A Psalm of Guidance

A Psalm of Guidance

Mar 19, 2017

Passage: Psalm 23

Preacher: Jason Wolin

Series: The Psalms

Category: Jesus Christ, Obedience

Keywords: guidance, obedience, psalm, sheep, shepherd

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<h1 id="a-psalm-of-guidance">A Psalm of Guidance</h1>
<p>Today we are going to study a Psalm that I am guessing is the most well-known Psalms in the Bible, Psalm 23. I remember memorizing this Psalm as a kid. I've heard this Psalm in movies, seen it at hospitals and quoted at funerals. This is a Psalm about THE good shepherd. And I think the reason it's well-known and loved is because at our heart we all want to be led by a gracious shepherd. That is a need we all experience and long for. So let's read this Psalm about how God is our Good Shepherd. Six short, powerful, poetic verses.</p>
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<p>What a great Psalm. Now there are so many possible angles on teaching this Psalm. One possible angle is to look at the structure of the Psalm.</p>
<p>Recently I heard a pastor explain the structure of this Psalm spatially. He said, listen the main point of Psalm 23 is that the Lord is my shepherd. Because the Lord is my shepherd I don't have wants. My shepherd provides my needs. I'm surrounded by his shepherding care.</p>
<p>And the rest of the Psalm is explaining how you are absolutely surrounded by your shepherding care of your loving shepherd.</p>
<ul>
<li>You look beneath you and you see green pastures.<br />
</li>
<li>You can look beside you and you see still waters.<br />
</li>
<li>You can look within you and find a restored soul.<br />
</li>
<li>You can look ahead of you and see that he is leading me in paths that are right for his name's sake. He doesn't take wrong turns.</li>
<li>I can look around me and see all that is against me, even the valley of the shadow of death, but I will fear no evil because my shepherd is with me.</li>
<li>I look behind me and I don't fear that the next bad thing is going to overtake me. I see goodness and mercy following me all the days of my life.</li>
<li>I look all the way ahead of me and know that I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.</li>
</ul>
<p>The structure of the Psalm allows you to feel surrounded by the shepherding care of God. That's the main point of the Psalm.</p>
<p>So that's a structural spacial approach to the Psalm. But today we are going to use this Psalm to talk about 3 aspects of our good shepherd and the goal of that will be so that you can trust your good shepherd even if you can't see the way. Because many of you have been, are in or will be in situations in which you are confused or in great need and you SIMPLY don't have answers to your questions. And so you the answer of this Psalm when you are in those hard situations is not to get more information, not to try to fix the situation, but to trust.</p>
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<h1 id="a-good-shepherd-feeds-you">A Good Shepherd Feeds You</h1>
<p>David says, &quot;The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.&quot;</p>
<p>Now all through the Bible God uses the metaphor of shepherd and sheep to describe the relationship between God and his people. And as city folk, this is kind of pleasant thought, that we are fluffy little lambs.</p>
<p>But believe me, this is an insult. Sheep are incredibly stupid. Most animals if you release them into the wild they will immediately sense their freedom and thrive in their natural state. But not so with sheep. A wild sheep is a dead sheep. It will get stuck. It will get lost. It will wander into dangerous places. It's not a compliment to be called a sheep.</p>
<p>And one of the things that sheep need is to be fed. Because a sheep can't feed itself. It will just stay in on spot and eat down all the grass and destroy the roots and then it will just die. And the job of the shepherd of course is to lead it to new pastures.</p>
<p>And David is here saying, &quot;The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.&quot; Meaning, the shepherd is meeting my needs. I'm lying down in green pastures and my belly is full.</p>
<h1 id="the-shepherds-of-ezekiel-34">The Shepherds of Ezekiel 34</h1>
<p>Now this by no means is a given. Not all shepherds feed their sheep. Not all shepherds are good shepherds. Now turn in your Bible's to Ezekiel 34. Sometimes the most helpful teacher is comparison and contrast. And so what we will do in this passage is contrast the good shepherd of our heavenly father with the bad shepherds of Israel. So we will have one finger today in Psalm 23 and another in Ezekiel 34. So turn in your Bible's to Ezekiel 34.</p>
<p>Now in this chapter God is rebuking the nation of Israel in general but particularly it's leaders. God always holds leaders to a higher standard because he recognizes that these guys have an influence. Leaders have been given much but they are required to do something with that gift.</p>
<p>Ezekiel 34 begins</p>
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<p>So God is about to unload a truckload of condemnation against the leaders, the shepherds of Israel. And it's not going to be pretty. God says of these evil shepherds:</p>
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<p>Wow what a condemnation. To couch this is the language of Psalm 23,</p>
<p>The leaders of Israel are my shepherd, and I am starving.<br />
He maketh me to lie down in piles of dust while he eats my friends. He leads me beside polluted water and shaves off my fur. He sucks the life out of soul.</p>
<p>These leaders don't care about their sheep. They use their privileged position as a shepherd to serve themselves. Is this not one of the most hated and despised elements of bad leaders? They use their position of authority for their own benefit.</p>
<ul>
<li>Ancient history is bloated with examples of this. How many stories can you recall to mind of the peasants starving in the dust, dying of thirst while the king is banqueted on fine delicacies and bathing in the bathhouses.<br />
</li>
<li>Modern history is bloated with examples of this. How many CEO's of companies get involved in some scandalous money scheme, destroy everyone's pensions, destroy the company, and then walk away with million of dollars.</li>
<li>Forget ancient or modern history, all you have to do is look to the cubicle next to you to see examples of this.<br />
</li>
<li>All you have to look is in your own home.</li>
<li>All you have to look is in yourself. It is human nature to abuse the position of leadership for your own advantage.</li>
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<p>A good shepherd, who can find? Being a leader puts you into an incredible position of privilege.</p>
<ul>
<li>You get access to more information then others</li>
<li>People help you and assist you so that you can do your job better. You are served by many people. Many of the mundane tasks of life are done for you so you can do your job better. And what is that job (presumably to lead the people)</li>
<li>You get to make decisions. The decisions that affect many people are yours.</li>
<li>You get to choose how to spend the money</li>
<li>You get to choose how to spend the time and use the resources</li>
<li>People have to live with the decisions you make. They can argue all they want and complain all they want but at the end of the day, the leader has been given the authority.</li>
</ul>
<p>God has designed leadership such that all these advantages are concentrated in a single person. And the choice of a leader is always, will I use that position of authority and privilege to serve those who are under my leadership or will I use that position of authority to serve myself.</p>
<p>And God looks at the leaders of Israel and says you worthless shepherds. You take all the advantages I have given you as a shepherd and you funnel them into your own comfort. You guys are supposed to be feeding the sheep but instead your feeding off of them. Your using their wool. Eating their fat. They are starving in the dust and you are well banqueted. You're terrible!</p>
<p>And so the principle here is that as shepherds we need to use our position of leadership to serve rather than be served. Everyone in this room is a shepherd of some sort. If you have kids you are a shepherd to kids. If you have employees or if you are in a position of authority at your job, you are a shepherd. All of us are shepherds. And whatever level of authority God has given you there will be temptations all along the way to use those advantages for you own comfort.</p>
<p>But we have here in Psalm 23 a model of good shepherding. What does God do? He feeds his sheep! It's the opposite of these guys. Instead of feeding himself, he will lead these sheep to green pastures and calm waters. He gives of his own resources, his own time, his own money, his own comfort. God is our good shepherd. And this becomes all the more amazing considering the position he is in.</p>
<ul>
<li>A bad shepherd is given some amount of power and uses it for his own comfort. God has all power and surrenders it for the need of his sheep.<br />
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<li>A human shepherd has access to privileged information and uses it for himself. God has access to all information and uses it to meet the needs of his children.</li>
<li>A human leader has more control and has responsibility to make more decisions. God has all control and can make any decision he wants and yet exercises that decision to feed his sheep what they need.</li>
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<p>The Psalmist can say, because the Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. His hunger is satisfied by the food the shepherd provides.</p>
<p>Can the people under your leadership say that? My shepherd uses his position of authority to meet all my needs, to feed my soul. Do you move your sheep to green pastures such that they can feed and be satisfied? Maybe that would come in the form of:</p>
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<li>Their souls might be hungry for answers. Maybe they have legitimate questions. But it's easier for you to say, &quot;Just obey.&quot; Do you feed them with good answers when they are curious?</li>
<li>Maybe their souls are hungry for purpose. Do provide them with meaningful activity and reasons for why they do what they do? If you are a parent, do you just bark at your kids or do you try to shepherd them?</li>
<li>Maybe they are hungry for fulfillment in their work. Do you help them to develop according to the gifts that God has given them? As an employer do you care only for money? Is that the only thing you care about? Or do you care about the people in the organization?</li>
<li>Maybe they are intellectually hungry? Do you give them food for their minds or only what is easiest for you to prepar? If you are teacher, do you shepherd the ignorance of your students? Do you only cater to the bright students or do you try to understand the weaknesses of your less intelligent sheep?</li>
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<p>God as our good shepherd, knows our hunger and feeds us according to our needs and we are satisfied.</p>
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<h1 id="a-good-shepherd-guides-and-protect">A Good Shepherd Guides and Protect</h1>
<p>Another one of the main rolls of the shepherd of course is to guide and protect you. I was going to put this under two separate headings but they are really two sides of the same coin. Every shepherd has guiding and shepherding simultaneously in mind. His guiding is protecting. You don't go over here because that is dangerous, rather go here. The guiding is protecting. Starvation and death are there so I will protect you by guiding you to food and life over here. Wolves and lions are over there so I will protect you by guiding you to safety and security over here. You can see how guiding and protecting are connected in the Ez 34 passage.</p>
<p>The bad shepherds of Israel of course were the opposite of this. There failure to guide meant that they were naked and exposed and unprotected.</p>
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<p>Because there was no one to guide them they were left vulnerable to wolves. Sheep without shepherds are walking pork chops.</p>
<p>But of course the good shepherd is not like this. You see all sorts of guidance and protecting in this Psalm. He leads me beside still waters. Perhaps he was going the wrong way or perhaps he wanted to take a drink from dangerous rushing waters and needed to be prevented for his own safety.</p>
<p>They are led through the valley of the shadow of death. In this scary place, God is right there with them, guiding them through.</p>
<p>Ultimately the safest place and the path along which the shepherd will lead his sheep is the paths of righteousness. The most dangerous place and the place which the shepherd avoids is the path of unrighteousness. So the shepherd's job is to protect by guiding. The shepherd knows best where to go and the sheep need to follow him to these good places.</p>
<p>Now at this point we need to avoid our modern misperceptions about sheep. When you picture a shepherd guiding his sheep that probably puts into your mind a picture of a flock of obedient sheep following after the master. But that's not reality. The reality is that sheep rarely follow the master.</p>
<p>God is your shepherd. Let me ask you a question. How many of you love to stay non-stop on the path of righteousness? All you do is follow Jesus wherever he tells you to go. No of course not. We all like sheep have gone astray. Each of us to our own way.</p>
<p>So this job of the shepherd to guide does not imply that all his sheep will follow. In fact, the assumption built into the job is that most of them won't obey. Most of them will be stubbornly rebellious against your will and will run off headlong into things that are dangerous for them. This last summer we were up camping and some sheep herders moved several thousand sheep by our camping spot. Let me show you what it did not look like:</p>
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<p>You had sheep diving off into the ravines and the sheep dogs running down after them. Several sheep turned around going in the opposite direction. YOu had some just stuck on the side of the road munching on some grass, oblivious to what is going on around them. Some sheep running up the hill. Most were panicked and scared running simply because others were running. I don't know if the shepherds I saw were good or bad, but the point was the shepherds were driving the sheep forward mostly against their will. They were stubborn and wayward and unresponsive to the will of the master.</p>
<p>So the job of the shepherd is to guide. There are times when your sheep are flat out wrong. There are times when your sheep are being stupid and need correction. They are not on the paths of righteousness. In other words, there are times when the sheep need rebuking. That is to be expected. That's in fact the job. But how you do that rebuking is so important.</p>
<p>Now I want to draw your attention to one aspect of shepherding that is called out in Ezekiel 34 that is particularly helpful. God's rebuke against the shepherds of Israel was that they were harsh. &quot;With force and harshness you have ruled them&quot;</p>
<p>There are many ways you can get a creature to do what you want. You can beat. You can force. You can manipulate. You can blackmail. You can guilt. You can tempt. You can bribe. You can bait. You can flatter. You can trick.</p>
<p>And here in Ezekiel God accuses them of using force. So many leaders beat the sheep. They harrass, threaten, intimidate. They use force as their primary weapon. There are ten thousand ways this is done, most of which are subtle, all of which are extremely unloving.</p>
<ol style="list-style-type: decimal">
<li>Withhold normal adult freedoms like access to finances, access to family and friends, control over their own time or schedule, etc.</li>
<li>Prohibit or punish ideas, thoughts or feelings that disagree with the leader. Punishment can be long, corrective lectures, withholding affection or acceptance or anger</li>
<li>Ridicule and sarcasm or belittling.</li>
<li>Keep people off balance so they aren't sure how they are viewed by the leader.</li>
<li>Will not listen to reasonable explanations because they already know what is true</li>
<li>Regularly correct others on details that don't matter</li>
<li>Set unrealistic or unachievable standards or goals for others</li>
<li>Will not be pleased</li>
<li>Critical and judgmental habitually so followers feel like they can never measure up</li>
<li>Set up embarrassing or shaming situations</li>
<li>Threaten to reveal weaknesses or shameful secrets to others</li>
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<p>Part of good shepherding and the type of shepherding we see modeled in Psalm 23 is gentle and careful correction and direction. So I love the word &quot;guide.&quot; That has the idea of gentle persuasion. Cooperation with the sheep's will. A respect for the sheep and an understand of it's weakness.</p>
<p>Notice the Psalm says, &quot;Your rod and your staff they comfort me.&quot; That is an amazing statement. The instrument of correction ends up being a comfort. The words that hurt also heal. Can those under your shepherding care say that when you speak a word of direction, word of guidance, a word of rebuke, it is a comfort to them.</p>
<p>We are so accustomed to people's words hurting us. We are so accustomed to words spoken to hurt rather than heal. But we come to trust the good word of God don't we? We come to believe that his scathing words are words that can be trusted. That they are meant to help not hurt</p>
<p>I have people in my life that I know are this way. They are voices of God for my good. And I trust those words, the rods and they end up being a comfort to me. I actually find myself embracing them, even though they hurt, because I know they are for my good. They function as guardrails that keep me on the path of righteousness.</p>
<p>This is very much related to the final point here.</p>
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<p>This is the best way to summarize what a good shepherd does for the sheep? A good shepherd actually cares. We see this all the way through the Psalm. The shepherd is pictured anointed the head of the sheep with oil, bandaging wounds, The shepherd pours mercy on his sheep, the cup of the sheep runs over with blessing. These are all evidences that the shepherd cares for his sheep.<br />
Of course when we think about the shepherd caring for his sheep and we think of the best example of a good shepherd, our minds almost immediately jump to John 10. Jesus Christ is the shepherd to which Psalm 23 points but also the fulfillment of what Ez 34 predicted.</p>
<p>Because God continues in Ezekiel 34. Ezekiel 34 continues and says, &quot;I am against the shepherds of Israel&quot; Why? Because you don't care for the sheep. But I care and I will become their new shepherd. These human shepherds are worthless because they don't care. But I care. I am going to be your shepherd instead. Take some time and read then entire chapter. It's so fascinating especially as it relates to Psalm 23. After verbally condemning the nation of Israel, God says, I have a new plan. You guys are worthless, but here's my plan. Listen to the emphatic emphasis.</p>
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<p>These human leaders will always disappoint. The human leaders are constantly using their position of authority to their own advantage. But I'm going to do something different, something amazing. He talks about establishing a shepherd after the order of his servant David. How this shepherd will actually care. How this new shepherd will seek, and heal, and protect and feed and guide his people. He goes on to say.</p>
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<p>Do you hear the illusions to Psalm 23? He will feed them. He will strengthen, seek, make them lie down in green pastures. He concludes this section by saying,</p>
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<p>This is highly prophetic language. This is anticipating a good shepherd that rules in justice, from the line of David and uses his position of authority to serve the people. And then along comes Jesus. And what does he say? I am the good shepherd. He's referencing Psalm 23. He's referencing Ez 34. These aren't random metaphors he's pulling out of a hat.</p>
<p>Jesus says, I am the shepherd your hearts have been longing for, that good shepherd you've always wanted but never experienced. I am not a hired hand. I will never leave you. I won't go home at night. I will sleep with you. I will do everything for you. I will protect and provider and heal and guide.</p>
<p>Think about the ministry of Jesus and how much of what he did falls under the umbrella of this shepherding ministry.</p>
Jesus says, because I am the good shepherd, because I care I will seek them out when they are lost. What did Jesus do?<br />

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<p>Jesus says, because I am the good shepherd and because I care, I will feed them with good pastures. I will make them lie down. I will give them what they need. What does Jesus call himself.</p>
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<p>God says, because I care, I will find those sheep that are sick and heal them, I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak.</p>
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<p>Ultimately what does the good shepherd do for us? In order to feed us with food that does not end, in order to protect us from dangers that would threaten to kill us, in order to heal our wounds, in order to restore our soul and lay a table before us in the presence of our enemies (which by the way means while the enemies are watching) what does he do. He dies for us.</p>
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<p>There's a couple of Greek words you could use there for that word for. But the one chosen means instead of. I lay my life down instead of the sheep.</p>
<p>He surrenders all power and all authority and dies for his sheep. Can you imagine a more absurd picture. If a sheep was about to get hit by a car can you imagine leaping in front of the car to push the sheep out of the way and getting run over in it's place. Everyone would call you a fool. And yet here we have the God of the universe descending not just to love his sheep and care for his sheep but to die for them. And that is the cause for us glorying in our Savior. That is why we worship him.</p>
<p>I love the word imagery in Revelation 7</p>
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<p>What could be more wonderful. A leader that serves you, even dies for you? Who wouldn't want this? As true as this all is there are many who refuse the shepherding care of the master. Why?</p>
<p>Because in order to have Jesus as a shepherd you must admit you are a sheep. You must admit you can't feed yourself, protect yourself, guide yourself. YOu have to say, by myself I am stupid, dumb and will hurt myself all the time. So what I need to do then is surrender myself into the hand of the master. The only way I can be safe and protected and provided for is to surrender all my rights. The shepherd says, I care for you, I will die for you, I will lead you order, I will give you everything I have but in order for you to receive all of these benefits I must also own you.</p>
<p>Let me ask you, does Christ own your will? Does Christ own everything. Make a list of different areas of your life: Finances, family, friends, business. Is Christ leading you? Are you inviting him to be part of all these? Are you questioning him at every turn.</p>
<p>When I was in China I was with Kevin on the Subways. And as long as I was with Kevin I was safe.</p>
<h1 id="building-update">Building Update</h1>
<p>I want to talk about the building for the last 10-12 minutes of the service here. We don't want to make the building a focus because ministry is not about buildings but at the same time we are a family. What makes a family is not the house they live in but the people that live in the house but at the same time the people have to live in the house. When you buy a new home you sit down with your budget and you talk about things you'd like to do, things you can't.</p>
<p>We want to give you an update on both the timing, planned improvements and finances.</p>
<p>Let's start with the finances:</p>
<h1 id="finances">Finances</h1>
<p>In order to purchase the New Heights facility we need to borrow 1.7 million dollars. At 5% interest that pencils out to about 10k/month which is what is reflected in our 2017 budget. NWCCU has approved us for more than the full amount, so we have the lending ability to borrow what we need for the building. There are two reasons we are seeking additional funding.</p>
<p>This is kind of the upper threshold of what the elders feel comfortable with. We need some cushion to begin saving for the balloon payment that will come due. Almost all business loans are structured such that there is a future balloon payment and this one is no exception, so we want to start squirreling away money for that.</p>
<p>Secondly we need money for move in expenses.</p>
<p>So there are two ways you can be involved. The first is in the alternate lending program. You can choose both your rate and your term. You choose to lend money to the church at 0,1,2 or 3% and then you can choose your term of either 5 or 10 years.</p>
<p>Any money we receive from you in this program will help reduce the amount we need to borrow from the bank and since you are lending it at a reduced rate our monthly cost will also go down. So let's say we were able to raise 200k in this alternate lending program, that would mean we would only need to borrow 1.5 million from the bank and since it's being lent at let's say 2% instead of 5% our monthly payment would be reduced from 10k to 9.5k. So we wanted to communicate how those funds are being used and how it helps the church.</p>
<p>Secondly, we need money for move-in expenses. We have already set aside 80k for move-in. Any money we receive in cash donations designated for the building will be used for improvements to the facility that we have designated. We have a lot of things we want to do but of course we can't do everything.</p>
<p>Here is what we would like to do and here is what we would like to save some money for in the future. Now again, this is just what we would dream of doing, not necessarily what we will do. It all depends on what comes in and how much we feel we can conservatively afford.</p>
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<h1 id="timeline">Timeline</h1>
<p>As of today the time line we proposed earlier is still current.</p>
<h1 id="help-we-need">Help We Need</h1>
<p>Welcoming Team. Painters, landscapers, handyman. Movers, grunt labor.</p>
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