I have a deep, personal appreciation for the person who takes an everyday, common occurrence and uses it to help me see God. I am richly blessed in my life to know a few such people. They can use a simple, common thing to help me see God. Once you see Him, you realize that not only does God have His fingerprints on the situation, but that He is the dominant figure in the situation.

A lot of people in our world have never seen, touched, or read a Bible. They would not know what it is if they saw a Bible or heard something read from it. They never heard of Jehovah God. They never heard of His son, Jesus Christ. They know absolutely nothing of God's Spirit.

For a moment pretend with me. Suppose you visited a place in this world where people do recognize Bibles if they see or heard one. Suppose in some private context you are asked to read some scripture that these people would recognize as scripture.

You select the scripture. You do the reading. The only request: it is to be a scripture that likely everyone recognizes as being from the Bible.

What would you select? What do you regard the most recognized scripture in the entire Bible?

Many of us would select a scripture from the New Testament because scriptures from the New Testament are familiar to us. But my understanding is that the most recognized scripture does not come from the New Testament. I am told that the most recognized scripture from the Bible is this:

Psalm 23:1-6
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I 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 have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and loving kindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

  1. In Psalms 23, David did what I appreciate and admire.
    1. He took a common, everyday occurrence in typical life, and used it to cause people to see God.
      1. He did that very successfully.
      2. Nothing was more common in David's world than a shepherd and his sheep.
        1. Sheep were extremely important to people's survival in that time.
        2. It was an agricultural world.
        3. Even in the villages, it was quite common to see a shepherd leading a flock of sheep out to graze or drink.
        4. If a person traveled through any area, very likely he saw a shepherd and his flock of sheep several times on his journey.
    2. David took what people saw every day and caused them to see God.
      1. For almost 3000 years, David's simple analogy on something commonplace has spoken to the hearts and minds of people.
      2. Many of us infrequently or never see a flock of sheep in our travels.
      3. Many of us have never seen a shepherd in the Middle East.
      4. Even though that is not our daily experience, what David said still speaks to our minds and hearts.
    3. David used a very simple analogy.
      1. God was the shepherd.
      2. David was the sheep.
      3. The basic relationship between the shepherd and the sheep was used by David to define his daily relationship with God.
        1. That basic relationship was one of absolute trust.
        2. It was the trust that is the soul of what you and I know as faith.
        3. Fundamentally, faith is trusting, trusting enough to take action.

  2. This morning I want to focus your attention on one statement in Psalm 23 found in verse 4.
    Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.
    1. The phrase, "... though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil ..." also can be accurately translated "... though I walk through the valley of deep darkness, I fear no harm ..."
      1. It was demanding, difficult work to find water and pastures for a flock in the open range of the Middle East.
        1. When we think of pastures and water, we are more likely to think of lush, green grass and either slow running streams or still ponds.
        2. In David's time, an abundance of water and fertile soil was not commonly used for pasture, but to grow grain.
        3. Pasturing sheep commonly included a lot of traveling because grass was thin and scattered.
        4. The shepherd constantly thought, "Where can I next take my flock when they have nothing left here to graze."
      2. In 1980 I had the joy of being with my father in Palestine on a tour.
        1. One day as our tour bus was in the wilderness of southern Palestine, we passed a shepherd and his sheep.
        2. The sheep were scattered among the boulders on the hillside grazing.
        3. The grass was so sparse you could not see it.
        4. In fact, all you could see was brown ground, brown rocks, and brown boulders.
        5. My Dad loved farms, pastures, and cattle.
        6. He looked at that scene for a few moments, wondering what the sheep found to eat, and said, "When I get home, I am going to tell my cows how good they have it."
      3. It was common for sheep to graze in low areas--where the grass grew and the water flowed.
        1. Often those low places were surrounded by high cliffs.
        2. The only way to go from one area to another was to pass through a narrow pass between the cliffs.
        3. The cliffs were so high that the pass was deep in the shadows.
        4. It was the perfect situation for an ambush--all kinds of wild animals might lie in wait in the shadows.
        5. The deep darkness of the long pass might quickly become the valley of death.
      4. No sheep would choose to enter such deep darkness with its possible hidden dangers.
        1. The sheep would travel through such darkness and uncertainty for only one reason: they trusted the shepherd.
        2. What would have been a terrifying situation became a situation in which there was no harm for one reason: the sheep trusted the shepherd.
        3. The shepherd would take care of them, so they followed him into the deep shadows.
      5. Please note they followed the shepherd.
        1. The sheep chose to walk through the deep shadows.
        2. The shepherd did not drive them through the pass forcing them to do something they did not choose to do.
        3. The shepherd did not make them go through the pass, but they chose to follow him through the pass because they knew he would take care of them in the dark valley pass and beyond the pass.
        4. The shepherd knew where he was going, and there would be grass and water there.
    2. When God is our Shepherd, He will lead us through places we would not go without His leadership.
      1. Let me take just one example from David's life, probably the example you know best.
        1. Why did David fight Goliath when David was probably a teenage boy and Goliath was a 9 foot tall man?
        2. For forty days Goliath defied the army of Israel, and not one man in Israel's army answered Goliath's challenge.
        3. If none of the men answered the challenge, why did David?
        4. Allow David to answer for himself.
          1 Samuel 17:26 Then David spoke to the men who were standing by him, saying, "What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should taunt the armies of the living God?"
          1 Samuel 17:37 And David said, "The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." And Saul said to David, "Go, and may the Lord be with you."
        5. The basis of David's willingness to respond to Goliath was the fact that this man insulted God, and that simply could not be.
        6. David trusted the Lord to lead him through the dark shadows, and because of the Lord he was not afraid.
      2. Jesus' trust in God allowed him to follow God through the deep shadows of crucifixion.
        1. Why?
        2. Jesus knew life and death was about God, and not himself.
        3. If following God meant accepting a cross, he would accept the cross and place his trust in God.
      3. We who are Christians understand the same thing.
        1. Life and death are about God, not about self.
        2. Interestingly, after Paul contrasted the deeds of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit, he wrote this statement:
          Galatians 5:24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

  3. The simple question we each face every day is this: "Where are the lions hiding?"
    1. Most of us do not want to risk losing life, so we are very interested to know where the lions are hiding.
      1. It is easy for us to conclude that the lions are lying in wait to destroy us in the deep shadows where God would lead us.
      2. The lions are not to be found in following God.
    2. There are lions; they are hiding; and they seek to destroy us.
      1. But the lions are hiding in the shadows of materialism, not in following the Lord.
      2. The lions are hiding in the shadows of addictions, not in following the Lord.
      3. The lions are found in the shadows of selfishness, not in following the Lord.
      4. The lions are found in the shadows of arrogance, not in following the Lord.
      5. The lions are found in the shadows of godlessness, not in following the Lord.
      6. When you follow evil's forces, you are on your own, and the lions will destroy you.
    3. Consider Hebrews 11:32-12:2:
      And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect. Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Only God can led you to life beyond death. Do you trust Him enough for Him to be your Shepherd?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 7 December 2003

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