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God is our guide! – Psalm 23

God is our guide! – Psalm 23
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 3, 2017

In our day and age few of us truly understand what it means to be a shepherd or even what sheep are all about. Of course if you have been around sheep you probably are still wondering what in the world sheep are all about. While a cow will walk into muck clear up to their hind tail and wonder how in the world they got there, sheep will freak out and happily run off a cliff together. I also realize that few of us would sit day in and day out through the cold, heat, rain, wind or snow watching a herd of grass-chewing wooly uncaring critters so understanding shepherding isn’t part of our modern day lives or personal experience.

Now perhaps in our day we could understand what it means to be a guide instead of a shepherd. A guide helps someone to go from one place to the next, meet a specific goal, or to acquire a certain skill. In David’s day shepherds were common and since he had been one himself he understood what it meant to be called a shepherd. Today let’s discover what it means for God to be our guide…

READ: Psalm 23

Watching or babysitting a toddler is in a sense a lot like being a shepherd. You have to continually be on your guard, keep them safe, and help them to get enough rest, nutrition, and play to keep them occupied, healthy, and growing; in a sense you have to herd them! Here we find David singing that…

I. God is our guide to a better way of life! (Vv. 1-3)

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

1. Through all of life’s struggles and his own selfish sin David had learned that “The Lord is my shepherd”. God guided David and often in spite of himself, but being his shepherd meant that God had deliberately steered David. And this was true. God had chosen David to be Israel’s king following Saul’s disastrous reign. God had every right to do so. Being Israel’s Shepherd God wanted to make sure the right man was in the right place to do the job he needed done for the time. Shepherds make sure their flocks are well fed and in his spiritual walk David realized that if God guided him, he would want for nothing. He would have what he needed from the Lord. In fact, David had experienced God’s care for him in that “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.” It is when we follow the Lord that we experience his love, compassion, and care. We sleep better, we are more patient, and we find our spiritual strength in him alone. In a world that has floods, famines, and all kinds of natural and manmade disasters it is good to know that God can be our shepherd. And it is here that David gained the spiritual strength he needed. David would declare, “He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” God willingly guides us because he desires to! David had been a shepherd who became a king. He understood what it took to care for a flock of sheep and he saw in his relationship with the Lord the same kind of care and concern. God is our Shepherd because he wants to be! David realized that God is our guide to a better way of life!

EXAMPLE: Watching a toddler can drive one to the brink of sitting on the kitchen floor and begin babbling like a maniac. A few years ago a friend of ours had triplets. I cannot imagine how one would go about watching three little ones who are always ready, willing, and able to be anywhere, go anyplace, and get into anything. This is why God gave mothers the ability to multitask! I am always amazed at how mothers can be making dinner, answer the inquisitive questions of a two-year-old, and talk coherently on the phone! When you add several others to the mix like other siblings or a clueless husband then you realize just how truly special mothers are! They are truly God’s shepherds. Here in this Psalm David reminds us that God is our guide to a better way of life!

If you have never experienced real fear you have never lost your little child in a store full of strangers. You have been constantly reminding them to “stay close”, to “leave that alone”, to “quit picking up stuff off the floor”, and you look away for one moment and they are gone! Panic immediately sets in. Guess what? David understood this and reminds us that…

II. God is our guide during times of fear! (Vv. 4-5)

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

1. Life is full of frightening things and experiences. From our birth until we die we are faced each day with something new that seems to tug at us, to make us fearful, or to try and sway us from keeping our eyes focused on the moment at hand. If you do not believe me, then perhaps you did not drive to worship today! In David’s day people faced all kinds of fears we will never know — Thank you Jesus! Plagues, famine, wars, slavery, and instant death were a constant part of everyday living. We get upset when a child is killed because we live in a day and age and country where most children are not threatened by their daily existence. But David understood fear and so when he writes, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” we had better take notice. For David God was a constant. Unlike many of us whereby we only think about God when we want a happy thought for the day or when something truly goes haywire, David understood what it meant to have God walking with him. We forget that every day we are “walking through the valley of the shadow of death”. Each day brings us closer to the day of our demise. Yet in this world we do not have to fear “evil” for God is with us! He comforts us, like a shepherd did his sheep, with his rod and staff; both a means of discipline and steering for a wayward lamb. In fact, when we depend on God’s presence we realize like David that he “prepares a table before [us] in the presence of [our] enemies”, those who would want to harm us or see evil in our lives. In fact, David came to understand that not only did he have nothing to feat with God right beside him but it was God who gave him the blessings of life! “You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” We can focus so much on what makes us afraid or depressed that we forget where the blessings of life come from! David reminds us that God is our guide during times of fear!

EXAMPLE: Can you imagine being a toddler again and having to learn all the things they have to learn? No you can’t eat that, put that down, give that to me, spit that out, come back here, don’t take your clothes off in the store, stop throwing your food, you can’t have my glasses, it is nap time, no, I said “NO!”, I mean “NO!” You know what I mean? Even when you are little loud noises can scare you, being in a dark room, or unfamiliar people. Yet the one constant is that as a toddler you can be safe and secure in the arms of a loving parent, grandparent, or sibling. There in the loving arms of those who love you, you are safe and secure. And this is exactly what it is like when God is our Shepherd. David reminds us that God is our guide during times of fear!

There isn’t anyone who does not long of love and understanding; especially when you are little and have fallen or are frightened. In fact, the first person we learn to cry for is, “MOM!” As a believer we should learn that the first person we need to cry for when we need comfort and understanding is: Jesus! David reminds us that…

III. God is our guide everyday! (v. 6)

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

1. David was certain that he could depend on the Lord always. His trust was not based on what he did himself because David blew it more times than I can count; but David loved God. And in that love there developed a relationship between him and his Lord. We find it in the life of men like Moses, Isaiah, and Daniel. Peter had to be thumped along side of the head a few times before he understood the relationship and the Apostle John was one of the first disciples to grab a hold of the love of God and learn its truth for his self. Only someone who has walked with God through the thick and the thin of life can understand deeply the words David uses here: “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” David would lose friends, children, wives, and a kingdom. He would wonder if God still loved him after he had been such an ungodly human being by having someone killed for lust. We forget that evil, hurt, pain, sin, and love can and does exist in all of us even when we are God’s children. Yet God has provided for us like a Good Shepherd. Matthew reminds us that “When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36 NIV) Jesus told his followers, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” (John 10:11, 14 NIV) David knew who his Shepherd was; he had heard his voice time and time again. God was David’s Shepherd daily in life but he came to understand that God would lead him forever. What about you, do you know who your Shepherd is? David teaches us that God is our guide everyday!

EXAMPLE: It is both amazing and a bit disconcerting that little children look to the adults in their lives for guidance. I was looking through photos that we took at the beach when my grandson was just a little guy. One is of me carrying him on my shoulders and you can just see the outline of us walking in the surf because of the mist. I remember the day well and when we were heading back to the car he followed me by stepping in the tracks I left in the sand. He exclaimed, “Look grandpa, I’m walking just like you!” Here we read David singing that God is our guide everyday!

Conclusion:

God is our guide to a better way of life! God is our guide during times of fear! God is our guide everyday!
This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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God our helper! – Psalm 121

God our helper! – Psalm 121
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 23, 2017

From the movies and into the language fabric of American culture has been the question: “Who’re you gonna call?” and the answer, “Ghost Busters!” But who do you call when you need help in life? Some call their therapist, psychiatrist, minister, friend, or family member. Calling 911 isn’t going to help you answer the deep spiritual questions one has or some of the day to day problems one faces. So, who do you call to when you need help?

The Bible teaches us over and over that the believer is to be dependent upon the Lord and to go to him when they need answers in life. Sadly, few do unless only as a last resort. I have had thousands of conversations about relationships, finances, family problems, addictions, and fatal attractions and few have heeded the advice I have offered only to later respond that they wished they had. Once I was asked where I went for help and I remarked, “To God our helper.” Let’s discover what the Psalmist sings about this…

READ: Psalm 121

The Israelites were told over and over and over again to depend upon the Lord and not themselves, the pagan gods of the land, nor the worldly wisdom of the age. Yet they often failed to do so and suffered the consequences of their decision. Here we discover that…

I. God helps us to remain surefooted in a slippery world! (Vv. 1-4)

A song of ascents. I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip– he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

1. The title “song of ascents” identifies Psalms 120-134 as a song to be sung when the Israelites “ascended” or “went up” to Jerusalem for their annual feasts. Four of these 15 psalms are ascribed to David but this one is anonymous. Jerusalem sat on a hill and the temple rose up on the highest point, so when the pilgrim went to worship God in his temple he would sing, “I lift up my eyes to the hills”. Like a scene from a movie of a besieged city looking to the hills for reinforcements against her enemies, we lift our eyes to the Lord! The believer is to look to the heights of the Lord for their help; not just in times of distress but in every situation! So, today, like the pilgrim of God ask yourself, “Where does my help come from?” Your answer should be immediate and direct, “My help comes from the Lord!” But notice why the Psalmist was willing to sing this? He knew that God, like we learned last week from Colossians, is “the Maker of heaven and earth”! The Christian knows and understands that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” and that “by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” (Colossians 1:15-16 NIV) Therefore he is sure and certain and he keeps us from slipping up in life, as the Psalmist sang, “He will not let your foot slip”! We forget Jesus told us succinctly, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” (John 15:7 NIV) This is not some “name it and claim it” heresy but rather the promise of the Lord God that if we walk daily with him he will walk daily with us! There is so much false advice and ungodly wisdom in the world today that it is good to know God will keep us from slipping up when we remain in him. The Psalmist realized this and reiterated that “he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep!” God helps us to remain surefooted in a slippery world!

EXAMPLE: You can by hiking boots or walking shoes with treads designed to give you better footing in rough places; you can purchase cork or felt-soled waders to help you navigate the moss and algae-covered rocks while fishing; and you can buy simple flip-flops to protect your feet while using public showers in gyms or at the swimming pool. But what can we depend upon to keep us upright in a sin-filled world that offers so much trash for advice? The Psalmist reminds us that God helps us to remain surefooted in a slippery world!

A good parent doesn’t hover over their child but they remain watchful throughout the child’s life. When they are younger they help them to stay safe, look both ways, and to say “please”, “thank-you”, and “you’re welcome”. We discover that like a watchful loving parent…

II. God helps us by watching over our lives! (Vv. 5-8)

The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

1. God is not a nag. He does not scold you, berate you, or remind you of your mess-ups. He is not some angry old grump or judge watching and waiting for you to mess up just so he can discipline you back into line. It was truly liberating for me to learn that rather than an angry God that the God of the Bible was a loving God who loved me even before I was born and knew every step I would take in life! He loved me so much that he provided for my salvation from sin’s judgment! Rather than a judgmental narrow-minded bigoted deity, he is my helper, redeemer, and friend. The Psalmist reminded his readers that “The Lord watches over you”; not as a nag but to be your “shade at your right hand”! He is the one we can depend upon to shield us and lead us in a corrupt world and to keep us safe and secure. Shade was an important part of life during the Psalmist’s time. The Israelites looked for it as they traveled to Jerusalem to worship; shepherds sought it out to rest in during the heat of the day; and all wanted the protection of the snug roof over them at night — so he sings to those who are seeking shade and shelter, “the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night”. It does not matter the time of day, the season of the year, or what phase of life you are in, God is with you; right beside you, shading you and protecting you, “The LORD will keep you from all harm– he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” I truly like that. It is refreshing to know that a loving God cares enough for me to remind me that he is with me always, through every stage or up and down of life. The Apostle Paul asked and age-old question when he queried, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” Like the Psalmist even Paul was “convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 38-39 NIV)  God helps us by watching over our lives!

EXAMPLE: One of my favorite hymns is “His Eye Is on the Sparrow”. It speaks of how God loves us and watches over us just as he does each tiny sparrow like Jesus reminded his disciples, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26 NIV) The Psalmist reminds us that God helps us by watching over our lives!

Conclusion:
God helps us to remain surefooted in a slippery world! God helps us by watching over our lives!
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This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

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