Covid-19, 7 months into 2020 and the rate of infections is going up not just by double or triple, but by percentages in the hundreds. On 25 June, Gauteng had 28 746 cases, on 02 July the province had 81 546 cases, a 283% increase. At the same time there was an increase of 346% increase in the death rate. All you hear on TV, radio, read in the newspaper is about maintaining distances and sanitising and wearing masks. Yes, we need to be careful, we need to exercise caution, we need to be aware and sensitive to where we go and what we do.
But in saying that this evening, I want to share with you a relationship that should never be confined to distancing, should never be put on hold because of Covid-19. A relationship that not even when all hell throws itself at you should be held at ransom.
What I’m saying this evening church, is that there is a man in the Bible that understood, that even through the darkest moments, even in the presence of his enemies, even in the lowest of valleys, there was a relationship that he could cling onto.
Psalm 23 (NIV)
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, 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 your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
When we look at our relationship with God tonight, do we classify it a personal one, or something thats distant, maybe tonight our relationship with God is an on/off one, seasonal, based on circumstances.
Psalm 23 is one of the Psalms of David, that gives us insight into the type of relationship that David had with God. When we read this Psalm, its never about the God of a nation or the God of the Church or the God of a group of people. David makes this a very personal Psalm. It’s an intimate Psalm, a Psalm that tells us the closeness that David had with God.
In Acts 13:22, we get an insight into this relationship when God could say of David, that he was a man after his own heart.
If we take a closer look at this Psalm, we find that David does not say “the Lord is our Shepard”. But in all instances, he uses a personal pronoun to describe his relationship with God, he speaks about “me”, my & I. What this tells us tonight church, is that this Psalm is about a personal testimony a personal encounter that David had with God. And what we see here is that David is not just talking about the good moments, he is talking about the moments when all hell broke loose against him, during the dark moments, when he was running for his life.
But notice that, in every circumstance, he was able to relate to God personally. During all of life’s crisis he was able to stand, because God was with him. If we look at the first three verses, we see that David is telling us what God has done for him, and who he is to him. He says the Lord is my Shepard, He makes me lie down, He leads me. And then in vs 4 he changes it and he starts speaking to God directly. He says, you are with me, your rod and staff they comfort me, you prepare a table.
Many times, in life we don’t understand that during the crisis moments, during the difficult moments, during the battles and the struggles, during our relationship problems, marital problems, financial issues, whatever life throws at us, we need to remain in relationship with God.
How often tonight, we think that when the world says social distancing, that means we must distance ourselves from God as well. The times that we are living in might cause you to be fearful, to panic, but it should never take us away from our relationship with God.
You see, David understood that the relationship that he needed most during the valley moments, when he felt all hell closing around him, when he was running for his life, in all of the crises if life, was the relationship with God. He is no longer talking about how good God was to him, he is now in communication with God. It’s during the difficult moments in life, that he needed to remain close to the Shepard.
Where do you and God stand in terms of your relationship with him, are you distancing yourself from God during this time of trial or is this the time when you draw yourself closer to God, be more intimate in your relationship with him.
Come near to God and he will come near to you.
We can allow our situations tonight and the difficulties in life to determine how we respond to God. Our response, and our relationship might be based on external circumstances, but David lets us see another side tonight, its when the going gets tough and life gets hard, its when its not just good enough to talk about Jesus, but now we need to start spending more time talking to Jesus, more time in prayer, more time in his word, more time in fellowship with other believers.
2.He leads me
David begins the Psalm, by saying, the Lord is my Shepard. What he is telling us here, is that he has placed himself in a position where he is surrendering to God, he is telling us and illustrating for us the type of relationship that God wants to have with us. David paints a picture of the Shepard leading the sheep. God is leading him to a place of rest, a place where there is peace.
This evening we can be going through a lot of turmoil in our lives right now, There might be hazardous paths that we are on, maybe nothing seems to be working out for us, life might be one chaotic season after another. We need to allow ourselves to be led by God.
David aptly uses the illustration of a Shepard leading the sheep beside still waters. Phillip Keller in his book “A Shepard looks at Psalm 23” gives us more insight, he says:
“The shepherd knows from past experience that predators like coyotes, bears, wolves, or cougars can take cover in these broken cliffs and from their vantage point prey on his flock. He knows these valleys can be subject to sudden storms and flash floods that send walls of water rampaging down the slopes. There could be rockslides, mud, or a dozen other natural disasters that would destroy or injure his sheep. But in spite of such hazards he also knows that this is still the best way to take his flock to the high country. He spares himself no pains or trouble or time to keep an eye out for any danger that might develop.”
The Shepard puts himself in all sorts of danger, when taking care of his sheep. He goes in front making sure that no danger comes near his sheep. The places might be difficult, but there is a reason he is leading the sheep. You see there is coming a point when the sheep will come to still water, to quiet waters, to green pastures, but in order to get there, in order to benefit from all of this, there needs to be a transition, there needs to be a season, when life happens, when things get difficult.
The question tonight is, what do we do through those seasons. You see when you are facing a sickness maybe life threatening, when you cannot make ends meet, when your marriage is in chaos, when you become so fearful of death that you socially distance yourself from God. These situations are the same that the sheep face, the coyotes, the bears, the flash floods, the broken cliffs, the wolves.
But you know what friends, the difference between the sheep and us, is that the sheep allow the Shepard to lead them. We on the other hand, tell God, I have a GPS, I have Google maps, I have a Garmin, I don’t need you God. I am able to manoeuvre through this on my own, I am able to come out of this alone, without you.
The reality friends is that we will never get through this if we depend on our own abilities, our own strength, if we don’t allow God to lead us. The only way we can get to that place of still waters of refreshing waters, of green pastures is by letting God lead us. No other way. What we need to understand is that the difficult moments, the moments when all hell breaks loose, when its one thing after another, we might not understand why it is happening, but we can be, confident tonight, that God is leading us out of it, and in order for him to be leading us we need to be following him, staying in relationship with him.
Psalm 84:11 (GNT)
The LORD is our protector and glorious king, blessing us with kindness and honour. He does not refuse any good thing to those who do what is right.
Romans 8:28 (KJV)
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
3.Being Confident in the Good Shepard
Many times, we want to be in control, we want to know exactly what is going to happen, we want to be able to create and complete our own destiny and paths in life. David tells us that even though he walked through the valley of the shadow of death, he was not afraid. There was nothing that could cause him to become paralysed by fear.
And all that starts right at the beginning when he said “the Lord is my Shepard”- a statement of surrender to God. David gives us an important lesson in this Psalm on how to overcome fear and how to trust in God:
a) Remaining in the presence of God
David tells us in vs 4 “you are with me”. God was by his side. He was never alone, no matter what he faced, no matter who was chasing him, God was with him. This evening, when you are all alone, when your emotions and mind is running wild, when you don’t know what’s going to happen when you get to work tomorrow. God is with you. He is by your side. He is walking with you, he has your hand. Never quit on God, because God will never quit on you.
There is a poem that many might know today:
One night I dreamed a dream. I was walking along the beach with my Lord. Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, one belonging to me and one to my Lord.
When the last scene of my life shot before me I looked back at the footprints in the sand. There was only one set of footprints. I realized that this was at the lowest and saddest times of my life. This always bothered me and I questioned the Lord about my dilemma.
“Lord, you told me when I decided to follow You, You would walk and talk with me all the way. But I’m aware that during the most troublesome times of my life there is only one set of footprints. I just don’t understand why, when I need You most, you leave me.”
He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you, never, ever, during your trials and testing’s. When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
The Shepard will go to the extent of carrying an injured sheep, one that cannot walk, and so will God tonight friends, he will carry you, he will be with you no matter what.
Hebrews 13:5-6 (ESV)
“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
Never distance yourself from the presence of God. In the presence of God, there is power, he leads us, he goes with us. David was confident in God, despite his circumstances. Not just present, but future as well.
Vs 6: Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
The only place we can learn about God, and know God, and understand the nature of God, is if we remain close to him, trusting him allowing him to lead and direct our paths. Making him our Shepard, never distancing yourself from God.
Maybe tonight you are in a dark place in life, a place of despair. Turn to Jesus. Trust that he will see you through, even when it’s the most difficult moments in life. And that the place of still waters the place of lush green pastures is coming. A place of peace and rest.
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