DEVOTIONAL 5 – THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD (8/12/19)
Updated: Dec 10, 2019
1. Come to Jesus Daily Devotional (A daily devotional for Monday through Friday)
2. Community Group/Family Devotional
INTRODUCTION TO WEEK 5
David was a man with a heart for God. He loved God, wanted to know and serve Him in his life. A couple of weeks ago, we saw that the heart is transformed by what we invest in (what we treasure) - what we think about, spend time and money on, what we sing about… will transform our heart. This week, we will overhear David singing one of his songs about God: "The Lord is my shepherd...surely goodness love and mercy will follow me all the days of my life..."
We will hear Him investing his heart into the goodness of who God is and investing himself through a fresh commitment to follow Him.
This week, God will transform our hearts and lives as we learn to say, "The Lord is my shepherd..."
1. COME TO JESUS DAILY DEVOTIONAL
MONDAY – THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD
As we’ve become more dependent upon maps on our phones, many of us have become less able to use ‘real’ maps and compasses. Too often, like our inability to use real maps, we can lack the skills of being directed by God on the journey of our lives and so end up in a mess or with no sense of purpose in our current destination. We can plot the course of our lives using lots of different methods: pressure from parents forms our trajectory; doing what will be best for the children or most advantageous for our career; not thinking and letting life just happen to us; doing whatever will make one wealthy by the quickest route; doing what seems easiest in the moment… I wonder what is directing your route through life?
Jesus calls us to plot the course of our lives by following Him. Wow! This is not only about going to church or reading our bibles, but about actually following Jesus in how and what we live for!
This idea of walking with God is found in Psalm 23, and over the next few days we’ll consider what this means. David wrote,
“The Lord is my shepherd…”(Psalm 23:1)
This is about God actively leading, and us actively following Him.
To be led we must first become His sheep
This opening phrase - “The LORD is my shepherd” – is a declaration of dependence and submission. David was a shepherd. He knew that the flock depended upon his loving leadership. He knew the dangers that befell them if they failed to listen to his voice and went astray. David projected this experience into his own relationship with God; He knew that God wanted to lead him and that he would be safe and would flourish if he listened and went where God led him. David had chosen to be one of God’s sheep. This is the first step that we need to take. Is Jesus your shepherd? Have you responded to His invitation,
‘Jesus said to the disciples, “Come follow me”’ (Matt. 4:19).
Jesus says of Christians,
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).
To become one of Jesus’ sheep, one has to ask Him to come into their life as Lord (leader) and Saviour (believing that His death was for their sin).
Have you said to Jesus, “you are my shepherd, I give my life to you?”
Do you see that if we start the day, and remember through the day, that the Lord is your shepherd, it will revolutionise your perspective. You will face life with faith and expectation.
Here is a song around the theme of this psalm that you might also find encouraging.
TUESDAY – THE LORD MY SHEPHERD
Not all people should be followed. Not all people whom we want to follow should be followed.
The story of Pinocchio teaches on this theme – We must be careful who we follow and what desires in ourselves we allow to lead us.
Pinocchio - the wooden puppet made alive by magic, is led astray by Honest John and Gideon (a fox and cat). They take him to the puppeteer named the Great Stromboli who imprisons this puppet, who has no strings! Soon after escaping, again, he is led astray by Honest John and Gideon to ‘pleasure island’ where children are turned into donkeys for sale. Well, the story ends well for Pinocchio but, the point is made - be careful who or what you follow, or you may end up as a donkey!
Life is full of wolves in sheep’s clothing, and wolves in shepherd’s clothing. David had made a wise choice on who to follow, he said, “The LORD is my shepherd…”
David uses God’s name in this psalm. We would write it, “Yahweh is my shepherd”. This name was first revealed to Moses when he was commissioned to go to Pharaoh and demand that he release His people from slavery in Egypt,
‘Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:13-14).
When God revealed Himself to Moses, He tells him that His name is, “I am who I am” (“Yahweh” corresponding to the four Hebrew consonants YHWH). This name reveals the nature of God as eternal and unchanging. God is! He exists and He is to be defined according to how He reveals Himself to be.
Moses met with God at the burning bush after forty years of ‘walking through the darkest valley’. He has been in the wilderness as a shepherd having, seemingly, failed in his mission to release the people as we read in Exodus 2. But God ‘The LORD’ is shepherding Moses and he is unaware of it. God meets with Moses and is sustained and restored by His name in this dark moment. David has clearly been inspired through this episode as he now says, “the LORD is my shepherd”.
When you say, “The LORD is my shepherd” what do you mean by that?
Do you mean: “the undependable one is my shepherd? The one who doesn’t care about me? The one who is weaker than evil powers? The one who doesn’t mind if I sin and compromise? Do you know your shepherd’s name? Does your heart and mind rest secure in His character?
David could look back to Moses and his story to learn about this shepherd (see Psalm 77:20). We can look back not only to Moses, not principally to David even, but we can see the greatest revelation of the shepherding God in Jesus. Meditate and pray out of the following text which reveals who our shepherd is.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:11-15)
WEDNESDAY – HE LEADS ME
Yesterday we thought about who our shepherd is. Today, briefly, I want to think about the promise that God will lead us. David wrote,
‘The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.’ (Psalm 23:1-4)
Do you see that God’s leading is not always an easy experience. Sometimes He leads us through ‘the darkest valley’! However, the promise for those who will follow Jesus, is of His abiding, refreshing, protective and powerful presence in all circumstances.
Now, some of us might be thinking, ‘I’ve made too many bad decisions, I’ve gone down a dead-end and I cannot turn things around…’ Let’s remember Jesus wonderful revelation of His heart when He said,
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.” (Matthew 18:12-14).
Even David had moments of going astray, and, In fact, it’s often through such foolishness that we are humbled, learning that we are sheep in need of the shepherd! David wrote, and perhaps this is your condition at the moment,
“I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.” (Psalm 119:176)
How does God lead us through life?
Firstly, in one sense, we just need to trust that He will lead us. If we are His sheep - if we have asked Him to lead us - He will do so even if we feel that we lack the skills and understanding of how this works.
Secondly, God gives us His word to obey - those who seek to understand the bible will understand God’s will for them.
Thirdly, as we pray and ask him to lead us, He will give us desires, opportunities and prophetic words from others, that will give direction on specific choices that we need to make.
Finally, let’s remember that we are a part of a ‘flock of sheep’ - we do not walk alone. It’s very important that we pray and seek advice from leaders in the church on big decisions. (See 1 Peter 5:1-5)
Too often, in my experience, many Christians make decisions without a serious intent to hear from God and seek advice. Oftentimes, we allow our feelings to outweigh the clear teachings of the bible or we can read the bible without expecting God to speak to us. Jesus is alive! He continues to lead. Do you trust Him to lead you, and do you genuinely want Him to do so? We read about Jesus,
‘When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.’ (Matthew 9:36)
Those outside the church, and oftentimes those even inside the church, are ‘harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.’ Jesus doesn’t want you ‘harassed and helpless’. It grieves him and He wants to bring greater peace and rest back into your life. But we must ask Him to be our shepherd - to be our leader. Take a moment to pray Jesus’ words from the Lord’s Prayer, which, are very fitting for this theme:
“…Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10)
THURSDAY – I LACK NOTHING BECAUSE MY SOUL IS REFRESHED AND I’M ON RIGHT PATHS
Many people are ‘thirsty’ for more money. We often hear of people winning a lottery; they are full of joy and talk of how this new-found wealth will bring lots of good to many people. I guess, many of us, on hearing this sort of news can day-dream about what we would do if we had that kind of wind-fall; we know that money can't buy us happiness but some of us, if we were honest, would like to test that hypothesis!
Let’s take a moment to remember that Jesus was, to our standards, in poverty. His nation was under the rule of a foreign power - The Romans. However, do you think that Jesus was limited by his financial, geographical, racial, family…background? Jesus lived life to the full because He was devoted to serving His Father. Likewise, David, even though his life-circumstances were often less than ideal, he could declare that, with God as my shepherd, “I lack nothing”! You see, what matters is who you know and whom you are serving, and when we know God and serve God, all of us can live lives that are of present and eternal worth.
David explains what it means to lack nothing with the terms used in the rest of the Psalm. Today and tomorrow we will look at each of these.
I lack nothing because my soul is refreshed
“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.” (Psalm 23:1-3)
For a sheep, in desert conditions, this meant following the shepherd to the places in which he knew there would be fresh grass and water. Of course, these words encourage us to trust God to provide all of our material needs, but, in using the words, “he refreshes my soul”, clearly, this is principally about nourishment for our soul or heart. I’m reminded of what we read in Psalm 42 (different animal, but the same idea),
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” (Psalm 42:1-2)
The refreshing of the soul comes from having a living relationship with God. To have God is to have everything. Surely, He is the ‘pearl of great price’ (Matt. 11:45).
A very important sign, or attribute, that points to our being Jesus’ sheep is that we thirst for God and are satisfied with God. God is not a means to an end (more of this or that) but is our ends - He is our living water.
I lack nothing because I’m being led along right paths
“He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3)
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14).
Many of the problems, or lack, in our lives are caused by choosing to walk along the wrong paths. Paths are not just practical decisions, they are also attitudes: choosing faith and worship, or fear and accusation are also paths. We take the wrong paths because we fail to listen to good advice, to our consciences, or to the teaching of God’s word, and so we find ourselves with lives that we never wanted or expected.
A good test of which ‘path’ (choice) to make is to ask, is this 'for His name’s sake'? Does this choice - this job, relationship, move, loan, use of time, habit, attitude… glorify Jesus? I don’t mean by this that we do popular, compromising things so as to make Jesus appear more acceptable and modern. But, we should ask, does this path reflect the beauty, purity and worth of Jesus?
On top of lives that are in order through God’s wisdom, taking ‘right paths for His name’s sake’ also give us a sense of fulfilment because we have clear consciences and know that we are using our lives for good purposes.
If we have made God our shepherd, He promises that we will lack nothing! However, this promise requires that we allow God to lead us in the ways that we have looked at from this psalm.
Do you have a heart that thirsts for God? Is God your source of your soul’s refreshing? Ask for a heart that thirsts for God above all things.
Are you making adequate time to be alone with God so as to allow Him, by the Spirit, to refresh your soul?
Are you making decisions that are ‘for His name’s sake’? (Now, this third question will have huge implications for our ability to carry out the previous question! If we are not setting our hearts on, and using our time and lives ‘for His name’s sake’, we will allow ourselves to become too busy and distracted to give adequate time to getting alone with God.)
FRIDAY – I LACK NOTHING, BECAUSE GOD IS WITH ME I OVERFLOW AND HAVE ETERNAL HOPE
Yesterday we began to look at what it means for God to promise that, if He is our shepherd, we will lack nothing. For some, this may read like Coleridge’ poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,
‘Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink.’
To the thirsty man, the sea promises so much, but, in the end, it cannot quench his thirst. This may have been your experience as a Christian even. However, can I gently remind you that a lack of soul satisfaction is not a problem with the promise or the promiser; the problem is with our lack of willingness to follow this good shepherd in the ways that He sets out!
I lack nothing because God is with me even in the darkest valleys
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)
Following Jesus will mean that we pass through dark valleys at times in our lives. These valleys are numerous, for example:
Attack - People attack us in different ways. David experienced this as he had to flee for his life from king Saul and when confronted with Goliath for example.
Valleys of our own making – Like David, we can sin in such ways that our lives are turned into the darkest valley.
Depression – Feelings of anxiety, isolation, hopelessness come on all of us to a greater or lesser extent and can be a long dark valley.
Mourning – The death of those we care about leads to a dark valley - this is often translated ‘the valley of the shadow of death’. David experienced this. He mourned at the death of Saul and Jonathan. we read, " I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.” (2 Sam. 1:26)
Our own death - Perhaps one of the darkest valleys we face is our own death and what will become of us. However, with Jesus as our good shepherd, we know that He will take us home - through Him we have everlasting life.
Fear – The term for this valley, ‘the valley of the shadow of death’ may refer to the idea that as one leads one’s sheep through such valleys, one cannot be sure that bandits or wild animals are not in wait for us in the shadows. David is surely writing from his experience as a shepherd and is applying this to everyday life. We can all imagine dangers waiting to jump out on us or on those we care about.
What brings light to any dark valley? faith! Like David, declare “you are with me!” because it is true!
I lack nothing because God prepares a feast for me
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” (Psalm 23:5)
Here, the imagery used of God changes from Him as a shepherd who provides rest, grass, water and protection, to that of a host and we are his guests; God offers us His generous hospitality. He invites us to come inside His protection and provision.
This feast is presented as being prepared in the place of opposition: it’s in the ‘darkest valley’ or ‘in the presence of our enemies’ that we have to exert faith and learn to enjoy God.
God is said to, ‘anoint my head with oil’. Perfumed oils would often have been put on the heads of honoured guests (See Luke 7:46). At God’s feast our ‘cup overflows’. As a generous host would ensure a bountiful supply of good wine, so God is generous toward us.
All of this imagery points to our Father’s generous nature. No matter what enemies assault us, we can find all that we need from God. Specifically, we are to believe for the abundance of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives. David wrote,
“You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11)
I lack nothing now nor ever – the power of hope
‘Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.’ (Psalm 23:6)
’Surely’ - David was convinced of all that he has been speaking about in this Psalm. David is confident that the LORD’s goodness and love will be present in all circumstances and forever. David is a man full of hope.
Are you allowing your circumstances or emotions to dictate who we are and who God is? Or, like David, will we allow the character of God to transform our experience and expectations from life?
Are you in a dark valley or surrounded by enemies at the moment? Take some time to remember and thank God that He is with you in this.
Ask for the ‘fragrant oil’ and ‘overflowing wine’ of the Holy Spirit to fill you with assurance of God’s love now and forever. May He enable us to see that if Jesus is with us, we lack nothing.
2. COMMUNITY GROUP/FAMILY DEVOTIONAL
Please read Psalm 23 together
David was a man with a heart for God. He loved God, wanted to know and serve Him in his life. A couple of weeks ago, we saw that the heart is transformed by what we invest in (what we treasure) - what we think about, spend time and money on, what we sing about… will transform our heart.
This week, we will overhear David singing one of his songs about God: "The Lord is my shepherd...surely goodness love and mercy will follow me all the days of my life..." We will hear Him investing his heart into the goodness of who God is and investing himself through a fresh commitment to follow Him. God will transform our hearts as we, like David, learn to say, "The Lord is my shepherd..."
Is there anything from this week's devotions that you would like to share with the group?Please read Exodus 3:13-14 and John 10:11-15. David uses God’s name in this psalm. We would write it, “Yahweh is my shepherd”. We can add ‘Jesus is my shepherd’. Why is it so important to know about who God is in order for us to enjoy the promises in this psalm?
How will following Jesus lead to the refreshing of our souls? (See John 7:37-38).
He promises to lead us in ‘paths of righteousness’ - this is about making godly decisions that glorify His name (‘for His name’s sake’). Do you make decisions prayerfully, biblically and do do you seek advice?
David says ‘You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.’ This, in part , is metaphorical for the joy of the Holy Spirit. How can one enjoy the abundance of the Spirit’s presence and How does He enable us to say, “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”? (See Romans Ephesians 1:17-18)
I've made it a practice to sing the psalms. I make up simple tunes and repeat phrases that inspire me. How about giving that a go in your morning devotions using psalm 23.
Myself- Pray together out of this psalm. How do you need to respond?
One-another - Pray for the church. Pray that we, together, would follow our good shepherd, be refreshed, be empowered, be led into His works together.
Non-believers – We would love all of our family and friends to be enjoying life as this psalm promises. This life is only available to those who will follow Jesus. Let’s now pray together, particularly for our carol services that are coming up.
Pray also for our nation as we vote on Thursday.
NOTICES (FROM CHURCH NEWS)
Christmas Services Over December we will be hosting 3 Christmas Celebration Services. Sunday 15th Dec - 10.30-11.30am Sunday 22nd Dec - 10.30-11.30am Wednesday 25th Dec - 10-11am Please do join us as we celebrate the good news of Jesus! Invitational cards can be picked up from the information desk. Please do pray for guests to hear the Gospel and for eyes to see Him. Together Tuesday 14th and 28th Jan 2020 at the Church Building Over January we will not be meeting as Community Groups. Instead we will be coming together as a whole Church. Over these evenings we will worship, pray and seek God for the year ahead. It will be a great time together as would love to see you there. New Ground Prayer Night Wednesday 22nd Jan 2020 7.30pm at the Church Building As part of our time not meeting as Community Groups we will also be coming together to join with our wider family of Churches. We will be hearing updates on some of these Churches and partnering with them in prayer.