Now this week, let’s move on to the second half of Psalm 23:3…
HE LEADS ME
Notice that David goes on to say in Psalm 23:3- “He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
First of all, notice that David starts this sentence by saying, “He leads me…” Notice that there is no wavering in this. It is a matter of fact: Because the Lord was His Shepherd, he knew that He would lead him. This too needs to be our confidence - that the Lord will lead us. He will show us the right way to go. He will give us the directions we need.
The reason I make this point is because this is the first step to receiving direction from the Lord - believing you will receive it. Far too many Christians say things like, “I just don’t hear the voice of the Lord” or “I wish I was led by the Holy Spirit.” No, our profession should be that of, “Thank you Lord, that I do hear your voice because You said that I do! You said that you lead me, so I believe that you will.” (John 10:3). This, again, is the first step in the right direction - believing His Word.
However, we must understand why learning to be led by our Good Shepherd is so vital: It is because sheep are known to be dumb. And sometimes people don’t like to think this way. They’ll say, “Well, I’ll have you know, brother, I am extremely educated.” Yeah, in comparison to other sheep, you might be real smart; but in comparison to the shepherd, even the smartest sheep is considered dumb.
You see, it is known that if left unattended, sheep will utterly destroy the land that they inhabit by following their foolish nature. Therefore, they need to be led by a good shepherd. This is why the Scriptures tell us in Isaiah 53:6 that “we all, like sheep, have gone astray, each has turned to his own way.” But somebody help me here - what does the Bible say about us doing our own thing and going our own way? Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”
You see, it is important for us to understand that these promises and provisions that we find in the 23rd Psalm are all subject to us being led by the voice of our Good Shepherd.
We see this fulfilled in Proverbs 3:5-6: Here He promises to make our paths smooth and straight (Literal definition of “direct our paths”) But what is it contingent on? Us not being “head-led.” No, I’m not talking about having a head as hard as led; I’m talking about leaning to our own understanding and being led by what we think, what we know, how we see things, etc. That will get you and I in trouble, church.
The way we are supposed to be living our lives is by “acknowledging Him in all our ways.” That literally means to know Him in everything we do - meaning, we are aware and cognizant of Him in every path we take and every step we make - listening on the inside of when and where to turn. This is today what we would call the Spirit-led life. But this also means that we do indeed “acknowledge” Him in all our ways - meaning, that we learn to acknowledge all the good things He does for us throughout our day. The Lord showed me that the more thankful and grateful we are for everything He’s done for us, the smoother and straighter our path will become. Amen.
And this is honestly one of the major reasons why we incur so many hard and crooked circumstances instead of smooth and straight paths. It is because we do not inquire of the Lord before we do things. We don’t acknowledge all that He has done for us. It is because we lean to our own understanding and do what seems right in our eyes. And again, what does the Bible say about doing what seems right in our own eyes? Its end is the way of death.
So, it is in our best interest to not be “head-led” but to be “Spirit-led.” This is how we can experience smooth and straight paths, paths of righteousness.
PATHS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
Now when David refers here to “paths of righteousness,” he is literally referring to “paths of rightness” or “right and just paths.” This is what “righteousness” really is.
Of course, most of these “right paths" which God has chosen for us are clearly marked out in His Word, and are the same for all sheep. No path of righteousness, for example, will ever pass through the field of adultery or fornication. No path of righteousness will ever travel over the ground of fear, lying, backbiting, hatred, etc. These road signs are unmistakable in Scripture and any of God’s sheep can read them! Therefore, these “paths of righteousness” that the Lord would “lead” us on will never contradict what He has said in the Scriptures.
For example, I have ministered to people who don’t fellowship with other believers and have withdrawn from the flock generally because they got offended or disagreed with something. Well, these Christians will swear up and down that the Lord has not led them to go anywhere, but that is a complete violation of Scripture. He told us to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25), so why would the Holy Spirit lead us to do something else? He wouldn’t.
But what about specific questions that apply only to me and not to the rest of the sheep - like decisions about where to go to church, who to marry, what job to take, etc.? Can these areas be included in the paths that the Lord has promised to lead us in? Absolutely! As we’ve seen in Proverbs 3:6, the Lord desires to direct us in all of our ways into smooth and straight paths (of righteousness).
Therefore, God is going to lead us on upright paths - that is, paths of being right and doing the right thing.
So, what specifically are these “right and just paths”? We have many Scriptures that refer to these “paths of righteousness.” Let me give you a few of them:
So, these “paths of righteousness” could certainly apply to the path of having our right standing with God revealed to us. It could also apply to paths of doing the right thing like practicing righteous deeds towards others. However, when it comes to this term “righteousness,” I believe sometimes we become a little too locked in to what we think righteousness is. Yes, there is the righteousness that we are freely given through our faith in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Sure, there are those righteous deeds we are called to practice. But there is another side to righteousness too and that is what we are seeing here in these verses.
These paths of righteousness are more likely referring to the Lord leading us along paths of justice and rightness. In essence, the “paths of righteousness” is “God’s way of being and doing right”- whether that be His direction when we are under attack or His path of experiencing life and life more abundantly.
However, I believe David gave us his own commentary of what He meant in Psalm 23:3 over in Psalm 5:8- which says, “Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness because of my enemies: make your way straight before my face.” So, here, David was wanting to be led in the paths of righteousness because of his enemies in order to have God’s way straight before him. In other words, the paths of righteousness here is the way of direction to be delivered from bloodthirsty and deceitful men (Psalm 5:6).
But let me remind you - it all starts with walking in righteousness - that is, walking uprightly and with integrity. We cannot separate us doing the right thing and receiving the righteousness & justice that is at the end of that path.
A good example of this in the life of David was when King Saul became his enemy. Through offense and jealousy, Saul persecuted young David time and time again. However, David never retaliated. He continued honoring the king and did not return evil for evil. This was David walking in righteousness. And we all know the end result: David eventually was given the throne and received righteousness and justice from his God.
But did you know that these “right and just paths” that David took are clearly marked out in His Word? So, not only is the answer to that question - How does God restore our souls? - the Word of God, but the answer to the question - How does He leads us on paths of righteousness? - also is the Word of God. So, let’s go over to James chapter one, because in it, we have the Lord leading us through our trials and temptations and into His righteousness:
STEPS TO RECEIVING RIGHTEOUSNESS & JUSTICE
Over in James 1:19-20, we have what I see as James’ summary of the things he was addressing in the first 18 verses of his epistle. It is important for us to realize this because far too often we take verses like this out of context and apply them to things that the author was in no way intending.
So, as we look back over these prior verses, we see James exhortations as revolving around the various trials we fall into and the perspective we are to have when we are being tempted:
“So then” we come to verse 19-20 which say, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
Again, if you lift these two verses out of their context in chapter one, they will be almost impossible to correctly interpret. What do you think the phrase “swift to hear” might be referring to based on verse five? How about “slow to speak” based on verse thirteen? How about “slow to wrath” based on verse six & thirteen?
When James said to let every man be swift to hear and slow to speak I believe he was referring to not being so quick to let yourself speak rashly - accusing God of “allowing” these trials into your lives - but of being quicker to hear the wisdom that God has promised us in the face of our trials.
The “slow to wrath” admonition had to do with their anger at God (or just anger in general) because of the circumstances that they were experiencing. You see, when we start saying things like, “God, where are you?” or “Why are you allowing this in my life?” we are speaking in unbelief (see verse 6) and when we allow anger in our hearts like this, then verse twenty is the result…
The phrase in verse 20, “for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” shows us that getting angry about our circumstances does not result in God’s justice. In other words, this is exactly what James meant in verse seven when he said, “let not that man suppose he will receive anything from the Lord.” You see, getting into unbelief and blaming God for your problems will not produce God’s righteous deliverance from them.
THE GOOD PLANS OF OUR GOOD GOD
When I consider this truth, I am immediately drawn to one of our most loved verses, Jeremiah 29:11. In this beloved verse of so many, we have God’s heart concerning the plans He has for us. It says, “For I know the thoughts I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Now it should be noted that the word “thoughts” in the beginning of this verse carries more of the idea of plans, purposes, or intentions. However, we know that in order to have a plan and purpose, you must first give thought to those plans and purposes, right?
So, the word “thoughts” is also a good word for us to consider because it shows that (as this Hebrew word is also translated in other passages of Scripture) God is “plotting, scheming and devising” a grand and glorious future for us! Amen? You know, when we hear words like to “plot, scheme and devise,” we usually gear towards the negative, but that is not the case here. In the mind of God, His “scheming” revolves around our blessing! In other words, God’s thoughts towards us are thoughts that conspire our good and welfare. Praise Jesus!
My friends, the mind of Christ is filled with wonderful plans, purposes and intentions for your life! He has a plan for you! You might not think He does; but He does! That’s why I believe it is significant how the first part of Jeremiah 29:11 is worded…
Notice again that the Lord says, “For I know the thoughts I think toward you, says the Lord…” Why does He say, “For I know the thoughts…”? Evidently, it was because His people believed He was thinking something else! Did you know that this is still true today? So many of God’s people have a totally incorrect perception of what God is thinking about them. They think God is harsh, critical and fault-finding - always focused on our sin and shortcomings. This is why the Lord went on to say in Jeremiah 29:11 that the thoughts and plans that He knows He has for us are for peace and not of evil. Evidently this is exactly what His chosen people believed He was thinking about them - thoughts of evil. Nothing could be further from the truth! As we have already seen, the exact opposite is true!
You see, while God certainly is well aware of all of our faults and failures, He does not focus on the negative. No, in fact, God is focused more on our potential and His good plan for us than all of the ways that we fall short of His glory. Sure, we tend to focus on the negatives in people, but not God! No, 1 Corinthians 13:5 tells us that love thinks no evil. Amen! Other translations say, “(love) keeps no record of wrongs,” “(love) does not count the bad” and “it doesn’t keep score of the sins of others.” So listen - if God is love (1 John 4:8), then that means that God keeps no record of wrongs, He does not count the bad things in us, and He doesn’t keep score of our sins! Amen! In fact, the Scriptures teach us that our sins and lawless deeds He remembers no more (Hebrews 10:17)! Why? It’s because He has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12)!
So His thoughts, plans and purpose for us are of “peace” and not of evil… Now, of course, the word “peace” comes from the Hebrew word “shalom”- which means more than simply having an absence of conflict. Shalom describes “completeness, wholeness, soundness, success and welfare.” It basically describes having nothing missing and nothing broken in our lives. So we can see that God’s thoughts and plans for our lives involve making them complete, whole, sound, successful and with nothing missing and nothing broken! Amen!
So we have clearly seen God’s heart on the matter… He has good thoughts and plans for us! His purpose for us is to live lives that are complete, whole, sound - with nothing missing and nothing broken in them! This sounds to me like He has planned a good life for us. Amen and amen!
FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE
Finally, we are told that the Lord leads us in these paths of righteousness “for His name’s sake.” So, what does this phrase mean - “for His name’s sake”? It is another way of saying, “for God’s reputation sake.”
So, if you interpret the paths of righteousness to mean God leading you to walk on the path of what is in agreement with His standards (i.e. living holy), then He is leading you to act becomingly to accurately represent Him. Or, if you interpret it to mean that He is leading us into or onto paths of justice and rightness, it is in order for us to clearly represent Him.
You see, God does some things for our name’s sake, but most things He does are for His own reputation’s sake. In other words, He does things like save, deliver, heal, etc. for the sake of His own reputation.
But herein lies the problem - most of us think God is going to do these things for our name’s sake. In other words, He will give us these blessings if we are being holy enough, praying a lot, in the Word, etc. God does things for His name’s sake, that is, in Jesus’ name, not our own. Yes, it’s not because we are good; it’s because He is good. It’s not because of our prayer life; it’s because of Jesus interceding on our behalf. Amen. It’s all for His name’s sake.
You see, while God certainly cares about our own name (i.e. our reputation), we need to understand that the things He does for us and through us are done for His name’s sake. In other words, we can expect that some of our needs and desires will be fulfilled because of who He is and for His purposes and not because of who are and what we do. That is a liberating truth!
So, what can we say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us! He has made the provision for our souls to be restored because He is a God of restoration. He has given us His Word that does the work of restoration in our souls. He has also promised to lead us in paths of righteousness - providing us with deliverance from our enemies and justification on all fronts in our life. The key is letting Him lead us in these paths of righteousness. Amen? He does all of this “For His Name’s Sake”- not because of who we are or what we’ve done. He does it all because of who He is and what Jesus has done. Glory to God!
So now, let’s move on to Psalm 23:3: David continues by saying, “He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
THE GOD OF RESTORATION
Let’s first look at this word “restores.”
The word that is used here literally means “to return, to cause to return, to restore to a former condition.” And if you know anything about God, you will know that this is one of His favorite hobbies: He loves to restore!
Of course, He did this with each of us when we were born again - when we each came to ourselves like the prodigal son and made the decision to “return” to the Father’s house. It was then that we were restored completely - receiving again the ring, the robe and the sandals. We were restored in our sonship! That was the ultimate “restoration”- restored to our former place that we lost at the time of Adam’s transgression. He restored the glory! He restored the position! He restored the garden in us! However, He also loves to restore other things as well: He restores possessions, relationships, health, etc. In short, if it’s good, He wants to restore it!
You see, He will even restore time! He told His chosen people in Joel 2:25- “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust (Pretty much all kinds of locusts😊)…” So, no matter what kind of “locust” we’re talking about, God will restore what they have stolen!
Now, we need to understand of course that this was the result of their own disobedience and sin. These armies of other nations were given access to consume them because they turned their back on God. However, what we see here is the mercy of God in restoration! He said He would even restore to them what they lost during the bad years that they brought on themselves. Tell me God is not a good God! Amen?
So, let me meddle for a moment: There are some that believe that the reason their children are making poor choices is because they made mistakes in parenting. And while that can be true; it’s not always the reason why our children go A.W.O.L. Did you know the most perfect parent who ever existed had children that blew it (i.e. God with Adam & Eve)? So, no, just because our children make poor choices, don’t let the enemy tell you it is because you must have done something wrong. Everyone has a free-will.
But my point is - even if we did do a poor job of parenting and made mistakes that propelled our children to go crazy, that doesn’t mean there is no hope! God specializes in RESTORATIONS! He can make lemonade out of those lemons, baby!
I can personally attest to this: When I came to the Lord at age 25, the Lord restored my time wasted in the world. He began to teach me and got me up to speed to where I believe I would have been if I had been seeking the Lord from my youth.
So, my point is - even if you have made mistakes that have created setbacks, even if you’ve made poor choices that have created delays, God will still restore the years! Yes, He is that good!
HOW HE RESTORES OUR SOUL
But this verse in the 23rd Psalm specifically says that He restores our soul!
So, let’s flip this example of parenting for a moment. Some of us are not on the parenting end; some of us are the children in this example. And some of us have some serious wounding in our souls because of the circumstances we were dealt when we were younger. But we are promised here that God will restore our souls! Amen!
Now there is a debate as to what the soul of man really is. The most common definition is that our soul is our mind, will and emotions. And while I believe that it certainly includes those things, it is obvious that sometimes that basic, simple definition is not always applicable. Sometimes when the Bible talks about the soul, it seems to be referring to the person themselves - their life, if you would. In fact, if you look at the New Testament word most commonly used for “soul,” it is also translated “life.” It is for this reason that I define the soul as our “inner-life.” Even at other times, when the Bible refers to our soul, it seems to be using our spirit and our soul synonymously. But regardless of what your opinion is on our soul, it is obvious that it is referring to this immaterial part of us that makes up our personality and that involves our mind, will and emotions. So, this is the part of us that we are told that God restores!
But a question that must be raised is - How does He do this? How does He restore our soul? And the reason this is such an important question to ask is because it is obvious that this does not automatically happen for all of the Lord’s children, at least to the same degree.
So, how does one’s soul get restored? Well, I’m glad you asked - because did you know that the Bible tells us exactly how one’s soul is restored!?!
We are given the answer in Psalm 19:7 which says, “The Law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”
The word “converting” here is the same word that was used in Psalm 23:3 for “restores.” So, what we see in this verse is how He restores our soul - it’s through the Law of the Lord. No, not just the Mosaic or Levitical laws. When David wrote this, the Law was all they had. So, what we would say today is “the Bible, the Word of God, etc.”- which would certainly include the Law and the prophets, but also includes the Gospels, the Epistles, etc. So, yes, the Word of God is what restores our soul!
David goes on to say that the testimony of the Lord is sure, “making wise the simple.” In other words, the Scriptures restore our souls by taking someone who is simple (i.e. ignorant or idiotic) and making them wise (Compare 2 Timothy 3:15). In other words, it’s not about accumulating knowledge and cramming a bunch of information in our heads. Where the power of restoration lies is in letting His perfect and sure Word impact our hearts with wisdom.
Psalm 119:130 says that His Word gives light (How?); it gives “understanding to the simple.” Again, the Word of God takes someone who is simple and gives them wisdom and understanding.
But the promise of restoration of our souls involves more than just smartening up one whose soul is ignorant; it stands to reason that it also affects the other parts of our soul like our emotions. Yes, the Word can “bring back” our mind, will and emotions to the healing, prosperous position they once had. In other words, there is the healing of our emotions and the restoration of our will that is available through the Word of God. Amen! So, yes, the Word works in helping our mental and emotional state.
A SOUL THAT LIVES AGAIN
God’s Word tells us that just as much as Jesus paid for our sins and sickness, He also paid for our peace (Isaiah 53:5). He has given us not only a spirit of power and love, but also of “sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). These are His promises!
James 1:21 tells us that when we receive with meekness the implanted word, it is able to save our souls! Amen! So here we see how God’s Word is likened to a seed because James calls it the “implanted” Word. The word “implanted” (or, “engrafted” in the KJV - which is poor translation) comes from two Greek words. The first word en describes “in, inner or inside.” The other word phyo literally means “to grow up or spring up in reference to plant growth.” So, I believe “implanted” is a very good translation because this describes the Word of God as something that grows or springs up like a plant inside of us.
So, when you “receive with meekness” (that’s a whole other sermon) the Word of God, it is like you are allowing the Word to be planted inside of you and its job is to grow or spring up in your heart like a seed’s job is to grow after it is planted. Amen!
Then James goes on to describe what this “implanted Word” will do: He says, “which is able to save your souls.”
You see, some of us have damaged, broken and ill souls - depending, not on the circumstances but how we responded to and allowed them to mold and shape or view, mentality, etc.
So, when James says here that the Word of God has the power to “save our soul”, what he is saying is that the Word has the ability to do to our souls what it did to our spirits when we responded to the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation. Amen!
His Word has the power to deliver our mind, to restore our emotions, to preserve our personality, to heal our heart, to change our will. His Word has the power to save our life and even create life! Amen!
Do you remember how the Lord first created man? He formed his body from the dust of the ground. He then breathed into His nostrils the breath of life. And then man became a living soul.
So, what was it that made man a “living soul”? It was when the Lord breathed into him the breath of life - which is obviously when God gave him his spirit.
Well, the Bible teaches us that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16), and this literally means that His Word is God breathed. So, what do you suppose happens when we receive God’s living Word into our hearts? It’s like God breathing into us all over again! Do you see where I am going with this? Likewise, as it was with Adam, the breath of God will create (or you could in this case say, recreate) a living soul within us! Amen!
GOOD, GREEN PASTURES
Now notice that David goes on to say that the Lord your Shepherd, who will not let you lack, also “makes me to lie down in green pastures…”
The term “green pastures” literally describe “pastures of tender grass.”
The word “pastures” describes the abode or habitation of shepherds. But like a shepherd, God is not leading us to barren and fruitless places. He is looking to bring us to places of “tender grass” (i.e. good places for His sheep to dwell). The Hebrew word for “green” describes “new grass,” not mature grass ready for mowing, but grass that is just sprouting and young. What does this teach us? It teaches us that the Lord does not tend towards giving us old, used up stuff. He desires to give us a new life, a new beginning, a fresh start. He makes all things new and He has made all things good. Amen.
We see a similar terminology to this used in Ezekiel 34:14-15 when the Lord said, “I will feed them in good pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Israel. There they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God.”
So, we see here the Lord acting as the Shepherd of His people, feeding them in good pasture and making them to lie down in this rich pasture. Notice the word “good” being used here. So, these “green pastures” that our Good Shepherd is leading us to are good pastures, good and green pastures that are on the high mountains of Israel, hallelujah! When you truly know the love of God, it will be almost impossible to wipe the smile off your face.
Again, increase and elevation are involved in this good life. This is the life that the Lord desires to make us lie down in. However, don’t get the wrong impression by this terminology (i.e. to lie down). According to Ezekiel’s prophecy (and many other Scriptures), the Lord’s will is to take us higher, not lower; to be exalted, not debased! Amen!
THE FREE WILL OF THE SHEEP
Now the phrase “He makes me” might give one the wrong impression about how the Lord operates. The Lord is not in the business of “making” us do anything. The Lord gives free-will to mankind.
This is why the ungodly make ignorant statements like, “I just don’t believe that a loving God would ever send someone to hell.” Well, that’s true to a certain extent; He doesn’t send people to hell. But they choose their own condemnation. They choose serving a sin and satan over choosing the Lord’s free gift of salvation. Therefore, they receive the same lot as their master, the devil. It is really that simple.
So, no, the Lord is not making us do anything. Always remember: when God is involved, free will is involved. Therefore, He did not make us choose Jesus as our Lord and Savior, nor will He make us choose this good life that we are talking about either. We all are living our lives on various levels of God’s good, acceptable and perfect will for us.
So, we should never say things like, “Why is God blessing them more than me?” or “Why do I struggle with this and not them?” That is implying that God alone is the variable and we do not have a say in the quality of life that we are experiencing. Saints, the truth is that we are as close to God right now (i.e. experiencing His presence etc.) as we want to be - and this also applies to other areas of our life. We can choose (the good) life (see Deuteronomy 30:19)!
So, you see, the Lord our Shepherd doesn’t drive us. If He did, He would have been called the “Good Cowboy” instead of Jesus calling Himself the Good Shepherd. You see, a cowboy drives his herd. He ropes and ties them. However, a shepherd leads, guides and calls his sheep. Therefore, the Lord is not in the business of making us doing anything. No, He calls us. He bids us to come follow Him. He gently leads us in the way we should go. And that way is on pastures of tender grass. Amen.
LAYING DOWN IN PEACE
Now it has been said that sheep will not lay down unless they are truly at peace, and oftentimes this peace comes as a result of them knowing that their shepherd was present with them. So it is with us:
David said in Psalm 4:8, “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell safely.”
Here, David gives us a big key to sleeping well - it is learning to lie down in peace. And the major key to doing that is found in the second half of this verse: “for (or, because) You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell safely.”
So, us entering into that peace referred to here is determined by us believing in our hearts that our Lord will cause us to “dwell safely.” In other words, He will cause us to live a life that is guarded, protected and kept by Himself alone.
You see, the “you alone” is an important part of this phrase too. It denotes that the Lord Himself is the One who we see as being able to make us live safely (not with any help of our own, I might add). And did you know what worry and anxiety really are? They are us not believing in our hearts that it is God alone who will keep us safe and sound. Amen?
Church, when we get the revelation that our God is indeed with us and He alone is the One that will protect and defend us, we will indeed be at peace - particularly when we see that the objects of those fears that come up are the Lord’s problem and not just ours.
IT IS NOT OUR FIGHT
It is important for us to realize that the battles we face are not just our battles; they are His battles.
Do you remember the story of King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles chapter 20 - how God began to speak to them and said, “Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2 Chronicles 20:15)
What an awesome statement this is that the Holy Spirit made at the end of verse 15 - “The battle is not yours, but God’s!” We would do good to continuously reflect on this truth in order to remind us that the battle is not ours, but the battle truly is God’s.
You see, this powerful phrase has a whole range of applications to our lives:
These “ites” that Jehoshaphat had coming up against him were types and shadows of the kingdom of darkness that we wrestle against under our New Covenant. And these demonic forces manifest themselves in many different ways. Their effects range from the more obvious demonic devices such as depression, oppression, sickness, and poverty to the subtler areas of darkness such as bitterness, envy, strife, and selfishness. So, when it is written that the battle is not ours but the Lord’s, this applies to any of these different “ites” that come against us today.
For example, when we see the enemy working to destroy our marriages - trying to generate strife and bring division between us and our spouses - we should remember that the battle is not ours, but God’s. Sure, in the middle of these difficult situations, the enemy will feed us the lie that our marriage is hopeless and that our spouse will never change. Sure, he will try and deceive us into thinking that we better defend ourselves lest we be taken advantage of.
But the truth is that the battle for our marriage is not ours, it is God’s. God is able to create hope where there seems to be hopelessness. God is able to bring change when change seems impossible. God is able to heal, restore, and even prosper our relationship with our spouse no matter how discouraging our situation seems. It is His battle, and He is resolved to fight it for us. Hallelujah!
Do you know what happens when we see the challenges we encounter as our battles? Our pride will cause us to attempt to take things into our own hands. For example, when we have lost loved ones, we feel such an urgency to see them come into the light that we allow that fear of their present course to drive us. When this happens, we will take every opportunity that we get to hammer them with the truth and witness to them. While our motives are good, we need to also understand that the battle for our loved-one’s salvation is not ours; it is also the Lord’s battle.
We need to understand that we cannot make anybody see the light; only God can because no one comes to Jesus unless the Holy Spirit draws them (John 6:44 & 16:8). Therefore, we should just rest in Him - trusting that He is fighting that battle and drawing them to Himself - while at the same time being open to share the truth with them as the Lord opens up the opportunities.
You see, understanding that each and every battle we encounter in our life is the Lord’s battle and not our own is such an important part of the Christian life. It is a principle that we see all throughout God’s Word and He desires us to understand: We are victorious only by the grace of God and not by any works that we have done. We are saved by the grace of God. We are healed by the grace of God. We are prosperous by the grace of God. The proud are the ones who are self-sufficient. But we need to walk in humility and realize that God’s grace is Him fighting all our battles for us, and it has been His plan for mankind since Adam. The awesome thing is the battle is the Lord's, but the victory is ours. He does all the fighting and we get all the blessings, when we let Him fight the battle by not fighting it ourselves.
Therefore, every battle we find ourselves in - whether it be over our ministries, over our physical health, over our finances, over our families, or over our own souls - God has said that all of these are His battles and, therefore, should not concern us in the least. When we get bills that are a challenge to our budget, we need to recognize them as God’s battle. Hold them up and say, “God, you’ve got mail.” Thank you, Jesus!
THE ROOT OF FEARING DEFEAT
Let’s now draw our attention to the phrase that the Holy Spirit included before He said that the battle is not ours, but God’s. Again, He said, “Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.”
By including that word “for” before this phrase we have just covered, God is telling us why we are not to be afraid or dismayed when these “ites” come against us. So, what was the reason that He gave them not to fear? It was because it was not even their battle; it was God’s. He told them not to be afraid or dismayed because the battle was not even theirs to fight.
You see, if the battle was ours then we would have every reason to be afraid because we know that we have limitations. We know that there are many problems that we will encounter that are beyond our control. So, if these battles were indeed ours, we most definitely would have every reason to be afraid.
But let me ask you a question: Are you ever afraid of God losing any of His battles? Of course, you are not. So, can you guess the only reason why we ever get afraid when alarming situations enter into our life? It is because we see them as our battles. Yes, the only reason we become dismayed is because we incorrectly see these huge and insurmountable problems as our battles, and not God’s. Therefore, the very root of the fear of defeat is not being fully persuaded that the battles we encounter are the Lord’s battles and not ours. That is the gospel truth, my friends!
Sure, if we were asked if we believed that the problems we have were our battles we would deny it, but the evidence of our faith is in our actions. If we are in fear, it is because we do not truly believe God will fight that battle for us. If we are afraid and worried it is for one of two reasons: Either we do not believe God can handle it or we do not believe He will handle it. And usually our deficiency is not in believing that God has the power or ability to do what He wants to. What we are generally deficient in is not in believing that God wants to. In other words, most believers are not convinced that God is willing and resolved to fight all of their battles for them.
But the truth is God has said that every battle we find ourselves in that was instigated by the enemy is not our battle; they are His battles. Therefore, if we saw our problems in this light, we would be full of peace in the midst of the storm because we know that God is more than able to take care of these situations.
So, my point is: it is both the known presence of the Good Shepherd and knowing that He is resolved to care for His sheep that creates the peace among the flock. Yes, He is there to defend us from the turbulence that arises within the flock and to keep us from the predators that come in from outside of the flock. Amen.
OUR RESTING PLACE
But notice what else David goes on to say that our Good Shepherd leads us to. David goes on to say in Psalm 23:2 that “He leads me beside the still waters.”
Again, He “leads” us. He does not drive us or make us do anything. He leads by that still small voice, by that inward witness. He guides us - for the Holy Spirit has been given to us to “guide” us into all truth and to lead the sons of God.
So, what is He leading us to? We are told here that He leads us “beside the still waters.”
The phrase “beside the still” come from the word menuwchah and describes a “rest or resting place.” It describes a comfortable, still and quiet place or thing (and in this case, that thing is “water”). So, these “still waters” could literally be described as “waters of rest” and for us to be led beside these still waters would describe us being led and guided alongside places of rest - places that are quiet, still and comfortable. Amen.
In fact, this is actually the word that was used to describe the Rest of God referred to in Psalm 95:11 - the same Rest that the writer(s) of Hebrews describe in Hebrews chapter 4.
Now this “Rest” was an obvious reference to Canaan, the Promised Land, and was described as a rest in contrast to their 40-year journey in the wilderness - which was a feeling of never belonging, always moving and striving, never experiencing the fullness of the blessing. And sadly, that is where many Christians live - in the wilderness, living from miracle to miracle (which means they are also living in crisis to crisis) and experiencing this striving, working, and arduous lifestyle. There is a better life, saints! Yes, I said there is a better life! And that is - living in the blessing of Canaan where we enter into His Rest, having taken His yoke upon us! Maybe Jesus healed so often on the sabbath because it was easier for God to work when His people were resting. Amen!
There remains therefore a rest for the people of God - where we can cease from our works, our striving and busyness. This is the Sabbath that we are called to observe - where we learn to rest in the work of another - namely, the Lord Jesus Christ’s work on the Cross. Its ultimate fulfillment will be when we leave these tents and live in the eternal rest in the Kingdom of God, but there is also a rest to be experienced now.
JESUS, OUR SABBATH
Now this leads us into an important biblical principle that was first referred to in the beginning during creation, then was instituted under the Law, and finally was fulfilled in Christ - the Sabbath.
So, let’s start out by looking at this commandment that God gave His people…
In Exodus 20:8-11, God gave them the Ten Commandments and said, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” In this Scripture, we see how He gave His chosen people the Sabbath by comparing it to when He rested from His work in creation.
Now it is important to understand that God did not “rest” in the sense that we think of resting. When we think of resting, we think of recuperating because we are fatigued, but this is not what is implied here. God rested on the seventh day, not because He was tired and exhausted. He rested because the work was finished and complete. There was nothing left to do.
This word “rest” described more of a cessation of activity, the ending of effort. A good example of what transpired here is an artist who was working to paint a beautiful masterpiece and then when his or her picture was completed, they lean back in their chair observing their completed masterpiece maybe with their brush in the mouth. This image in no way describes an artist laying down his brush because it got too heavy. No, he rested from his work because his work was finished and complete.
God had created the heavens and earth and all that is within them and saw that it was all “very good” (1:31). It was finished! His work was complete! So, He was attempting to get His people to see that the work of creation had been completed. Therefore, He gave them the Sabbath to illustrate to them that they are to rest in God’s finished work of creation and redemption.
So, what is our attitude to be regarding the Sabbath? Are we to keep the Sabbath or not? Well, let’s look over at Colossians chapter 2 and, in this passage, we will see the true purpose of the Sabbath and how we should be fulfilling it…
THE SABBATH WAS A SHADOW
Colossians 2:11-15 says, “In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”
So, notice here that things like circumcision (another big point of contention), water baptism, and all the other “handwriting of requirements” (i.e. the commandments of the Law) have been fulfilled in us who are in Him. Amen!
Now notice this… Paul goes on to say in Colossians 2:16, “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths…”
In other words, because the law has been fulfilled in us through the finished work of Christ (i.e. “so”), we are to let no one judge us in food or in drink (this is dietary laws of the law), or regarding a festival (all the feast days) or a new moon (some other requirement for the Jews to keep) or SABBATHS. Or what? Or SABBATHS! This implies we are not to let anyone judge us regarding keeping the different Sabbaths because we are now under the perfect law of liberty.
But why? Why are we free from keeping the Sabbath today under our new and better covenant? Well, continue reading…
In verse 17, Paul goes on to say, “which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”
Do you see this? All of these requirements of the law - the dietary laws, the feasts, and, yes, even the Sabbath - are shadows of things to come! This means that all of these commands the Lord gave them were meant to foreshadow something which was to come, namely, SOMEONE who was to come - and that is Christ! Praise the Lord!
Actually, this word “substance” literally means “body.” So why would we continue hugging the shadow of the One we love when we have their body? That would be weird!
So, what does this teach us? It teaches us that the Sabbath is simply a shadow of Christ and, therefore, Christ is the fulfillment of the Sabbath. Yes, saints, JESUS IS OUR SABBATH REST!
IT IS FINISHED
Let’s look at another passage where the Lord gave His chosen people a command concerning the Sabbath and we will see this more clearly…
Deuteronomy 5:15 says, “And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.”
Notice the word “therefore” in this verse… Being redeemed from Egypt is a type of our salvation, so this is why He commanded them to keep the Sabbath. He did it with His mighty hand and outstretched arm. Therefore, Jesus brought us out of the kingdom of darkness and we should rest in His finished work.
Practically speaking, God gave them one day a week not to work to illustrate to them that they are not their own source. In other words, the Sabbath had an element of trust to it. You had to trust the Lord that He could do more by His mighty hand and outstretched arm in 6 days than you could do by your arm and hand in 7 days. It was to illustrate to them that they are not their own Savior and Provider - God is.
So, this is what we need to understand about the seventh day - that when were we made a new creation in Christ that His work in us is complete. Therefore, we are not a work in progress. His work of grace in our spirit is finished! And it was not by our own hands that we are saved - Jesus did the work Himself.
This is why Jesus said on the Cross just before He gave up His spirit that “It is finished!” He was saying that the price that needed to be paid for our salvation was complete. He was saying that what He hung on that Cross to accomplish was sufficient. Nothing else needed to be done! The price needful for our redemption had been fully satisfied and we are complete!
You see, the word “sabbath” obviously means “rest.” In fact, the words “seven, sabbath, & rest” all come from the same basic word in the Hebrew shabat. And we know the number seven in biblical numerology describes “completion.” Therefore, we see the meaning of the Sabbath… It is that God indeed rested on the seventh day because His work of creation was completed. Amen.
So, we being children of God who have been made new creations in Christ Jesus ought to also follow our Heavenly Father’s pattern - know that the work of the new creation (i.e. salvation) has been completed within us and now we are to rest from our works of the flesh that seek to accomplish what has already been accomplished in us through Christ Jesus. Amen. We are complete in Him. The work of salvation has already been accomplished within us, so now we can cease from our works (i.e. works that seek to justify and obtain what can only be received by faith in His grace) as God ceased from His works. We must cease our WORKS of righteousness (which are not good enough) and REST in the work that Christ did to atone for our sins.
Therefore, we can rest in all the works that Christ has done for us! He has paid the price and done everything that needs to be done in regards to our salvation!
The number seven in Biblical numerology describes “perfection and completion.” Thus, our salvation and the new creation we were made is perfect and complete! There is nothing left undone! God made all things good in the beginning and God has made all the things that are new in us good! When God looked over all that He had made, He said it was very good! Likewise, God looks at His work in us and says it is very good! We have passed inspection!
Now let’s go over to Hebrews chapter 4 where the Sabbath is further explained:
THERE REMAINS A REST
Hebrews 4:9-10 - There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Now the physical fulfillment of the Sabbath will be when we enter in the rest of heaven, but the spiritual fulfillment is the rest we have entered in positionally. Just as the Promised Land was the fulfillment of rest promised to the children of Israel & Joshua - we can partake of Canaan then and now…
You see, just as God gave Israel the 7th year Sabbath (which they never observed) and also the 7th day Sabbath, God has given us two fulfillments of this type and shadow…
There is the Sabbath rest of the next life (i.e. the new heavens and the new earth) and there is a Sabbath rest we can experience every day in this life through our position in Christ. In other words, just as there are three phases to our salvation - one being when our spirit was born again and where old things passed away and all things became new positionally. Another being that we can taste of His salvation in our soul and body now here on this earth as we renew our minds to who we are in Christ and have His Spirit come upon us. And thirdly being when Christ returns, and we receive our glorified body - there are three truths regarding the Sabbath - we have already entered into that rest spiritually as our spirit has been made perfect and complete in Him and our salvation is at rest. Secondly, we have the promise of practically entering His rest everyday as we cease from our own works and self-effort and trust in the work of another. And, last but not least, we will enter that habitual eternal rest when we pass from this life to the next. Amen.
You see, there therefore remains a rest for the people of God - and while being persuaded that God has completed the work of salvation within you is super important - learning to receive the rest that is available to us daily is also super important:
LIGHT AND EASY
Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Notice that twice in this passage Jesus makes reference to “rest.” We must understand that one rest is given, the other is found. One is experienced when we come to Christ upon making Him our personal Lord and Savior. This is the positional rest we have entered in to. But there remains a rest that we can partake of experientially - and that is when we exchange our weakness for His strength, when we learn to wait on the Lord and draw near to Him in fellowship. This is when we will run and not grow weary, when we will walk and not faint. Amen. (See Isaiah 40:31)
Learning to taste and see that the Lord is good and that He is our strength when we are weak is such a vital truth to experience. Oftentimes, we gravitate towards doing things in our own strength and we begin to pull a “Martha”- being troubled with much serving. This is when we must become more like Mary who learned when to sit at the Master’s feet and draw her strength from Him. Strength for service comes from fellowship. This is when we yoke ourselves up together with Him and He does the majority of the pulling. “Burnout” comes as we do all the pulling ourselves. This is not what the Lord intended. The Master said, “Take MY yoke upon you (i.e. get yoked up together with Me) and I will give you rest.
Friends, the Christian life is meant to be light and easy, not heavy and hard. And the moment we begin to feel like our burden is heavy and hard is the moment we have simply realized that we are taking our own yoke and are not benefiting from Him pulling the weight for us.
In fact, all of Psalm 23:2 teaches us this one principle:
For example, the entire phrase at the beginning of this verse, “Me makes me to lie down”- comes from one Hebrew word - the word rabats. This word literally means “to stretch oneself out or lie stretched out.” Thus, the reason that this word is translated “to couch” in a couple of places. Therefore, this word describes “reclining.” So, we might translate this first half of Psalm 23:2 like so today: “He helps me to take a load off and to rest & relax.”
You see, if we are not joyfully serving the Lord, then we are not serving the Lord the way He intended for us to. When we are living the Christian life correctly, we will live a life that is full of peace and joy. It is only when we try to live the Christian life in the arm of the flesh that we become miserable, feeling unfulfilled.
Saints, it is not the Lord’s will that any part of our Christian walk feels like “work.” Sure, it is not always pleasant putting the flesh under, and sure, it is not always easy to go through the various trials we fall into. But if everything always seems arduous and an uphill battle, then we are likely missing it in some way.
You see, the reason working for the Lord is light and easy is because we are yoked up together with Him. In those days, oxen were yoked up together in order to share the load they were carrying. So, if we have been yoked up together with Christ, then we can be certain that He will bear the entire burden! This will result in our walk being light and easy, as opposed to heavy and difficult. The only time that it becomes laborious is when we, of our own accord, unyoke ourselves from Him and try to carry the weights of this life ourselves. This is when the Christian life becomes burdensome and overbearing and we, as a result, lose our joy.
But, no, Christianity is not intended to be burdensome. Again, there is certainly discipline over the flesh and the resistance of temptation involved in the life of a Christian, but in regard to our growth and increase in every area of our walk, it is God Who carries that entire burden. Praise the Lord!
Therefore, to lie down in green pastures describes our Good Shepherd leading us, His sheep, to places of comfort, rest and relaxation - like a spiritual couch or recliner. Amen!
As we have seen, the leading us beside still waters teaches us the same - that there remains a rest for the people of God - a stream that makes glad the city of our God. It is beside these still waters that we find rest for our souls.
May you find rest for your souls today and experience the Sabbath rest - a quality of this good life - that is found only in Christ. Amen.
WHEN SHALL I NOT WANT?
Now, let’s move on to the second half of Psalm 23:1 where David said, “I shall not want!”
So, what he is basically saying here is, “Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want!” In other words, the Lord being His Shepherd and him knowing that the Lord is His Shepherd was the factor in him being able to make such a concrete statement like this. We will get more into this at the end of today’s teaching…
Now I encourage you to check your heart on this one truth because, in my experience, there are those out there who, when they hear promises just like this, will give you the “Yeah, but…” In other words, they will give you all the reasons why this is not true all the time. They will give a laundry list of “Yeah, buts…”
Church, our experiences do not dictate the truth and validity of God’s Word. Indeed, let God be true and every man (and experience of man) a liar (Romans 3:4)! Our prayer today should be, “Lord, elevate our experiences to match the standard of your truth rather than us watering down your truth to match our experiences.” And everyone said, “Amen!”
You see, when it comes to some “believers,” you would think that Psalm 23:1 said, “Thou shalt not want!” In other words, they don’t believe a Christian ever needs to desire or want things. And while we certainly are forbidden to be covetous, that does not mean that we are in error if we are believing God for His prosperity. These people also like to say things like, “Yeah, but we are all going to struggle at times...” Yet we shall boldly say, “I SHALL NOT WANT!” They say, “Yeah, but what about Job?” Again, I will say of the Lord, “I SHALL NOT WANT!”
I encourage you - get on God’s side by lining up your belief system with God’s Word! Dare to believe that His Word is indeed true! This is getting out on the limb where the best fruit is! Amen.
Now there is another group out there who believe truths like this that say, “I shall not want,” but automatically attribute these promises to spiritual things. And it is certainly true that we lack nothing and want for nothing with spiritual things. For, He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3) and He has given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness and has made us partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4). However, notice that this Psalm is not titled, “A psalm of David when he was singing about spiritual things...” In fact, when David wrote this psalm, he wasn’t thinking about Ephesians 1:3 and 2 Peter 1:3&4! No, He was thinking about natural things just as he was not talking about a “spiritual bear” and a “lion demon” when he referred to God delivering Him from these things in 1 Samuel 17:34-36. He was referring to how the Lord, His Shepherd, would never leave him hanging in any area of his life, which included financially.
You see, the Jews didn’t believe like much of the church does today that all of God’s promises are referring to spiritual, heavenly things. They actually believed God desires to bless them in this life, and guess what? As a general rule, they are blessed in this life! God’s blessing is upon the Jewish community and they are generally successful people according to the world’s standards.
But the church tends to make the mistake of separating these things and only applying God’s promises to eternity, while God cares about the whole man, not just our spirit. In fact, the Lord cares about your body, to where He has made provision for its redemption and glorification in the end. And I got news for you - He cares about your body now too! Yes, He always made sure that the Hebrews temple was sufficiently provided for and, in many cases, was extremely beautified. Therefore, our bodies which are called the temples of the Holy Spirit, are meant to be provided for.
Now, this word translated “want” here literally means this: “to lack, to be without, to have a need, to diminish or decrease.”
So, we can translate this verse- “I shall not lack” … “I shall not be without” … “I shall not have a need” … “I shall not diminish” … or, ”I shall not decrease.” Amen to that!
Now it is important for us to recognize why the Lord is against us lacking and wanting for anything. Sure, he wants you to have the desires of your heart and He cares about your own individual needs. However, the biggest reason the Lord wants you to prosper in natural things is so that you can be a blessing to others and that He might establish His covenant on the earth through you.
We’ve all heard those people who say, “Well, I’m alright. I don’t need any more.” Well, that’s selfish thinking because they are only worried about having enough for themselves. If you are okay with your current financial condition, praise the Lord! But believe God for all that He has for you so that you can have it to give to others who are in need! Amen?
I’m of the persuasion that when we start thinking that way - how we can be a blessing into His kingdom and how we can be used to give more to His cause - then we are positioned to have the seed to do so. But just as the Lord said, “He supplies seed to the sower,” (2 Corinthians 9:10) if we do not have seed to sow, then one possible reason for that might be that God doesn’t see us as a sower. Amen or “oh, me”!
A GOD OF INCREASE
This word for “want” is used in this latter way in the Book of Genesis to describe how the water “decreased” after the Flood. (It is interesting to note that as the waters of judgment arose the Lord also caused those same waters to lift up the ark. In Genesis 7:17, it says, “The waters increased and lifted up the ark, and it rose high above the earth”)
Did you know that we serve a God who believes in INCREASE? Psalm 115:14-15 says, “May the Lord give you increase more and more, you and your children. May you be blessed by the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”
Now the context of this verse is the blessing that is upon His people. You see, this what the blessing does: it increases people and things - ultimately making that blessed object the head and not the tail, above only and not beneath, etc. The blessing of the Lord always takes us higher, further etc. It always will eventually increase that blessed person or thing!
For example, in Isaiah 9:7, the Lord describes to us that His kingdom is an ever-increasing kingdom. Jesus taught us this throughout His parables - that the kingdom of God is growing, increasing and abounding. In 1 Corinthians 3:7, we are told that neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but God who gives the increase. In other words, people are not our source for growth; God is. But so many people fail to understand this. I thank God for men and women who have contributed to my growth, but we must keep a sober opinion that if we are growing, it is God who is giving the increase. Amen?
Now somebody might say, “Yeah, but what about John the Baptist? Didn’t he say that he must decrease and Christ must increase?” Sure, he did, but that decrease was a specific part of God’s plan for Jesus’ ministry to gain more influence. On top of that, we should all strive to have Jesus increase in and through our lives: more of Him and less of us. So, we are not talking about increasing just for the sake of having “more for our four and our store.” No, we are talking about increasing for the glory of God and that Jesus might be made known in and through our lives.
Another word that we saw for the meaning of this word “want” is “to diminish.”
You know, in the world, everything seems to diminish. Our new car will lose that new car smell and new car shine. Our new home will eventually grow old and lose its excitement. Everything seems to diminish. But not in the kingdom; in the kingdom of God, things don’t diminish; they increase.
Proverbs 4:18 says, “But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.” This verse is describing the rising of the sun: As it rises, everything gets brighter and brighter, and then when it gets to a certain point, we have the “perfect day” (i.e. the full light of day). This is to be the life of the righteous and the blessed. Things get brighter and brighter to us - not gloomier and gloomier! Therefore, we ought not say things like, “If I didn’t have bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.” Rather, we should say, “Why do I need luck when I am blessed!?! I shall not diminish nor decrease because I am blessed! My path grows brighter and brighter!”
NOT LACKING ANYTHING
Now, this same word translated “want” here in Psalm 23:1 was also translated “lack” in other places.
For example, it was used this way in Psalm 34:8-10 where David said, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. The young lions lack and suffer hunger; But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.”
Notice that in verse 8 he begins by encouraging us to taste and see that the Lord is good. It is important to keep verses 9&10 in this context of the goodness of God because the not lacking here is a product of God being good.
Now when he said that there is no want (or lack) to those who fear Him, this fear of the Lord being described here is not the being afraid of God kind of fear. We are told that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). So, the fear of the Lord is an integral part of not lacking because it is the foundation of wisdom, and wisdom is certainly a big part of not lacking.
When David described the young lions lacking and becoming hungry, he was not referring to baby lions; this is a reference to lions that are in their prime. In other words, even these young lions that are at their peak of strength and can hunt better than at any other point of their lives can go without. They can have days where they don’t catch their prey and eat. What this should teach us is that we need to guard against that subtle deception that if I just have it all together naturally speaking that I will not lack. No, we live in a world - in an economy - that even if you make all the right investments and are the perfect steward of your money, you can still lose everything.
This is why we are told in verse 9 that the “fear of the Lord” leads us away from lack. Why? Because respecting God’s way of doing things and trusting Him in this area is what will guard us from experiencing the lack and suffering hunger that even the “young lions” of this world will suffer. Amen?
However, we are told in the latter half of verse 10 that those who seek the Lord - those who put their full confidence and trust in the Lord - will not lack any good thing. Again, we see the word “good.” Not lacking any good thing is a promise from God for all of His children as we put Him first, reverencing and seeking Him first.
This word for “want & lack” is also used in Exodus chapter 16 to describe how when God rained manna down from heaven that everyone had exactly what they needed. The ones who gathered much had nothing left over and the ones who gathered little had no lack (Exodus 16:18). It was also used in Deuteronomy 2:7 & 8:9 to both describe how the children of Israel “lacked nothing” during their 40 years in the wilderness and how the land of promise was a land where they will lack nothing.
So, what this teaches us is that there are varying degrees to “I shall not want”: There is the not lacking in the wilderness to where they always had just enough manna and where they were certainly sustained, their clothes not wearing out and their feet not swelling (see Nehemiah 9:21). But mind you now - the wilderness was not where God intended for them to live for those 40 years. In fact, them walking around the same mountain for that long was a result of unbelief, disobedience, etc. However, they still saw the miraculous provision of God and had their basic needs met consistently. Tell me that our God is not a merciful and gracious God!
But there is also the not lacking in the promised land which is where there was not just enough provision, but where there was more than enough provision! This is the land of the blessing, where the increase abounds and where God intends for us all to live.
You know, if I were to ask you if you wanted to experience either miracles or blessings in your life, which one would you choose? Most Spirit-filled believers would likely vote for miracles, and why? It is because miracles seem more fun and they sound better. But did you know that the majority of the miracles that the children of Israel experienced were while they were in Egypt and the wilderness. In other words, miracles were experienced the most in adverse, unpleasant circumstances. My point is - miracles usually come on the heels of crisis’. So, if you are praying for more miracles in your life, just be prepared to have some alarming situations that require miracles. No, saints, the best place to live is in the blessing because, while miracles bail us out of tough situations, the blessing will prevent tough situations.
Yes, God wants us to live in the blessing of the Promised Land, not the miracles of the Wilderness. Sure, there will be times where we will need miracles and where it seems as though we are in a wilderness, but that is not where we are intended to live. The miracles of the wilderness were not God’s best then, nor are they now. He wants to abide in the blessing of Canaan! Amen!
And just because we are looking at mainly Old Testament examples, do not make the mistake of thinking it was different under the New Covenant…
Many do. There are lot of people who are under the deception that Jesus was poor and, therefore, wants us poor. But that’s not true. How many poor people do you see having their clothes auctioned off? How many broke people do you see having a treasurer? No, in fact, in Luke 22:35, Jesus asked His disciples, “When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?” Their response was - “Nothing.”
So, Jesus’ disciples never lacked! And why? Because the Lord Jesus was their Good Shepherd. Therefore, they did not lack any good thing! Amen!
BECAUSE THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD
And that is a point I want to leave you with today: Us not lacking is always on the heels of Him being our Shepherd! In other words, if the Lord is not truly our Shepherd - that is, if we are not hearing His voice, being led by Him, etc. - then we won’t see the fullness of His provision. Yes, we are responsible to hear and know His voice and also to be led by Him as His sheep, because if we refuse to heed His instructions and follow Him, we are the problem, not God.
Let me give you a few Scriptures that verify this: In Luke chapter 12, Jesus made a promise to ensure His disciples that they never need worry, but that God will always care for them.
In verses 22-30, Jesus exhorts us, His disciples, not to worry about what we should eat or how we will be clothed, etc. He tells us not to have an anxious mind about these things because our Heavenly Father knows what our needs are. Then, in verse 31, He says, “But seek the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added to you.”
Now Matthew’s account of this says to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness: This is important to bring out because it is not as lucrative for us to seek the kingdom seventh, fifth or even second. No, we are commanded to seek the kingdom and His righteousness first. And as much as most Christians would like to think they are already doing this, I can assure you that most are not seeking first the kingdom of God. Yes, they might seek the kingdom of God to some degree, but the vast majority of Christians do not seek His kingdom first - that is, above their own basic necessities, their own desires, etc.
Now, as we’ve made the point of already, God does care about your needs and He wants to give you the desires of your heart, but He has called us to care more about His kingdom’s cause than any other thing.
Now we are still talking about living the good life because how many of you know that experiencing the good life comes by laying our lives down for the greater good of the kingdom. This all needs to be said because experiencing God’s best is greatly determined by seeking first His stuff above our own. Amen?
Then Jesus went on to say in verse 32, “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Here, Jesus was establishing our hearts in a very important truth - that the reason we do not need to fear or worry about our needs being met is because it is our Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom!”
So, again, our belief system of understanding the goodness and grace of God is super important in receiving from Him. And this Scripture teaches us that He doesn’t want to give us just enough; he wants to give us His kingdom - the very kingdom that He told us to seek. So, what the Lord was saying here is seek first the kingdom because the kingdom holds all the things that you need and desire anyway.
Many miss this because they think seeking the things is how they obtain them; No, Jesus taught us to seek His kingdom and we will obtain them! Why? Because every need and desire are found in His kingdom to start with. Amen!
Now a very important point here is how He referred to us as His “little flock.” Little flock of what? Of His sheep, of course! Now a flock of sheep was not a band of pets. You realize that, right? Back then a flock was a business! So, we are God’s business, and God will take care of us! Amen.
King David said in Psalm 37:25, “I have been young, and now am old; Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread.” Hallelujah, this means that you can live to a ripe old age, and you will not see the righteous forsaken by the Lord or that righteous person’s children begging for bread!
Now someone might be thinking, “I think I have seen this, pastor.” Well, lets define who’s the righteous. It is worthy of noting that verse 26 goes on to say that he is ever merciful and lends; and his descendants are blessed. So, here David is assuming the righteous deeds accompanying the righteous man or woman. But my point is that this person is a GIVER, being ever merciful and lending.
You see, this is what makes Philippians 4:19 a reality in our lives…
Most of us are familiar with this verse which says, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” However, people like to just claim that promise, but many fail to understand the context. What is the first word in that verse? It’s “And,” right? “And” is a conjunction, correct? Well, the premise for God supplying all our need is what? Us seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness based on Matthew 6:33 but also based on this verse because the church of Philippi gave generously to Paul in his need (see Philippians 4:13-18). But when we DO claim this promise and ARE walking in generosity, we are blessed “according to His riches in glory,” which is in proportion to how amazingly rich God is!
Saints, we need to live our lives seeking to be a blessing to God’s kingdom with everything - including our finances. And one thing I can assure of is when you do this - you cannot out-give God! He will bless the work of your hands and your seed sown! You shall not lack! And why? Because you have made the Lord your Shepherd! Amen!
THE LORD IS MY PASTOR
On that note, did you know that you could actually translate the first part of Psalm 23:1 as, “The Lord is my PASTOR.” (for the term “pastor” actually means “shepherd”)
So, what can we learn from that? It is that, just as we need to see God as our own, personal God and personally refer to Him as “my Refuge, my Fortress, my Provider, my Healer, etc.”, we also need to see Him as “my pastor.”
You see, there are many Christians that like to put their “pastor” (or as some say, their “preacher”) up on a pedestal and either view them as a hireling who is there to do their bidding and come running every time they snap their fingers, or as the one that they hear from God through and the one that does their praying for them. Both of these mentalities are wrong.
A pastor is not there to hear God for you, to be the one who is always praying for you. I have spent my first (close to) 4 years here developing a culture that we are not a one man show. You can believe God yourself. You can pray for others. You don’t need someone to hear from God for you. You are blessed. You are called. You are also in the ministry. My job is to simply equip and encourage you to go do the work of the ministry. Amen?
Now don’t hear what I am not saying here. Robert and I are here to help, counsel and pray for you guys. We all at different times in our life need someone to hold our arms up when we are weak and weary, like Moses in the battle with Amalek (Exodus 17:11-12). My point is simply this: we do not want live year after year, decade after decade, running to the pastor or even someone else every time we have a spiritual or natural need. As we learned last week, God has said that we all shall know Him from the least to the greatest. We all have a direct line with God and can pray and believe Him for ourselves. So, next time you have a need, don’t be so quick to run to the phone; first run to the throne - the throne of grace, that is. Amen!
You see, if the Lord is my pastor, then that means I am to be taught of Him and He is my counselor and my comforter. Amen.
Again, this does not mean that you don’t need teaching from a man or woman, and it doesn’t mean that you don’t ever need counsel from someone other than God. Don’t get into either of these ditches. It just simply means that we need to go to God first - knowing that He is our Chief Shepherd. Amen?
THE GOOD SHEPHERD
Now as we are talking about the Lord being our shepherd here, it is important that we go over to John chapter 10 and look at the section of Scriptures where our Lord Jesus Christ revealed Himself as our good shepherd…
As we read this parable in John chapter 10, it becomes clear that Jesus is revealing Himself as not only our shepherd, but also as the door that the sheep enter in and out by. The premise of this parable is to show how our Lord is the shepherd as opposed to the hirelings - the thieves and robbers - that have come before Him.
The context of this parable is not my point as much as the characteristics that our shepherd possesses, because He reveals in this parable some wonderful attributes that we should take heed to.
In verse 11, when Jesus reveals Himself as the Shepherd He described in this parable, He doesn’t just say He is any old shepherd - rather He says, “I am the good shepherd!” and goes on to describe Himself as the Good Shepherd who gives His life for the sheep.
Now there are a lot of things that make the Lord a “Good” Shepherd, but nothing trumps this one point - that He died for us that we might live! Amen!
Now we acknowledge the fact that Jesus died for us and that the Father did not spare Him so that we might live. However, I think what Christians have failed to reconcile is that if the Father gave up His only begotten Son for us, how shall He not also with Him freely give us all things? (See Romans 8:32) Amen? In other words, if He was willing to give us His very best - the Only Begotten of the Father - then why would we doubt that He would give us anything else we needed? That would be like me sacrificing Levi for you and then you doubting that I would help you pay your power bill. No, if I would give up my son for you, then I would most certainly be willing to give you things of much less value. Amen? He wants to take care of every area of our lives, and He has made the provision for this.
We are not yet experiencing the quality of life God has for us. Psalm 78:41 says, ”Yes, again and again they tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.” We need to believe bigger and see further, and stop limiting God. So yes, Jesus is the Good Shepherd because He was willing lay down His life for us, but He is also good in that He is willing to do us good now in this life. Psalm 119:68 reinforces this, saying, “You are good, and do good…”
But we have a part to play. Isaiah 1:19 says, ”If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land.” So if we are both willing and obedient in hearing His voice and following His direction, we will receive the good of the land. And we receive according to our expectations, so we must EXPECT God’s goodness.
LIFE MORE ABUNDANTLY
In fact, let’s look at that familiar passage here in John 10:10 that we quote all the time: Here, Jesus said, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly.”
Now I realized just this week that I have been guilty of emphasizing the nature of the devil through this passage (i.e. that he only comes to steal, kill and destroy), but there is a flipside to that truth as well - and that is that our Good Shepherd came that we may have life and life more abundantly. Amen!
I love the way some other translations expound upon this verse: The Amplified Bible says, “I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].” The Message Bible paraphrases this last part of the verse as so: “more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”
You see, this echoes what we will be seeing throughout this series - that Jesus came to give us the good life - that is, the more abundant life. Again, this first of all describes “life” in our spirit - which overflows in our hearts as righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (see Romans 14:17). It describes a more fulfilling and pleasurable life where we experience good in in all aspects of life - wholeness in our bodies, soundness in our minds, financial freedom, strong relationships etc., etc., etc.
Someone will say, “Yeah, but the Bible teaches that we will suffer too!” Sure, there is suffering involved in the Christian life, but what exactly is that suffering? Well, the New Testament makes it clear that suffering is taking up our Cross and following Him. In short, that means not getting your own way all the time and laying your life down for others. That is suffering. The New Testament also teaches us that we will suffer persecution, rejection and even possibly martyrdom. These are things we are not redeemed from. However, that is as far as biblical suffering goes. Contrary to popular belief - biblical suffering does not include sickness, infirmity, poverty, etc. - for how can we be called to suffer something that Jesus paid the price for our redemption from?
But the truth is that Jesus came so that we can have life and have it more abundantly - which is obviously not just existing. No, this describes a life that is thriving, not just surviving.
THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD. THEREFORE…
But I want you to notice that in John chapter 10, there are some specific promises given to the Good Shepherd’s sheep…
Notice in verse 3 that Jesus says that His sheep:
So, here we have three awesome promises of the Lord being our Shepherd:
HE KNOWS MY NAME
Let’s start with the fact that His sheep are called by name…
In verse 14, Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.” So again, we see the importance of knowing the Lord like we discussed last week. But I want you to notice that here we see the flipside of this: While it is certainly important to know that the Lord is not just our Shepherd, but that He is my own personal Shepherd, it is also important to know that our Shepherd knows us individually and specifically. So not only can we know His name; He knows our names too!
Isn’t that just awesome that our Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, knows His own sheep and calls them by name. Friends, that is a personal relationship. He knows who I am individually and who you are personally. He knows our names - which is not just knowing that we are Joe, Mary, etc.; it is knowing our personality, character, etc. He knows everything there is to know about us! Hallelujah!
This is so super important to understand because it creates confidence in God - that He knows who I am, what I need, what I like, etc., etc., etc. He knows me and, therefore, will not leave me hangin’! Amen!
HEARING AND KNOWING HIS VOICE
In this passage, we also see that Jesus said that His sheep hear. In verse 4, He goes as far as saying that they know His voice. Therefore, if the Lord is our Shepherd we can rest in the fact that we hear and know His voice.
Now I understand that many Christians struggle with this, saying things like - “I just don’t feel like I hear from God.” Well, I believe a big reason for this is because many born again, Spirit-filled Christians have a serious misconception as to how God speaks to us.
When I hear this doubt in Christians that they can hear God, what I want to tell them is - If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you do indeed hear from God! Yes, you already do hear from God! How do I know this, you ask? I base that on these very Scriptures in John chapter 10. So, if Jesus - the Lord, our God - says that we hear His voice, shouldn’t we come into agreement with Him and start believing that we hear His voice? Of course, we should!
But you will hear believers cite their own experiences saying, “But I don’t hear His voice! I have asked and sought to hear from God, but I just don’t hear anything.” This is when we must base our belief system upon the foundation of His Word. As the Apostle Paul said in Romans 3:4- “Indeed, let God be true and every man a liar.” In other words, if our experiences and testimonies conflict with what God said in His Word, then those things are a lie in comparison. Saints, God’s Word is absolute truth. So, if He says here that we hear His voice, then we hear His voice, whether we feel like we do or not. This is one of the cornerstones of hearing from God - faith that we hear Him!
You see, we get what we expect from God (based on what He has spoken and promised to us). Things that God has provided are only going to be fully manifested in our lives as we actively put our hope in those promises and mix our faith with them. Everything from our initial salvation to hearing His voice is fully realized through our faith and hope - our confidence and expectation of them. So, we need to start believing and confessing that we do hear from God for He has said that His sheep hear and know His voice!
But someone will say, “Well, maybe I do hear something, but my big problem is that I do not know when what I am hearing is God or the devil, the Lord or myself.” I am glad you made that point because notice again what our Lord said… He said in verse 3 that His sheep hear His voice, but at the end of verse 4 He said that we know His voice! That means that not only do we hear from God, but we know when what we are hearing is God.
But in my experience, the general problem here is us: It is not that God is not speaking; it is us who are not hearing correctly.
A good example of all of this is that just as there are signals being transmitted in the air all around us right now - radio frequencies and television signals - there are also spiritual messages being transmitted in the atmosphere around us right now. But how many of you know that it would be ridiculous for one to say that they don’t believe that there are these signals and frequencies in the room with us right now just because they don’t see or hear them?
So, regarding this example, you can tell some people this and they might counter by saying - “I don’t hear spiritual frequencies and I don’t see these spiritual signals.” Well, it might not be that it is the transmitter that is broken; it might be that the problem is with their receiver!
You see, all of these unseen programs are being constantly broadcast, but if you do not have a receiver of some sort, you will be oblivious to them and won’t see or hear anything. And it is like that with all of those spiritual realities we are promised exist. Friends, there is a spiritual world around us right now that actually is more real than this natural world we live in. Why? Because the spiritual world parented this natural world. All things were made by the things unseen (Hebrews 11:3).
That’s what faith does - It believes that the things that are made were created by unseen things. This verse teaches us an incredible lesson - that the Word of God was the parenting force that created all the things which are seen. And, bless God, you can bet the bank that it still works this way today! God’s Word can bring to reality in the natural realm things that are already a reality in the spiritual realm. The mirror of God’s Word reflects what is seen in God’s world. (Example of Elisha and his Servant, 2 Kings 6:17)
So, you see, it’s already there and we are not trying to get God to do something that He has not already done. No, we are simply positioning our receiver to hear and see what He has already done. Amen! And this certainly pertains to this promise of hearing God’s voice…
But I personally believe that the reason that many people’s hearing of God’s voice is so fuzzy is because they simply have not learned how He is communicating to us.
That is where this third and final benefit of our Good Shepherd comes in - He leads us…
Let’s look at a couple of passages that clearly indicate that we do hear from God and know His voice…
AS MANY AS ARE SHEEP = AS MANY AS ARE LED
Let’s now look over at Romans 8:14 at another passage of Scripture that verifies my point that God’s children do hear His voice. Romans 8:14 says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”
Many will read this and say something like - “Oh, well, I better start being led by the Spirit of God so that I can become a child of God.” No, it is actually saying the opposite - It is saying that the by-product of being a child of God is that you are led by the Spirit of God.
Now I have heard some try to make a distinction here saying that being led by the Spirit requires great maturity - thus the reason Paul refers to the phrase “sons of God” like these believers are the grown-up ones, but I disagree with this mainly because Paul uses the terminology “children of God” and “sons of God” interchangeably. You can look down at verse 16 and see where he uses the term “children” and in Galatians 3:26 says, “For we are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
No, I see all of this as an excuse of why more people are not led by the Spirit. And whether you were just saved yesterday or 50 years ago, you can be led by the Spirit of God just the same. In fact, I believe many baby Christians are able to be led better than Christians who have been saved for a long time because their hearts are more soft, pliable and sensitive to His direction - not being hardened by the constant friction of not walking in the light that they have.
But notice again that the Bible tells us that the sons (or daughters) of God are led by the Spirit of God… Not can be led, not should be led, but are led! This verse is basically equating “as many” who are led by the Spirit to “as many” are the sons and daughters of God. Therefore, if we are God’s children we are led just as if we are God’s sheep we do hear His voice. So, again, we need to get into agreement with God and start believing and expecting to be led by the Spirit of God.
EVIDENCE THAT YOU HEAR FROM GOD
But, now, let me begin to prove to you that you do hear from God and you are led by the Spirit (and this will also illustrate to you how God speaks to us and leads us today)…
First of all, skip down a verse in Romans 8:16… It says that the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. Well, how do you know that you are saved and a child of God? If someone were to ask us how we know we are born again, our response would generally be something like, “I just know.” It is just a “knowing” that we have on the inside of us. This “knowing” is the Holy Spirit communicating with our spirit that we are the children of God. We just know it in our knower.
Well, it stands that the same way He communicates to us that we are saved is the same way He will communicate to us to turn left, stop, go there, etc., right? He will communicate to our spirit - our inner man - and this is evident by just knowing something in our knower. Therefore, He will bear witness with our spirit on other things as well and these situations will be recognized as that same “knower.” We see this at work when Luke says in chapter 1 of his gospel that he wrote the book because "it seemed good." He KNEW that he should write the book. And we, too, can know things as they are revealed to us by God.
For example, after you got saved and received the Spirit of God, what happened when you did something wrong or were about to do something wrong (i.e. hurting someone)? You had no problem knowing / discerning that what you did was wrong, did you? Of course not! That was God speaking to you / leading you. You just knew that you were wrong and did not necessarily need to know what the Bible said about it. Something just irked you when you did it.
This is something God just showed me about why we can hear from God so clearly and precisely when we miss it and it seems so much harder to hear Him when it comes to seeking direction? In other words, why is it we know God is telling us we are doing something wrong and it is so hard to hear from Him when we need to know what to do?
I believe this is the case because God’s desire is for us to look into His Word and find the general direction that we should be going. And once we begin to move in that direction, the Lord will keep us on our assigned path by correcting us when we are beginning to get off that path.
But my point is that you have no problem hearing from God when you miss it, so you do indeed hear His voice and are led by His Spirit. Therefore, His sheep do hear His voice and those who are sons of God are led by the Spirit of God.
Before we do anything else, we first need to begin to believe this! This is the foundation to everything else we will build upon in this study. Therefore, faith in God’s Word that we hear His voice and are led are an integral part to growing in this area of Christianity.
Church, these are the benefits of the Lord being our Jehovah Ra’ah. Therefore, when we say the Lord is my Shepherd, we are also saying, “I hear and know His voice”, “He leads me”, and “He knows me.”
Jesus used this same illustration in Luke chapter 12 to ensure His disciples that they never need worry, but that God will always care for them.
In verses 22-30, Jesus exhorts us, His disciples, not to worry about what we should eat or how we will be clothed, etc. He tells us not to have an anxious mind about these things because our Heavenly Father knows what our needs are. Then, in verse 31, He says, “But seek the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added to you.”
Now Matthew’s account of this says to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…” This is important to bring out because it is not as lucrative for us to seek the kingdom seventh, fifth or even second. No, we are commanded to seek the kingdom and His righteousness first. And as much as most of us would like to think we are already doing this, I can assure you that most of us are not seeking first the kingdom of God. It’s tight but it’s right.
Now we are still talking about living the good life because how many of you know that experiencing the good life comes by laying our lives down for the greater good of the kingdom?
This all needs to be said because experiencing God’s best is greatly determined by seeking first His stuff above our own. Amen?
Then Jesus went on to say in verse 32, “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Here, Jesus was establishing our hearts in a very important truth - that the reason we do not need to fear or worry about our needs being met is because it is our Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom!”
So, again, our belief system of understanding the goodness and grace of God is super important to receiving from Him.
And this Scripture teaches us that He doesn’t want to give us just enough; he wants to give us His kingdom - the very kingdom that He told us to seek. So what the Lord was saying here is seek first the kingdom because the kingdom holds all the things that you need and desire anyways.
Many miss this because they think seeking the things is how they obtain them; No, Jesus taught us to seek His kingdom and we will obtain them! Why? Because every need and desire is found in His kingdom to start with. Amen!
Now a very important point here is how He referred to us as His “little flock.” Little flock of what? Of His sheep, of course! Now a flock of sheep was not a band of pets. You realize that, right? Back then a flock was a business! So God sees you as His business, and He is not about to let His business fail.
All this rests on the fact that we must trust God - to hear Him, to know Him, to receive from Him. The disciples learned this when He told them to cross to the other side, and then went in the back of the boat and went to sleep. The storm came and they were frantic, and woke Him and asked Him, “Don’t You care that we are perishing?” But He calmed the storm and asked them why they did not believe. They should have known that if Jesus said to cross to the other side, they were going to get to the other side, especially when He was in the boat. And He’s not going to let us sink either. God knows Jesus is in me, and He's not going to let Jesus sink. But we can short circuit God’s provision by being drowned in our cares. Think about it - If the Lord is resting in you, shouldn't you be resting in Him? We have to learn to rest in Him - in hearing from Him, in His goodness, in His provision. Amen.
Many only hear this psalm read and expounded upon at funerals, but how many of you know that this is not just a psalm to comfort us in death? This is a psalm also meant to encourage us in life!
As one looks at this psalm honestly and objectively, he or she must conclude that it not only contains promises from the next life, but contains God’s will for us in this life. For example, when David says, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” that is not talking about after one dies - for there will be no evil to fear then. No, it is talking about now in this life when the prospect of death does face us and when the temptation to fear would be present. Another example is when David writes that God prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies. Well, there will be none of our enemies in heaven, so that must be talking about now, in this life too. Amen?
No, saints, this psalm is not just a good passage of Scripture to be read at someone’s graveside; it is a good psalm with many good promises for us to embrace while we are still above ground. Amen?
BACKGROUND OF THE 23RD PSALM
Now I believe the position of this psalm is divinely strategic as well - for it follows the 22nd psalm which is called by some, “the Psalm of the Cross,” holding many prophetic truths regarding Jesus’ crucifixion. So, why is that significant? It is only because of Jesus going to the Cross that we have all of these promises of protection and provision that we are going to see in Psalm 23. In other words, it is only through our Good Shepherds’ death, burial and resurrection that we have these exceedingly great and precious promises spread on the banquet table of the Lamb. Amen and glory!
Now it is an undisputed fact that King David is the author of this psalm, which I think is interesting in that he personally lived his life doing these very things that he attributes to God here - namely, being a good shepherd in his early years and a hospitable and honorable king in his latter years.
You see, Psalm 23 is divided into two basic descriptions of God: Verses 1-4 use the analogy of the Lord being like a shepherd caring for His sheep, and verses 5-6 use the analogy of the honor bestowed by a wealthy and hospitable king or noble - both of which we see in the life of David.
Did you know that the Lord wants us to learn about His love and care for us through the natural things we experience in life? For example, marriage is meant to teach us about Christ’s love and care for His church and how we are to respect and honor Him as our Provider (see Ephesians 5:32). Parenthood is meant to teach us about the great love and provision that our Heavenly Father has in His heart to give us. Jesus even used the illustration of how the natural things of this world like the birds and flowers, which have all they need, to show us how we never need worry - for God will take care of us.
How do you treat your children, grandchildren and even your pets? As good as you are to your babies, you ain’t gooder than God (pardon the poor grammar)!
So, you could say that many of the natural things we are surrounded with in everyday life illustrate to us God’s nature. Amen. Likewise, David taught us about the nature of Jehovah through the things he lived through in this world. We would do good to learn from his wisdom.
So, renew your mind to that truth today - that God is good and He wants (more than you) for you to live the good life He has for you! In fact, he has already prepared this good life for you and I to walk in.
Look over at Ephesians chapter 2…
THE GOOD LIFE
In the Amplified Version of Ephesians 2:10 it says, “For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].”
Now, what the Lord did for us in Christ - spiritually speaking - is absolutely the most important part. His providing us with the new birth to where we become His own handiwork, His masterpiece and His work of art is the cornerstone of this blessed life. But how many of you know that no one displays a valuable piece of artwork in some broken, shabby, substandard frame? No, they want that precious piece of art being displayed in something that is equally precious. Amen?
So, God has a “good life” which He has already prearranged for us to live and wants us to display all of these spiritual blessings that we have in Christ to the world we live in. In other words, He wants our natural lives to display His goodness, living the good life. This is that exciting life of faith where we are enjoying our personal relationship with God, where we are introducing people to His presence and power, and we are partaking of all the good things He has for us in this life. Amen.
THE GOODNESS OF GOD NOW!
Now I want us to look at Psalm 27:13 because it is a verse that both reiterates what the Amplified Bible says in Ephesians 2:10 and also perfectly encapsulates what I believe the Lord wants us to see through the 23rd Psalm…
In this verse, King David says, “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
Notice what some other translations say:
I want you to notice that David put his faith of experiencing God’s goodness in the land of the living - which is the opposite of the land of dead. In other words, he didn’t, like so many Christians, push off the glories and promises of God into the “sweet by and by”; no, David expected the manifestation of God’s goodness in the “rotten here and now”!
He goes on in the next verse to say, “Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!”
The word used for “wait” in these verses does not mean what we commonly use the word “wait” like today. When we say that we are “waiting,” it might mean that we are just enduring and passively letting the time pass by, but this word meant something else in their days. It meant to earnestly expect something to happen, to where we are looking for it and desiring it. In other words, it is not a passive kind of waiting; it is a neck-stretched out, looking for something kind of waiting. Amen.
So, in context, what David was encouraging all of God’s people to do was EXPECT the Lord’s goodness right now in this life! Look for it, earnestly desire it, and believe for it in the land of the living.
“But what if I get disappointed, pastor? I don’t want to get my hopes up.” That’s why David said, “Be of good courage!” because it will take courage for some of us to put our hope in experiencing God’s goodness in our lives.
And that is exactly what I believe God wants to challenge us on as we enter this new year: He wants us to start expecting good things in our life starting this year. He wants us to start living the “good life” that He has always wanted us to have here in the land of the living. Amen?
So, let’s begin looking at this 23rd Psalm and begin seeing what this good life that He intends for us all to live looks like…
JEHOVAH, MY SHEPHERD
King David begins this Psalm with, “The Lord is my Shepherd.”
Now, again, David knew a little bit about shepherding, right? So, through his personal experience as a shepherd, he saw how the Lord was that way towards us.
The title “Lord” comes from the Hebrew word YHWH, and has been transliterated as Jehovah. This is also one of those names God gave to Himself that describes His covenant relationship with His people - Jehovah Ra’ah. Thus, Psalm 23:1 describes the Self-Existent One as “The Lord our Shepherd”- that is, “The God who leads, guides, feeds and watches over us.”
Now this of course is not the only name given to Jehovah:
Now the “name” of God represents His authority and His power; it describes His person and His characteristics. His name declares to us who He is and what He does - His integrity, personality and nature. So, God gave us all of these names to reveal to us His nature and the core parts of who He is - to show us who He is to us. Amen.
But not just who He is to us, but who He is to you and to me on an individual level. Amen. In other words, He is not just the Lord our Shepherd; He is the Lord my shepherd! Yes, we need to make who He is personal to us. Amen?
In fact, notice all the personal pronouns David used in this psalm:
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 restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
Yea, 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.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
That’s a lot of “me’s, my’s and I’s,” isn’t it? But it is significant that he didn’t once say, “us, we, our, etc.” It is because He is our personal God. He didn’t just send Jesus to die for us. He sent Jesus to die for you and for me on an individual level too! Amen. Praise God!
You see, David was confident in his God to where he personalized these promises! Plus, he was not “wishy washy” either. He apparently really knew and believed what His God was going to do.
You know, if this Psalm were not a part of the Holy Scriptures and say, I wrote these words, you might be tempted to think I was being little high-minded, brash and over-confident, right? But we know that these confident statements by David were inspired by God. Therefore, they are right on!
In fact, he even made other statements throughout his life that people misunderstood and was even accused by his brother Eliab in 1 Samuel 17:28 as being arrogant. But in that situation, David turned from him and kept saying the same things. Yes, he said things that many would consider presumptuous and arrogant - saying things to Goliath, “This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand…” (Verse 46)
Where did David get this confidence from? We don’t have any reason to believe that God told him any of these things. Where did his obvious persuasion come from? His confidence came from knowing his God.
The same sentiment is revealed in Jeremiah 9:23-24: Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; 24 But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord.
You see, David knew his God, and this is what produced all this boldness and confidence that we see. And I can guarantee you that I know exactly how he knew his God so well: It was because he was a praiser, and the Bible says that in Judah (Hebrew for “praise”), God is known (Psalm 76:1). And we know that David was well versed in praise by all the psalms he wrote. In other words, God is known in the arena of praise. Amen.
You see, David did not just know what He believed; he knew whom believed.
KNOWING MY GOD
You see, in 2 Timothy 1:12 the Apostle Paul made a similar, profound statement: He said, “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.”
Notice that Paul did not say here, “I know what I have believed.” And this is a big problem with many Christians - that they are trying to adhere to a principle or a promise and not to a person. They are trying to follow a formula and the problem with that is that we can get the results of the seven sons of Sceva to where the devil turns on us and eats our lunch and pops the bag. But if we know HIM like these people like David and Paul did, it will produce faith.
No, Paul knew God as a person and this produced, what? Him being persuaded that His God would be able to keep Him. Amen. Church, truly knowing God produces persuasion. This word “know” here means to perceive or to see. And this is the problem with so many Christians - they have not really “seen” God. Their vision is blurry. They see an abstract version of God, but have never truly seen His true nature.
But the fact is, Paul knew His God personally. And this even produced the confidence that made him say in Philippians 4:19- “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
Why would he say, “And my God?” Wasn’t He also the God of the Church of Philippi? Sure, he was, but what Paul was saying was, “And I am confident that my God - the One who has proven Himself to be faithful to me in my life - He will supply all your need too.”
You see, this was a statement that reveals that He knew his God! Amen.
Church, it is critical that we likewise believe in our hearts and declare with our mouths who our God is to us personally just like David and Paul did. In fact, this is what you see throughout the Bible - that the ones who came to know Him as their own personal God, made professions that to some might seem a little arrogant.
For example, the Apostle John declared time and time again in his gospel that he was the disciple whom Jesus loves. But for someone to say that this is not being humble would have to say that the Apostle John was in pride - and I can assure you the apostle of love was not a high-minded person.
You see, Daniel 11:32 says that it is the people who know their God that will be strong and do great exploits, not just the people who know about their God. We must see His face and become intimately acquainted with Him. Then, and only then, will our confidence level be where it needs to be. Then, and only then, will we become persuaded in Him backing us up and being our shepherd.
I WILL SAY OF MY GOD
However, just as it is important to personalize His promises, it is also just as important to then speak them.
We see this in Psalm 91:2, where after the Psalmist describes this whole Psalm in a nutshell in the first verse, he goes on to say, “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”
So, let me ask you a question: Is what you say important? I can assure you, it is!
There are countless Scriptures that teach us the power in our words. What is most notable is how the Book of Wisdom itself - Proverbs - has so many Scriptures that reveal to us the importance of our words. Therefore, we can simply conclude from just this that a wise person watches what he or she says and a fool doesn’t.
You know, the world will tell us that we are weird if we talk to ourselves; Well, the Scriptures indicate that we are weird if we do not talk to ourselves.
For instance, when you have those times where your emotions are screaming at you - Fear, Panic, Worry!!! Well, what should you do? Just give in to the anxiety? No! You should SAY! Remember, never run at your giant with your mouth shut!
But do you know one reason why people do not do this? It is because they are afraid of nothing happening and either being disappointed or having egg on their face before other people.
THE PEOPLE THAT KNEW THEIR GOD
But the main truth I want to convey to you this week is that it is the one who knows their God that will be strong, bold and courageous!
We all remember the instance where Abraham began to bargain with God over the righteous that dwelt in Sodom. I mean, who actually tries to strike a deal with God? Someone who knows their God!
In another instance, when God told Moses that He was going to wipe out all His chosen people, Moses stood between Him and the Jews and basically told God to repent. Now who does that? Someone who knows their God and knows who they are in Him - that’s who! (See Exodus 32:7-14) You see, the people of Israel knew His acts, but Moses knew His ways!
Saints, every born-again believer is now a friend of God. Notice what Jesus said to His disciples in John 15:14-17: Here, Jesus tells His disciples that he no longer calls them servants for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.
So, we are now the initiated. We are not outsiders - peeking in from the outer court. No, we are insiders - initiated into the mysteries of the kingdom. And as God’s friends, (notice what Jesus went on to say at the end of verse 16) “whatever we ask the Father in His name He may give you.”
So, we should no longer communicate with God with this mentality that we are on the outside looking in. Saints, we are in covenant with the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ! This means we are joint heirs, and no longer strangers to the covenants of promise! So as the friends of God, we can talk to God rather frankly. Of course, not being disrespectful because He is still God, but we must find the middle of the road where we are not communicating to God like we are still lost and without God in the world.
But the good news is that the same confidence that David, Abraham, Moses and Paul had, you and I can have because, under this new and better covenant, we all can know Him from the least to the greatest (Hebrews 8:10). Amen!
So, when we see here in Psalm 23:1- “The Lord is My Shepherd”- what should be our response? We should boldly say, “I will say of the Lord: The Lord is My Shepherd. I shall not lack! He will provide for me! He will take care of me! My enemies are His enemies, and He will deliver me! Amen!”