Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Psalms 23 Going Places With God 2: My Rest

Ps 23:2 My Rest

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

 Intro: Our sermon series for the rest of the year is taken from Psalms 23. It is the view of many that David wrote this Psalms when he was a man looking back on his life when he was a shepherd boy. The verses of this most famous of the Psalms lend themselves the life cycle of a sheep in the course of a year. The first verse begin with the lambing season and the new lambs being born in the lowland valleys and meadows. It is there that they come to know their shepherd. The next verse still takes place in those lowland valleys but now the shepherd is leading the sheep from green pasture to still water as the spring grass and perhaps mountain snows melt and fill the pastureland of the flock. It is in these pasture lands that the sheep begin to know the peace and rest that comes with following their shepherd. And if there is one area in modern life that we could identify with these Old Testament sheep it would be in the area of needing rest.

Joke: A mother was trying to check out at a local grocery store. In her cart was a baby that was having a bad day, crying, screaming, throwing things out of the cart. That the mother would pick up and put on the counter. Through this whole ordeal the mother could be heard saying, “Calm down, Cynthia.  Keep calm, Cynthia. Its going to be okay, Cynthia.” When she finally got thought the checker turned to here and said, “I just want to commend you for not getting upset you baby, Cynthia. Even though she was not happy.” The mother looked at the checker blankly and said, “My baby’s name is Amy, my name is Cynthia.”

We need to find Rest for our souls
According to Web MD, forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress.
  Seventy-five percent to 90% of all doctor's office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
  Stress can play a part in problems such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety.
  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) declared stress a hazard of the workplace. Stress costs American industry more than $300 billion annually.
  The lifetime prevalence of an emotional disorder is more than 50%, often due to chronic, untreated stress reactions.
     Stress becomes even more harmful when people use alcohol, tobacco, or drugs to try to relieve their stress. Unfortunately, instead of relieving the stress and returning the body to a relaxed state, these substances tend to keep the body in a stressed state and cause more problems.
What we find in our passage today, Psalms 23:2, is a spiritual, scriptural way to deal with stress.

Green Pastures

He maketh me to lie down.

David knows peace through his Shepherd.

Phillip Keller in his book "A Shepherd looks at the 23rd Psalms" says four things are required before sheep will lay down.

  • They must be free from fear.
  • They must be free from friction within the flock.
  • They must be free from pest and insects.
  • They must be free from hunger.

David says the Lord provides the means by which peace is possible.  Only through the shepherd can we find freedom from the fear, friction, annoyances and hunger of life.  

How did the shepherd accomplish these tasks?  How could he provide these for his sheep? 

 First his presence among the sheep eases their fear.  In times of stress, like a storm or the nearness of a predator, the sheep look for the shepherd.  Often in the times of David an instrument would be played like David's lyre or a shepherd’s flute to calm the sheep because they would know he was nearby if they could hear the music.

 Second, his intervention between battling sheep reduces friction.  If need be the shepherd would step between sheep which were fighting among themselves.  Often, he would have to punish the more aggressive sheep with his rod in order to make the in-fighting stop.

 Third, his prevention measures control the insects and relieve the sheep.  In David's time oil would be carried by the shepherd to anoint the head of the sheep in order to repel insects from their eyes, nose and mouth.  In addition the shepherd would look out for places where insects would breed and would keep the flock away.

 Fourth, his provision of good forage removes the hunger of the sheep.  The pastures, which the sheep would lay down in, were not accidental discoveries. The shepherd first searched them out before the sheep were released from the fold.  He would go and pull all poisonous weeds from among the grass and often seed the pasture with good forage grass and plants.

Can You Lay Down in Rest?

In the life of spiritual sheep, we cannot lay down at peace until we also are free from fear, internal strife, irritations of life and hunger.

Fear is an ever-present part of modern life.   
 There are financial fears, health fears, fears for our family.  In a survey, teenagers were asked their worst fear, by a large majority it was losing their parents. If you asked parents, they would tell you that we fear for our children every single day.

We have irritations, that eat at us and grate on our nerves.
We are surrounded by insensitive people, by noise, by strife and conflict.
Just like sheep we can have hunger in our lives.
Sometimes it can be real hunger. Often there are needs in my life not fulfilled, or an emptiness in my soul which cannot be filled.

I cannot find rest, I cannot lay down in peace until I am free from these things. That is why we need to have Jesus as our Shepherd.

If we follow our Shepherd, we will find.

I will find Comfort
John 14:16-18, 26-27 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;  Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.   But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

I will find Reconciliation with God.
2 Corinthians 5:18-21 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;  To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
And I will find Reconciliation with Others.
Matthew 5: 23-24, Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
Matthew 18:15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

Through my Shepherd I will find Peace
Romans 5:1-5 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.   And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

If I do not feel at comfort and peace what must be done? 

Find the shepherd. Where is Jesus in my life right now? 
 Call Him, find Him and trust Him. Lisent because He is already calling and seeking you. Answer His call! Seek his forgiveness and you’ll find the means to ending the stress of conflict in your life, first your conflict with God and then through that forgiveness the ability to forgive others.   
You need to follow your shepherd to the rich pasture lands of God’s word to find the comfort and peace your soul so desperately needs and that He has worked to provide.

IllustrationIn the books I used to prepare this message, both Stephan Haboush, the Palestinian shepherd from the 1920s and Phillip Keller who was a shepherd in the 1960s, said that the one thing that was most important to calm the sheep during stressful times was seeing the Shepherd. If the sheep could just see Him with them and hear his voice, then they could find rest.
I once had a woman in our church who was dying of heart disease, it was a difficult time for her and for her family. Once while we were with here at the hospital they rushed us from the room as she went into cardiac arrest. Later after the doctors had done the best and the attack was over, we came back in Miss Annie was scared you could see it in here eyes and hear it in her voice. As we prayed I sincerely asked the Lord to be with her, to make his presence known and to hold her hand even when her family and her church couldn’t be with her.
Over the next few weeks Annie had other attacks some even worse than the one while we were there. When next I saw her and asked how she was doing she said, “He was here.” At first I thought she was talking about the doctor, but then she said, “I prayed and I felt Jesus holding my hand even while they were shocking my heart back to life.”

She was able to find her Shepherd and it gave her what she needed to make it through the fear, the pain and the uncertainty of each day.


Not only does the shepherd make us to lie down in green pastures but He also leads us to the still waters.

Still Waters.

David finds refreshment with His Shepherd.

The shepherd, Phillip Keller, says that sheep get water in different ways. 
In the early morning they graze on the grass covered with dew.  This sparkling, pure water is often enough to hold the sheep until the hot sun burns the dew from the blades.
He also says that the Middle Eastern shepherds water his flocks with wells, which have been in use for centuries.

The sheep would also follow the shepherd to quiet streams and springs where they could drink. 
But wherever the sheep would find water it had to be still.  They could not drink from turbulent water.  Stephen Haboush, the Galileen shepherd, would take his flocks down to the Jordan River to drink, but before they could quench their thirst the shepherds would have to dig a long trench from the banks of the river.  Only then was it safe for the sheep to drink.

Following the Lord to Still Waters

The world we live in often leaves my spirit parched and dry, unless I find refreshment and re-creation, my spiritual senses also become dry and parched.  This in not just a spiritual problem, for the spirit affects the body.  If I do not come to "still waters" my life is adversely affected.
To use Keller's application the still water can be found in three ways; early morning dew, deep wells and quiet streams.

Deep Wells
 The wells of Joseph's time were community wells, they served all in the region.  As a spiritual sheep I need to follow my shepherd to these deep wells  of refreshment.  Where are they?  The deep wells are in the Lord's house.  Look at Psalms 63, where did David see God's power and glory? 

 Psalms 63:1-4. O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.
We need to drink long at the "well" of the Lord's church.

My soul is refreshed by the hearing of God's word, by the presence of my shepherd, by the songs of praise, by the fellowship of fellow believers and by the prayers of saints. I need to be in God’s house to drink deeply.

Solitary Dew

But the wells or times in the sanctuary are not enough, I also need to be refreshed by the times of dew, I must find my Savior and shepherd in the early morning or late evening times. It is during these times of stillness that my time with Jesus is most intimate and deep.

Psalms 63:5-6 My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.
David speaks of early morning and late night watches, early morning and late at night, the quiet times, the times of dew are where I can most intimately hear the voice of my Savior. Listen for your Shepherd in the times of solitude.

Quiet Streams
Finally, where do I find the quiet streams and springs?  These are found in the rough and tangled place of life.  I will only know the sweetness of these waters after following my shepherd through the difficult times.

It is always true that the coolest water you will ever drink is that which you drink on the hottest day and after the hardest work. 

It is also true that the greatest time of refreshment to your soul will be after the most arduous, faith testing service for God. When my own reserves have been depleted God fills me with the waters of His Holy Spirit and my thirst is quenched and my soul is restored. 

Psalms 27:1-5 reflects David's trust in God's ability to restore him. 
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? When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple. For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.

Illustration: The Paths of the Wicked and the Righteous

How hard it is for those who follow a different shepherd to the parched pastures and turbulent waters of this world than for those who follow Jesus the good shepherd.
Look at Lord Byron, who is often described as the most notorious of the Romantic poets, was both celebrated and castigated in his life for his aristocratic excesses, including huge debts, and numerous love affairs with both genders. He abandoned himself to the pursuit of sin and pleasure; and at the age of 35 he wrote,

My days are in the yellow leaf,
The flowers and fruits of love are gone;
The worm, the canker, and the grief
Are mine alone.

Compare those lines with the words of Adam Clarke, a Christian saint and biblical expositor. At 84, he said, "I have passed through the springtime of my life. I have withstood the heat of its summer. I have culled the fruits of fall. I am even now enduring the rigors of its winter, but at no great distance I see the approach of a new, eternal springtime. Hallelujah!"


In our hectic modern world more than ever we need rest. We need God acting upon our soul to keep us in His fellowship and service. Christians should be the most stress free people on the earth, not because they do not have stress but because they find relief with the Shepherd, Jesus Christ. 
How about you?  Can you lay down in the green pastures because there is no fear when Jesus is near?  Are you drinking from the still waters because you have followed Jesus to the quiet places?  If it has been too long since you were last refreshed, or if you have never been, stop now and look for the Shepherd. He is calling, he is waiting to lead you to the green pastures and still waters.

A famous actor was once the guest of honor at a social gathering where he received many requests to recite favorite excerpts from various literary works. An old preacher who happened to be there asked the actor to recite the twenty-third Psalm. The actor agreed on the condition that the preacher would also recite it. The actor's recitation was beautifully intoned with great dramatic emphasis for which he received lengthy applause. The preacher's voice was rough and broken from many years of preaching, and his diction was anything but polished. But when he finished there was not a dry eye in the room. When someone asked the actor what made the difference, he replied "I know the Psalm, but he knows the Shepherd."

This morning do you know the Shepherd? Do you need to find rest? Are you seeking green pastures and quiet waters for your soul? Then listen because Jesus is calling.

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