Sermon Outline On Psalm 23:1-6Â (NRSV)
A Psalm of David.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff–
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
It was December 10, 1735 that John Wesley set out in the 250 ton flagship, “Simmonds,.” from England to America. He was headed for Georgia to be a missionary to the Indians. Little did he know when he left England that things would not work out in the ways he had planned. There were 112 colonists and 19 crew members on board. Twenty-six of the colonists were religious refugees from Germany. In the coming months John Benjamin Wesley, the father of Methodism, would be greatly affected by the faith of these Moravians.
On this two month long journey they would encounter three violent storms, the third would be the most violent of all. Wesley described the storm in this way, “The waves of the sea were mighty, and raged horribly. They rose up to the heavens above, and clave down to hell beneath.” The wind and waves battered the ship, and the people just knew that it would break up into a thousand pieces. “…the sea broke over, split the mainsail in pieces, covered the ship, and poured in between the decks, as if the great deep had already swallowed us up.” The English were screaming, while the Moravians, in the midst of worship, “looked up and without intermission calmly sang on.” Endnote
John Wesley at age six was plucked from the second floor of their burning Rectory (parsonage). He nearly burned to death at an early age. John Wesley knew trouble. John Wesley also knew about Divine intervention.
Psalm 23 is spoken by one who has known trouble or experienced life-threatening situations. David also experienced the protection of the Divine. He exudes confidence in God’s protection and invites us to DEEP TRUST.
A similar invitation is found in Matthew’s gospel.
“Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew 6:26
Elizabeth Cheney but it this way in a poem she named, ‘Overheard in an Orchard.’
Said the Robin to the Sparrow,
“I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and hurry so.”
Said the Sparrow to the Robin,
“Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no Heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me.” Endnote
The Lord is my shepherd. The shepherd is a herder of sheep. In ancient Israel, a King who actively intervened to protect and secure the poor and needy who lacked resources to guard their own lives’“that sort of King was called a shepherd. The shepherd can be the herder of sheep or the protecting and providing King.
Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd.” The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. Jesus also says, “I know my own & my own know me.” Sheep know the voice of their shepherd.
Shepherd – sheep. Sheep belong to the shepherd. The shepherd cares for HIS sheep.
I shall not want.
That word ‘want’ is an interesting word. When I hear that word, I think of need and desire, but these are the third and fourth definitions of that word ‘want’ according to Webster. The first definition: to have too little of, be deficient in, lack.
So when the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not have too little. I shall not be deficient in or lack for things. Notice! It is the shepherd who provides so that the sheep ‘shall not want.’ If the sheep ‘shall not want,’ it must therefore be the shepherd who decides what is needed. It is the shepherd who decides what is required so that there is no deficiency. The shepherd knows better than the sheep what will satisfy in the deepest way the desires of the sheep.
He makes me lie down in green pastures
He leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul
He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
The shepherd, king causes the sheep to have safe rest, causes the sheep to have adequate water, causes a restored vitality and causes the sheep to travel the safe path. The shepherd provides for the needs of the sheep. The shepherd provides protection for the sheep
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil; for you are with me;
your rod and your staff–they comfort me.
“I fear no evil; for you are with me.” The psalmist repeats with confidence the words God first spoke through the prophet Isaiah, “Do not fear, for I am with you.” Isa 43:5
Ann Jillian was filled with terror when she discovered an irregularity in her breast. She immediately imagined the worst. Cancer! As reported in Care Notes, she stopped by her church, numb and alarmed, on her way to her appointment with her doctor. She saw these words by St. Francis de Sales inscribed above the entrance:
The same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering, or He will give you strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.
Those words, which she had never noticed before, helped her tremendously.
“Up to that point,” she said, “everything was turbulent. Now I — released everything into God’s hands. Of course God wants to help me.”
The promise of Psalm 23, the promise of St. Francis de Sales is not an absences of troubles, pain, and sorrow. Rather the promise is the assurance that the Shepherd-King will walk through those valleys with us.
It offers us the promise of a God who is concerned for us. We have the confidence that our shepherd will get us to the other side. This Psalm invites us to trust deeply in the God who walks with us in the storms of life.
This Psalm invites us to that deep, deep trust we first learned as newborn infants in the arms of our mothers.