b. Secondly, we are incapable of restoring it ourselves!
2. This restoration of our soul includes being led down “paths of righteousness!”
a. What are those paths?
b. They are God's Word, His principles of right living.
c. Righteousness is not something we create, it is something God has created, they are His paths; and He has not left us without the ability to know them ... we have the Bible!
3. Why does the good Shepherd “restore our soul and lead us in paths of righteousness?” It is “for HIS NAME' S SAKE!”
a. So that we will know Him as He truly is!
b. And so others will come to know the real God through us!
4. These paths lead us through dangerous places with peace of mind ... they are sure pathways that have proven to be safe by the Shepherd!
a. It is important to realize this before reading the next verse that talks about “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” ... a scary place!
b. Is there a safe path not only through this life but through death?
c. Our life on secure paths will only bring honor to God's name!
d. Therefore, when we disregard those paths of righteousness we dishonor our Shepherd's name!
II. LIFE & DEATH 23:4
A. Necessary Nuisance 23:4a
1. The scene suddenly shifts from the serene picture of resting sheep traveling secure paths to an ugly trip down a place called “the valley of the shadow of death!”
a. “Even though I walk...” introduces the idea that at some point in time this will happen to everyone!
b. These places existed in the Middle East where shepherds took their sheep from one valley through a mountain range to the next valley ... the dangerous paths in the mountains were often narrow and dark, and in the shadows of the mountains!
c. They were slippery and dark paths ... making sight almost impossible!
d. Only a guide who had passed through these dark paths could possibly know the way! Sheep had no choice but to trust in their Shepherd who knew the way through!
2. Jesus has already traveled the road of death to the other side, surely He knows the way through safely!
a. The point here is that because of the Shepherd the sheep will “FEAR NO EVIL.”
b. It doesn't mean the sheep have no fear, just no fear of evil! Certainly this dark road is scary!
c. They can relax in the knowledge that they are with their shepherd, one who would lay down his life for them!
d. In this sense they did not have to fear any evil!
e. The evil is Hell ... this we do not have to fear.
3. Remember, it is only the “SHADOW OF DEATH” ... it is just a path to a new valley where life abounds!
ILLUS: DR. DONALD BARNHOUSE WAS TELLING THE STORY OF WHEN HIS FIRST WIFE DIED, HE ALONG WITH HIS CHILDREN WERE TRAVELING TO THE FUNERAL HOME IN DEEP GRIEF. DISTRACTED BY THE EMOTIONS THEY WERE FEELING THEY DIDN'T SEE A LARGE MOVING VAN MOVING UP BEHIND THEM TO PASS THEM. AS THE TRUCK SLOWLY PASSED THEM A THOUGHT HIT HIM THAT HE THOUGHT WOULD HELP HIS CHILDREN, SO HE ASKED THEM, "CHILDREN WOULD YOU RATHER BE RUN OVER BY THAT TRUCK PASSING US OR ITS SHADOW?" HIS CHILDREN RESPONDED, "WELL OF COURSE DAD THE SHADOW, IT CAN'T HURT US!" THIS IS THE WAY IT IS FOR BELIEVERS ... ONLY THE SHADOW OF DEATH WILL TOUCH US, AND ITS EVIL CAN'T ROB US OF ETERNAL LIFE THANKS TO OUR SHEPHERD! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
B. Not Neglected! 23:4b
1. There are 2 things the Shepherd had that allowed the sheep “to fear no evil!”
a. The rod. This was a club like stick used mostly as a sign of authority. It could be used against an enemy, and at times it was used to discipline sheep!
b. This kept both the enemy and the sheep in line!
c. It is interesting to note that David includes this item as a sense of COMFORT for the sheep!
2. Unruly sheep were a danger to themselves and to the others who might follow; hence the rod was used to protect the sheep from poor judgment and thus poor consequences!
a. God uses discipline in our lives for the same purpose.
b. Those times of discipline should serve as a comfort, even when the discipline is painful! Ultimately it is saving us from worse situations!
3. The staff. A long stick, usually without a curve on the end.
a. It was used for guidance and support and at times to pry a sheep out of a crag in a rock formation. Sometimes sheep fell into these crags and got stuck!
b. Thus the staff was the instrument of rescue as well as guidance!
c. The Scriptures often fulfill this sense, they offer guidance to keep us from slippery places, or when we have fallen they offer the mechanism to pry us free from a trap!
4. David says that these items COMFORT the sheep!
a. The term means REASSURANCE, in other words everything is covered.
b. Even those ornery moments we have of disobedience is covered by the equipment the shepherd has to restore us!
c. Thus we feel even more secure, secure not just in when we are ok, but in being stubborn sheep that need discipline and assistance in getting out of tough spots!
5. It is clear we are NOT NEGLECTED BY OUR SHEPHERD!
III. LORD'S DELIVERANCE 23:5-6
A. Novel News! 23:5
1. David shifts scenes now from the flock to a banquet:
a. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”
b. This is a picture of a king bringing someone under the protection of his power by including them in a banquet meal in the palace!
c. Once a meal had been shared, a covenant of peace was cemented by the parties; they were sworn to each other in peace even if they had previously been enemies!
d. In here is a picture of the Lord's supper ... we are invited to His table, the King of Kings, and His sharing this meal with us cements the covenant of peace made in His own blood!
2. What a novel concept ... preparing a table in the presence of enemies!!!
a. No longer are we an enemy or alone against our enemies, we are now under the protection of the king whose table we ate from!
b. Therefore, we do not have to fear what an enemy might attempt to do to us should the enemy attack, the king whom we have shared bread with is sworn to come to our aid, it is a sealed covenant of peace and protection!
c. The king will not go back on his covenant to protect us ... if the enemy attempts to attack us the king sees it as an attack on Him and He will respond with the full force of His power to protect us as the covenantal partner!
3. He will also “anoint our head with oil;” this was done by the king as a statement of honor ... a way of telling the invited guest that they are special and unique!
a. “You anoint” literally means to “make fat!” It was an enormous blessing and honor on the guest who was anointed.
b. It created an enormous sense of self-respect for the one anointed!
c. It really built their self-confidence! The king was honoring them!
4. The next picture, “cup overflows” – may indicate the exuberance of this experience!
a. This is super abundance; the cup can’t contain it all.
b. Both emotionally and practically speaking!
c. This is the heart of the saved, great joy that spills out in practical and emotional ways ... thanking God like a modern day Pentecostal!
B. Never-ending Nurture! 23:6
1. What’s the conclusion to the fact of having this SHEPHERD/KING!?
a. "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life..."
b. There can be no other conclusion than this after exploring the preceding verse and the truths they portray!
c. You see, David has just reached a conclusion while looking at the BIG PICTURE and the only conclusion is “GOODNESS AND MERCY!”
2. For how long can we expect this goodness and mercy? "All the days of my life!"
a. What a tremendous picture!
b. What a SHEPHERD/KING we serve!
3. WHAT THEN IS MY RESPONSE TO ALL THIS?
a. "I will dwell in the house of the lord ... forever!"
b. The believer that understands the love the Shepherd and King has for his life won't have to be made to feel guilty to attend church or make it a priority ... it will become that saint’s PASSION!
c. Even eternity will not remove us from the Lord's House! David never had to coaxed into going up to the Lord’s house, he loved going!
d. If we are going to HAVE CHURCH IN HEAVEN FOREVER ... WHY NOT GET INTO PRACTICE NOW!
4. It is clear that we need to get the big picture!
CONCLUSION: This is the "big picture" Psalm! It shows God's love and care for us in our past, present, and future ... even in death the Lord will be with us! In the "big picture" God's presence and care will manifest itself even in the “shadow of death!” God is not just a king ruling from a palace ... He is the shepherd living with His sheep!