Intro. This psalm is about assurance and confidence.
Where is our confidence? Is it self confidence? But how will that sustain us when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death?
What is the ground and source of our assurance and confidence? The warrior-poet King David will not let that rest upon ourselves but a different source outside of us.
The big idea: the confidence and assurance of God’s people must rest in God Himself.
I. Is God your sovereign shepherd? Vs1
LORD in all caps is the covenant keeping God. Is he your God? He is not just Israel’s God – he is David’s.
Jesus, though true, is the savior of Christians. But is he MY savior?
I have a wife, but Jodi is MY wife. There is a big difference here.
Is shepherd a title or a term of close relationship? Yes to both. Just like in John 10, Jesus’ sheep know his voice. The sovereign is both other than us – ie knowing the number of hairs on our head – and he is MY shepherd.
II. Are you directing or being directed? Vs2-3
Look at the subject and the verb:
God is the subject here doing all the action.
David is not confused about who is the shepherd and who is the sheep. It will not end well for the sheep if they pick the path.
Our problem is that we would rather pick our own path and not be directed and led. We want Jesus, then, to rescue us when things go badly, but we want to pick our own path.
"I love me and have a wonderful plan for my life" to change the Billy Graham famous quote to honestly show our hearts. Sometimes I need a higher power on occasion. As long as his path is close to mine we are great. But when they diverge, I prefer my path over his.
Instead, I am one of Christ’s sheep. I hear his voice. I don’t always do it really well, but I hear my loving shepherd.
III. This ain’t Beowolf and the gang in the Mead Hall of Heorot. Vs4-6
Grendel was the ancient evil that Beowolf was against. Their weapons are right by them in the great hall of feast and they only slightly rejoice as they look over their shoulders for evil and danger at every turn. That is not the picture here in Psalm 23 but something radically different.
We are always in the middle of the valley of the shadow of death – we are just more aware of it sometimes than others. ‘Shadowlands’ is a great way to describe this life as described by C. S. Lewis in his book working through the grief of losing his wife to cancer.
Reject foolish and arrogant paraphrases. We do not have confidence in the shadow of death because we are so rad and bad and strong. No, death will come for us all.
Correction and protection. The rod and the staff are there to protect and give us long term comfort. It may feel unpleasant but it is the Lord’s uncomfortable grace protecting and guiding us in immeasurable love.
Friendship and feasting in unlikely places vs5. Picture David in front of Goliath. God says take off your armor and let me annoint you with oil and friendship and let’s feast. It will come at unlikely times where you normally would not expect it.
What does it mean that our enemies are forced to “witness our enjoyment at a leisurely banquet without being able to disturb it”? That is the picture here of preparing a table in the presence of my enemies – that’s good news.
Not pursued by enemies v6. So after the eating we expect enemies to pursue us and instead we get goodness and mercy to pursue us. It is not my enemies that pursue me but God’s goodness and mercy. Therefore, I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
How do we overcome the valley? We do because our shepherd pulls us through it, provides a feast in a weird place, and pursues us all our days with himself.
The communion table is our feast he has prepared for us, right in the middle of the shadowlands. This points us to a day when all our enemies will be fully defeated, and we will see it. We will dwell in his house forever!
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