I’m thinking today with you about the 23rd Psalm. It’s I am quite sure, the most popular chapter in the Old Testament. The 23rd Psalm. Probably it’s the most well used chapter from the whole bible. I wouldn’t be surprised. It is read at funerals, it is read at ordinations, it is read at weddings, it is read at special functions of believers, it is even read where there are the unbelievers.
These are the words: “The Lord is my shepherd.” Wow. What does that mean? Never before in the history of religion has there been a religious leader that uttered those words. Never before. They were uttered by David. “The Lord is” present tense, “The Lord is my shepherd.” What does that mean? The shepherd knows his sheep. He guides his sheep. He provides for his sheep and he abides with his sheep. Yes. He guides. He’s guided us. He provides. Yes. Our deepest needs are met even before we ask for them. He guides, He provides, and He abides. When the darkness comes, and we face our toughest times, God is there; faithful.
Three words you can take with you this morning. Guides. That’s what we need in life. We need guidance, direction. Provides. Yes, if we take the direction and follow our God intended plan, we will need His help. God provides. God guides. And God abides until the last breath. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever!” Hallelujah. The Lord is my shepherd. He guides.
There isn’t a person listening to the sound of my voice who has not found himself in times and places or situations that were not of our choosing. How did we get here, we ask. How did I get mixed up in this? There is a divine guidance over every life listening to the sound of this voice. Yes. We didn’t ask to be born. You are not your idea. We’d never ask to be born. We never chose our talent, our skin color, our native language. No. We are each and all a product of divine destiny. Surely, so God guides and He had a plan and has a plan for my life and yours. Wow. He guides. He provides. He doesn’t lead us to an opportunity without giving us the assurance that if we take a chance in faith, He will be with us and we shall succeed with His grace. He guides and provides. My testimony is, significantly by wiping out fear. Nothing can stop us from moving the right path or doing the right deeds more than fear. And I can say that at this stage in life, I don’t know what fear is. I’m not afraid of anything. You say why not. Well the worst that can happen is death. And dying for me will be like falling asleep soundly, immediately, in fact I probably won’t think I’m dead, I never slept so soundly. And then dreams, dreams of people and events and a dream of Jesus. Never has He been that real. And then I’ll realize that this is not a dream! I died! I’m on the other side. Wow! Hallelujah. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Wow. God guides.
Yes why is this Psalm probably the single most famous chapter in the Old Testament, if not the holy bible? Because it introduces us to a concept of God: a God that guides, a God that provides, and a God that abides through our laughter and tears, our hurts and our hopes, our dreams and our disappointments. We can’t exist without Him. I said a minute ago, we are eliminated from fear. What’s there to fear? Fear loneliness? No, “for Thou art with me.” Fear nervous breakdown? No. “He will make me to lie down in green pastures, beside still waters.” Fear of falling into sin? No. “Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.” Fear of making bad judgments? No, “He leadeth me.” Fear of life, death, and eternity? No. “I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Phenomenal. No passage or human words have ever been written that contain the power to wipe out all and any fear. The 23rd Psalm. Yes, and He abides with me. Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. Wow. At all times, we are led.
I remember when my son Robert was a little boy and he said one day to me, “I’m going to learn to drive the car.” I remembered that and on this church property, we sit here on 20 acres, loads of parking space, I decided I’d let him start by sitting between my legs, my hands would be unseen below his, he could grab a hold of the steering wheel and steer the car. I can still see his face. He was so excited. Sitting there between my legs, put his hands on the steering wheel way up on the top, stretched out and I put the car in gear and slowly moved forward. He didn’t notice but my feet, one on the gas and the other near the brake. And he never even noticed with his two hands curled at the top of the steering wheel that my two hands were at the bottom of the steering wheel. And he made his passage around, parked it, turned around and laughed at me and said, “I did it, dad. I did it all by myself.” And when we got home, he couldn’t wait to tell his mother, “Mommy, I drove the car all by myself.” All by myself. Strange, I didn’t hide my hands but he never noticed them. He thought he drove it all by myself. Wow.
We sometimes think we drive our car all by ourselves. We don’t. There are the unseen hands of the almighty above and beyond, behind and before. Where I make mistakes, He follows up and corrects them. Where I miss the mark, He creates another opportunity to provide for the missed opportunity. God guides. I look at my life and I don’t think I made any decisions. I was just put there and the opportunity was put there and the motivation to say yes was just put there. And the guidance to hang in there when things got tough, just put there. I sometimes think I’m not a decision making creature, I’m a destiny. A divine destiny and all I can say is praise God. Praise God.
Where are you? God guides. God provides. God abides. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” Yes. Amazing that those words are together. Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. Surely goodness and mercy, yes. Well there are times when I do not sense the goodness of God in my life. But then what? Then I sense divine mercy. Mercy. It’s God’s love in action for those who don’t deserve it. I’m living till my last breath, so are you. Goodness and mercy all the days of my life.
I remember a time when it was a distressing day. I don’t remember why, or what the conflicts were. But I know that when I came home about five o’clock, I went to my bedroom and laid out on my bed, closed my eyes and prayed. And suddenly I heard a little noise. I opened my eyes. The door had opened and standing in that door was my little girl. Today, that big girl right there, Sheila. She slipped in, I remember this, her hair fell over my face, her cheek touched my cheek, her lips met my lips. And she said, “Sorry to bother you daddy,” and she turned around and left. But what she left behind was the presence of God. God came to me in that moment through a little girl. Yes. God guides. God provides what we need, when we need it and not before time. God provides. And then God abides through the times when the nights are dark and the challenges are overwhelming.
Yes, this Psalm says it all. There’s no other chapter in the holy bible that puts it all together like these verses. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. Leads me in the paths of righteousness. Yea thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear nothing for Thou art with me. Thy rod, Thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies. Thou anointest my head with oil. My cup runs over. Surely, not supposedly, not hopefully, not maybe, surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever and ever and ever, amen.”