A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on June 21, 2015 by Pastor Dale Raether
Please visit our Synod’s website at www.wels.net
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me besides quiet waters, He restores my soul!
Psalm 23:2

Today is Father’s Day. If you can remember back this far, how did your father handle it when it was time for you to sleep, but you kept making noise in your bed? Did he ever come in and yell, “Stop playing and go to sleep!” I can remember wondering how my father knew I was playing. But what if you didn’t go to sleep after that? I can remember standing in a crib, watching my brother get a spanking and then I got one too. Anyway, for the rest of that night my brother and I were very quiet.

Jesus wants us to be quiet too, but not because He needs his sleep, so he can go to work in the morning. Jesus loves us and wants us to be quiet for our own sakes. Also He doesn’t want us worrying or whining about things. He want us to have such inner peace, that no matter what’s going on around us, we’re at rest in Him. On the basis of Psalm 23, verse 2, let’s find out how Jesus shepherds us, so that we do rest in him. 1. He makes us lie down in green pastures. 2. He leads us beside quiet waters. 3. He restores our soul.

1. He makes us lie down in green pastures.

Sheep do a lot of standing, because they’re too bugged or afraid to lie down. So, what bugs a sheep? Bugs do. They just hate it when flies buzz around their nose and eyes and ears. And so, a sheep will stand up and shake, or rush off into some brush trying to get away from them. But of course, when they do that, sheep risk scratching their face, and we’ll talk more about that in a later verse.

Another thing that bugs sheep is other sheep. One sheep will by contentedly eating grass or resting, and a grumpy old sheep will run up to it and butt it, and insist on having that blade of grass, or that spot to lie down on. And if the first sheep doesn’t immediately, move, there’ll be fight, until one of them runs away to the far side of the field. However, grumpy sheep aren’t the only critters, sheep have to be afraid of. Cougars, bears or wolves will sometimes grab a sheep, especially if there’s one standing off by itself. One more thing that keeps sheep from lying down is being really hungry. In fact being really hungry can cause sheep to ignore the flies, or to fight with other the sheep over some scrap of food, or to not pay any attention to predators sneaking up on it.

We can be like sheep. Things bug us. Sometimes it’s just an accumulation of a lot of little things. At other times it’s a really big thing hanging over us like a disease or bills we can’t pay, and we’d do anything to get away from it all. Other people can bug us too. They irritate us, and maybe we irritate them back, because they got it coming, or they have something we want and can’t have. And finally like sheep we are being stalked. The devil is doing everything he can to lead us into sin and then tear us apart with guilt. With all this going on, how can we rejoice in all that God has made for us? And how can we serve Him and others with clean hands and a pure heart? Psalm 24 answered that. The King of glory came to this earth to be our shepherd.

A shepherd takes care of his sheep. He’ll rub bug repellant and oils on their faces. Or, he’ll get his sheep into water to get rid of the ticks in their fleece. He’ll also carry a weapon at all times to kill or chase off whatever is stalking his sheep. The sheep can sense all this. As a result they won’t be afraid, and may lie down – not because their shepherd is forcing them to, but because they feel safe. But what about the sheep’s bickering and fighting with each other? How does a shepherd stop that? The shepherd will walk among his sheep, and they’ll look up at him, and soon as they do that, they automatically get off each other’s case.

The applications are obvious. Jesus is control of everything bad thing that’s happening in our life or might happen. Sometimes He allows it for a little while, though we don’t understand why, but He uses it to turn us away from a direction that’s bad for us, or to strengthen our faith, or to deepen our understanding, or to even lead a lost sheep closer to himself. We can count on these blessings, because of what our Good Shepherd has already done. He defeated the devil’s temptations, by letting Himself be tempted in our place. Then He let Himself be led to the cross, where He crushed Satan’s ability to consciences anymore.

Let’s think about this. All our irritations with other people come from taking our eyes off of Jesus and forgetting what He did for us. Granted, they may have forgotten too or never known it in the first place, and that’s why grumpy sheep. But their sins never justify our sins. And so, just as our Good Shepherd set his face to go to Jerusalem, knowing what the people there would do to Him there, let’s not let anything someone says or does turn us away from patience, and kindness and helpfulness. Rather, let’s fix our eyes on our Good Shepherd. Then without any guilt over our past, or fears for the present, or dread of the future, we will love all others, even as He loves us.


2. He leads us beside quiet waters.

That’s a pretty tall order, isn’t it. We might even say impossible for us, given how hard we’ve tried in the past, and failed. But this is why our Good Shepherd leads us beside quiet waters. Sometimes shepherds would have to lead their flock to a new watering hole, where the water there would be clean and fresh. However, along the way there might be mud puddles that sheep have walked through, and so that water might have sheep urine and poop in it. The shepherd doesn’t want his sheep drinking that water. It’d make them sick. But the sheep get other ideas. They’re thirsty. They think, “Hmm, water!” So, they stop walking and start drinking. The shepherd is watching for that, so he’ll tap him on the side, or he’s got his dog trained to keep them moving. Now, the sheep might think, “Our shepherd is being mean; he won’t even let us have a drink of water.” The shepherd isn’t being mean. He loves his sheep, and wants them to only have good water.

This is a story about people. Because of sin, there is an emptiness in all of us. There are also a lot of mud puddles everywhere. By mud puddles I mean Satan’s lies that God wants us to be happy, and if we think some particular sin will make us happy, it’s okay for us to stop and drink, because times have changed! We might also foolishly convince ourselves that the sin tastes good as it’s going down, but in the end it’ll make us infected. In our second reading this morning, Paul told us we will all stand before God, and we will be judged by how we lived our life. If a person lives his life standing in the mud puddles of sin, and drinking it in, and encouraging others to do the same, he will not go to heaven. On the other hand if we are drinking in the word, and trusting in it and doing what it says, and encouraging others to do the same, His coming again is something we look forward to.

Psalm 24, which we sang earlier, says the same thing. Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may attend in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, he will receive blessing from God his Savior. – Psalm 24:3-4 Because our Savior wants to bless us, He will tap us on the side with troubles, so that we stop drinking the mud. Another Psalm says, Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. – Psalm 32:10 So, are some of our woes we’re experiencing, because we drank the mud? Or, are more woes coming our way, and we’re just not aware of it yet, because we drank the mud? A scary thought! But now let’s look again at the second half of this verse. The Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him. Let’s stop drinking the mud and walk away from it. Then let’s trust our Good Shepherd for forgiveness! And whenever that old emptiness comes back, which is what got us drinking the mud in the first place, let’s wait on the Lord! He will bless us at the proper time. He will satisfy our souls through His Word and Sacrament. He will also bless us physically and give us contentment. As a result, our thirst for the Word will increase even more, and we will see the mud puddles for what they are.

3. He restores my soul

But now here comes the frustrating part. We know all these things, but we don’t always follow through. For example, our faith is tested, the Lord brings us through it and blesses fantastically; and then right away we start fearing the next thing. Or, we leave this house of worship in the peace of our forgiveness and we’re ready to love and serve others. But we lose it all as soon a a grumpy sheep comes along to irritate us. Or, we’re determined that this week we’re going to take time everyday for Word and prayer, and we’re going to be a shiny light for the people around us, but then we aren’t so much. All these examples are signs that our souls still need restoring. But here’s the good news! Seeing these signs in us knock it out of us that our righteousness gets us into heaven. Rather, let’s rest in the righteousness of our Good Shepherd, who defeated sin, death, and the devil, and is sitting at the right hand of God and ruling all things for us. As we keep looking to this, our souls are lifted up and restored again and again. And then we will make it our goal to please Him. And when that’s our soul’s desire, even more we’ll look forward to being with our Shepherd in heaven, because then we’ll finally be perfect sheep. But until then, Jesus, lead us on! Jesus, King of Glory, our Shepherd, ever make us lie down in green pastures, ever lead us beside quiet waters, and ever restore our souls. Amen.

 

Please visit our Synod’s website at www.wels.net