June 16, 2020by Reverend Dan on June 16, 2020
It may be the most well-known scripture in all the Bible. As a child you memorize it in Sunday school. When you’re grown, even if the only come to church is for a funeral, it’s the scripture you’ll hear. Abraham Lincoln read every time he was down. President Bush read it publicly after 9-11 to calm the nation’s fears.
The 23rd Psalm. It has been called the psalm that calms the soul.
As I stood reciting it recently at the funeral of a friend, I wondered how many people – including me – were really hearing the words and the message. The old scripture is so familiar to us that we can repeat it without thinking. And while that may provide comfort in its own way, having scripture become a rote exercise is dangerous. As comforting as it may to simply hear the words, when we do that, we can miss the depth of its meaning and how powerful it really is.
One challenge with this scripture is that it’s set in the world of sheep and shepherds. Let’s face it, a lot of us in today’s world, especially us city slickers who live in a big metropolis like Burlington, don’t get that world. We have never lived in it.
While we may not know the world, however, the lives of sheep and shepherds is vitally important to the culture and times when the Bible was written. In fact, the Bible refers to us as sheep almost two hundred times, so there must be something important in its message.
Being called a sheep is not usually a compliment. Sheep are smelly, they’re not that bright, they’re stubborn, and they’re prone to wander. And yet, as nasty and stupid as sheep are, here is David, the great king, sitting in his palace, writing about a world he left long ago. By the time he wrote this, David was the ruler of all Israel. So, what was he doing thinking about a world that was now considered beneath him? Simple; he was remembering back to when he was just a boy and he worked as a shepherd. (That was the way it was then - crappiest job to the youngest son.)
But what is even more interesting is that he writes this psalm from the perspective of the sheep. Did you ever notice that? He’s not writing about what he did, he’s writing about the flock he kept. I wonder why his mind was on that. Didn’t he have more important things to think about, like running the country?
There was obviously something on David’s heart when he penned this, so I’m going to spend a few days looking at this psalm in depth. And as we read through it, we’re going to find out it is more meaningful to break it down into three parts.
1. Verses 1-3 talk about God’s provision for us.
2. Verses 4-5 talks about God’s comfort which surrounds us.
3. Verse 6 talks about God’s promise to us.
As we work through this psalm, we’re going to realize that the central message very clear: if you want to feel the safety and security of the Shepherd, you must trust Him and follow Him. You must become one of the His sheep.
Let’s follow the Shepherd and see where it takes us.
“Father, Lead us, Your sheep, as we follow You. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.”