Psalm 23:1-6 ESV
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.He leads me beside still waters. 3 He restores my soul.He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 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 your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
“Walk with Confidence”
1. I’m still being led.
In vs. 3, David says God is leading him in “paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” When we get to vs. 4, it is easy to make the mistake that David is now walking, and the Lord is not leading but just with him. The Good Shepherd is still leading.
The fields would be green during the winter and spring months, but in the summer, they would be dry and barren. It was common and necessary for the shepherd to lead the sheep through deep ravines to get to another place of rest and supply.
God does not lead from one ravine to another but from one field to another - a place of rest to a place of rest. We confuse His leading by thinking we are going from problem to problem by ourselves or God is only “with” us from one problem to another. The ravine or valley is only a place necessary to travel through to get to another place of rest and supply.
Sheep were not pets; they were there to produce. God is leading us to produce righteousness. He would not lead us to places that were not ultimately designed to produce righteousness in our lives. The difference between us and sheep is we get to decide whether we get sheared or not. Righteousness is what God is leading us to produce.
David knows that the Good Shepherd has never stopped leading, never stopped being out front, never stopped protecting and directing, and because of that he doesn’t have to be afraid.
2. I’m not afraid.
John 10:4 10 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
David’s confidence was not that he could handle the enemy in the valley, but that the Lord would protect him by going before him. He was not saying because he was a seasoned warrior who had even killed Goliath, that he didn’t have to be afraid. It was solely based on God’s ability to keep and protect.
Exodus33:15 15-16 Moses said, “If your presence doesn’t take the lead here, call this trip off right now. How else will it be known that you’re with me in this, with me and your people? Are you traveling with us or not? How else will we know that we’re special, I and your people, among all other people on this planet Earth?”
There is an important factor to remember. David is not saying he could lead himself and be unafraid. He couldn’t go wherever he wished, get into trouble, and then invite the presence of God to take all his fear away. The reason he wasn’t fearful was because he was being led by the one who already knows what’s ahead. Being led leads to no fear. If you’re leading yourself, you should be very afraid.
3. I’m protected and directed.
“Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
I am comforted by God’s protection and direction. These are two different things that we should never confuse. The shepherd’s staff was used to direct sheep with light taps to steer one way or the other. Most of the direction, as we know from Jesus in John 10, was the ability of the sheep to know the shepherd’s voice. There was no “clubbing” of sheep.
God’s discipline in our lives is not brought about by his wrath but his never-ending love for us. Course corrections are made from a loving and nurturing Father. He corrects to lead us to paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Correction for Production - The rod was a defensive and offensive weapon, shorter than the staff shaped into a sort of ball on the end. The shepherd used it fight off wild animals. They could swing it or throw it. It was designed to do maximum damage to protect the sheep. God fought to the death for you and me. There is nothing that the shepherd won’t do to protect his flock.
John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
David was comforted because his security was guaranteed by the Shepherd. Where the sheep are vulnerable, the shepherd is strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9 - 10 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Sheep know they are weak, and they know who is protecting them. The comfort you can have in you making it is not just dependent on you. God is committed to the very end.
Philippians 1:6 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Even in death, he is leading us to the next green pasture.
1. What stood out to you most in this week’s message?
2. What was time you were with someone as scared of something as you were? How is it different when you are with someone who isn’t scared?
3. Do you feel like your life is made up of mostly pastures (good places) or ravines (bad places)? What has led you to feel that way?
4. How can we shift our focus on where God is leading from the ravines to the pastures. How will it change our mindset?
5. What was a time your life was so uncertain or painful that all you could focus on was the situation you were facing?
6. When circumstances are difficult and scary, how can we remember that God is leading and knows where we’re going?
7. When was a time your painful circumstance was because of something you did? How did God answer when you asked him for forgiveness?
8. Has your view of God ever been of fear that he will hurt you if you make him angry? How did you shift it to understand that his discipline is gentle and loving?
9. When was a time you thought you could handle things on your own and discovered you couldn’t?
10. What is it like when you discover that you don’t need to rely on your own strength and that God leads, provides for, and protects you?
11. What do you plan to do differently because of this week’s message?