I noticed the prophecy that went forth over Dr. Coleman’s life when Dr. Schuller said that she would be around for the next forty years. I’m sixty-two now and I received that prophecy over my life and I’ll also be here with you and we’ll share that together okay? Bless you. But the odds are in our favor, amen? Praise the Lord.
Quite possibly one of, if not the most popular well-known passages of scripture in all of the bible is the 23rd Psalm. Quoted, memorized, spoken, declared, preached and taught for years and years as a high peak in the mountain range of scripture. It’s very possible we don’t know but it’s possible that maybe David was in the twilight of his years and maybe sitting along side of one of the curvaceous slopes of the hills of Judea among the trees and among the foliage and maybe he looked out among the scenery of an oh so familiar scene in the culture of the times. Maybe, you don’t know but maybe, maybe he saw a shepherd leading a flock of sheep and his mind pressed the rewind button and he was carried back to those days that he tended and cared for the flock of sheep for his father Jesse. And it is as though the Lord may have spoken to him and said “Just as that shepherd is to those sheep, so I have been to you.” And David begins to write: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” He pictures God in this oh so familiar Psalm as both a good shepherd and then as a gracious host. He says “The Lord is my shepherd” and he imagines in his mind a shepherd following the lead of the shepherd, rather leading the sheep as he leads them to pasture.
David says this: Because the Lord is my shepherd I shall not be in need. Why? David says “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.” I stumble over that verse because David pictures God as a good shepherd leading His sheep and he pictures himself as a sheep following the lead of a good shepherd and yet he says we come to a place on our journey where the shepherd maketh me to lie down. The verb means He is the cause of my lying down. He causes me to lie down. He orchestrates something that results in me lying down. The emphasis of the text is that God made me, caused me to lie down, implying that on my own I might not have lied down. David says, “He maketh me to lie down.” You would think that as a smart sheep and sometimes that’s an oxymoron but as a smart sheep you would know that whenever you come to a place of green pastures, that’s a good time to lie down. And yet the text implies that there’s something in the nature of a sheep, there’s something in the sheep’s character that would lead it to trot right on through the green pastures.
So the bible says God as my shepherd He maketh me to lie down. He knows that there’s something in me as I clamor and climb the corporate ladder, there’s something in me in my obsession for success that drives me and pushes me and that if I’m not careful I will run past the places of blessings. And so David says I remember there were times when He made me lie down. That’s kind of my testimony. There’s something in me that if I’m not careful I’ll miss my blessing in such a passion to move forward and to climb and be a success. There’s something in my sheep-ness that would cause me to miss my blessing.
And so David says there are times on my journey when He makes me lie down. He causes me to lie down. He orchestrates things that bring me to the place where I am forced to enjoy and receive rest in Him, where I am caused to be still and know that He is still God. That’s my testimony and part of my life story. I look at those times when I have been in danger of missing hearing the word from God, missing the comfort of God, missing the presence and power of God because I’m pushing and pressing and pushing and pressing and pushing and pressing and God says I have invested so much in you. I have prepared this blessing for you that I will not risk your sheep-ness jeopardizing this blessing. If I have to I’ll make you lie down.
I wonder who has God brought to this place today to make you lie down. You never know about this sheep-ness in us. It’s unpredictable. You never know when it’s going to jump out and cause us to miss what God is saying and miss what God is trying to do. The shepherd would not risk us missing the blessing and so He makes us lie down. He brought someone here today to make you, if you will, lie down in the presence of His power. To slow you down, to hold you back, to put a brake on, to stop you where you are to remind you that He is still God, He’s still on the throne and He is still in charge. God says “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”
And so my journey continues and “He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Watch this now, “Yea thou I walk through the valley and the shadow of death.” Got a problem with that verse. If I’m following the shepherd in obedience, if I am acknowledging Him as Lord of my life and the shepherd who leads me, how did I end up in this valley? It seems to me that if He’s doing the leading, I’m into that hill top ministry. I’m into that mountain peak place. I want to be on top of the hill and yet the bible says that as I follow Him obediently following the shepherd I often find myself in the valley.
Now watch this; the Psalmist says it’s the valley of the shadow of death. It’s not death but it is the shadow of death. If you were to go to Israel today there’s a place right today just outside of Israel if you go down that main drag coming out of Israel over the Mount of Olives and going down towards Jericho and hang a left, go up this long winding road, you’ll come to a place that leads to an area called the valley of the shadow. It’s there today. It is so called because of the steep curvature of the mountains that come together. So that when the sun is setting, the sun is setting it causes the shadow to creep across this valley in such an eerie and gloomy way and you can stand there and literally watch that shadow go across. It’s called the valley of the shadow. David says, “Yea though I walk through the valley that is the shadow of death.” It’s not death but it feels like death. It’s not the end but it feels like the end. The journey is not over but it feels hopeless. What’s your valley today? What valley has God found you in today? Better yet, what valley has God lead you to today? The valley of the shadow of death where it seems as though this journey is ended. I cannot see my way out. I cannot see my way through. I don’t know how I make it from here. It is the very shadow of death. I feel as though it’s over here. I feel as though I’ve hit a brick wall. It’s the shadow of death.
Who has God brought here today in the midst of your valley, valley of pain, valley of frustration, valley of depression, a valley of failure, a valley of sin, a valley of discouragement? Well I’ve got bad news and I’ve got good news. The bad news is if you continue to follow God, you will one day go through the valley and the shadow. The good news is if you continue to follow God you will one day go through the valley and the shadow. You didn’t get it, you missed it. I’ll try this group over here on this side. I’ve got bad news and I’ve got good news. The bad news is some time in life you will go through the valley of the shadow. But I’ve got good news and the good news is you will go through the valley of the shadow. You do not go in the valley. In means I may come out and I may not come out. But through the valley means I came in one side and if I keep walking, somewhere down the line I’m coming out on the other side. God’s told me to tell somebody today don’t unpack your bags; you’re just passing through this way! You are going through the valley and you are coming out in the power and the presence of the living God.
God says through the valley. Now watch this because watch how the scenes shift in the text. Watch the flow of the text. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down,” stop right there. Scene action stops there. Scene continues. Action. Camera. Move on. Scene is passing I’m going through the valley and the shadow of death. I’m going down into the valley. I’m following Him. I’m going down into the valley. I’m following Him. I’m going down in the valley of trial and struggle. I’m going down in the valley. Now watch this: it is there in the valley that God does something. While I’m still in the valley He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemy. That’s a good place for an amen. Right off down in there, someone should have said amen right off in there. Watch this because David says “He prepares a table,” where? While I’m still in the valley. What a strange place to be blessed. While I’m in the midst of the shadow, while I’m in the middle of the struggle, while I’m in the middle of the frustration and the pain and the sorrow and the failure and the guilt He prepares a table right there. Here’s the key to the text: “Before me in the presence of mine enemies.” Here it is. The word “before” is legitimately linguistically either a preposition of location or an adverb of time. I’ll give it to you again - I said it too fast. It is either a preposition of location or an adverb of time. Here’s what God says: “He prepares the blessing,” the table, the way out “before me;” preposition of location. Here it is. It’s the Hebrew word “leefney” which means this: in my face, before my face. God prepares the blessing in my face, right before my face. He prepares the blessing not off in the back woods someplace, but in my face. And He prepares it before the enemy which means while He’s preparing to bless me in my face the enemy can do nothing to stop the blessing that God has already ordained is coming my way. Is anybody getting this? Am I going too fast? Are you with me?
My mother passed October of last year and before she died she would often cook and she would invite guests over. She would invite guests and we would have guests being received in the living room and the dining room and we’re talking and everything and mama is in the kitchen cooking. Now she is preparing the meal while the guests are there; preparing the meal while the guests are there in the house. Now she’s in the kitchen preparing the meal and we don’t always know what she’s cooking up. But after a while the aromas begin to come out of the kitchen and the atmosphere is changed. And we don’t know what mama is about to serve but we know that whatever it is, it’s been carefully planned and it’s going to bless somebody. God says to someone here today you don’t know what God’s cooking up but right there in your face He’s preparing a blessing that has your name on it, it has deliverance on it, it has power on it, it has provision on it, it has hope on it, it has encouragement on it. He’s changing the atmosphere. He prepares the blessing before you right in your face.
David says this: prepares a blessing before me. Before: adverb of time. It means this: before me. Before I get there, the blessing is prepared. Often times the shepherd would go before the sheep, go down the road a little while knowing where he would stop the sheep on the next journey. He would find a place that is suitable for the next time of stopping, he would clear out this place and often put a blanket, we would call it a table there. Put the table there. And then he would go back along the journey and clear away all the debris and all the roughage and all the things that might be dangerous so that when the sheep came the next day they would travel on a journey that had been prepared with a blessing on the table before they got there.
Now here’s the key: the only thing that the sheep had to do is to keep walking, keep following, keep trusting and don’t quit too soon. God brought someone here today to tell you, don’t quit too soon my friend. Your blessing is right down the road. Your provision, your hope, your encouragement God has already prepared for you. You must continue to trust Him. You are in a place of hope. There is yet hope.
Now watch this: when you come out of this valley, here’s what God says: you will come out protected on every side. If I was at home I’d feel like shouting right now. You’re coming out protected on every side. Here it is: God says you’ll have a shepherd in front of you, a rod and a staff on either side to protect you, goodness and mercy bringing up the rear covering your back, angels watching over you, standing on the ground of His word and filled with the presence of His power. God says you shall come out rejoicing.
I used to love to watch western shows when I was a little boy and every show had the same plot: good guys would follow bad guys, they would hold up in a mountain shack somewhere and in this shack they would get surrounded and the good guys would say three things: you’re under arrest, we’ve got you surrounded, now come up with your hands up. I came to say to someone today you are under arrest. You are charged with trusting God, you are charged with praying to God, you are charged with relying upon God, you are charged with listening to God’s word, you are being charged with walking by faith. You are under arrest and we’ve got you surrounded. God has control around everything that you are facing. He’s got a shepherd in front, angels and watching all around you, you are standing on God’s faith, you are standing on His word, listen to me, you are covered by Him and when you come out the last thing they say is come out with your hands in the air.
God says to someone today you are coming out of this thing lift your hands in the air and give God praise right now. You are lifting God’s glory. Somebody bless it. Clap your hands oh ye people and shout unto the Lord with a shout of triumph. All things are possible. You shall reign; you shall come forth in victory. Someone today ought to give God glory in this house and tell the enemy all things are possible. Give God praise in this place!