May 18, 2022

May 18, 2022

Author: Pastor Gordon Cook
May 18, 2022

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in 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 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. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

Psalm 23:1-6

Psalm 23 is probably one of the most memorized portions of scriptures. It’s a great place to go when dealing with our fears. We live in a world of fear. Every day we hear something that could excite our fears whether it’s a plane crash, a disease, a war or rumor of war, earthquake, sickness, job loss, a bad investment. Plus, since the fall of man fear is a part of our DNA. Someone has put it this way; fear and worry run deep in all of us. Anybody who says they never get afraid isn’t telling you the truth. Fear of heights, fear of darkness, fear of bridges, fear of flying, fear of snakes, fear of dentists, and on and on we could go. It never goes away. Fear could be our strongest emotion and will be a lifelong struggle. But Jesus came into this life to rescue us from fear. Listen to what it says in Hebrews 2:14-15, “….he himself likewise partook of the same things that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” So God has come into this world to save us from our sin but also to save us from our fears and the greatest of fears obviously is our fear of death. You probably know this, in your bibles the most frequent command is don’t be afraid.

So how does God help us overcome our fears? Well, there is a complex of remedies or helps to help us but perhaps the greatest way—not the only way—but the greatest way God helps us to overcome our fears is to remind us of who he is. It starts with theology proper—knowing God. I think someone put it this way, the greatest of fears—fear of God is the way we drive away our lesser fears. Psalm 23—look at it again—is one of the greatest places to go to remind us of who God is. Again, probably no Psalm has been more memorized and more preached at funerals than Psalm 23. Notice how it starts—the very first word introduces us to God, the Lord. That’s a title name. The Hebrew word is Yahweh. So you could translate it this way, Yahweh is my Shepherd. It’s God’s covenant name. It has an element of intimacy. It’s not a title like Lord. It is Yahweh—it’s a personal name. It’s God’s first name. It’s clear that the psalmist is able to deal with his fear because he knows and trusts in the good Shepherd. He knows what he can do and what he will do with his rod and his staff. He’s assured of his protection.

Why do we get afraid? We get afraid when we don’t feel safe, right? The Shepherd is there to protect us. Psalm 23:4 “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.” But the key here is the Shepherd and apart from the personal images we have of God—God likened to a father, he’s likened even to a mother. But of all the other metaphors, this is perhaps the most intimate of metaphors in the bible—the Shepherd and the sheep. The Shepherd knows the sheep intimately. David doesn’t use the image of sheep because sheep are dumb. I think that’s a slam against sheep. Sheep are apparently not dumb at all. They are smart animals. Why does he use the image of sheep here for us? Well it’s not because they are dumb but it’s because they are extremely vulnerable, right? Sheep are perhaps the most vulnerable big animals on planet earth. They can’t run very fast and they don’t have the ability to defend themselves. They have no sense of direction—that’s the other problem—they easily get lost. That’s why Jesus uses sheep in that parable of the lost son, the lost coin, and the lost sheep in Luke 15. But I was thinking about the last Lord’s day when we were reminded of two sheep who went astray, Jonah and David. How did they get back to the fold? Well, they didn’t come back on their own, did they? The good Shepherd went after the sheep. So, every child of God can be assured of the good Shepherd’s care 24/7. Look at that last verse again—surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. So, when we are afraid what does the bible say? When I’m afraid the psalmist says I will trust in the Lord. When I’m afraid I will trust in the Shepherd. So, Christian don’t be afraid. Here’s why—you have a heavenly Shepherd committed to your daily care.