“The Lord is my Shepherd”: A sermon on Psalm 23
Once there was a shepherd who had 100 sheep. One evening he counted them as they went into the gate. Only 99 were there! One was missing! It must not have followed the shepherd home and was now lost in the woods. At once, the man closed the gate and left his helpers to watch the flock. He must find that lost sheep before some wolf could get her. He hurried to the place where the flock had been that day. He called the sheep’s name over and over again.
For a while the shepherd hear nothing. Again and again he called. At last, he heard a weak cry. Before long, he found her, all tangled up in some bushes. He gently pulled her out, but found she could not walk; she had hurt her leg. So he picked her up and carried her home on his shoulders.
This shepherd is someone we all know. It is Jesus Christ, and we are his sheep. Sometime we sheep get lost. We go down the wrong path. We get hurt.
But our shepherd is always calling us back. He wants all of us to be safe with him. He searches for us when we get lost. He calls us by name. And he rejoices over all who belong to him. Christ leads us home.
That’s what makes Psalm 23 so powerful. The Lord Jesus Christ is my shepherd. He is the Son of God who loved me and who gave himself for me. And if Christ is with me, then I am safe in his love.
Look at how Psalm 23 begins: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Our Psalm says that we will never lack anything. That’s quite a statement of faith, isn’t it? If Christ is our shepherd, we will never be in want or lack anything in our life. But is that really true? Do we really believe this?
Often, it feels as if there is something missing in our life. In fact, we often feel like we lack a lot of things. It seems like our life is empty. We feel hollow inside. We are spiritually hungry. We feel lost.
Perhaps what’s missing in our life is faith, just a simple trust in God’s goodness and grace. Often our faith is shaky and uncertain. We are filled with doubts and fears. Our trust in the Lord is weak and faltering. We have a hard time believing.
We may finally reach a point where we cry out, “Lord, help me! Increase my faith! Help me to trust in you and to follow your ways. Show me the way to get rid of my doubts and fears.”
That’s when Jesus says, “Listen! I am the Good Shepherd; I know me sheep and my sheep know me, and I lay down my life for the sheep.” Jesus says that he know us and our situation. The shepherd is well aware of the condition of his sheep. That’s why he points to himself and says, “I am your Shepherd. Listen to my voice when I call to you. Hear my Word! Listen to what I say.”
Listen! The Good Shepherd wants to increase your faith and remove all of your doubts and fears. But how does he do that? How does this happen?
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lies down in the green pastures of his Word, the Holy Scriptures. He leads me besides the still waters of Holy Baptism; he that believes and is baptized will be saved. He restores my soul through the power of Holy Communion; he feeds me with his body and blood. He leads me in the path to his cross and resurrection; he forgives my sins for his name’s sake.”
You see, the Shepherd feeds his sheep with his Word and Sacraments. That’s why worship is so important. Here, we listen to the voice of the Shepherd as he calls. He feeds our hungry heart. He restores our soul. He bestows his gift of forgiveness. The Lord feeds us with his Word and Sacraments. In this way, faith is created and strengthened. Our hunger is satisfied. Our doubts and fears begin to fade away.
Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd. My sheep listen to my voice. I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” Our Shepherd promises to lead us in the paths of righteousness. Christ goes forth and we follow. He leads us in our daily life. He guides and directs us. He says, “Come, follow me! I will show you the way to go.”
The problem here is that we sheep often prefer to go our own way. We think that we know better than God. We seek greener pastures elsewhere. And so we drift away from the path of righteousness. We fall back in the old ways. We get tangled up in the bushes of sin and unbelief. We get lost. We get hurt.
That’s when we forsake God’s Word; we don’t read the Bible everyday. We neglect worship and prayer. We forget about our baptism. We ignore the power of Holy Communion. We don’t live in the promises of the New Covenant.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray; each of us has turned to his own way. We have drifted off the path of righteousness and have fallen into the ditch. We have run off the road and are tangled up in the bushes. We are lost. We are in trouble. We need help.
But do you know what? Someone is searching for you! Someone is calling your name. Someone is seeking, searching, looking. The Good Shepherd comes after his sheep. The Lord has a way of stepping back into our life. He says, “There you are! I was thinking about you this whole time. I’m so glad I found you again; now, come on, let’s go home.”
Christ finds us. He steps back into our life and now we suddenly discover that if we have him, we truly have everything we need for this life. God’s Word comes true. “The Lord Jesus is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 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 staff they comfort me.”
Yes, even though I walk through the valley, if I have Christ, I have everything I need. Even in the darkest of valleys, if Christ is with me, I am safe. That’s important to remember when you go through those tough times. We all know that life is filled with the dark valleys, the low points, the difficult days. We all struggle with the pain, the hurt, the depression, the sadness and grief of life in this fallen world. Perhaps you are going through such a dark valley right now in your life.
But even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Christ is with me. His cross and resurrection they comfort me. In times of trouble, I turn to the cross and resurrection of my Savior.
There, at the cross, we see the love of God so clearly revealed. We see the mercy and compassion of the Father. We see the sacrifice of the Son. We see how the Shepherd dies for sheep who love to wander. The Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.
The Good Shepherd laid down his life for you; that’s how much he loved you; that’s how much he cares. Christ was thinking of you when he died on the cross. That’s why you belong to him. He died for you. Your life now belongs to Christ.
The Shepherd laid down his life, and then, he took it up again. Christ rose from the dead. And the Risen Christ now calls to you, “Come on, and follow me! I will walk with you though the valleys ahead. Together, we can make it. I will bless you with my presence; I will feed you with my Word and Sacraments; I will strengthen your faith.”
That is the promise that the Lord Jesus makes to all of us. He gives to us his Word. He prepares the table of his Supper for us. He anoints our head with the oil of baptismal grace. Our cup of blessing just overflows when we worship the Son of God.
We now have the certainty of knowing that we belong to our Shepherd. We know that goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of life. Our shepherd leads us through this journey of life and he leads us all the way home, where we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. In Christ, a better life awaits us in heaven. The best is yet to come! Amen!