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The Lord's My Shepherd

by Julius Hovan

Transcribed from a Words of Life radio message

We welcome you to this broadcast of the Words of Life radio broadcast ministry. We have been broadcast all across the world in various lands by various speakers of many, many years and it is a joy and a pleasure for me to be able to come to you today and to share with you the Word of God.

I hope you will stay tuned, that you will maybe invite others to join with you in listening as we share a very well known and well beloved passage from the Word of God. It is the well known 23rd Psalm.

To the Jewish faith, to the Christian faith and I would say even to some who have little or no faith, the words of Psalm 23 have been words that they have heard and been comforted by.

One writer said this about the 23rd Psalm. “As a song of trust, this psalm has no peer. It is impossible to estimate its effect upon man through the centuries. Grief, sadness and doubt have been driven away by this strong affirmation of faith. Peace, contentment and trust have been the blessing upon those who have come to share the psalmist’s sublime confidence. While the language is simple, the meaning is clear. No one has been able to exhaust the message of the poem or improve upon its quiet beauty.”

What a psalm and what a beautiful psalm it is, indeed.

Time does not allow us to deal with all of it. I would like to simply deal with the first statement in the psalm. Allow us to read the entirety of the psalm and then we will deal with that first statement.

The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Thou hast anointed my head with oil. My cup runneth over. Surely goodness and loving kindness, shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

That is the reading of the inspired Word of God.

God, we ask you today as we have heard the reading of these precious inspired Words of Scripture that you will make them real to our hearts. And now as we seek to learn what they say to us and what they mean, that someone hearing this message this morning, someone who is undergoing a difficult time can come to the shepherd and from him find peace and comfort and joy even in the midst of difficulty. We commit the time of this broadcast and we ask you to inspire and help the messenger in Jesus’ name and amen.

The opening statement of Psalm 23, this well known psalm, who knows how many gravesites have heard it, how many Christmas messages or messages through the years have used it. The Lord is my Shepherd. This one statement is surely an appropriate title and an adequate summary of this entire 23rd Psalm.

These five words fully convey the message that the writer is trying to put across. Let’s take a look at this statement today. Let’s break it down a little bit and consider the meaning of these words. The Lord is my Shepherd.

I want you to decide what these words mean to you. I want you to answer the question: Is he your shepherd? We are interested in talking about not just the psalmist’s relationship to God, but what is your relationship to him?

The first word is “the.” Our Webster dictionary says this word “the” is a demonstrative word used especially before a noun to particularize its meaning, before a noun which it marks as denoting one unique of its kind. And so it precedes the word “Lord,” the, not ‘a’ Lord, not ‘just any’ Lord, but ‘the’ Lord. The point is especially one needed in David’s day when there were so many false gods all around the nation of Israel. Idol worshippers, false gods, religions that sacrificed their first born children to their god.

David wanted to clarify and make it very sure to you and to me that when he says, “The” the one to whom he is referring, he stands alone. He is above all else that might be in your mind. Who do you want to be the guide, the leader, the one to bless your life?

This recorded one here was very special to the one we know as King David The God of Israel, he was David’s God. He is ‘the unique one’.

And so that first little word, we can’t skip over it. It really magnifies the whole message of the psalm. The Lord. It is this second word that tells us more about the position of this one responsible for the psalmist’s peace and joy. How can he have peace and joy? It is because of the one who is the Lord.

The Hebrew word may well be the word Yahweh. We say Jehovah. It is used hundreds of times in the Old Testament Scriptures. It is used only regarding the God of heaven. This is the one, this is the only one and David understands that it is he who is the Lord, the provider, the shepherd who can provide green pastures and still water, who can restore souls, who provides daily leading even through the valley of death.

In the 27th Psalm David says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid?”

There is that Lord again in the light of this man David. He was very precious and very personal to him.

The word “Lord” indicates to us—and David understood this—one who is in an authoritative position. If he is the Lord, he is in the position to lead, to even command, to tell us what we are to do or not to do. I believe this writer David had, indeed, submitted to this Lord as we know him and as David knew him to be the Lord, Jehovah, God of the heavens and the earth. And I would remind us in our New Testament age, because that idea is certainly brought over into the New Testament by Jesus and that is his headship in the Church.

Listen to the words of the apostle in Ephesians chapter five. Closing the 23rd verse we read these words talking about the Lord Jesus Christ.

He is the head, we could use the word Lord there, Lord of the Church, being himself the Savior of the body just as the Church is subject to Christ.

And so he is Lord. So today, as David had a Lord, Jehovah God in his life, in his experience, so we in the New Testament era as Christians in the Church have one, as well, and it just so happens to be the very same one.

And so we must learn as New Testament Christians, those of us in the body called the Church, that we will receive this Lord, that we will submit to Christ as Lord of our personal lives.

Paul makes it perfectly clear in Romans 10. If we will confess Jesus as Lord, we can have everlasting life. Savior, yes. Oh, we all want to be saved, but not many of us are sincere about wanting a Lord in our life. David could say, “The Lord.” And he understood who this one was and what it meant in his life.

Then David could say, “The Lord is…” Oh, a very little word ‘is’, indeed. We have had some cases in the past where we had that little word ‘is’ come to play and found out it is a very important word, though it is little. It is a verb which in this case emphasizes a fact. It is not saying the Lord was my shepherd and I no longer have him. It is not saying the Lord will be my shepherd out in the future. It is not saying, well, he could be or might be. It is saying the Lord ‘is’. This is a must, is it not? And you must decide even as you hear these words, either he is right now or he isn’t.

There is a story in the Old Testament when God’s people Israel were not following him very faithfully. In 1st Kings chapter 18 verse 21 the prophet said, “You quit being like a bird, jumping from one limb to another. You either get in God’s house, you get in God’s camp, or you go with the false gods of this age.”

And so this expresses where we are called to be. Can we say the Lord is and I am living for him? There is no reservation about that. I am going to honor him with my life. I am going to obey him with my daily living.

The Lord is my… that is an individual, isn’t it? I notice that in that 27th Psalm and verse one that we read a moment ago when he uses that same pronoun, he is mine. We ought to today understand that Jesus can be my Savior. You put your name in there, our Savior, individually, collectively. Jesus is that Savior and Lord.

We cannot depend on somebody else’s opinion. We can’t depend on somebody else in a great position of faith. We may have had a grandmother or a father or parents and oh they were such great Christians and had such great faith in the Lord and lived for him. But their faith won’t save us, my friends. It won’t save you. You have to have the faith. The Lord is my… I have made the decision. My mind has assimilated the fact. I have turned to him and made him the one with whom I will walk. This is a word that is possessive, my, mine. This God of Israel is mine.

Yes, he is the God of Israel, but he is mine. David was sounding a little bit selfish there.

Is Jesus the Savior of the world? Oh, the good news is yes. He has come to save all who will turn to him. Yes. But I want to be able to say to you this morning because of my faith in him, I want to say to you, Jesus is my Savior. It does not mean that you cannot have him. Oh, you can. And that is the purpose of Words of Life broadcast, so that you might know you can have this same Jesus as your Savior. You can say that he is yours. How important that is.

The Lord is my… Oh, now, ‘shepherd’.

Verses one through four of this 23rd Psalm give us a picture of what a shepherd does, what his responsibilities are. He provides green pastures, not dead grass, but green pastures, food. And with that, rest. He leads the sheep to still waters as opposed to a swift stream or polluted pool. We are to understand sheep will not drink water that is moving very rapidly. Often times the shepherd has to build a little pool, putting rocks up to contain the water so that it is still and the sheep will be able to come there and drink.

Sheep are peculiar, touchy animals. Regardless of the circumstances, if we have this one as our shepherd, just like the psalmist, we need have no fear. He provides all of this for us. We are comforted because of his presence and his power. To the sheep it was enough to know the shepherd was there.

One of the ‘I am’ statements of the gospel of John is, Jesus says it, “I am the good shepherd.”

Later on he says he is also the chief shepherd. Oh, to have a relationship to this shepherd, this one. This is a relationship that does away with pride and wisdom. If we are going to liken ourselves to dumb sheep that means we are going to have to humble ourselves.

Jesus said there was a need in the lives of people for such a one, a, shepherd to provide for them and lead them and protect them.

I have seen a flock of sheep where a group of dogs, a pack of dogs got into them and sheep are totally defenseless. They just stand and let the dogs rip them apart. Oh, how we need that good shepherd. And this psalm is the promise of our lord Jesus. It is the picture in the sheep-shepherd relationship of what he comes to be for us.

I am the good shepherd and John 10:11 says, “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

Oh, one doing such a thing as this had to be unique. They had to be in a category, a group all by themselves. This one who is going to be today, in this modern age, our shepherd, has to be Yahweh, the creator and provider as well as the one fully able to be head over the body, the Church.

The psalmist states it as a fact. He is, now you must supply today the pronoun. He is mine. He was David’s. Is he yours? Can you say, “The Lord is my savior, the Lord is my shepherd”?

In that ninth verse of John chapter 10 we are told that we can come to him and we will find salvation. We will be able to go in and out and have a place of service, that we will be able to glean from the green pastures and the still waters and, thus, along with salvation and a life of service, we will find satisfaction.

Christian, if you are listening to this broadcast this morning, are you allowing this one to have the rightful place in your life, this good shepherd, the Lord Jesus? Are you submitting to him and trusting in him and walking with him every day? Or do you just want him to be the shepherd to get you out of a mess when you have a problem?

Oh, Christian friend, this morning, let him be your shepherd.

Today, there may well be those who are not Christians, who are out of Christ, who certainly cannot have this promise and this hope. Your life is not one of pleasure and green pastures. If there is any pleasure, it doesn’t last long and it doesn’t satisfy. The waters are turbulent in your life. I am confident this morning in the audience listening to this message there are those whose lives are in a turmoil. Your soul has not been restored. Fear is present in your life. Death is in your future, even the second death.

Oh, we bring this broadcast to you to invite you to the proven one, to submit to the Lord Jesus, to put faith and trust in him, to confess Jesus as your Savior and Lord, to be your everlasting shepherd who grants everlasting life and so that you can say, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

I hope you can say, if not already, soon you will be able to say, “The Lord is my shepherd.”

God bless you today is our hope and prayer in the name of Jesus the Son of God. Amen.

_Julius Hovan preaches for the Bohon Church of Christ, near Harrodsburg, KY




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If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Romans 14:8