...and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

How’s your memory? Did you ever walk to the other side of the house to get something and forgot what it was by the time you get there? Maybe we’ve all done that once or twice. Hopefully we’re not losing our minds. Our problem is we have too much on them. So, what do you do when you can’t remember? What do you when you can’t find your cell phone or your car keys? You keep looking. You retrace your steps. And when all else fails, you start praying. For the last five weeks our sermons series has been on Psalm 23. There is so much practical comfort in this Psalm that my biggest fear is we won’t remember it. And then, when we get into situations where we could really use Psalm 23 comfort, we don’t. Instead we fumble around, like someone, who can’t find his keys, or whatever. This morning we’re going retrace our steps through Psalm 23 and see how we can use this Psalm in real life situations.

Verse One: The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. – Psalm 23:1 The LORD is the Word made Flesh. Through Him God made all things. Through Him God rescued us from sin, death, and hell. Now, each one of us may say about the Lord, “He is MY Shepherd”, for since He is infinite, He watches over us and walks with us as though we were the only lamb or sheep in the world. As a result, we lack nothing in body or soul that we’ll ever need to make it safely to heaven.

Verse Two: He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. – Psalm 23:2-3a The green pastures and quiet waters are God’s Word. When we are children, He may use our parents and grandparents to make us sit and listen to His Word. As we get older, He may use a spouse or a circumstance to lead us deeper into His Word. Once we are in His Word, the Spirit speaks to our hearts and urges us to open our Bible and read it, or to get into our car and go to services, and there He refreshes our souls through the forgiveness of our sins and through all of God’s promises.

The next verse: He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. – Psalm 23:3b The right paths or “righteousness” includes two things. Jesus was righteous for us. God’s Word guides us to not rely on our own righteousness as we stand before God, but to rely on Jesus’ righteousness. As we do this, the Spirit gives us the desire and the guidance and the strength to walk along right paths. On the other hand, anyone doesn’t care about doing what’s right at that point at least, he’s not trusting in Jesus’ righteousness. He has forgotten it, because trust and love for what’s right always go together.

Verse Four: Even 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. – Psalm 23:4 The valley of the shadow of death can refer to death itself, or it can refer to dark days of trouble, dread, or doubt. Since the Lord is our Shepherd, we need not fear those days. He is with us. And He’s using His rod and staff to lead us to repent of whatever we need to repent of. Then as soon as He has stung our consciences with His Holy Law, He will comfort and reassure us that all is well with soul. Also, sometimes those dark days aren’t because we need to repent of some specific sin. They simply happen because we live in a sinful world, and our Shepherd is using them to help the people around us, or even to train us for helping them. But all of this makes those dark days worth it, when they’re finally over.

Verse Five: You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. – Psalm 23:5 This table is our salvation. This includes the Lord’s coming here to pay for our sins. It includes His bringing us to faith and enabling us to produce fruits of faith. And finally this table is the rewards Jesus is preparing for all we do in faith and love. The anointing with oil and our cup overflowing remind us again us our Shepherd’s personal care for each of us, and He doesn’t hold back! He gives double.

Verse Six: Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. – Psalm 23:6 Goodness is everything that’s good and good for us. And so, there are earthly things we don’t NEED, but God gives them anyway, because that’s the way He is. For example, children, can you think of anything that’s really good, but you don’t really need it? How ‘bout ice cream or trip to Menchies? Still, in love God doesn’t give us too much of a good thing, if it’s not going to be good for us.

Another thing that follows us all the days of our life is God’s love. That word in Hebrew means God’s covenant mercy or commitment. And so, God foresaw our sins, but he loved us still and made a commitment to give up His most precious possession for our sakes. He sent His Son! Now, the world’s kind of love is wishy-washy. It’s is just what people feel or think they feel for the moment, and then they fall out of love just as quickly. In contrast God’s love is more than emotional, it’s factual and personal. For this reason His love will be with us everyday until everything God planned for us from eternity to eternity is ours to enjoy – forever!

And now let’s applying Psalm 23 to some real life situations! When we are baptized, Jesus is there holding us too, and His heart is throbbing with joy over us, because He knows all the blessings He going to be giving us, and what we’re going to grow up to become. Or, when we sin, Jesus is still our shepherd. Here’s a picture of a woman who was caught committing adultery. Jesus’ hurts for us when we sin, because He knows the guilt and the pain we’re going to be going through. So, does anyone remember what Jesus said to this woman? He said, “I do not condemn you. Now leave your life of sin.” In the same way our Shepherd is ever leading us along the right paths for His name’s sake. Remind yourself this, when you’re being tempted, and that temptation won’t be as tempting. Also, remind yourself this when your past guilt is eating at you. Your Shepherd does not condemn you. He suffered your condemnation for you!

Here’s another picture of when our Good Shepherd is especially with us. It’s blank. It’s blank, because I invite you to put yourself into the picture and think back to the worst thing that ever happened to you. Maybe it was a betrayal. Maybe it was watching someone very dear to you pass. Or, maybe it was suddenly losing everything you had. And now in your mind’s eye, look closer at this picture. See Jesus in the picture with you. See the hurt in His face from what you’re going through. Yet there’s confidence in His face, because He sees the future and knows the blessings He’s going to work through this. And so, whenever dark days come, or even if we’re just afraid of a dark day coming, let’s do what those sheep in the stained glass window are doing. Let’s keep looking to Jesus!

But now not all our days are dark. Here’s a picture of Jesus at the wedding in Cana. Jesus was present when we got married too; and He’s with us in our homes, and He laughs with us, when we’re laughing. Jesus’ goodness and love also follows us to our jobs. Yes, sometimes they’re hard on account of sin. It was hard too for Ezekiel in our Old Testament reading and for Jesus in our Gospel reading, because many refused to listen. But Jesus is with us in our frustrations and disappointments. And He is with us in His power to accomplish good things, we never thought possible, because Jesus won’t Satan stop Him from preparing His table of salvation for us and for many others.

This brings us to the purpose of Psalm 23. Psalm 22 is about Jesus’ death and resurrection, and it says in the last verse: Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it! – Psalm 22:30-31. Psalm 23 isn’t just comforting, so we can sit around waiting for heaven. Psalm 23 is invigorating, so that we will proclaim his righteousness to those who don’t know about it, so that someday they too may say, “The Lord is MY Shepherd.”

Unfortunately often just telling isn’t enough. We need to show people that He is our Shepherd. And so, let’s ask ourselves: Wherever I go, do I leave behind peace in peoples’ lives – or turmoil? Do I leave behind forgiveness – or bitterness? Do I leave behind contentment – or conflict? Do I leave behind joy – or frustration? The purpose of Psalm 23 to renews us, so that we may be an inspiration to others and attract them to Jesus and His Church. Then, we aren’t just lambs and sheep anymore. We become shepherds with Jesus for future generations, and in this way David’s prayer, and Jesus’ prayer. and our prayer in the last verse of Psalm 28 is answered: Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever. – Psalm 28:6

So, now what? Will you forget all these things, like we sometimes forget why we went into a room or where we left our keys? We might forget, but the Lord doesn’t forget, so please join us next week as we start a new sermon series based on the book of Ephesians. This series is called: Working together, we can make a real different in this world. God grant that, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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