In the past, I’ve shared audio links to several of my sermons. I thought I’d share the manuscript to one of them – Psalm 23. This was for a Sunday am service at an assisted living facility. It is about 2,200 words – long for a blog post! But it is only about a 15-20 minute sermon.

Update: I preached this message from 2017 again in 2021, and this time I got an audio recording. Here it is: AUDIO.

Psalm 23. This beloved Psalm is appreciated all over the world. It has touched, inspired, and comforted many people. And it transcends time. It’s a bit startling to think about the fact that this Psalm was written about 3,000 years ago, and in the year 2017 we are still familiar with it.

It’s a Psalm of trust, contentment, and comfort.

Despite its popularity, this Psalm is not for everyone. It begins “The Lord is my Shepherd.” Note the personal pronoun MY. It is one thing to say that the Lord is a Shepherd. It is another thing to say the Lord is my Shepherd.  Is the Lord your Shepherd? Unless you can say the Lord is my Shepherd, this Psalm is not for you.

This Psalm prophetically speaks of Jesus. The “LORD” in Psalm 23 is YHWH or Jehovah. In the New Testament, YHWH walked among us as the 2nd person of the Trinity – the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember we worship the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Jesus identified himself as the “Good Shepherd” in John chapter 10. Jesus said in verse 11: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

And further said in verses 27-28: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

Jesus died for everyone. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” and it continues “that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Whoever – That means you, that means me, that means everyone. No one is excluded from God’s great salvation.

While it is true that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, died for all – it is only those who actually receive Him by a definite act of faith who are his sheep. We must believe. We must turn from our sin. We must admit our need of a Savior. And place our faith or trust in the Good Shepherd Jesus.

He gave his life for us on the cross of Calvary so that our sin can be forgiven, and we can have a relationship with God. But it didn’t end at the cross. Jesus conquered death, and returned to life 3 days later. A dead savior would not be a savior. Jesus is alive!

Can you remember when you were a lost sheep and you were found by the Good Shepherd Jesus? Can you say “The Lord is MY Shepherd”?  I trust that you can. If you are uncertain that the Lord is your Shepherd, please come talk to me after the service. I’d love to take a Bible and show you God’s plan of salvation and help you place your faith in the Good Shepherd.

If the Lord is your Shepherd, this Psalm is for you. David wrote this Psalm and because the Lord was David’s Shepherd, his needs were met. “I shall not want”

This is a Psalm of contentment. Too often in life, I think we confuse our needs and wants. Need and wants are 2 different things. Or we are striving. But often when we get what we wanted or achieve what we were striving towards, we still can’t rest. We still aren’t content. There is always “one more thing” dangling in front of us – promising us that elusive satisfaction. We are permanently restless and dissatisfied.

“I’ll be happy when I graduate from school and get a job”

But when we get a job, sometimes all we look forward to is the weekend or retirement.

“I’ll be so happy when I can retire.”

But then we retire, and we are bored and we miss working.

Left to ourselves, we will always be restless. We are trying to fill a need that only God can satisfy. An important man in the early church, Augustine, said:

“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they can find their rest in you.”

Even if we have trusted Christ as our Savior, and we can say “The Lord is my Shepherd” – we can still look for satisfaction outside of our Shepherd. We seek satisfaction in the wrong things.

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

Jesus said in Matthew 11:28 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

But can we rest? We live in a busy age. There seems to be an epidemic of busyness out there. Certain stages of life are legitimately busier than others, but almost everyone seems busy today.

But even if we are not busy, we can still fail to rest. We can be distracted by things that don’t matter. We can spin our wheels, consumed with aimless things. Some people are heavy laden, and don’t even realize it.

We need to trust our Shepherd and follow him to the green pastures and still waters. It is there that he restores or refreshes our souls. As our bodies need physical nourishment, our souls need spiritual nourishment. Some of us are spiritually malnourished, even starving.

Jesus said in John 6:35 “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Jesus sustains our souls. We must spend time with our Shepherd. Hebrews 12:2 tells to “look to Jesus” because he is the author and finisher of our faith.

When we spend time in the green pastures and by the still waters with our Shepherd, we can learn to be content no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in life. “I shall not want.”

And we learn about Jesus in the Bible. First Peter 2:2 compares the Bible to milk for a newborn baby. An infant needs milk to grow, and as Christians we need the Bible to grow spiritually and to be lead in the paths of righteousness – as Psalm 23 words it.

When we get older, reading the Bible can get harder. I’m in middle age and need reading glasses now. Sometimes our vision gets even worse, and we need large print. But we can listen to the Bible. If your vision makes Bible reading difficult, let me know after the service. I’d love to come by during the week and read the Bible to you, and visit with you.

“He leads me in the paths of righteousness, For His name’s sake.”  One version says “for the sake of his reputation.”

Philippians 1:27 says that our conduct should be worthy of the gospel of Christ. Our behavior should honor our Savior. We want to make God look like the good Shepherd, not a bad shepherd.

Goodness, however, is ultimately a job for God. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. Our being good does require discipline and effort, but our efforts must be focused on Jesus.  Remember that Jesus said “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”  – As we follow Jesus, listen to Jesus, rely on Jesus – His good character begins to rub off on us and he guides us on the path of life.

Self effort is not the source of our righteousness.

God is the source of our righteousness.

The apostle Paul proclaimed in Philippians 3:9 that he wanted to be found in Christ, “not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.”

Remember the old hymn, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.” Don’t build your hope on the wrong thing. Your goodness will always fall short. Romans 3:23 says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  You can’t be good enough, and that is precisely why Jesus came for us.

No one is really good, until they realize how bad they are – and realize they need a Savior and look to Christ.

The Psalm continues:  “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.”

The valley of the shadow of death is often associated with the end of life, but in Pilgrims Progress, John Bunyan places it in the middle. I think he got that right. Recent translations are wording it “Even though I walk through the darkest valley.” It can refer to any distressing time in our life. As we go through life, we will experience shadows and dark valleys.

Your boss says “Clean out your desk, you’re fired.”

The doctor says “You have cancer.”

Your spouse says “I’m leaving you for someone else.”

Hard times are a fact of life. Jesus said in John 16:33: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Note that the Psalm says that we walk through the valley. Through.

The valley does not go on forever. If there is shadow, that means there is light. Just because you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t mean it is not there. Keep going.

We were recently in another country and we drove through an underground tunnel that we thought would never end. It is one of the longest tunnels in the world, at about 3 and ½ miles. We did not know this ahead of time. And we got nervous in the tunnel, and felt relieved, when we finally drove out of the tunnel into the light of day.

It is interesting that the grammar of Psalm 23 changes at this point. David has been speaking about God in the 3rd person – God is “he”  – He makes me lie down in green pastures. He restores my soul.

But in the valley or tunnel, David speaks to God. It becomes: “I will fear no evil; For You are with me.” The wording becomes more intimate. The shepherd is no longer up there, ahead, leading the sheep – but right alongside of David.

In times of need, companionship is good. God’s presence was David’s comfort. Remember that God is there, even in difficult situations.

Remember that Jesus, our Good Shepherd, suffered too. He knows what it is like to be in a dark valley. Trust him, and he will bring you through it.

David said “Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”  Ancient shepherds used their rod and staff to rescue, guide, and protect the sheep. Likewise, the Good Shepherd cares for us, as he guides us through the dark valleys of life.

The Psalm continues: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.”

Isn’t it interesting that this table is spread in the presence of the enemy? We might think that the table would be spread after the enemy has been conquered. We spread a table in celebration that the enemy is no longer there. But God prepares a table for us in the very presence of the enemy.

We can have peace in the midst of a storm. The word “table” here is synonymous with “feast.” One version says “My cup overflows with blessings.” And it is God who has prepared this for us. We have a God who serves. Jesus came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life for us. Our cup surely overflows.

Psalm 23 ends…“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

One day we will reach the dark valley that leads to our death. The Bible calls death the last enemy. The last one. We don’t know when we will die. Life is uncertain. People die at all ages. Even as Christians, we may naturally have a certain foreboding about the suffering that can accompany death.

But God will be with us, and we can remember that Jesus conquered death for us.  If you can say “The Lord is my Shepherd”, your eternity is certain and secure.

Jesus said in John 11:25: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”

Although we die, it ushers our soul into the presence of our Savior. And one future day, at the final resurrection, our bodies will be reunited with our souls. We shall live again – with glorified bodies, not these old, worn out ones – on the new heaven and new earth for all eternity. We will dwell with God forever.

No matter what difficulties we face in life, we have hope now, and a secure future through Jesus our Good Shepherd.

**I used a stack of books preparing this sermon. I am too lazy to list them now, but can add them in the future!