Psalms – Week 19 Sermon Notes

By May 15, 2016October 26th, 2016Sermon Notes

Psa. 23:0 A psalm of David.
Psa. 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 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. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.


*God wants us to live for his glory but does he want us to be happy?

*Ravi Zacharias wrote an interesting book on an imaginary conversation between a dying Oscar Wilde and Jesus…

*Dedication…”To the youth of the world that sense would prevail over sensuality.”

*Oscar Wilde lived true to his name…he lived like a wild animal…driven by brute desire.

*He is best known for his works “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and “The Importance of being Earnest.”

*He was a brilliant man who threw his life away, dying a rough death at 46.

*He ruthlessly attacked anyone who dared challenge his right to fully indulge his sensual desires.

*Pleasure was everything to him…but grief was his closest companion.

*His mother…a child of enlightenment thinking said to him “When you are as old I am you will realize that the only thing worth living for is sin.”

*He took her words to heart and lived a life of ruin.

*His life of selfish and ruthless abandon (he sexually abused youths) is celebrated today…but he died in misery and despair…calling for a priest in his final hours…he was desperate for peace with God.

*So which is it…does God want to live for his glory or does he want us to be happy?

*Does he want us to live within his limits, his laws or does he want us to live free?

This month we are looking at bad thinking patterns…by looking at good thinking patterns from the Psalms.

1. Emotional reasoning: I feel it, therefore it must be true…which of course, it not true.

2. Catastrophizing: The worse that can happen will happen and it will ruin me…this kind of thinking makes us fearful, locked up, unable to enjoy what God has given, or to be able to launch out and experience him.

3. Either/Or Scenarios (false dilemma, false dichotomy)

*This thinking turns all of life into a true/false, either/or, binary system.

*In reality this overly simplistic view of life can cause us to make many mistakes in judgment…about ourselves, others, and God.

*Of course there is absolute truth…but in dealing with people and situations in life…when we apply the false dilemma we fail to see things as they are.

*There are times when two options actually do exist…Ice cream man tells you…”I have either vanilla or chocolate ice cream.”

*”That’s a false dilemma…don’t tell me either vanilla or chocolate…I want strawberry.”

*”Uh, this is no false dilemma…this is a real one for you…I don’t have strawberry…I have vanilla or chocolate.”

*Or when Christ says “I am the way, the truth, and the life…no one comes to the Father except through me.” *Some would say…”That is a false dilemma…either Christ or lostness…I choose another way.”
*No, its not a false dilemma…it actually is…Christ or lostness.
*Bad thinking is when there are other choices but you turn it into a false dilemma.

*”Either God takes this problem from me or he doesn’t really love me.”

*No…God loves me and he is not necessarily going to take this problem from me.

*”Either God is good, or he allows evil and suffering.”

*No…God is good and he allows evil and suffering.”

*”Either God will act in ways I can understand or he can’t be trusted.”

*No…He will sometimes act in ways you cannot understand and he can be trusted.

*We must subject our thoughts to the scrutiny of Scripture.

*The truth is, we are all somewhat over confident in our ability to think clearly and correctly about ourselves, others and God.

*We need to live with a healthy skepticism of our own thoughts.
*”Terry, maybe, you do, but my instincts are good…they have proven to be good over the years.” *Then you are in a particularly dangerous position…good results have set you up for a larger failure…

*You have a false sense of security which means you are probably not submitting your thoughts to proper scrutiny.

Prov. 26:12 Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (In Proverbs a fool has little, if any hope)

*Most people rank themselves far above average in their ability to correctly perceive themselves, and make good judgments regarding others.

*This is not because most are actually above average…that would by definition be impossible. *Wisdom calls for healthy skepticism of our own thinking.
*Let’s go to Psalm 23…submit our thinking, feeling…once again to Scripture.
*Most famous of all Psalms, used often in hospitals, funerals, battlefields…

*Most often, in life’s most difficult situations.

*I’ve not heard it used at a wedding or some other celebration…because we focus on the middle part…the shadowy death valley part.

*But there is much celebrating and resting in this Psalm…lush pastures, quiet waters, confident protection…banquets, over flowing cups.

*But it’s not either or is it? Either celebration or God’s presence in dark times.

1. The Shepherd, green pastures, quiet waters AND a dark valley that must be crossed.

*Enemies are lurking, as well as plenty of cliffs to fall off of…thus the need for the Shepherd to be armed with rod and staff.

2. A table hosted by the Lord himself AND the presence of enemies…that have either just been defeated or who remain at large.

*The first part of the Psalm portrays God as our shepherd. *The second God is our host.

*It is celebrating God’s provision, purpose, and presence in all the times and situations of our lives and deaths and beyond.

I. HIS PROVISION…it is very personal…”He is my Shepherd.”
*Last week we looked at how this journey of faith is…”We not just me.”
Ps 46: God is our refuge and strength…we will not fear though the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. *Courage (faith) is contagious…we are made by God for community.

*But now look at Ps 23…6 verses…17 singular, not plural, personal pronouns. *17…”My, I, Me” and no “Us or we”
*So…which is it?
*”We or me?

*This journey of faith is “we” and the Lord is “my” not just “our” shepherd.
*This Psalm, like the others was used in corporate worship
*But it is important to know that same mighty fortress that we take shelter behind…is also my shepherd.

Luke 15:3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent…

*Here Jesus is telling us that he is “my” shepherd.
*I am not merely one of the flock.
–“Oops lost one…oh well…sheep are stupid and plentiful…more where he came from” *No…he came after me, me personally…he comes after me still.
*Like Steph said before she read…he came after this week.
*Does it matter that he is “my” shepherd? You bet it does.
*It is important to understand this in its biblical balance.
*He is the Lord of the whole earth, I am part of the body, a sheep in the flock.
*It is not all about me.
*And I am his, he sees me, he knows me…he comes after me.
*The Lord is MY shepherd.

*Story of a young boy with cancer…his mom taught him to say over and over using his fingers…The Lord is My Shepherd.

*The thumb was “The” *The ring finger was “My”

*The boy died holding his ring finger…”MY” shepherd.

*This matters…not just because it makes us feel better…but because it is actually true.

*Look at his provision…”I shall not be in want”
*This is not the same as saying “I will have all I want”
*”Not be in want” is an idiom for…I will lack nothing I need. *The shepherd will provide all that he determines that I need.

*My soul will be restored: this is not merely the “spiritual” part of me…Soul= all of me. -He restores me….word means to “turn back”
-Restore me to relationship with him…over and over.

*He guides me in the righteous path…literally the “right” path. -The way that leads most directly to where I want, need to go.

-This is in contrast to the “crooked path” of the wicked (those who do not follow the shepherd)

*He hosts a table in the midst of enemies.

*I will be pursued by him (his goodness and love) all the days of my life…and dwell in his house forever.

*Pursue=hounded, chased”…by “hesed”…the loving kindness of God. *And his provision will not end at my death.
*Our journey of faith is “we” not just “me”
*And…he is “my Shepherd”

*At the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz, prisoners who were not going to be immediately executed were given a number that was sewn into a uniform.

*Later, because so many died and their clothes were transferred to others, they lost track of prisoners so they began to tattoo numbers onto their skin.

*These were not humans to their captors…they had no names…they were numbers…if they were lucky…the unlucky didn’t even receive a number.

*You are one of over 7 billion…7 thousand million people.

*How important to you is that the Lord is “your” shepherd…not just “the” shepherd? *His greatest provision is our greatest need…relationship with him.

*It is “We not just me” and “The Lord is my shepherd”
*He provides uniquely and directly for me…I am not merely an unamed member of a flock…I am known and

loved personally, individually.


*It has been said that there are ultimately three things that will happen to our hearts over the course of our lives…
-They will be hardened, broken, or made tender.

*If we fight against our purpose…then hardness or brokenness will follow. *If we understand and pursue our purpose…then tenderness will follow. *Where do you see God’s ultimate purpose in this Psalm?
*v. 3…”For his name’s sake”

*His “name’s sake” means for his honor, his glory, his renown.

*He guides in the straight paths…the most direct routes to the good life in order that our lives will give him glory.

*We walk faithfully with him, ultimately, to make him look good.

*Once again…faith expressed in faithfulness is the path of our purpose.

*Here we find the counter balance of a second false dilemma.

*”Does God want me to live for his glory or does he want me to be happy?”

*The answer of course is…”yes”

*If we pursue happy on our terms we are perpetually unhappy…Solomon thought he had to discover this on his own…as did Oscar Wilde…

*They pursued happiness on their terms to extremes.

*When we pursue his paths for his name’s sake…we experience “happiness”…What is translated in the OT as “blessed”…means “happy”

*Remember how we started back in January? Ps 1.

*”Blessed” (happy) is the one who does not walk the path of fools but walks the path of God…he will be like a tree planted by water, fruitful, flourishing.”

*There’s that River again…and in that Psalm the blessed are not sheep but trees…either way…we are flourishing, thriving.

*He wants us happy and the only way we can be happy is to experience the purpose for which we were made…know him, love him…live for his name’s sake.

*Try to use an object in contradiction to its design, its purpose…a tool for instance…you are unhappy (frustrated) and if tools had feelings…the tool would be very unhappy…often…broken.

*How much more so a human being…all around us…we see the results of people living in contradiction to their own purposes.

*Fighting against the good…because they think they know better.

*Last week, Crystal was trying to help my not yet 2 year old grandson get dressed so he could continue to play…he lurched his head back (in order to register his displeasure at not getting his way)…he smacked his head on mom’s knee…pain followed.

*I laughed…because he is 2…makes sense.
*It doesn’t make sense for us to continue to try and find satisfaction apart from our design…our purpose. *Does God want me happy or does he want to get glory from my life?
*Y es.
*Provision, purpose…presence
*Did you notice how David goes from talking about God to speaking to him?

Psa. 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 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. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

*It is no accident that he is talking to God in the Valley of the Shadow and in the midst of his enemies.

*Of course God is present in the green pastures and in his eternal house…but the need for his direct presence is felt most acutely during the difficult times.

*There are people who spend their lives defending God, defending their faith…and fail to nurture their faith and relationship with God.

*They talk much about God but talk little to God.
*They sometimes wander away from the faith…or their lives fail to resemble the faith they defend.

*They defend the gospel…and fight for the great truths of our faith…Christ has come, Christ has died, Christ has risen!

*Then in their lives…they fail to apply the truth of the gospel to their own personal relationships… *Too much talking about God and not enough enjoying God is deadly for the soul.

*When we are not suffering…theodicy…the defense of the goodness and power of God in light of human suffering is largely academic.

*We are suffering…it becomes acutely personal.

*Job 42…”My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.”

*”I’ve heard the God talk…I’ve done the God talk…but now in the context of great suffering…I have experienced God.”

*When are we most likely to “talk” to God rather than merely “about” him?
*When life becomes a struggle.
*The desire to draw close to God is most often in direct proportion to the struggles of our lives. *Here is another false dilemma revealed…let me give it to you in steps.
1. God is our greatest good…There is no greater thing in this life or the next than knowing him.
2. We are most likely to turn to him when things are not going well.
3. God knows points 1-2…so how could he not allow trouble in our lives since he loves us.

*So the false dilemma is often something like this…
-God…if you loved me you would not allow this to continue…so either this stops or you do not really love me.

*In truth…Since God loves me…this very well may not stop.
*The disconnect is most often…differing views on the greatest good.

*The greatest good is to know God…those things that help accomplish this…hard though they may be…are not in contradiction to his love but in cooperation with it.

Provision, Purpose, Presence.


*Have I turned this great, heart-warming Psalm into a lesson on good and bad thinking?

*This psalm is heart-warming but if there is no real, all-powerful, all-good shepherd who stands behind these words…then they are a cruel and misleading lie.

*They cause people to hang hopes in mid-air…to trust in a quaint, poetic fairy tale of a cosmic shepherd. *If it is just a story then all I have is my own ability to comfort, provide, and protect myself…
*It is psychosomatic…the words make me feel warm, not alone.
*But I am alone.

*If there is no shepherd…this is a monstrous poem…because it is gives people false hope.

*Some believe false hope is better than no hope at all…but false hope is no hope at all.

*We must think what is true in order to believe what is true in order to live what is true.

*Psalm 23 is useful because it is true…it is powerful and impactful because it speaks of the God who is there.

*We learn this Psalm, speak it to ourselves and others not in order to feel ready for death valleys and meals in the midst of enemies…but in order to actually be ready.

*Of course God wants us happy…why else would he lead us to green pastures and still waters…the very things that make sheep happy.

*Why else would he prepare a meal for us as others come against us as enemies? *Why else would his hesed…loving kindness pursue us all the days of our lives? *Our happiness is journeying with him, on his paths, for his names sake.

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