Listen On…


Dave Anthold: This morning, as I was preparing my heart for worship and what God had been laying on my heart for probably the past week. It came because of pastor Ted, I was talking with the Runston's and I had asked how Pastor Ted was doing as he was in his hospital bed. Later that week, God laid on my heart, what would you say to pastor Ted that could give him comfort? In a time, when he knew that the end was coming close? He led me to Psalm 23 and it hit me like a ton of bricks. So, this morning I would like you to stand with me if you can, if you're able to. As we read Psalm 23, and this morning it's going to be out of the amplified Bible, which is just a wonderful way to hear the vividness. I would like to encourage you to close your eyes, because listening to scripture and visualizing what the scripture is saying, it's so wonderful to hear the words from this Bible.

"The Lord is my shepherd to feed, guide and shield me. I shall not lack. He makes me lie down in fresh, tender green pastures, he leads me beside the still and restful waters. He refreshes and restores my life myself, he leads me in the path of righteousness, uprightness and right standing with him. Not for my earning it, but for his name's sake. Yes, though I walk through the deep sunless valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread, no evil. For you are with me, your rod to protect and your staff to guide, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, you anoint my head with oil, my brimming cup overflows. Surely, or only goodness, mercy and unfailing love, shall follow me all the days of my life and through the length of days, the house of the Lord and his presence shall be my dwelling place." Lord, this morning as we come into this place of worship, Lord we come in, with some of us with hearts full, some of us grieving, some of us in need of knowing who the shepherd is.

Lord, we lay it before your feet this morning that you would fill this room with your spirit, that you would rest upon the souls of each person who you have ordained to be in this place at this time, dear Lord. For it is by your grace and your mercy that we are saved, not because we deserve it. But because you love us, and that is your promise dear Lord. So, we give this worship to you, knowing that you will receive it from joyful hearts. Dear Lord, it is in your name we pray and give this to you. Amen. Well, why don't we grab our Bibles and open up to Psalm 23, this morning we're going to just take a journey through the Psalm and see what God's got laid out before us. I now know far more about sheep and shepherds than I probably ever care to know or to remember. I have never researched sheep, but I've seen the sheep, they walk around aimlessly eating a bunch of grass, taking care of your lawn, all of that exciting stuff. Then, they move on somewhere else, they're big furry creatures that just walk around.

So, I now have a greater appreciation for all the shepherds out there, back in biblical times that needed to give them a little bit of tapping, to get them going in the right direction. So, as I was going through this, I looked back and I wanted to know what it meant to be a shepherd back then. This is written from a Shepherd's perspective, David was a shepherd, he started out as a shepherd before he led Israel. So, he brought with him into Israel, this idea of a Shepherd's mentality. Then as he became King, he experienced great sin in his life, he had an affair with Bathsheba. Then he had her husband killed, and then his house seemed to fall apart. So this Psalm is born out of looking back over his life and seeing the relationship with his God, with his father, because the Lord said that, "David is a man, after my own heart."

So, this morning as we look into this passage, we're just going to go verse by verse and see what God's got ready for each one of us, because the Lord refers to us as his sheep. So, there's something in here that we need to know about because we are sheep. It says in Psalm 23 verse one, "The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want." The thing that struck me the most, is that David did not say a shepherd. The Lord is a shepherd, he is the shepherd, he is not a shepherd, but he is my shepherd. This implies, that he had an intimate knowledge of his shepherd, that it was personal, that he had a communion time with the Lord. That he could go to the Lord with his problems, with his feelings, with his hurts, just coming before him and worshiping at his feet. The Lord is my shepherd, that is personal, that is deep, and the Lord wants us to have a deep, and personal relationship with him.

He didn't just say that I am a shepherd, but David says, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." Why do you think that David said that, "I shall not want." The shepherd in those times, gave everything to the sheep, the shepherd led them to water, he led them to green pastures for grazing. He protected them from animals and other things that could hurt them, including times when sheep would butt heads together, it was them. He was their caregiver, he was the one that oversaw them. So when David says, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." He is saying that the Lord is everything that I need. As I was going through this, I came across a sermon that John Ortberg had spoke on about sheep and Psalm 23 and he said that, "Sheep have an uncanny ability to remember their Shepherd's voice." Sheep don't remember much of anything else, at all. They go off in completely different directions. But, the one thing that God has instilled in them, is the ability to remember and to recognize their Shepherd's voice. So, let's flip on over to John 10.

This is where Jesus starts referring to the sheep of his flock and that he is their shepherd. Verse one, "I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate but climbs in by some other way is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The Watchman opens the gate for him and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and he leads them out. When he has brought all of his own out, he goes on ahead of them and his sheep follow him because they know his voice." Folks, we are sheep, we are God's sheep. We need to have time with him, to hear his voice, so that we too can recognize his voice. Sitting before the Lord this week, I was keenly aware that I do not spend enough time before him and with him. That broke my heart, because here I am in front of you today but I'm a broken person. I'm a sheep, I go off in different tangents, I go off in different ways.

But, the Lord really rested on this idea, that we are his sheep and that we need to be able to hear his voice when he calls. Let's flip back to Psalm 23 verse two, "He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters." Green pastures represented food, they represented healing, they represented rest for the sheep. So, to go to the green pastures meant that they knew they were going to get some food. It's time to eat, they got plenty of green pastures out there to graze around in and this is our green pastures. When we open up his word and we receive what it is that he wants to tell us. Those are our green pastures and the sheep, we the sheep need to rest. When they're not hungry, it means that they are full, they are satisfied, and they can finally lie down in those pastures, and receive the rest that they need. If they go down to the water's edge and the water is running a little bit too fast, they freak out.

The rushing water scares them, that's why the shepherds found still waters, not stagnant waters as I found out. There's a difference between still and stagnant. Still, there's a little bit of movement still in it, they don't get scared by any of the rushing water. But, if they go next to rushing water and they fall in, they have the potential to drown. So, the shepherd knows this, he's going before, he's preparing this pasture, he's preparing these waters. I think it's interesting to say that, "He makes me to lie down in green pastures." The make is not forceful, it is gently telling you that it's okay that you sit here a while and rest. It's okay to rest, it's okay to eat, it's okay to rest, but he makes you, because he says everybody needs rest. It's a lot of times, we think that we have to put our head down and it's like, "Okay, I'm going to make you sit down in that chair right now. Got to my hand on top of your head and you are going to sit there and listen."

But, it's not that the Lord is just saying, "It's okay, just rest a while, I have my hand on you, you're okay." The other part that I thought was interesting is, "He leads me." Once again he is beckoning me to spend time with him. He leads me, it's an invitation, he's out in front of me. He's ahead of me preparing the way to where I'm going to go, because he knows where we're going to go. I have no idea where I'm going to go, but he knows and I need to trust the fact that he knows where he's going, he is my shepherd. I think that God is calling us to rest. So as part of that, this rocking chair up here is actually part of my family. My parents actually, as I found out this morning, real quick. My parents bought this when they first got married and it is a gorgeous rocking chair, I love rocking chair. There's something about sitting in a rocking chair, that all of a sudden life just seems to get a little easier.

I like this, I could do the whole sermon, I'm resting right now, right? Right, in this rocking chair. But, this rocking chair for me, this is the place where I come to have my time with God. My life is super busy as most of ours are, and this place represents a time when I can turn off my Blackberry. I can turn off my computer, my email, all of this and this. This is restful, I sit down in here, I have my Bible and I have my prayer time with God. This is where I come to spend time with God. Many pastors will tell you that they special places in their homes, where they go to spend time with God, because it's free from distractions. This is free from distraction for me, isn't it inviting? It's inviting you to have a conversation, to rest, and I think that's what God is asking us to do. He wants us to rest, he wants us to pull up this chair and to spend time with him because our lives are busy.

We have to actually be far more diligent about spending time with God. When we didn't have TV, when we didn't have email, when we didn't have the internet, phones, you name it, people rested. They were on their front porches of their homes, gathering together and resting and enjoying an evening. I invite you this week to spend time with God, in a place where you find rest, that you can listen to your Shepherd's voice and hear what he has to say. Verse three, "He restores my soul. He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." David, understood what restoration was about, he understood, he could look back and he could see God's hand upon him. Because of his sin with Bathsheba, because of family problems that were going on. As he looked back, he realized when Nathan had confronted him about his sin with Bathsheba. That it was wrong, that you had killed her husband. What did he do? He broke down with a repentant heart and said, "Lord, forgive me of my sins." The Lord longs to restore those places in our heart that are broken.

He wants to lead us, he wants to take us down the path of righteousness, not so that we can be glorified, but so that he can be glorified. I think that's the important thing. As I sat here this week, the Lord impressed upon my heart, what are the areas of my heart that may need restoring? Is there people that I need to be restored to? Maybe I've hurt them, maybe they've hurt me, and it's just festering inside of me, and it's growing within me, and I just need to tell them. Those are areas where God can restore your soul. Maybe there's some sin that's preventing you from hearing what the shepherd is saying. Maybe, he's been slowly tugging at your heart and you've just been like, "I'll get to it later, I'll get to it later. I'll have this quiet time later, I'm too busy God, I don't have time right now." But, maybe he's tugging at your heart this morning. I don't know what your burdens are like, I have enough burdens of my own.

I don't need a whole lot of other people's burdens, but this morning when you walk through those doors. If you have a burden, the Lord is calling, inviting you to come to the green pastures, to lay it down and to rest. The Lord longs to hear your voice, he knows what it sounds like. We don't have to tell him what it sounds like, he created you, so he knows what your voice sounds like. He wants to hear it, he wants to have that time with you, then to spend time, commune with you, because there's only one you. I am not you, you are not me, my voice sounds completely different Bills voice.

Speaker 2: Amen.

Dave Anthold: But, he longs to hear your voice, he longs to spend time with you and to meet you, and he's a big guy. Whatever you're carrying around this morning, whatever you're carrying around this week, you can dump it on him, he's pretty big. He's inviting you to dump it on him and it's okay, he's given you permission to dump away. Well, let's continue, as we walk through Psalm 23 verse four, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for your rod and your staff. They comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows." As a shepherd David, recognized that when the green pastures down below were all done, with all the good eats and they were all done. That he had to move his sheep to the high country, because that's where the next pasture was. But, in order to get to the next pasture, they had to go through the valley. For some of us, our valley is pretty long.

Sometimes we encounter trials and tribulations and we think, "Where's God? Isn't he supposed to be leading me? Is he supposed to be right there picking me up, carrying me along? Why am I going through this? You said you'd protect me God, where are you?" I know that I've had those moments, God and I have had very Frank conversations, "Where are you in the midst of this trial? I don't see your hand working." As they go through the valley, the shepherd moves from this leading position, into this alongside position with his sheep. The Valley was typically very dark and probably typically times, it would probably have rocks on one side so it would get dark. Sheep, they don't see well either, especially at night. So, Betsy over here could go wandering off, and then Dave could go follow Betsy, and then Andy, follows Dave, and suddenly who knows where we are? We end up somewhere, and the Shepherd's got to go gently bring us back, and he uses a staff, and a rod. The staff is for guiding us, when we go off track, when we lose sight of where it is that we're going.

There's God, here he is, he's finding Dave, and Andy, and Betsy, and he's given us the nudge back over to the way that we need to go. The rod, the rod is for protection against those things that want to harm us. Andy, talked about in one of his previous messages that, "If God allowed everything to come at us, could we handle it?" No, man I'd be on the ground, id be in that valley, you'd have to come find me somewhere. But the rod, the Lord blocks those things, he allows some things through. So, that we can grow under our trials, so that we can persevere, but he blocks an awful lot, why? Because he loves us, he loves his sheep, he is not out in front of us going, "Come on, come on, come on guys." He's not behind us giving us a big push, he's along side of us.

He's walking through this valley along with us, and sometimes he's got to protect us, and sometimes he's got to steer us back. It just struck me, that when we take our eyes off of our shepherd, when we take our eyes off of God, we lose all sense of direction. Where am I going, if I'm not following God? Direction, we have to be going somewhere, he has a purpose for our lives. We need to go from this pasture, to that pasture and we have to follow him. But, he's not going to let us do it alone, he's going to walk right alongside of us, guiding us every step of the way, giving us reproach when we need reproach and steering us back when we just lost our direction. Folks, I often need a lot of approach, sometimes it's a little harder than normal, to get me right back, to where I needed to go. But, the Valley has a destination, we're not in the valley forever.

It's for a defined period of time and God is going to walk with us as we go through that valley. As, I came to verse five, I have to say that I didn't know what God wanted me to say about verse five. I went to bed last night and I go, "Okay, God, I have no idea what you want me to say about verse five." As I went to bed last night, I had a very restless sleep, it wasn't restful at all. I don't normally speak in front of all of you, I have a corporate job and I don't even speak in front of those people. So, I don't do a lot of public speaking. But as I went to bed last night, the Lord said, "You're going to come to my table tomorrow. This is what I want you to say to them. Your sins, my sins, your sins are what held Jesus on the cross. He stretched wide his arms, took nails in his hands and feet, was pierced in the side, because he loves us.

He took our sins, those that we've done, those that we're going to do, and he took them all on himself, and he held it there, because he loves you. Our shepherd was slaughtered, so that we can live. Our shepherd laid down his life for his sheep." As we come to the Lord's table this morning, we're going to spend some time in prayer before we partake. Like I said, I don't know what burdens you came in the door with, I don't know if you need to be restored to another brother or sister. But what I do know, is that God longs to hear us, he longs to hear our voice, to spend time with him. I want to encourage you to examine your hearts before we come to this table. So, that we can see if there's anything that is preventing us from having that communion with him. If there is, and you need to take care of it, then it's okay if you let the plate go by you, it's okay. Because, God longs to have this conversation with you.

So, we're going to spend two or three minutes in silent prayer, so that you can examine your hearts before these elements are passed, let's pray. Verse six says, "Surely goodness and love, will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." This week, as Pastor Ted went home to be with the Lord, he made it all the way, from beginning to end, through life's ups and downs, through his valleys and through the plentiful pastures. He made it, he is dwelling in the house of his Lord, his shepherd forever. As we look back, is God your shepherd? Does he comfort you when you need it? Do you spend time with him? Relaxing with him? Finding that quiet place where he can talk to you? Do you take your burdens to him? Do you take the good times to him? Do you say, "Thank you Lord, for giving me these things which I have." This week, as you go before your week and I know your work is going to be busy, if it's anything like mine.

I pray that you will find time to sit down and to rest in his presence, beside those still waters, so that your soul can be restored and refreshed. Because, that is what God longs for us to do, to spend and communion with him. As we sing this last song, I have a hope, there is a hope. There's a hope of a better tomorrow, with no worry, no frustrations, and there's a day when we will see our savior face to face.

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Hi, I'm Dave Anthold. I am a small group leader, short-term missionary, and visual storyteller. You can read my story here.

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