Green Grass and Still Waters

December 27, 2015Psalm 23 Good Life 


   David Slagle, Atlanta, Georgia shares.   A few years ago, I got a call from a girl in my department who said her car had broken down and left her stranded about two miles from the office.   So I drove over there and found her leaning against her car, looking flustered.  I asked what happened. “Well, I was just driving down the road, and the car quit running,” she said.  “Could you be out of gas?” I asked.  “No, I just filled it up.”  Well, that one question pretty well exhausted my automotive diagnostic abilities, but I persisted. “What happened?   Did it make any noise?”  “Oh, yeah,” she replied. “As I was driving down the hill, it went brump, brump, brump, POW!”    I asked, “When was the last time you changed the oil?”  She said, “Oil?”   As it turned out, she had owned the car for a year and a half and had never changed the oil.  I get that same look when I ask frazzled friends, “When was the last time you took a Sabbath rest?”

   These are amazing words.  The NIV Translation the Lord is my shepherd, I shall lack nothing.  The King James the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.  The living bible because the Lord is my shepherd I have everything I need.  The Message God my shepherd I don’t need a thing.  The amplified the Lord is my shepherd to feed to guide and shield me I shall not lack. That does not mean that I have every wish that I want.   God sees to my needs.  And verse 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside quiet waters.  I do not see any disqualifications on those verses.  These verses are for us today.   These verses are true if you have several children.  These verses are true if you run a business.  I think about the people in this church.   I think of parents with several children and these verses are for them.  I think of men in work place either running their own business or working for someone else.  I think of people who are older and who have physical issues.  God does not disqualify it.   It does not say this is correct only in some situations.  These verses do not have disqualifying items listed after them.   It does not say if you live in the 21st century these verses are not true.   

     Do these verses work for everybody?  There is a qualifying condition here.   David said the Lord is my shepherd.   Would these verses work for all Christians?   From his hospital bed on the eve of open-heart surgery, Pastor Bruce McIver asked his cardiologist, Dr. Dudley Johnson, “Can you fix my heart?”  The physician said, “Sure.” Then he walked away.   Following the twelve-hour surgery, McIver asked Johnson, “In light of the blocked arteries that I had when I checked into the hospital, how much blood supply do I now have?” “All you’ll ever need,” replied the terse surgeon.  Upon his discharge from the hospital, McIver’s wife, Lawanna, asked the doctor, “What about my husband’s future quality of life?”  Dr. Johnson paused and then said, “I fixed his heart; the quality of his life is up to him.”   — Bruce McIver, Stories I Couldn’t Tell While I Was a Pastor. 

    The quality of your Christian life is up to you.  I talked to a gal a week ago yesterday and ask her if she was going to church to which she said no I am not and I should go to church because when I go my life is better.  There are things we can do that make our life better.  Jesus is the good shepherd and he lovingly cares for his sheep but we have to follow his voice.  David wrote these verses.  David had a lot of responsibility as king.  David fought in many battles.  He said the Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.  That means that David followed what God told him to do.  David submitted to God.  He is my shepherd and that means that God led David.    David found that God could fill his cup.  Indeed later he writes my cup runs over.  I think we have found that these verses are true when we put Jesus first in our life.   If he is our shepherd and we walk in obedience to him we are blessed.   Jesus told the people in the gospel of John that you will not come to me to have life.  He claimed to be life.   We can choose to walk in him.  We can choose life.  If we ignore Jesus then these verses will not be true for us. 

     In John 10 Jesus said my sheep hear my voice and they will not follow another.  Sheep follow the shepherd’s voice.   Bill Donahue tells of a lesson he learned while visiting a farm where two of his students lived. When their father, Tom, asked if Bill would help call in the sheep, Bill enthusiastically agreed.  Sheep calling was like preaching, he thought, as he watched twenty-five sheep graze.  “Go ahead,” Tom dared Bill. “Call them in.”  “What do you say?” Bill asked.   “I just say, ‘Hey, sheep! C’mon in!’ ” No sweat, Bill thought. A city kid with a bad back and hay fever could do this. He began speaking, but Tom interrupted. “You are seventy-five yards away, downwind, and they have their backs to you.

    Yell! Use your diaphragm, like they teach you in preaching class.”  Bill took a deep breath and put every inch of stomach muscle into a yell that revival preachers around the world would envy: “Hey, sheep! C’mon in!” The blessed creatures didn’t move.   Not one even turned an ear.  Tom smiled sarcastically. “Do they teach you the Bible in that seminary?   Have you ever read, ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me’?” Raising his voice only slightly, he said, “Hey, sheep! C’mon in!”   All twenty-five sheep turned and ambled toward Tom.  “Now, don’t you ever forget,” Tom said to Bill. “You are the shepherd to my kids.”   — Based on Bill Donahue and Russ Robinson, Building a Church of Small Groups  (Zondervan, 2001) 

    I have read where or 3 different shepherds will meet at the same place and the sheep will get all mixed up in the different flocks of sheep.   After awhile one the shepherds will walk off and call his sheep and his sheep will follow and leave the other sheep.   They know their shepherds voice and they will only follow him.  What is the voice that they hear?  It is the voice of their shepherd.  What is the voice that we hear?  Is it the voice of our beloved?  That is the voice we want to hear.  We want to hear Jesus voice.  He has the words of life.  He has the words of peace and joy.  He knows where the green pastures are and the still waters.  Jesus knows the path to get to the good places for good grazing.  He knows where the good stuff is.   He knows how to satisfy our soul.   He knows the path to safety.

    Larry Libby shares Bob, my father-in-law, hunts deer every fall in the mountains of California.   A number of farmers and ranchers in the area are willing to let individuals or small groups hunt on their property — if the hunters ask permission and show respect for the land.  Last year my father-in-law asked if he might drive through a certain gate and do some hunting in the evening.  The rancher gave Bob a thoughtful look and said, “Yeah, you can come on the land.   But you’d better let me ride with you in the truck for a while.    I want to show you some things.”   Bob could have argued, but he didn’t.   So the pair drove through the gate onto the ranch.  They had been skimming across a wide, seemingly featureless field when the rancher suddenly said, “You’d better slow down.”    Bob pulled his foot off the accelerator.   There were no deer.

    As far as he could see, there were no creeks, gullies, or fences.   There was just a wide pasture stretching out to the dusky foothills.  “Park right here,” the rancher said. “Want to show you something.”  They got out of the truck in the cool, mountain air and began walking.  Then the rancher put his hand on Bob’s shoulder and said, “Look up ahead.”  My father-in-law stopped dead in his tracks.  Cleaving at right angles across their path — and across the pasture as far as he could see in both directions — was a yawning black tear in the surface of the earth.  The crack was probably thirty feet across.  Peering over the edge, the hair on Bob’s neck bristled.  The sheer, rock-ribbed sides of the great volcanic fissure plunged to unknown depths.   Cold, still air seemed to exhale from the blackness below.  Walking back to the truck, Bob marveled at how difficult it was to see the fissure from just yards away.   He smiled.   Having a guide wasn’t such a bad thing.  He had a new appreciation for a man who knew the terrain — and where to park the truck.    — Larry Libby, No Matter What,  No Matter Where (WaterBrook, 2000)

     God knows all the sink holes that you will face.  God knows all of the places that we should go to and all the places and people that we should and should not be involved with and as we walk with Him he will lead us to the right places.  David said he leads me beside quiet waters.  I have read that sheep will not drink from fast moving water.   The shepherds sometimes will dig a hole beside the stream so the water can quietly gently flow and then the sheep will drink.  Sometimes God will lead us into troubling situations but he will provide still waters for our soul.  Sometimes Christians push themselves too far without resting and spending time with God and we end up flat on our back or at a dead end. 

    There are good shepherds and there are bad shepherds.  Are you a good shepherd?  We like to do what we want to do.  We shepherd our self.  Often we go it alone.  Sometimes we do not ask for Jesus to go with us and then we are leading our self.   Sometimes Christians know what God wants and yet persist to do our own thing.   That does not always work out the best.   We do not know how to shepherd and lead our self folks.  We are bad shepherds.     The world is a bad shepherd.  You can see the consequences of those that follow the world.  Satan is a bad shepherd.  Sin is a bad shepherd.  Jesus is the good shepherd.  He leads us to good food for the soul and still waters.  Sheep do not well with bad shepherds.  Sloppy shepherds do not care about the sheep.  Jesus is the good shepherd.  You could say the Lord is my shepherd I have good direction.  In verse 3 he guides in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.   Right paths lead to right places. 

    We can trust him for a new year.   We can trust him to provide for us.  The Allied soldiers gathered many hungry, homeless children after World War II and placed them in large camps. The children were abundantly fed and cared for. However, at night they did not sleep well; they seemed restless and afraid.  Finally, a psychologist offered a solution. After the children were put to bed, they each received a slice of bread. If they wanted more to eat, they could have it, but this particular slice was not to be eaten — it was just to hold.  The slice of bread produced marvelous results. The child would go to sleep, subconsciously feeling there was something to eat tomorrow. That calmed the child.  In Psalm 23 David says, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Instinctively, the sheep knows that the shepherd has made plans for its grazing.  He knows the shepherd has made ample provision, so he will lie down in peace, with the piece of bread in his hand.   — Charles L. Allen,  God’s Psychiatry (Revell, 1988).

    David said he makes me lie down.  That is an interesting verse.   What has God made you do?  I think at times that God brings us to the end of our self.  Then we trust him.  God allows us to see that we can’t make it happen and that we have to trust Him.  For some we hit a brick wall and it is time in the hospital.  Hospital visits can clarify what is really important in life.  As we live our life at times that Jesus puts a song in our hearts.   Things may be difficult around us but we have joy in our soul and we have a song in our soul.  The tough times can be the best times.  Day by day we certainly get tired and we run out of steam.  We need our physical rest.  David said one thing have I desired of the Lord and that was to dwell in the house of the Lord and behold his beauty.  God seeks to draw us there which is a place of rest, trust and contentment.  It is a place of blessing.