Sermons

Sun, Jul 15, 2018

Not All Sheep Are Alike

Psalm 23 writes Spurgeon, “It has charmed more griefs to rest than all the philosophy of the world. It has remanded to their dungeon more felon thoughts, more black doubts, more thieving sorrows, than there are sands on the sea–shore. It has comforted the noble host of the poor. It has sung courage to the army of the disappointed. It has poured balm and consolation into the heart of the sick, of captives in dungeons, of widows in their pinching griefs, of orphans in their loneliness. Dying soldiers have died easier as it was read to them; ghastly hospitals have been illuminated; it has visited the prisoner, and broken his chains, and, like Peter’s angel, led him forth in imagination, and sung him back to his home again. It has made the dying Christian slave freer than his master, and consoled those whom, dying, he left behind mourning, not so much that he was gone, as because they were left behind, and could not go too.” Boice writes in his commentary, “Millions of people have memorized this psalm, even those who have learned few other Scripture portions. Ministers have used it to comfort people who are going through severe personal trials, suffering illness, or dying. For some, the words of this psalm have been the last they have ever uttered in life.”
Duration:56 mins 30 secs

Series: Psalms of Summer

Text: Psalm 23

Title: “Not All Sheep Are Alike”

 

Psalm 23:1-6 (NKJV)

 

1  The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2  He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.

3  He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.

4  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

5  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.

6  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.

 

Psalm 23 writes Spurgeon, “It has charmed more griefs to rest than all the philosophy of the world. It has remanded to their dungeon more felon thoughts, more black doubts, more thieving sorrows, than there are sands on the sea–shore. It has comforted the noble host of the poor. It has sung courage to the army of the disappointed. It has poured balm and consolation into the heart of the sick, of captives in dungeons, of widows in their pinching griefs, of orphans in their loneliness. Dying soldiers have died easier as it was read to them; ghastly hospitals have been illuminated; it has visited the prisoner, and broken his chains, and, like Peter’s angel, led him forth in imagination, and sung him back to his home again. It has made the dying Christian slave freer than his master, and consoled those whom, dying, he left behind mourning, not so much that he was gone, as because they were left behind, and could not go too.”

 

Boice writes in his commentary, “Millions of people have memorized this psalm, even those who have learned few other Scripture portions. Ministers have used it to comfort people who are going through severe personal trials, suffering illness, or dying. For some, the words of this psalm have been the last they have ever uttered in life.”

 

Have you ever considered that the 23 Psalm was written from the perspective of the sheep? It is. If you look at it as only the perspective of a four footed animal you will miss the point all together as sheep just aren’t very smart. Riding my bike on the bike path I saw a bunch of sheep in 100 degree plus heat just laying out in the sun on top of each other. They looked miserable and I thought, man Lord it isn’t a compliment towards us to compare us to sheep. Then suddenly it was as if the Lord directed my attention to a large tree about 50 yards away from where a hundred or more sheep were laying in the sun together. There under this huge tree was one sheep, an older and wiser and much larger sheep. He or she was enjoying the shade of that tree all by themselves. I laughed out loud. It was as if the Lord was saying… Not all sheep are alike and when you consider Psalm 23 we discover thats true.

 

If you see Psalm 23 spiritually then you will see it is the testimony of each of God’s children throughout scripture who have experienced the loving care of our “Good Shepherd”, Jesus Christ.

 

Verse 1 gives us the theme for the entire Psalm. “The Lord is my shepherd”

 

The point is, everybody looks to something, everyone has a shepherd.

 

The __________ is my shepherd. Whatever you build your life upon…

Work, pleasure, friends, family…. Something shapes each of our lives.

 

Whatever we look to shepherd our lives is what we seek to feed us and to shield us, to provide and protect us.

 

Here is the most important truth we can glean from this Psalm. If you begin your statement with “the Lord is my shepherd” like David did then you can finish the verse like David did too stating, “and I shall not want”

 

David was himself a shepherd and he easily drew the comparisons to our shepherd King. God was like a shepherd to David, and David was like a sheep to God.

 

The quality of the sheeps life is proportionate to the shepherds care.



Psalm 23 is also known as the “He Me” Psalm.

 

“He” is used 13 times and “he” speaks of the Lord.

“Me” is used some 17 times and “Me” speaks of himself



“The LORD is my shepherd”— therefore, “I have all that I need.” As an example, “He lets me rest,” so I have rest. “He renews my strength,” so I have new strength. He is “close beside me,” so I have His presence. He “prepares a feast for me,” so I have my daily bread. His “goodness and unfailing love will pursue me,” so I have His constant care. When God is our Shepherd, we have all we need.



God being a Shepherd is a familiar idea throughout the Bible, that the LORD is a Shepherd to His people. The idea begins as early as the Book of Genesis, where Moses called the LORD the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel (Genesis 49:24).

 

· In Psalm 28:9 David invited the LORD to shepherd the people of Israel, and to bear them up forever. Psalm 80:1 also looks to the LORD as the Shepherd of Israel, who would lead Joseph like a flock.

 

· Ecclesiastes 12:11 speaks of the words of the wise, which are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd.

 

· Isaiah 40:11 tells us that the LORD will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm. Micah 7:14 invites the LORD to Shepherd Your people with Your staff… As in days of old.

 

· Zechariah 13:7 speaks of the Messiah as the Shepherd who will be struck, and the sheep scattered (quoted in Matthew 26:31).

 

· In John 10:11 and 10:14 Jesus clearly spoke of Himself as the good shepherd, who gives His life for the sheep and who can say, “I know My sheep, and am known by My own.” Hebrews 13:20 speaks of Jesus as that great Shepherd of the sheep, and 1 Peter 2:25 calls Jesus the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls and 1 Peter 5:4 calls Jesus the Chief Shepherd.



Verse 2:  He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.

 

You can never produce depth of godliness in your life apart from stillness and solitude.

 

He makes me to lie down: The LORD as a shepherd knew how to make David rest when he needed it, just as a literal shepherd would care for his sheep. The implication is that the sheep doesn’t always know what it needs and what is best for itself, and so needs the help from the shepherd.

 

Philip Keller (in A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23) writes that sheep do not lie down easily and will not unless four conditions are met. Because they are timid they will not lie down if they are afraid. Because they are social animals they will not lie down if there is friction among the sheep. If flies or parasites trouble them they will not lie down. Finally, if sheep are anxious about food or hungry they will not lie down. Rest comes because the shepherd has dealt with fear, friction, flies, and famine.

 

“He leads me beside the still waters”… Have you ever seen sheep laying down next to a stream or a river. Theres a good reason… They cant swim. One would wade out in the water to get a drink and fall over on its back and drown. The next sheep would look and say, hey, that looks refreshing… and so forth and so on…

 

Sheep need still waters to drink from.

 

The images are rich with the sense of comfort, care, and rest.



3  He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.

 

Restores may picture the rescue of a lost one. “It may picture the straying sheep brought back, as in Isaiah 49:5, or perhaps Psalm 60:1, is often translated,  ‘repent’ or ‘be converted’ (Hosea 14:1; Joel 2:12).”

 

“In Hebrew the words ‘restores my soul’ can mean ‘brings me to repentance’ (or conversion).”

 

The Lord leads us, He doesn’t drive us in the paths of righteousness.

 

He leads me: The shepherd was a guide. The sheep didn’t need to know where the green pastures or still waters were; all he needed to know was where the shepherd was. The shepherd would guide the sheep to what he needed.

 

‘the path of righteousness’ He leads us in the way of holy obedience. The Shepherd knows the sheep have difficulty with their footing. Obstructions are removed; they are strengthened, to walk and run in the paths of God’s commandments.”

 

For His name’s sake: The shepherd guides the sheep with an overarching view to the credit and glory of the shepherd’s own name. We are a reflection of His care.

 

 

4  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

 

This Psalm was written for the living…

 

Its important to note that the psalmist is walking through the valley not being carried by pallbearers

 

It’s a description of living life in God’s care, having a relationship in this life with the Great Shepherd.

 

David recognized that under the shepherd’s leading he may walk through the valley of the shadow of death. It isn’t his destination or dwelling place. Like the Preacher in Ecclesiastes, David might say that all of life is lived under the shadow of death, and it is the conscious presence of the LORD as shepherd that makes it bearable.

 

Charles Spurgeon writes, “Death in its substance has been removed, and only the shadow of it remains. Some one has said that when there is a shadow there must be light somewhere, and so there is. Death stands by the side of the highway in which we have to travel, and the light of heaven shining upon him throws a shadow across our path; let us then rejoice that there is a light beyond. Nobody is afraid of a shadow, for a shadow cannot stop a man’s pathway even for a moment. The shadow of a dog cannot bite; the shadow of a sword cannot kill; the shadow of death cannot destroy us.”

 

We might say that the shepherd’s presence did not eliminate the presence of evil, but certainly the fear of evil.

 

For You are with me: This emphasizes that it is the presence of the shepherd that eliminated the fear of evil for His sheep. No matter his present environment, David could look to the fact of God’s shepherd-like presence and know, “You are with me” and “I will fear no evil.”

 

Significantly, it is at the dangerous moment pictured in the Psalm that the “He” of Psalm 23:1-3 changes to “You.” The LORD as Shepherd is now in the first person.

 

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me: The rod and the staff were instruments used by a shepherd. The idea is of a sturdy walking stick, used to gently (as possible) guide the sheep and to protect them from potential predators.



5  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.

 

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies”…

 

In the presence of my enemies: This is a striking phrase. The goodness and care suggested by the prepared table is set right in the midst of the presence of my enemies. The host’s care and concern doesn’t eliminate the presence of my enemies but enables the experience of God’s goodness and bounty even in their midst.

 

“The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will, the most dangerous place to be is anywhere else.”

 

Story of “The Battle of the Bulge” at the end of World War 2, Hitler and Nazi Germany were aware they could not take on the entire world and win… Christmas Eve… American soldiers came to home of a German family. It was a war crime to harbor the enemy but the woman took the men in and treated the wounded. A near by family came by with a turkey and fixings to share and at the same time 4 German soldiers arrived. The woman demanded all the weapons of the soldiers and the Americans and Germans sat down together and enjoyed a Christmas meal together.  

 

“You anoint my head with oil”. To protect the sheep from flies nesting in their nostrils the shepherd would put this mixture of oil and clay into the nostrils of the sheep as they would inspect them for ticks and their general health. Sheep cant care for themselves… I have you ever watched monkeys clean themselves and one another. Its a crack up… Mom is just going through the little ones coat looking for bugs… actually looking for snacks… protein

 

When sheep would come to a dry land, there would be no water except in a deep well. A faithful shepherd would get a gallon of water out of the well in the bucket and then pour it into stone bowls, which were often set beside the well. He would do this over and over until the bowls overflowed, and every sheep that was thirsty would come and drink. God’s supply is limitless. He does not ration out His goodness to us. He gives in abundance.

 

"My cup runs over!" His love has no limit, His grace has no measure, His power has no boundary known unto men: For out of His infinite riches in Jesus He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again. —Annie Johnson Flint



6  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.




“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me”

 

“Mercy is the covenant-word rendered ‘steadfast love’ elsewhere… Together with goodness it suggests the steady kindness and support that one can count on in the family or between firm friends.” (Kidner)

 

FB Meyer in his commentary writes, “We are well escorted, with a Shepherd in front and these twin angels behind!”

 

Charles Spurgeon writes, “These twin guardian angels will always be with me at my back and my beck. Just as when great princes go abroad they must not go unattended, so it is with the believer.”

 

“All the days of my life”… The presence of God is available to us now! It doesn’t begin when we die.



“And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever:” The Psalm ends with the calmest assurance that he would enjoy the presence of the LORD forever – both in his days on this earth and beyond.




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