Psalm 23 – Part 2
So has any Mom ever said any of those things? Raising kids is so easy. Thanks for letting me sleep in. I’m so bored. I’m really not that busy. I never have to repeat myself. I get a ton of sleep. And then I like at the dinner table after the Mom prays she says let’s get out our phones! Definitely stuff Moms never say-although I came across this meme where the Mom said it perfectly-meme1. Well done Mom! So witty! Right on top of the moment. Or I like the look on Julia Roberts face in this meme2. Please-tell me more! Or then if you think back we’ve all experienced this moment as a kid-meme3. What-my Mom has an actual name? She used to have a life before me? Who is this woman raising me? There’s so many questions? And then there’s this meme4. Is this true? As men we are sleeping like babies-probably snoring away! So safe to say-Moms work tirelessly, 24/7-and I’m sure we all agree that if anyone needs rest it’s our moms! So hopefully it’s a blessed Mother’s Day. Hopefully you’re able to enjoy it more this year now that everything isn’t locked down as much as it was last year with Covid. Hopefully our Moms are able to get some much needed rest and refreshment.
And that’s what we’ll be talking about this morning as we continue our series on Psalm 23. But first I want you to notice how we’ve subtitled it-a journey of God’s goodness. That’s the theme we’re going to be tracing each week-the thread that runs right through Psalm 23 until it’s finally stated in the last verse. Check it out-Ps 23:6. So there’s a great description of eternity-dwelling in the house of the Lord forever. That’s our incredible hope by believing in Jesus. But notice how before that it’s talking about life right now-surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. That isn’t saying God’s goodness comes to us on some days or occasional days or that we’ve earned a few good days if God’s happy with us. This is saying that God’s goodness follows us-all the days of our lives. His goodness is always there, always present, always at work, always surrounding us. And that happens when we’re following Him, when we’re being led by the one who’s the Shepherd of our souls. One of the main things I want us to discover in this series is that no matter where the Lord takes us, no matter what we go through-if you’re one of His-then it’s always a journey of His goodness. Do you believe that? I don’t know about you-but far too often I see His goodness in hindsight-not in the present. Far more often I see the overwhelming evidence of God’s goodness when I look back on my life, when I see how He’s always been with me, that His plans were always best, and He never left me or abandoned me or failed me. His goodness clearly emerges in hindsight-and yet in the present I often miss it. That’s because I’m all stressed out and worried that things are going to fall apart-that it’s not going to work out and I’m headed for disaster. Have you been there? Seeing His goodness in the past but missing it in the present? It’s easy to do-and yet Psalm 23 challenges us to see His goodness everyday-all the days of your life-even in the here and now. And we saw that truth as the Psalm began-Ps 23:1. Immediately we see His goodness emerge because when the Lord is our shepherd the journey always leads us to a place of satisfaction where our wants cease and joy is multiplied.
We asked last week if this is true of you-could this be true of you? What would stand in the way of this being true of your life? And the answer is rather obvious-your wants. When you zero in and focus on all your endless wants they leave you in that dismal place of dissatisfaction. Ahh-the land of dissatisfaction. Who loves living there? There’s a reason that DisneyWorld has Frontierland and Tomorrowland and Adventureland-not Dissatisfaction Land. I suppose the main character would be Eeyore that depressed blue donkey-but isn’t that where many of us often live? Continually dissatisfied and disappointed in life-thinking and dreaming about all the things we don’t have. If we’re honest with ourselves-we might rewrite this opening verse-The Lord is my Shepherd-I don’t doubt that-but I’ve got plenty of wants in life- plenty of things I’m after. It takes faith in the Lord to say what David’s written here-faith in our Shepherd to say I shall not want-because I trust where you are leading me. And look where that is as the journey continues in the next verse-Ps 23:2. Isn’t that great? It’s exactly where we want to be. Nobody wants to go to places of brown, dead grass and stagnant, polluted water-like a dry desert or a stinky swamp. Green pastures and still waters are the goal-especially for a shepherd with a flock of hungry, thirsty, tired sheep. Because this is what describes peace and provision, it’s that place of abundance and contentment, that place of rest and refreshment. It’s the very place we want to be, but unfortunately don’t often experience. And yet this is where our Shepherd is taking us-if we’ll be led there. That’s the big question we’ll be exploring
So let me start by asking-when was the last time you laid down outside-and even feel asleep outside? This is the what this image communicates-sheep lying down in a lush, green pasture to sleep-when was the last time you did that? Maybe it’s been awhile but with spring here and the weather warming up you’ll soon have that opportunity. That’s the homework this week-take a nap outside! But there’s something great about resting outside isn’t there? The warm sun is on your face, maybe there’s a slight breeze blowing, the birds are chirping overhead, everything is peaceful and still. Maybe you’ve fallen asleep on your patio or lawn chair out back or I’m sure we’ve all fallen asleep on a blanket at the beach. I can remember year ago when Monica and I would go to Hyde Park in London-sort of the equivalent to Central Park-and we’d bring a blanket and a picnic lunch for the day-and if Jacob fell asleep in his stroller-then there was a good chance we were falling asleep on the blanket. But Hyde Park was a sprawling expanse of green grass dotted with people resting and having picnics-and that’s what David is describing here in Psalm 23. Now later on in this series we’ll encounter some of the dark valleys that we go through in life-but don’t miss the fact that here in verse 2 God’s desire isn’t to take us to hard, difficult, stressful places-but instead He’s taking us to places of rest and refreshment. The thing about a nap outside is that generally in that moment you don’t have a care in the world-you’re perfectly at peace. And that’s what God desires in our lives-to bring us to that place where we can lie down and rest-not because we don’t have a care in the world-we often have lots of cares weighing on us-but because we’ve turned all those cares over to Him. That’s the difference.
So when was the last time you rested peacefully in Christ? Maybe you can’t remember that anymore then you can remember taking a nap outside. You’ve been in go-mode for so long you don’t remember when you stopped to rest. But did you catch what the verse said? Look back at Ps 23:2. And I don’t know about you-but I need the Lord making me lie down-because all too often I’m trying to keep going in my own strength and do things through my own efforts until I’m running on fumes with nothing in the tank. I came across one writer this week who said it well-Sheep don’t lie down easily. It is almost impossible for them to be made to lie down unless four requirements are met. Owing to their timidity they refuse to lie down unless they are free of all fear. Fear, friction, flies and famine. Sheep must be free from each of these to be content-and only the shepherd can provide the trust, peace, deliverance and pasture needed to free the sheep from them. And it is no different for us-except for maybe the flies-hopefully we’re not swarmed by a bunch of flies! But how often are we consumed with fear, friction and famine. We’re nervous and scared about all sorts of things in life, we’re fighting and caught in conflict with others, and we feel that lack and famine-back to all those wants we’re demanding. And what we need most desperately is for the Lord to make us lie down and rest in Him! So Pt1:How do I lie down in green pastures? By completely trusting in my Shepherd’s goodness. And that word completely is what’s so important. As believers, we’re willing to say we trust in the Lord. That’s how we become a believer in the first place-by trusting in Him to save us. But how many of us are willing to trust the Lord completely with every aspect of life-not just our salvation? How many of us are willing to trust the Lord with all the day-by-day anxieties and worries that crop up? Trusting the Lord is where our Christian journey begins-but it becomes a lifestyle of trusting Him every step of the way with everything we face-especially the fears, friction and famine. Look at what Peter says-1 Pet 5:6-7 NIV. It takes trust to do that-to cast all our cares on Him-to say Lord, all those things that would normally stress me out and make me nervous and scared-I hand them over to you. They’re no longer my burdens-instead I’m resting in you-trusting in your perfect will-that you will work everything out in your timing that’s always best. What did Jesus Himself say-John 14:27. Jesus isn’t just trying to say something nice-as if these are comforting words you’d put on a greeting card. He’s speaking the truth. When He tells our hearts to not be troubled or afraid He means it.
I’ve quoted from the Jesus Storybook Bible before-one of my favorite translations-but the way it captures this thought from Psalm 23 is great-Storybook Bible, 132. How peaceful is that? If you went hiking this afternoon and came upon a meadow of soft, green grass with a little stream next to it that would be a perfect place to stop for a break-or to take that outdoor nap! But what if that really did describe your heart? What if it was as peaceful and still as that? What if all the anxieties and worries that shout so loudly were silenced? Can they be silenced? Once again that’s the image the verse is suggesting-Ps 23:2. God doesn’t lead us to loud, confusing, chaotic places-that’s often where the world leads us. God brings us to stillness and silence. Look at Ps 46:10-11. The verse doesn’t say shout loudly because I’m God. Of course there’s plenty of times for loud singing and shouts of praise-but in this case our hearts can be still because of knowing who our God is. That you can rest quietly in His presence not clamoring for His attention or complaining about your situation. What is it that Moms probably hear most in life? Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom…! Kids are always trying to get their Mom’s attention-right then, right in the moment. And how do Moms usually respond? Yes dear-please say my name 12 more times, I didn’t hear it the first time. No-Moms say-Yes I heard you-but wait a moment and I’ll be right there-you’ll be fine. Kids can be still-not shouting, not freaking out-because Mom’s got it-she’ll take care of it, she’s in control. And it’s the same with our good Shepherd-even more so. He’s totally got it. So Pt2:How do I silence all my anxieties and fear? By confidently knowing that my Shepherd knows where He’s going. You know that He knows! That’s what silences all your fears.
As your Shepherd, God’s not lost. He’s not wandering around the wilderness searching for green pastures and still waters trying to remember where they are. He’s not making this up as He goes. He knows exactly where He’s going. He knows exactly what’s up ahead. He knows what’s around the next bend and over the next hill. He’e completely and totally in control. Be still and know-what? Know that I am God-and because of that-that He-your good Shepherd is the eternal God of the universe-there’s nothing to fear. You can be still because your God is busy at work. Nothing’s going to catch Him by surprise. All that happens to you He’s already known about long ago. In fact, He’s sovereignly in control-having already written the story of your life. What does it say in Ps 139:16 NIV. Your heart can be perfectly still knowing that. God doesn’t write bad books! He doesn’t. The story of your life isn’t a stinker-or one of God’s books that didn’t make the best seller list. Yeah-I didn’t know what I was doing when I wrote your story. That guy’s story was great-the ending was fantastic. Her story over there was good too, so moving-but sorry about your story-definitely not my best book. No-your story is the one God has uniquely and perfectly written for you-and all that happens is orchestrated according to His good purposes.
Back to Pt2. The question becomes how often do you forget that. How often do you lose sight of that fact-even though God never loses sight of where He’s going? But we look at our lives and the things that have happened to us-and we question His good purposes. Instead of our lives being like the Dr Seuss book-Oh the Places You’ll Go-we think of all the places we wanted to go but never did, or the dreams we had that never materialized, or the pain we experienced that we never asked for-and we start to think God doesn’t know what He’s doing or where He’s going. We worry that our good Shepherd’s plans aren’t too good. Or that He’s lost the plot somewhere or gotten distracted with other sheep and forgotten about us. We start stressing out instead of being still-and when we do that the result is usually to take matters into our own hands and go where we want to go. A heart that is still is a heart that’s led. A heart that isn’t still is a heart that’s trying to lead. Big difference-Ps 23:2. Is He leading you? Or are you leading yourself?
That’s Pt3:How do I arrive at still waters? By humbly allowing my Shepherd to lead me there (not insisting that I know the way). This whole concept of being led is a lot like the concept of trust from earlier. We say we want the Lord to lead us, just like we say we trust the Lord-but when the Lord starts to do things we don’t like or bring us places we’re not sure about-then we don’t want the Lord to lead uses much, then we don’t want to trust Him-instead we’ll take over ourselves. It’s easy to do. We so quickly want to take charge. But we have to remember that the Lord knows where the still waters are. He’s the one who orchestrates events and knows how to bring us there in life-so if we allow Him to lead us we’ll get there. That’s what He’s promising in Psalm 23-we’ll drink from and savor the still waters if we let Him lead us. The problem is when we think we know best how to get there ourselves. How many times have you taken matters into your own hands, insisted on your own way, said-I’m doing this and no one’s stopping me-only to hit lots of roadblocks and frustration saying-how did I end up here? Have you said that before-I’m sure we all have-How did I end up here-in this place-surrounded by all this conflict and chaos? This isn’t what I wanted! I had it all planned out-it wasn’t supposed to go this way! Lord, what happened? And the answer is that instead of being led by your good Shepherd, you tried to do the leading and get there yourself-and it turned out to be anything but still waters.
The Lord is promising us in Psalm 23 that by following Him it will lead to still waters. The road might not be easy, the journey might be difficult, it will require laying down your will and trusting Him-but in the end that’s where He leading you-Ps 23:2. Do you believe that? Or do you still think you know the way to the still waters? And if only God would get on board with your plans and agree to your timetable you’ll get there a whole lot faster! That’s what we think, don’t we? Lord, I know what I’m doing so if you just follow me this will work out great! And it shows up in our prayer life. How many times have you prayed-Lord, bless these plans I’ve made. Lord, I’ve got this all figured out-so put your hand of blessing on it and let it run smoothly. Have you prayed something like that? I’m sure we all have-where we’ve already made up our minds and we just want God’s stamp of approval-for Him to get on board with what we’ve already decided. But that’s not what it means to be led. A sheep doesn’t dictate his plans to the Shepherd-The other sheep and I were talking and there’s some nice water over that next hill, if you could get us started first thing in the morning, we should get there by lunch-thanks! No-the Shepherd leads the sheep, not the other way around! Back to Pt3. That means our prayers need to become-Lord guide me, I want you to lead me. I want to go where you’re calling me to go, I want to be who you’re calling me to be. Lord, use me for your kingdom. What would happen if you prayed that way? What keeps you from praying that way? Are you afraid that if you pray-Lord, lead me-it won’t bring you to still waters? I think that’s the big question we all wrestle with. If I trust the Lord completely, if I go where He tells me to go it won’t be good at all. I still need to insist on my way. That’s the heart of the problem. That’s where sin first emerged in the garden. What was the serpent saying to Adam and Eve-You can’t trust that God has your best interest at heart. He doesn’t know what’s good for you-you do. You know what you want-He’s holding out on you. Go eat that fruit! And when they did it led them to suffering not stillness-as sin always does. And we still fight that same battle in our hearts today. Will God really lead me to green pastures and still waters-will He really take me there-or do I need to get there myself? Who will you follow-you or your good Shepherd? But the still waters are only reached through Him. Because listen to what our Shepherd says-John 6:35. Do you believe that? That’s a shepherd who knows what we need and where those still waters are!
And I want to end with some very practical examples of still waters-and we put them in the bulletin: peace with others instead of endless conflict, forgiveness instead of constant bitterness, joy in Jesus instead of joy in my circumstances, time in God’s Word instead of endlessly scrolling on my phone, deferring to others instead of demanding from others, patience instead of immediately demanding everything. And there’s lots of others things too-but what if that was true of your life? What if that was a snapshot of your normal day? Talk about the joy and peace you’d experience! This is exactly where Jesus wants to lead you when you come to Him. Look at one last verse-Matt 11:28-30. Isn’t that exactly what we need-rest for our souls? And our Shepherd promises to do that when we come to Him and follow Him. So will you do that? Will you take that step of faith by saying Lord, lead me. I’m weary and burdened from trying to lead myself. I want you to lead me to those still waters my soul needs. And when you pray that way, your good Shepherd will lead you there. As we said at the start-it’s that place where your wants cease and your joy is multiplied in Jesus.