A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on June 14, 2015 by Pastor Dale Raether
Please visit our Synod’s website at www.wels.net
The Lord Is My Shepherd, I Lack Nothing!
Psalm 23:1

Patricia and Caleb, I wouldn’t be surprised if your parents are more concerned about your future than you are. I’m sure you have concerns too. What will high school be like for me? What will I do after high school? And will I always be able to live safely as a Christian? Your parents’ concerns actually go much deeper. They rejoice in your faith. But because of their experiences, there are some questions they know you’ll be facing and will have to answer all your life. Questions like: Do I really belong to Christ? Do I really recognize His authority over my life? Do I find freedom and sense of purpose in having Christ as my Lord? Do I feel at rest when I read His Word, and does it make me excited to serve Him? When we can answer these questions with a, “yes”, life is good! No matter what problems sin or Satan might throw at us, we’ll be able to joyfully say with David, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing.” But how do we get to this point? And how do we stay at this point all our life?

This morning we’re beginning a sermon series on Psalm 23. Verse 1, “the Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing”, is a summary of the entire Psalm. Verses 2 through 6 are the details. In addition verse 2 is further explained by Psalm 24, which we’ll also look at next week. Verse 3 of Psalm 23 is further explained by Psalm 25. Verse 4 is further explained by Psalm 26, and so on. And finally here’s how the last verse of Psalm 28 concludes this entire Good Shepherd unit: Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their Shepherd and carry them forever. – Psalm 28:9 God’s purpose in giving us this Good Shepherd unit is to so strengthen our faith that we’ll always be able to answer those questions I just asked with a loud, sincere “yes.” It’s important that we do. Paul writes: For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved, … for “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” – Romans 10:10, 13 On this confirmation day for Caleb and Patricia (and it may be a confirmation renewal day for the rest of us), let’s begin our 6 week study on: The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing!

We don’t know at what point in his life David wrote Psalm 23. Maybe it was while he was shepherding his father’s sheep as a young man. Or, maybe it was later in his life, as he looked back on everything he had gone through. At any rate, David knew a lot about shepherding. There were basically two kinds of shepherds. Those who cared about their sheep and those who did not. Shepherds who cared paid hard earned money for their original flock. Once he had them, the first thing he would do is cut off a piece of each sheep’s ear in special way to mark them as his own. Shepherd didn’t enjoy the cutting, and I’m sure neither did the sheep. But it had to be done, so that if one wandered off or was stolen, the shepherd could reclaim it.

Good shepherds were thoroughly committed to his sheep’ welfare. He lived with them. During the day he would watch to see if any were having any problems and made sure they always had plenty of good, green grass and clean water. Also, if a bear or a lion came along, a shepherd wouldn’t say, “Too bad for that sheep; he’s a goner.” No, he would use his rod to fight off that bear or lion, even though he was putting his own life at risk. Or, when the weather got bad, a good shepherd would do the best he could for his sheep, and through it all, he was always there with them. And then there were the nights. The sheep would sleep, but the shepherd would sleep with one eye and two ears open. When morning came the first thing he would do is double check to make sure all the sheep were okay. What do you suppose was a good shepherd’s motivation for everything he did? It wasn’t simply for the income his sheep might bring him? A good shepherd loved his sheep for the sake of the sheep, because he had a kind heart.

Sadly, not all shepherds were good. Some after they got a flock, pretty much ignored their sheep, except to throw some food and water their way, when they felt like it. Or, when the weather got bad, they’d stay inside, and the sheep would be on their own. Or, if a bear or lion came along, that would be the sheep’s problem. David may have seen sheep who had shepherds like that, and this is maybe what got him thinking about how blessed he was that the LORD was his shepherd.

Anyway there are a lot of comparisons between what a good shepherd did, and what our Lord does. Let’s start the ownership of the sheep. We belong to the Lord, because He is our maker. Every week it seems science comes up with something new that makes me go, “whoa!” Here’s the latest. The brightest minds are now saying there’s no life anywhere else, and then they listed all their reasons for saying that. I tend to agree. The Bible tells us that God made the stars in order to show us His power and wisdom. In other words whenever we look up at night, let’s remind ourselves that we belong to the Lord, and that He has all the power and wisdom He needs to help us in whatever the present or future holds.

There are also more reasons why we belong to the Lord and why this is a pure blessing for us. The Lord gives freedom. Sadly our first parents used their freedom to rebel against God, which made their descendents slaves to sin and death. But what did our Good Shepherd do about that? He paid for His sheep a second time. The first time was by virtue of His creating us. The second time was by going to the cross, where the Shepherd became the Lamb in order to satisfy God’s holy justice for us. St. Peter put it this way: He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have been returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. – I Peter 2:24-25

And now since our Shepherd has this much love for us, He continues to pay a price everyday to keep us His sheep. This started for us personally when we were marked as His Own, not by cutting off a piece of our ear, but through the simple water of our Baptism. Those drops of water on us, which the Lord forever sees, reminds Him of His promise to forgive our sins, and to give us the Holy Spirit, and to make us co-heirs of heaven. And what shall our response be for all of this? May it be that we thankfully offer ourselves to Him in freedom, even as He has freely given himself for us!

Unfortunately we don’t always do that. In stead we give into and follow the devil and those who would mistreat and abuse us. An example this week is that lady, whom those two prisoners talked into helping them escape. They don’t care about her, and now she’s going to have to spend years in prison. So also for us, anyone who tries to convince us that sinning is somehow good, doesn’t care about us, and we will suffer for it, if we give in. Still, even when we have stayed, the Lord remains our Good Shepherd. And so, He prays to the Father for our forgiveness, based purely on what He had suffered for on the cross. Also He sees the whole picture of our life and has made proactive plans in order to ultimately bring us safely to His heavenly sheep pen.

However, until then we lack nothing. But what does that mean? Let’s look at the example of David. He lacked creature comforts when he was taking care of his father’s sheep. As a young man in Saul’s army, he lacked personal safety, because for 7 years, Saul kept trying to kill him. Then after being king for 10 years, David lacked a clean conscience. He committed adultery and murder. After that David lacked the love and respect of his children. Twice he had to flee for his life, when his sons were trying to take his throne from him and kill him. How this tore David’s heart right out of him! Yet even then David could joyfully say, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing!”

Notice David doesn’t say, I will lack nothing (when I get to heaven). He says, “I lack nothing” (present tense). David said this, because his greatest treasure was the Lord. Having the Lord as his greatest treasure also gave David purpose in his life. It was to serve God with a pure heart in whatever God gave him to do. For example David had wanted to build a temple for God. But God planned that for his son, Solomon, and He would only let David gather the materials. But David was good with that and put his whole heart into it, because the Lord was his shepherd. In the same way, Caleb and Patricia, we don’t know now what jobs you’ll have in the future. But whatever it is, put your whole heart into it, because the Lord is your Shepherd too, and knowing this is the believer’s greatest joy and pleasure!

Yet how can that be? How can we not get off track like David did for a while? Or, how can our faith and love for God not become lukewarm as Jesus warned His sheep in the book of Revelation? Or, how can we not become misled by false prophets in churches, or by agnostic teachers in schools? The answer is keep listening to our Good Shepherd’s voice everyday. He has given many ways you can do this. Read your Bible. Read the Meditations. Read or listen to the daily devotions on our Synod’s website. Watch Time of Grace on our church website. Just don’t try to be a sheep by yourself. Satan is bound to pick you off then. But do these things with someone. Do them with your parents. And do them with other youth. We will be making arrangements for that this summer!

Finally, for how long should we, His sheep, keep doing these things? Let’s go back to those questions at the beginning. Do I really belong to Christ? Do I really recognize His authority over my life? Do I find freedom and sense of purpose in having Christ as my Lord? Do I feel at rest when I read His Word, and does it make me excited to serve Him? Until we can all answer these questions with a loud “yes”, let’s continue in the Word and let’s continue praying as King David did: Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their Shepherd and carry them forever. – Psalm 28:9 Amen.

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