Psalm 23 – Part 6
As I mentioned last Sunday was our 23rd anniversary-we went out to dinner, had a delicious meal-and had hoped to then drive to beach and watch the sunset afterwards. We can all remember last weekend and the beautiful weather we didn’t get to enjoy. So we drove out to West Neck beach anyway-and enjoyed grey clouds! And obviously you can only stare at grey clouds and overcast sky for so long-so we then proceeded to drive around some of the side roads in Lloyd Harbor and look at the houses. Wow-they are incredible! Some of these houses are at the end of long, winding driveways, nestled in the trees, overlooking the water. There’s one massive house with a literal tower-who wouldn’t want that for their bedroom! And there’s another old house that just keeps going and going in all these corridors and sections. I think there’s definitely a way into Narnia or a magical wardrobe there! But there’s not a bad house in Lloyd Harbor-some are old, some are new, but all are amazing! So after we finished our house tour-and repented of coveting-we had the conversation about dream homes. What is your dream home? Maybe it would be Lloyd Harbor, maybe out East or in the city or along the beach in Florida? If there was one type of house you could live in-and money was no object-what would it be? Would you live in a sprawling mansion with your own personal tower? Tons of bedrooms, the home theater room, maybe even the indoor pool-pic? Or would you opt for the small cottage on a quaint street-pic? Or who would go with the beachfront house-go right out your door and hit the water-pic? Or who would go with the awesome urban loft or brownstone in the city-pic? Maybe the dream house for you is right in the middle of the action where everybody wants to be-all the hustle and bustle is around you-step out your front door and all sorts of adventures await. Or maybe your dream house is far away from the action, not even close to civilization where you can enjoy the peace and quiet of being surrounded by nature-pic. And maybe your dream is a lakefront house or a little cabin in the woods-pic. But when it comes to dream homes-yes it’s the the wow factor-either really big or really cozy or somewhere really amazing-but it’s also about being at home. The place where you feel comfortable and belong, the place you can relax and unwind and be yourself. And so maybe for you-your dream house would be similar to the house you grew up in. That it might not be big or fancy or have any sort of wow factor-but it was your house-it was what you knew because it was where you belonged. As Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz-there’s no place like home. And that’s what we’ll be talking about this morning-home. As we come to the end of Ps 23 this journey of God’s goodness ultimately leads us home-but that home-our future home-is His home. And it is the dream house we’ve all been waiting for!
So as we look back on where we’ve been, we see that this journey begins by recognizing the one who’s leading us-Ps 23:1-3. Right from the outset of this Psalm we don’t have to worry where we’re going because we know the One who’s taking us there-and that’s our Good Shepherd! The Lord isn’t just the expert trail guide who knows every twist and turn and has hiked these paths so many times He could do it with His eyes closed. He certainly does know the path well-but that’s because He’s the very One who made the path, He’s writing our story, He’s the author of our faith, the One who’s completely in control-and doesn’t just hope we’ll get to green pastures and still waters-but the One who says we will get there as we follow Him. And yet we’ve seen in the last few weeks all the twists and turns that do lie ahead-Ps 23:4. Once again it’s not about where but about who. You don’t have to fear or be consumed by worry even when you’re in the valley of the shadow of death-and it’s not because you’ve become more courageous or told yourself these places aren’t scary. They are scary, they are intimidating-but you you don’t have to collapse in fear when you’re there because of who is with you. You are with me, your rod and your staff they comfort me. The Lord has all the tools and ability and resources to to protect you and guide you. He is completely trustworthy and reliable and always present and there with you even in the darkest of places. And in fact, we mentioned how last week, the Lord takes the valley of the shadow of death, He takes those scary, barren, intimidating places and turns them into a feast, into a place of provision and blessing and grace-Ps 23:5. Just think about that for a minute-having come through the valley of the shadow of death, having endured that hard, difficult, trying time in life, then standing there in the presence of your enemies-you would just be glad to be alive! You’d be happy to have survived all that and made it through standing on two feet still breathing. But the Psalm doesn’t say that! It doesn’t say you’re on your last leg, completely exhausted and wiped out, running on fumes, nothing left in the tank, you barely made it. It says your cup overflows! That on the heels of difficulties, in the midst of struggles, in the valley of the shadow of death-where that looming shadow is saying you won’t survive this, you won’t get through this situation, this time you’re done for, you’re not getting out of this one-that even there your cup overflows with joy and peace and blessing because of your Good Shepherd who prepares a table for you, who blesses you and provides you with all that you need to go where He’s leading you. Do you believe that? Is your cup overflowing-not because of your circumstances, but because of your Shepherd who’s always with you? And because He’s with you listen to what you can confidently and joyously proclaim-Ps 23:6. That’s our key verse.
And I want to start with that first phrase-surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. Earlier in this series we mentioned how it’s far more easier to see God’s goodness in hindsight than it is in the present. To see God’s goodness in the rearview mirror instead of through the windshield looking ahead. That when we look back on our lives we clearly see how God was with us, how He guided us, that what we thought was good really wasn’t and we’re so glad that God knew what He was doing because His plans did work out for our good. We can definitely look back and see that He’s good. His goodness emerges in the past. The challenge is if we’re able to look at what God is doing in the present, the way He’s working in our lives right now, and say that it’s good. I have no problem seeing how God’s goodness has been with me in the past-of course it has-but the question is about today. Is God doing good in my life right now? Are the things happening to me-all that I’m going through-accomplishing His goodness? And if you’re honest, you might say-I don’t know. The stuff I’m going through is tough right now. This isn’t what I would choose-this isn’t the place I expected to find myself. Not sure this is good at all. If you were in my shoes-I think you’d agree this is bad! And so this concept of God’s goodness is a hard one to wrestle with. And when we look at this verse, I think the two words we struggle with most are surely and all. Now surely means definitely, certainly, without a doubt, absolutely. We would say-Of course, without a doubt goodness and mercy shall follow me. There’s not a question about it-by following the Lord goodness and mercy will definitely follow me. Can you say that with such confidence? Especially when you add in the other phrase-all the days of my life. That really becomes the challenge! It didn’t say some of the days of your life or certain days of your life, or days when God’s in a good mood and you’ve made Him happy. It says all the days of my life. This phrase is such an incredible truth-but it’s also an incredible statement of faith-to recognize that without a doubt, no question, God’s goodness surrounds you and guides you all day, every day-even today! Do you believe that? To make this statement of faith we need to examine what goodness really means. How do you define God’s goodness?
To do that we need to understand what His goodness isn’t. Ask yourself that question a moment-what does God’s goodness not include? Obviously sin and wrongdoing. Those things are never a part of God’s goodness. Too often we can somehow think that we know what’s good for us-and we’ll try to obtain it at any cost-including lying, cheating, stealing, and manipulating to get it. But that’s never God’s plan-the end never justifies the means-no matter how good the end might be. The right thing obtained the wrong way never works-no matter how much we hope it might or how good we think it will be. Doing something wrong to achieve something good is never the way God wants us to proceed-especially when we try to rationalize it. No one will notice if I steal a little money here-but I’m using it to bless those people over there. No big deal if I need to be dishonest and lie about this but I’m trying to protect their feelings and spare their pain. That’s not a good thing. God’s goodness never includes sin and wrongdoing.
But what else does God’s goodness not include? And we might say pain, suffering, hardships, trails, difficulties. We don’t like those things so they must not be a part of God’s goodness. But take a look at how Paul wrestled with this in a very real way-2 Cor 12:7. God had revealed incredible truths to Paul about the gospel and our eternal home with the Lord-but He also gave Paul a thorn in his side-and I’m sure we’ve all had thorns in our sides too-whether physical, spiritual, emotional. And what did Paul do about it-2 Cor 12:8. And wouldn’t we all do the same-because how in the world could a thorn in the flesh be a part of God’s goodness? How could a constant, nagging, irritating, ongoing pain be a part of His good plan? Surely it’s not! But listen to the Lord’s response-2 Cor 12:9. Paul is recognizing that God’s goodness emerges in our weakness. Have you ever thought about that? Pain and hardship, while not necessarily good in and of themselves, do bring about God’s goodness when we rely upon Him and the strength He gives us. And notice how Paul didn’t do the wrong thing of taking matters into his own hands and removing the thorn! Paul didn’t do a little homemade, do-it-yourself surgery-and extract this thorn-which I’m sure we would all be tempted to do. Fine Lord, if you’re not going to take it out then I will! Instead Paul was someone who trusted the Lord, relied upon the Lord, and knew without a doubt that God’s goodness would follow him all the days of his life-even with the thorn still there. So look at-2 Cor 12:10. God’s goodness didn’t include the absence of those things-instead God’s goodness was all about the growth and transformation that happens from those things. And it’s the same in our lives. The evidence of God’s goodness isn’t that your life is pain-free and easy, rather the evidence of God’s goodness is how He’s transforming you through them pain and difficulties to trust Him more. So Pt1:God’s goodness: isn’t our perpetual happiness, but our ongoing transformation in holiness. This is so crucial to understand. God’s goodness goes far deeper and has a much longer trajectory than just your happiness right now in the moment. Yes, God cares about you in the moment, but He’s ultimately concerned about where you’re going and who you’re becoming. Listen to Craig Groeschel-Christian Atheist, 165. And in one way or another isn’t that what we’re chasing after-or try to structure our lives around? If I can just achieve uninterrupted happiness than I’ll be…happy! That’s not God’s goal. That’s not what God’s goodness is about. That doesn’t mean God is out to spoil our fun-instead God wants to ultimately increase our fun and multiply our happiness a thousandfold by turning it into the joy of Christ as we are transformed to be like Christ.
From God’s perspective happiness is really thin. Anybody remember those days of elementary school science where you learned about the layers of the earth-here’s a pic. And it’s always surprising to realize that the crust, the upper level that we live on is really thin-that’s like our happiness-this thin layer with little depth to it. And meanwhile the inner mantle and core of the earth that goes all the way to the center is like our joy that burns deeply within the core of our hearts. So how foolish would we be to ignore that core and only be concerned with the thin layer of happiness on top? But that’s how so many of live our lives-only worried about our momentary happiness and how it can be perpetuated, when all the while God wants to transform the core of our hearts, the depth of who we are, to be made holy like Christ.
Take a look at another passage from Paul in talking about God’s goodness-Rom 8:28. Paul is saying the same thing that David is saying in Psalm 23-that God works all things together for good, that God’s goodness follows us all the days of our lives-and what’s the goal? Where is this journey leading us? God isn’t just sprinkling good things into our lives so that we can be happy-He’s doing it for a reason-it’s that purpose for which we’ve been called-and he explains it in the next verse-Rom 8:29. God’s goodness leads to our transformation of being made like His Son! And there is no better or higher or greater purpose in all the universe than that! God’s goal for us is the ultimate goodness of being made like the One who is goodness and defines goodness. That’s the journey you’re on as a follower of Christ. It’s not about perpetual happiness but an ongoing transformation of holiness! The question is if you’ll surrender your heart and let it happen. Will you allow yourself to be conformed to Christ? Because if you do-it’s a daily reality!
Back to our verse-Ps 23:6a. While you and I may take some days off on our spiritual journey. While we may hit the pause button or try to put it on hold the Lord doesn’t. And how good is that! How great that while we’re the ones who need God’s goodness in our lives and foolishly run from it-He doesn’t run from us! So Pt2:God’s goodness: never stops, but is constantly at work in our lives. You and I may question that-we may wonder where God’s at and how His goodness is at work-but it’s not because He isn’t there. His goodness follows us and is transforming us all the days of our life! God never stops watching over us, guiding us, or directing us.
This past week Monica and I watched an incredible documentary on Netflix called My Octopus Teacher-pic. And if you’ve never seen it I really encourage you to watch it-but it’s about a guy who befriends an octopus! Certainly an odd friendship-I’m not sure too many of us have octopus friends anybody? But after watching this I wish I had an octopus friend! But this guy commits himself to diving into the water and observing this octopus every day for a year! He doesn’t take a day off! No matter if the water’s cold-and he says it is-sometimes down to 50 degrees! Imagine swimming in 50 degree water-but this guy does because he’s so committed to this octopus and watching over it. Now we might say that’s a crazy obsession watching an octopus everyday-but the documentary is powerful and you’ll understand why. But that’s how the Lord acts over us-and not just watching us every day for a year-but every day of all our years, all the days of our life! As this guy is underwater with his goggles on observing the highs and lows and trials of octopus life-and it’s a difficult life-I never understood all that an octopus goes through! So our God is watching over us-and not just watching-but actively involved, shaping us, molding us, transforming us to be made like him. This guy just watched the lifecycle of an octopus and there wasn’t much else he could do, our God watches over us for the purpose of making us more and more like Him! And what does it say back in Rom 8:31, 35-37. God’s purposes, God’s plan for your life, God’s goodness will never stop or be thwarted. He is faithfully, constantly, always at work in your life. No matter if it’s in the dry seasons, the hard times, the valley of the shadow of death-God has committed himself to watch over you every single day of your life. He puts on his goggles and dives into the cold water to be where you are! Back to Pt2. And because of that you and I have to let Him use each day to transform us. If God doesn’t take a day off-then why should we? Why should we put our spiritual lives on hold if God doesn’t? But we do, don’t we? We try to keep God at a distance, confine Him to our schedule, lead us the way we want Him to when it works with us. But that’s not who God is-He’s our God! He’s the One who’s made us, created us, called us, and is transforming us-for what purpose?
To be made like His Son-to be made like Christ-in order to go where? Back to Ps 23:6. To live in His house forever and ever and ever! There’s a moment in the octopus documentary where that octopus leaps out of the water and walks (crawls, wiggles, shimmies?) Up above on the land! And you’re amazed! Can an octopus do that? Remarkably yes-but only for a short bit-and the nit’s back to the water where the octopus is confined and belongs. But our God is transforming us-you and me and all who’ve trusted in Christ-because one day we won’t be confined to the water anymore. One day we won’t be confined to our existence in this world-because as a child of God we’re not meant for this world. As someone saved and transformed by His Son we don’t belong to the this world anymore-instead we belong up above, on the dry land, in the house of the Lord forever! I go back to the words from Craig Groeschel-Christian Atheist, 173. Where were we made to live, where is every follower of Christ made to live-not here-but in the house of the Lord forever! So Pt3:God’s goodness: doesn’t stop here, but leads us home in His presence forever. And I don’t know about you-but I can hardly imagine that! What will it be like to be in the Lord’s house-His home which has become our home forever and ever? Just think about your dream house for a moment. No matter how great, how elaborate, how fancy or how cozy, it will feel like a tent compared to God’s house. Again-we’re like an octopus underwater in a forest of kelp and God has the whole planet in store for us, the entire universe! And what we thought was the place that contained all our happiness is like a little pool of water compared to the world of His goodness that awaits us!
Have you ever asked yourself-Where will I end up in life? Will I ever get that dream home I’ve always wanted? Will I even achieve my dreams? Reach my potential? Find all that I’m looking for in this world? No! Absolutely not-we aren’t going to be perpetually happy in this world, because we’re not meant for this world! And that’s a good thing! We were meant for the joy and the wonder and the blessing of being in the Lord’s house, our Creator’s house, our Savior’s house-forever! And what is that like? We can only imagine! We read last week from Ps 16:11. That’s what the Lord’s house is like! Or what did Jesus say-John 14:2-3. My Father has an amazing place! It’s awesome-and guess what-I want you guys to be with me. Not just see it and get the tour-but live there, with me, forever! This is your destiny as a child of God, this is where the journey of His goodness leads you-the dream home we’ve all been waiting for that will one day become a reality, the house that will one day become our address. Think about that-your address will not be whatever street, whatever town, NY. Your address will be God’s address! That where the journey ends! But it begins in only one place-John 14:5-6. It begins with Jesus! Putting your trust in the One who is good-the One who loves you-the One who came to this earth to die for you and save you. And that’s what brings us to communion this morning.
Psalm 23 – Part 6