Apply the Word: The Shepherd Leads
This past Sunday, Joey preached a deeply comforting sermon on Psalm 23, where he showed us that the Shepherd Leads, Protects, and Blesses us, his sheep. I encourage you to listen to the entire message here. It's very brief, but very good. For this post, however, I want to hone in on some comments Joey made for his first point, The Shepherd Leads.
Joey made the point that, "God leads us in the path of righteousness for his name's sake. He puts his honor on the line in caring for us, and he is not going to fail. He is staking his own name on the fact that he will lead us on the path of righteousness." He then noted that the "still waters" and "green pastures" of this Psalm are all found on the path of righteousness. They aren't found elsewhere. In fact, all of the blessings listed in this Psalm are found on the path of righteousness. There is a lot we could draw from this, but let's look at three implications:
• We can expect refreshing on the path of obedience. Joey addressed this in his message, and some of the prophetic words at the beginning of service did as well. God is leading you to pleasure in his presence. God is leading you to a place where He will restore your soul. As Joey addressed near the end of his message, when life is difficult, when the path of righteousness feels more like carrying your cross down the narrow road than like a stop by still waters, our Shepherd is with us, and he is our green pasture. He is our still waters. He restores our soul. Take some time to bring the pain of your life to God, to tell your shepherd how much it hurts and how badly you need his healing touch on your soul. And then ask him to fulfill Psalm 23 to you.
• God's honor is tied up in how well he loves us. This may sound strange at first, but consider the implications of Joey's statement. "He puts his honor on the line in caring for us...He is staking his own name on the fact that he will lead us on the path of righteousness." Leading us on the path of righteousness and caring for us are acts of love. God's honor is tied up in his living up to the declarations he's made about his love for us. If God does not keep his promise to keep us, he does not honor his name. But God is not the kind of God who fails.
• The path of righteousness is not an end in itself. It is a path to God's presence. God does not have us on a journey for the sake of having us on a journey. He is taking us somewhere, and that somewhere is his presence, where there is fullness of joy and pleasures forever more (Psalm 16). Therefore, God's honor is tied up in his ability to lead you on the path of righteousness all the way to the end, to the day when you stand before him, clean, pure, unashamed, because of the righteousness granted you in Christ Jesus. Take refuge in this truth. Let this truth lift from your shoulders the burden of carrying yourself all the way to the end. It's not on you to make it. It's on God, the Good Shepherd who carries his sheep when they are too weak or too disobedient to go the right way on their own.
Alex earned his degree in Practical Theology from Southeastern University, and now works as a Project Coordiantor over at Adventist Health System. He also preaches occasionally, and blogs over at Redemption Applied, which you can (and should!) check out here.
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