In all the risks and fears we face, we are not alone. When Psalm 23 walks us through the valley of the shadow of death, we are invited to call out directly to the Lord. Pastor Lutzer identifies the Good Shepherd’s resources to guide and comfort the likes of us. Whatever we’re going through, He will bring us home.
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Transcript: Welcome to “5 Minutes with Pastor Lutzer.” Thanks for joining us again as we continue this study of the Good Shepherd, “When the Good Shepherd Holds Your Hand.” I hope that you subscribe, follow, and above all share because the intention of these studies is that we might be blessed by God in a world that clearly has lost its way.
In a previous episode, I emphasized the fact that I quote this passage of scripture, namely Psalm 23, almost every evening and I discover that I can’t quite get through it because I’ve already fallen asleep. I hope that you know it by memory. I hope that you follow that example because God gives us calmness when we realize who we are and who he is.
Well today we come to verse four of Psalm 23. And what we see here is a change of pronouns. Previously in the first three verses he’s talking about the Good Shepherd in the third person. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” “He” does this; “he” does that. Now the sheep is talking directly to the Shepherd. It’s the second person. What he says in verse four is very clearly outlined he says:
“Even 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.”
Now one of the things that you find about a shadow is it cannot hurt you. By the way in Israel where I’ve been a number of times there is a valley that is very deep, very hazardous and it was referred to as The Valley of the Shadow of Death. What David is saying is this, even when I pass through that valley with all of its risks. You are with me. And of course when we think of shadows we know that shadows never hurt us.
Barnhouse was a pastor whose wife died and on the way home he was trying to comfort his children and on the highway a truck passed them. And he said, “Do you notice that the shadow of the truck didn’t hurt us? It’s the truck that will hurt you but it’s not its shadow.” It is not the shadow of a sword that can hurt you. It is the sword. The imagery here is very rich. When we stop to think of death we realize it is really only a shadow. And for those who are sheep that belong to the Shepherd, we need not fear the shadow of death.
And then he says “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” The rod, of course, is a rod of discipline. It’s what the shepherd uses when the sheep has wandered off and the discipline needed to bring him back into the fold. And then the staff more gently. The shepherd takes some sheep that seems to be going astray, bringing it back. Notice that David says they actually comfort me. Maybe you are under the rod of discipline today. Be comforted by the fact that the Shepherd has your best interests in mind.
Well we must hurry as we go through the rest of the Psalm. He goes on to say that “You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil.” Now the enemies might be insects. Maybe that’s why he mentions that the head is anointed with oil, which is what shepherds did for the sheep. But right in the presence of enemies there is a table that is set. And we know certainly from the New Testament that the person who sits with us at that table is none other than the Good Shepherd. You may find yourself today in the presence of enemies. Be encouraged right there. There is a table of peace that the Good Shepherd prepares for us.
And then he says, “My cup runs over.” Once again, we must understand the imagery here. It is said that in the Middle East where hospitality was so important, if a guest came and lived with you and you wanted that guest to leave, you couldn’t ask them to leave directly, but what you would do is let their cup be empty and that would be a sign it’s time to move on. Now if your cup is constantly full and running over. You’re saying to that guest, “Stay with me. I love your fellowship. I love being with you. No need to leave. Stay here as long as you wish.” Well, that’s why the Bible says that the Good Shepherd, well, he not only makes a table in the presence of our enemies but even our cup overflows.
From my heart to yours today, I want you to know that Jesus Christ actually desires fellowship with the likes of you and me. What a privilege. Shepherd and sheep together. Let that Shepherd shepherd you today. He’s interested in all that you are going through and he wants to keep you in the flock and then, of course, at nightfall bring you home. I want to emphasize that as we think about this relationship, it is always with deep appreciation that this Shepherd gave himself for us.
I hope that you join us again next time because we’re going to continue this study actually from the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John. Let God bless you today, and as I frequently say, as for today, you just go with God.