The Fourth Sunday in Lent

~Psalm 23: 1-6~

Dr. Venus L. Butler, Associate Pastor
Sunday, March 19, 2023
1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.4Yea, 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. 5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever. Psalm 23: 1-6
The message today is focused on the 23rd Psalm. This is a familiar passage known by many people. Many Christians know Psalm 23 and can probably recite it from memory. The title and the primary focus today is stated in the first verse – The Lord is My Shepherd. Although you may be familiar with this passage, I am sure that this Psalm has taken on various shades of meaning and relevance for you as you continue to journey through various circumstances of life.

Using the metaphors of the shepherd and sheep, this Psalm describes the relationship that had been established between God and David. David makes a very personal statement, “The Lord is my shepherd.” Throughout our lifetime we are constantly developing and enhancing our relationship with God. We should be able to make that personal claim, “The Lord is my shepherd.” Embedded in the Old Testament are people who came to acknowledge the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rachal and Leah.

Consider your relationship with God and how you are able to make
this personal statement, “The Lord is My Shepherd.”
Monday, March 20, 2023
In Psalm 23, based on this shepherd–sheep relationship, the Psalmist, (believed to be David) declares, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” He is stating, I don’t need anything. I don’t have a want or need because God has already provided everything that I need. As long as the shepherd is with me – all I need is the presence of God. As the relationship has been established, God leads David to green pastures and leads him beside the still waters. God provides rest and restoration. God leads him in the paths of righteousness, or leads him on the right path, for His name’s sake.

The Psalmist appears to enjoy being in the presence of God. Sometimes our lives become so hectic that we neglect to take the time to “Be still and know that God is God.” We should make time to sit in the presence of God. The Psalmist is restored. We all need to be restored and revived.

The Psalmist appears to enjoy being in the presence of God. Sometimes our lives become so hectic that we neglect to take the time to “Be still and know that God is God.” We should make time to sit in the presence of God. The Psalmist is restored. We all need to restored and revived.

Consider the times in your life when you have been
restored and revived by God.
Tuesday, March 21, 2023
The shepherd is teaching the sheep about the need to be in a relationship with the shepherd; he has learned lessons about rest and being still; lessons about being restored when you know the shepherd; lessons regarding righteousness or the right way to live. There is no need to be afraid in matters of life or death, because God is always with you. We see the presence of God, but also the presence of enemies. Just because you have a relationship with God, there is the reality that the enemies might be at the table too. Be aware of your surroundings, although you have been anointed and blessed by God, there will always be the presence of good and evil.
David reveals the promise that goodness and mercy shall be with him all the days of his life and he will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. It’s a life-long relationship. The shepherd and sheep bond is a relationship based on the shepherd’s presence, protection, and promise.

The Lord continues to be our shepherd during the stages of life. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. God is able to provide for all of our needs. This statement is not relegated to materialism. God provides the breath of life, our mind, body,
Spirit and soul. We believe that every living creature was created in the image of God. Every day is one more day to give thanks to our creator.

Consider your thoughts regarding the statement,
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
Wednesday, March 22, 2023
Psalm 23 is read at funerals and memorial services because the content is comforting to many Christians, Jewish people, and religious individuals. Since the themes of eternal rest, peace, and comfort are so dominant throughout the six short verses, the poem provides hope and encouragement to those left behind.
You may have heard this Psalm a thousand times – but- the moment you hear the words – “The Lord is My Shepherd,” – you just know that that everything is going to be alright. It’s the powerful, ever-present Spirit of God behind these word that speaks to our heart.
Psalm 23 reminds us that in life or in death, in times of plenty or want, God is good and worthy of our trust. The psalm uses the metaphor of a shepherd's care for his sheep to describe the wisdom, strength and kindness of our God. The characteristic of God as the shepherd is woven throughout several lines of this Psalm. The metaphor comparing the Lord to a shepherd appears in the first four lines of the psalm. The major point of the metaphor is that the Lord looks after and nurtures his flock, and the speaker is part of that flock. Psalm 23 reminds us that God stands ready to be our shepherd if we will only let him. God is not a distant God who winds up the universe and lets it go. God is close to us and cares for us as a shepherd cares for his sheep. In this Psalm, David, who is himself a shepherd, describes the Lord as his own personal shepherd.
Consider how you have been comforted or encouraged
when hearing or reading this Psalm.
Thursday, March 23, 2023
We have just experienced the worst snow storm during our lifetimes in California. Some experienced snow for the first time in their life. I have often told my story about arriving in California, 30 years ago, March 3, 1993. When I left Detroit, MI it was
4 degrees and the streets were covered with ice and snow. When I arrived in Southern California, it was 80 degrees and I couldn’t believe it. As I walked through the airport, people were dressed in summer clothes and I had on my winter attire with boots, hat, scarf, sweater and a Michigan wool coat. Wow! I thought about the fact that many people in California have no idea of having to shovel and dig your car out of snow before getting inside to drive. I said to myself, “What a mighty God we serve!” In 4 and a half hours, I had traveled from winter in the Midwest to Summer on the west coast. Now, this year 2023, March 3rd, it was in the 50’s in California
and it felt like winter time. On the other hand it was in the 40’s in Detroit.
A result of global warming and climate change.
Some may ask the questions -“What is happening in our world?” “Where is the shepherd?” - as there were earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, tornadoes in Oklahoma, Kansas, Alabama, Texas and other places. There were winter storms in Detroit where 800,000 residents were without electrical power for several days. We had rain and snow in California; especially severe in Crestline, in the mountain areas. People were unable to get out and go to the grocery store, pharmacy, and doctor. During this same time period, there was a rare occurrence wherein two planets - Jupiter and Venus - were visible in the night sky with the naked eye.
We also have rising cost of eggs due to the Avian Bird Flu, an increase at the gasoline pump, and outrageous heating cost, and the the ongoing Russian offensive against Ukraine. Churches are still recovering from COVID-19 and its impact on the world. March 11, 2020 the global Pandemic was declared and now three years later, we thank God that we are here to tell the story!

As we think about the pandemic, changes in the weather patterns, unexpected circumstance of life that suddenly arise – it becomes even more crucial that we hold onto our faith in God and belief that the Lord is my shepherd. We would not be able to continue making it in this world without believing that God is God, all by God’s self. God doesn’t have to prove anything to us because we have the written testimony down through the ages and we have our living testimonies from the past and right now. As the song writer Beverly Crawford states, “If God doesn’t do anything else – God has done enough!” Then she proclaims, just say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Consider how the statement, “The Lord is my shepherd” may have
different meanings throughout the changing scenes of life.
Friday, March 24, 2023
With all that’s going on in the world and as we proclaim like David, The Lord is my shepherd, it’s a profound reality that as 21st century believers we read the 23rd Psalm and see the parallel of Jesus as the shepherd! In the New Testament we find this scene in Mark 6:34, Jesus saw a large crowd and He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd, so He began teaching them many things.      

We can say, Jesus is my shepherd, I have everything that I need. Jesus, who often led His disciples to the green pastures, or beside the still waters to feed the hungry, heal the sick, to preach and teach the word of God. Jesus, the shepherd who was full of love and compassion, who said, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me for I am meek and lowly in heart…and you shall find rest for your souls, (Matthew 11:28-29). Jesus, the shepherd who said, I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep (Jn. 10:11). Jesus proclaimed, I am the good shepherd, and I know my sheep and I am known by my own. As the Father knows me, even so I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep (Jn. 10:14).

Jesus – the good shepherd – taking the sins of the world upon himself, He was nailed to the cross – crucified – for your sins and mine. He was buried in a tomb,
but raised from the grave with all power in his hands. Jesus, the good shepherd – my personal Lord and Savior, my friend, my confidant, my deliverer, my healer, my protector, and my redeemer. Thank you for dying on the cross so that we might live. Thank you for the gift of forgiveness, the gift of salvation, the gift of eternal life.

We must maintain our focus on Jesus the shepherd. What happens when we lose focus? When sheep lose their focus they began to wander away from the fold and become wanderers in the wilderness. Some may become lost and can’t find their way back home. Some may enter into dangerous territory, where their lives become threatened. The protection, security, and comfort of being with the flock begins to dissipate. David understood how life could be without a shepherd for there were times when he lost his focus and had that sense of being disconnected.

What happens when we remain connected to the Shepherd? We have a sense of “knowing” that we are not alone. God is always with us, never forsaking us, and always loving us. We have the assurance that God is for us and not against us. When you are connected to the shepherd, you have a sense of a spiritual connection, that continues to grow and develop as we journey through life.
When you are connected to the shepherd, you have a sense of freedom to live
life to its fullest, by being a people of hope, not doubt and despair. When faced with various trials and tribulations, disappointments and failures, we have that sense of hope that God is going to work it out for our good.

We hold on to our hope in Christ Jesus who is the Good Shepherd, for...

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand,
all other ground is sinking sand.

The sheep are totally dependent upon the shepherd. We are also dependent upon the Shepherd to lead us and guide us along the way.
Consider how the Lord has provided everything that you need
in life and how your relationship with God has developed.
Saturday, March 25, 2023
The Good Shepherd called forth shepherds to lead us. The Good Shepherd called forth pastors to shepherd the sheep, to shepherd the church, to lead God’s people in the ways of truth, in the ways of God’s word, and in the ways of God’s Spirit.
So, we are thankful for the pastors whom God has chosen.

We have the Lord who is our Shepherd in the Old Testament; we have Jesus as the good shepherd in the New Testament; and we have Jesus calling forth pastors within the Church of Jesus Christ, to shepherd and guide His people. God’s spirit continues to lead and guide us. God’s spirit continues to give us hope, power, and encouragement to hold onto our faith and to hold on to the belief that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).

Lead me, guide me, along the way, for if you lead me,
I shall not stray, Lord let me walk, each day with thee,
Lead me, Oh, Lord – Lead Me.
I am weak and I need thy strength and power,
to help me over my weakest hour.
Help me through the darkness thy face to see,
Lead me, oh Lord lead me.
Help me tread in the paths of righteousness,
Be my aid when Satan and sin oppress,
I am putting all my trust in Thee, Lead me, oh Lord, lead me
I am lost if you take your hand from me, I am blind without thy light to see,
Lord, just always let me thy servant be, Lead me, oh Lord, lead me.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want……

Consider how the shepherd is leading and guiding you on your journey of life.
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