Participants: William Shea
Series Code: FC
Program Code: FC000377
00:30 My name is William Shea.
00:31 I'm a retired Seminary Professor.
00:34 Welcome to Faith Chapel.
00:35 Our topic today is the Good Shepherd in Psalm 23.
00:39 Let us pray as we begin. Loving Heavenly Father,
00:43 we thank you for Your promise to be our Good Shepherd.
00:48 We thank you for the way in which You provide for us.
00:51 We thank you for the way in which You protect us,
00:54 and we ask You now to lead us in Your thoughts in this Psalm,
00:58 in Jesus name, amen.
01:03 David had plenty of experience as Shepherd.
01:07 In fact, there is an extra Psalm we can call it Psalm 151,
01:12 which is a meditation by David, when he was out among the sheep.
01:19 It didn't make it into the Canonical Bible,
01:22 but it's known in several scrolls.
01:24 And it's a very beautiful text,
01:26 but here we have David's experience with the sheep.
01:30 And he uses the sheep as a symbol or a metaphor for us.
01:35 He gives us three brief word pictures,
01:38 the first one is of sheep, the second one is of the sheep,
01:42 but the third one is not of sheep
01:44 and we'll see what that turns
01:45 to when we come to the end of the Psalm.
01:49 The text is known very well and we'll read the text
01:52 from the screen now. You all know it,
01:55 and so you can read along with me.
01:57 "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
02:00 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
02:04 he leadeth me beside the still waters.
02:07 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me
02:10 in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
02:15 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
02:18 I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
02:22 thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
02:25 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
02:30 thou anointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over.
02:34 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
02:37 all the days of my life.
02:39 And I will dwell in the house of The Lord for ever."
02:43 I might begin by telling you my story with Psalm 23.
02:48 I grew up in Southern California in a not very religious home.
02:53 My father was an agnostic; my mother was an Episcopalian,
02:57 which meant we went to church at least two,
02:59 two Sundays per year. But somehow or another
03:03 my parents decided that I should go to YMCA Camp,
03:07 when I was about 10 years of age?
03:09 So, I went off from the bus had a very enjoyable time
03:13 in the mountains of Southern California.
03:15 And one of things we did at that camp was to earn merit batches.
03:20 And the merit batches were little squares of leather
03:22 with a thong that you put around your neck.
03:25 And the way I could earn one of these merit batches
03:28 was to memorize Psalm 23. So, I memorized Psalm 23
03:33 and earn my, recited it and earned my merit batch.
03:36 But at that time Psalm 23 didn't mean anything to me,
03:40 it just meant an assignment to memorize.
03:43 It wasn't until 6 or 7 years later
03:46 that I really met the Good Shepherd of the Psalm.
03:49 When he, I accepted Him as my Lord and Savior.
03:53 So, the first picture that we have at the Psalm
03:57 is that of the Shepherd providing for the sheep.
04:00 The Good Shepherd as provider. Well, what a sheep need?
04:05 Their needs are fairly simple and the first one
04:07 we point out is green pastures.
04:10 Now, you need to understand a little bit
04:14 about the climate in the Middle East,
04:16 or more specifically in Israel.
04:19 The rainy season starts in November
04:22 that's when all the school children go back to school.
04:25 And the rainy season ends late March or early April
04:28 and after that there's basically no rain at all.
04:33 Now, by the end of the rainy season
04:35 all of the hills of Israel are green because of the watering
04:39 and the growth of the grass, but when the summer heat
04:44 comes on it all turns brown. So, some tourists go to
04:48 the Middle East at Passover time,
04:50 which is the spring time. And then they can see
04:53 the green hills of Israel. But most tourists
04:56 from North America go there during summer time,
04:59 when the summer heat has already come on
05:01 and the hills are browned out.
05:03 Now, at the beginning of the dry season,
05:07 late March, early April, any Shepherd,
05:11 a bad Shepherd or a dump Shepherd could find grass.
05:15 You just let the sheep out and there is the grass,
05:17 but the Good Shepherd knows from studying
05:21 what happens to the grass.
05:23 He knows where the grass will be,
05:26 when the time is the driest. And so, they had a circuit
05:31 and they would take the sheep down near the low lands first
05:34 and then little-by-little as the summer heat came on
05:37 they would bring the sheep farther-and-farther up the hills
05:39 until they ended in the central mountain range,
05:42 where Hebron is, where Jacob lived
05:45 or Jerusalem which is about 3000 feet of elevation.
05:49 So, there was this process. In fact, we find an interesting
05:52 Biblical illustration of this you may remember
05:55 the story of Jacob and Joseph and his brothers.
05:59 The brothers were pasturing their sheep at Dothan;
06:04 Jacob was living in Hebron,
06:05 that's at least 75 miles probably more.
06:09 And he send Joseph off to see his brothers.
06:12 Why were the brothers so far away from home?
06:14 Because they were making this circuit that the pastures made,
06:18 the Shepherds made. And so, this was the way
06:24 that the Good Shepherd would get the maximum amount
06:27 of green grass for the sheep, because he knew just exactly
06:31 where to get the grass.
06:33 The dump Shepherd or the bad Shepherd
06:35 he didn't care he just let the sheep out
06:37 and then the sheep would go hungry in summer time
06:40 when the hills were all brown,
06:42 because he had not made preparation.
06:45 Well, something else the sheep need of course is water.
06:48 It's difficult to live very long with out water
06:53 you can only live 7 or 8 minutes without water,
06:55 or without oxygen, at least your brain will live that long.
06:58 Now water you can go for a couple of days
07:01 or perhaps a little more, but especially in a very
07:04 hot climate it's very difficult. And it has an interesting
07:08 descriptive word here, still waters, why still waters?
07:13 Well, I mentioned the climate and when the rains come.
07:17 Now, the central mountain range of Israel
07:21 has a number of valleys and these valleys
07:24 do not have any running water during the dry season.
07:28 But, when the rains start, these valleys as they're called,
07:31 flow with water and that's dangerous for the sheep,
07:35 because then you get flash floods in these valleys
07:38 and the sheep can be carried away
07:41 and killed by the flash floods.
07:43 In fact, there is at least one case
07:44 where tourists were trapped by a flash flood and killed.
07:49 So, you don't want to put the sheep
07:52 near the rapidly rushing waters because that's dangerous.
07:55 You want to put the sheep near the still waters,
07:58 the calm waters and that's the best place
08:01 to take in that refreshing water that is so necessary
08:05 in the Middle Eastern heat. They say the one thing that
08:09 an Arab Bedouin will not do is deprive a visitor of water
08:14 in the desert. Well, then we come to the third thing
08:19 that a sheep needs and a sheep needs guidance,
08:21 so I'm told and I don't know this to be true for sure.
08:25 That sheep are not very intelligent creatures,
08:28 they need somebody to guide them,
08:29 they need somebody to put them on the right trial.
08:32 Now, there is an interesting play on words here.
08:35 It says, "He guides me in the paths of righteousness
08:38 for his name's sake." Now, that word righteousness
08:43 can also be translated right,
08:45 you see when it applies to sheep, it's the right path.
08:48 You don't get off the path to the right
08:50 or get off to the path to the left,
08:52 but when it applies to humans
08:54 as we apply this metaphor for sheep,
08:56 it's paths of righteousness, right living, living for God,
09:01 obedience to our Heavenly Father.
09:03 Receiving he Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us
09:07 in the way that is best for us.
09:10 And it says for his name sake. Now, you may remember
09:15 the story of Moses in the wilderness.
09:17 God became very upset with the people
09:19 when they were down in the camp at the foot of Mount Sinai.
09:22 And they were worshiping the golden calf
09:24 when he had just brought them out of Egypt,
09:27 what a strange conduct they entered into there.
09:31 And so, God says to Moses, now look,
09:34 let's just leave these people alone I'll take you
09:37 and start over and make a new people with you.
09:41 And Moses argument is, Lord, don't do that
09:44 because then the people will know for the sake of Your name
09:48 and Your honor and Your glory.
09:50 The people will say that You led them out here
09:52 in the wilderness to die. When I know and you know,
09:56 that it was in your mercy and graciousness
09:59 that you led them here.
10:00 Led them out of the house of bondage,
10:02 led them out of the house of slavery.
10:04 So, it was for the sake of the honor of God's name
10:07 that Moses accepted to continue to lead this troublesome people
10:12 in the wilderness. And so, here too God's name
10:15 needs to be honored by the paths we walk in.
10:18 We can demonstrate to the world what kind of sheep we are,
10:22 by the conduct of our lives, by the way we reflect Jesus.
10:29 Well, we come to the middle passage.
10:32 And again he's talking about sheep,
10:35 and it says that we need the Good Shepherd
10:37 to lead us through troublous times.
10:40 Now, in the Middle East the valleys,
10:43 which we're talking about the valley
10:45 of the shadow of death could be dangerous places.
10:48 When the caravans came up through the valleys,
10:50 the thieves and robbers would post themselves
10:53 on the sides of the valleys, and as the caravan came along
10:57 they would come down and fight with or steal from the caravan
11:02 as they pass through the valleys on up into the mountains.
11:06 We have a vivid illustration of that in modern Israel,
11:09 in the war of 1947, early 1948 there was only a narrow quarter
11:15 between coastal Israel and Jerusalem.
11:19 And so, the whole supply line for Jerusalem went up
11:23 through this one valley, but it was dangerous going
11:27 because the gunners of the enemy
11:29 would fire down on those convoys.
11:32 And so, when you go there today you will see some half tracks,
11:36 which were used for supply vehicles,
11:39 armored half tracks that are left by the side of the roads,
11:42 some of them in a burn out condition
11:45 as a national monument for what their soldiers
11:49 did to supply Jerusalem. This is a vivid illustration
11:52 of how dangerous valleys can be, but God says,
11:56 when we go through the valley of the shadow of death,
11:59 He will be with us and his rod and his staff will comfort us.
12:05 Now, it's little curious isn't it?
12:07 That we have two instruments not one.
12:10 The rod was just a plain rod which was used fending off
12:13 wild animals or even human enemies.
12:17 The staff is the staff with the Shepherd's crook
12:20 as you know and that was used for guiding the sheep.
12:22 So, here we have protection from enemies
12:26 and guiding the sheep in the right way.
12:29 Well, I'm sure you've had some experiences
12:31 in which you've been through the valley of the shadow of death.
12:34 I've had several, I'll just recite one or two.
12:39 My wife and I were driving from the South Bend, Indiana Airport
12:43 back into Michigan. We came to the town of Barium Springs,
12:47 this is December of 1966 and as we're approaching
12:52 the bridge there is a kind of sharp curve from the bridge,
12:55 a Semi, which was riding empty came across the bridge
13:00 and you know, the signs would say bridge
13:02 for you freezes first. As he made the turn
13:05 he flipped his trailer in front of us,
13:08 we were driving in a Volkswagen Squareback
13:11 and we went underneath his trailer
13:13 and he dragged us at least a 100 yards down the road
13:16 before he realized what had happened.
13:20 Well, it took 45 minutes to get our car out
13:22 from underneath the Semi, and it took the jaws of a life
13:26 to open the doors so that they can get us out.
13:29 I was not badly injured, I had a dislocated hip
13:33 which has since been replaced because of that accident,
13:37 but my wife had a ruptured spleen
13:40 and by the time they got her to the hospital,
13:42 she had no blood pressure.
13:46 Now, it's interesting to see how the Lord works things out
13:49 because two cars behind us was the wife of the doctor
13:54 on the university campus where I taught.
13:56 She immediately went to a phone in town,
13:58 called her husband and said there's been a bad accident
14:00 at the bridge, you better come.
14:04 What happened was the ambulance driver wanted to
14:07 take us to the nearest hospital,
14:09 which was just 2 or 3 miles away,
14:11 rather poorly equipped County Hospital
14:14 which had no blood bank. My wife, meanwhile
14:18 was bleeding out from this ruptured spleen,
14:21 but he insisted and argued with the ambulance driver
14:24 and had him take us to a more distant hospital.
14:27 And that more distant hospital they did have a well
14:30 equipped blood bank and she was able to survive
14:33 and still living today. So, God went with us
14:36 through that horrendous experience,
14:39 I don't know too many people who have come out
14:42 from underneath a Semi in a wrecked car and still lived,
14:46 but God was gracious to us and preserved us through that,
14:50 as we went through that particular valley
14:52 of the shadow of death. One other brief experience,
14:55 I was teaching in Peru and when I finished my teaching course
14:59 I flew from there to teach in Brazil.
15:02 And the flight in Brazil went to first of all to Rio
15:06 and then it went from Rio to Sao Paulo.
15:09 The flight from Rio to Sao Paulo was in a rain storm
15:12 and as the pilot brought the plane down to land in Sao Paulo,
15:16 I was sitting in a window seat and I looked out and it was
15:21 rather rough as we came down and I looked out
15:24 and as I looked out, I saw the runway over there,
15:27 we were not on the runway at all.
15:29 Fortunately, the pilot he could see his air
15:32 in this big rain storm and pulled the plane up
15:35 we went back to Rio and sat there for 2 hours
15:37 to the rain storm had passed on.
15:39 And then we flew in very safely,
15:42 but had he tried to make the landing,
15:43 I'm sure the results would have been fairly disastrous.
15:47 Well, the Lord is good and the Lord preserves
15:51 and the Lord can be with you even as you go through
15:55 those valleys of the shadow of death.
15:57 And whether we survive or not we know that
16:01 the Good Shepherd is with us through those experiences.
16:06 Well, we come to the third picture
16:09 and as I mentioned the third picture
16:11 is not a picture of sheep. Why not?
16:14 Because what happens with the sheep at the end of the season,
16:18 after they've been out in the fields,
16:20 after they've been through that cycle of searching for grass.
16:24 When they're brought home, they were put,
16:26 they were put in the sheepfold,
16:28 in the Middle East and you can still see this
16:30 in some places today. The sheepfold is underneath
16:33 the house it's like a cave underneath that house.
16:36 And so, you have the house up above
16:38 and kind of a cave underneath and the livestock are kept
16:41 in that cave underneath. But, that expression does not
16:47 express closely enough the relationship
16:51 between God and his human sheep here.
16:55 And so, when you come home from the fields,
16:58 the sheep go into the sheep end, but you,
17:01 as the precious human sheep of God are taken into the house.
17:06 Not only are you taken into the house,
17:09 but you're taken into a banquet room,
17:13 and there he spreads before you all the beautiful
17:16 delicacies that could celebrate the return.
17:20 And so, we think a little bit about the Prodigal Son
17:23 in the parable of the Prodigal Son.
17:25 When the Prodigal Son came home,
17:27 the father was so happy to have them home
17:30 that he spread every good thing before him,
17:32 he made a feast and of course the other son was jealous.
17:36 But the feast which was served and spread out
17:39 before the Prodigal Son is a representation
17:42 of the kind of feast which God will give to us
17:47 when He brings us, finally brings us home.
17:50 Now, it says that he'll anoint our heads with oil
17:56 and he'll serve this feast or this banquet before us
18:01 in the presence of our enemies.
18:03 Now, there is an interesting story going on here
18:07 and it's your enemies will look and see how God has exalted
18:12 you with this wonderful blessing.
18:16 There's an interesting story.
18:18 Well, there is a Christian writer who says,
18:22 God is performing acts of redemption so marvelous,
18:28 that even Satan and his hosts stands back in amazement
18:33 to see the transformations that are taking place
18:36 in the lives of human beings. This Psalm we often think of
18:41 as a wisdom Psalm. And it is you know,
18:45 we've different categories or classifications of Psalms
18:49 and this is a wisdom Psalm, because it shows us
18:52 the wisdom of how God leads us,
18:55 how God provides for us and how God protects us.
18:59 But there is another story to it and that is reuse of the Psalm.
19:04 It's used in another place,
19:07 we don't often think of Psalm 23,
19:10 the Good Shepherd Psalm as a prophetic text,
19:14 but it is used in a prophetic context
19:16 in a very interesting place. And for that I'd liked to go
19:19 with you to the book of Revelation Chapter 7.
19:22 Now, Revelation Chapter 7, the first half of the chapter
19:28 deals with the ceiling of the 144,000.
19:32 And then starting with verse 9, we've another scene
19:36 in which John looks into heaven and he sees a great multitude
19:39 around the throne, and they are crying
19:42 with the loud voice salvation to our God who sits on the throne
19:45 and to the Lamb. And the angels were standing by
19:48 and they're worshiping God and the 24 elders were there.
19:51 And then as John looks at this great crowd
19:56 one of the angels talked to him and the angel says,
19:59 who are these? Where do they come from?
20:02 And John says, I don't know who they are.
20:06 And the angel says to him, these are the ones
20:09 who come out of great tribulation
20:11 and they've washed their robes and made them white
20:13 in the blood of the Lamb. Now, begins the use of Psalm 23.
20:18 "For this reason they are before the throne of God
20:22 and they serve Him day and night in His temple
20:26 and he who sits on the throne
20:28 will spread His tabernacle over them."
20:32 Think of the sheep out on those hot fields,
20:35 how they would have liked to have had shade,
20:38 and God provides that shade and more.
20:41 They will hunger no longer nor thirst anymore,
20:45 do you remember what it says that that the Good Shepherd
20:48 will provide for the sheep? He provides green grass,
20:52 he provides pasture, he provides for their hunger
20:56 and he provides the still waters,
20:58 he provides for their thirst. Nor will the sun be down on them
21:03 nor any heat, for the lamb in the center of the throne
21:09 will be their what? Their Shepherd
21:12 and will guide them to springs of the water of life
21:18 and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
21:21 Now, the interesting thing about this scene is,
21:24 who the Shepherd is? After all this is in heaven
21:28 and you might think of the Shepherd there being a great
21:31 and mighty being like the, a leading angel
21:35 and so when you turned to look and see who the Shepherd is,
21:39 instead you see a little lamb. The lamb is the Shepherd,
21:45 you can see the paradox. The lamb is the Shepherd,
21:48 the lamb who died on the Cross of Calvary,
21:50 for the saints, who now are in heaven,
21:54 who are now having the full
21:55 and complete experience of Psalm 23;
21:59 they see that little Lamb as the Shepherd.
22:03 The Book of Revelation is sometimes called
22:06 the Book of the Lamb; the title of Lamb is used
22:09 for Jesus in this, in this book 26 times.
22:14 And here there's an interesting connection
22:16 between the Lamb and the Shepherd.
22:19 Well, we've looked at what the Good Shepherd
22:22 can do for the sheep in the first stanza of this poem.
22:26 We've looked at the protection that the Good Shepherd
22:28 can offer in the second stanza of this poem
22:31 and we look at the abundant provision
22:34 that the Good Shepherd makes when he brings the sheep home.
22:40 And so, we look forward to the great festival banquet
22:43 which will occur when Jesus comes
22:46 and Jesus will bring the saints to the living waters of heaven
22:51 just as it says here. The springs of the water life.
22:55 You see it's not the, the dangerous rapid water's,
22:58 it's not even the still waters of Israel,
23:02 it's the water of life. And so, when we think
23:06 of the water of life we think of Jesus
23:09 when He entered the temple.
23:11 He entered the temple on the day of the Feast of Tabernacles
23:15 and the Feast of Tabernacles
23:16 part of its celebration involved water,
23:18 because it celebrated the time when God
23:22 in the wilderness provided water miraculously,
23:24 when Moses spoke to the rock and when Moses struck the rock.
23:28 And then Jesus says, in John 7:37.
23:33 "In the last day, that great day of the feast,
23:36 Jesus stood and cried, saying, if any man thirst,
23:40 let him come unto me and drink.
23:43 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said,
23:46 out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water."
23:51 You see our responsibility is not just to accept
23:54 the water of life, which we obviously
23:57 do that as the first stage. But we have a responsibility
24:00 in turn to give it to others. So, Jesus goes directly
24:05 from the first stage where He supplies the water,
24:08 to the second stage where we supply the water to others.
24:12 We've had the case of this fashion model,
24:15 who supplied the living water of Jesus to this poor drugged man
24:20 and it turned his life around and changed his life,
24:23 so that he came into harmony with the Lord Jesus.
24:26 So much so that he could become a choir member
24:29 in the Brooklyn Tabernacle.
24:30 Well, we have that obligation too.
24:33 We're not only to experience the Good Shepherd as our provider.
24:38 We're not only to experience the Good Shepherd as our protector.
24:42 And not only to experience him as our great leader
24:45 and provider of the great feast at the last day,
24:48 but we are to experience Him as the one who provides
24:53 the living water that we may give it to others.
24:56 It's our responsibility and God will bless us as we do it.