NO FEAR #5 in Series on Psalm 23

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me;” (Psalm 23:4a).

Have you noticed the bumper and window sticker on cars and trucks, “No Fear?” Recently I asked a guy who had one what it meant. He didn’t know what it meant or how it got started. He just liked it. I suspect that it may be someone’s idea of being “macho” and “self-sufficient.” Some of those same guys in a foxhole, a hurricane or facing heart surgery might have second thoughts. If it is based on self-confidence, it is arrogant to say, “I’m not afraid of anything.”

When David said, “I will fear no evil”, he was not expressing self-confidence. He went on to say, “for Thou art with me” It was utter confidence in his Lord’s care and protection like a good shepherd’s care for his sheep.

There is actually a Valley of the Shadow of Death. The road between Jerusalem and Jericho goes through part of it. It is a deep dark valley with caves along the way. Thieves  and wild animals were known to be in those caves and it was very dangerous. Some Bible commentators think Jesus was speaking of that valley when He said, “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed leaving him half dead” (Luke 10:30). This could have been  
the valley David was speaking of. The picture above was taken of such a valley near Jericho. Shepherds took their sheep through such valleys on their way to grassy plains.

 There are two kinds of fear in the Bible; one is a reverential fear of God. Solomon says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). It is a good kind of fear that includes trust and obedience. It is taking God’s side against evil and believing in God’s ultimate victory.

The other kind of fear is a fear of death or evil. David was referring to this kind of fear when he said, “I will fear no evil.” John was referring to this kind of fear when he said, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment” (I John 4:18).

Sheep without a shepherd are terrified, and well they should be. They have virtually no self-defense if attacked by a wolf or a lion. They can’t run fast, and even if they escape the wild animals, most of them cannot see well and will fall in a deep ravine or over a cliff.

My friend, if you have not received Jesus as your shepherd, you cannot say, “I will fear no evil…” You ought to be afraid. As an unforgiven sinner, you are headed for hell. You are helpless against the devil. Peter warns, “…the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8). Jesus is your only hope. He came to “…release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:15).

Are you afraid to die? If you are not a Christian, you should be. Hell is hot and judgment certain. But God loves you. He sent His only Son, Jesus, to save you. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Jesus gave His life on the cross for your sins. He came “…that He might destroy the works of the devil” (I John 3:8b).

When you realize you are a sinner and believe in Jesus Christ enough to receive Him as your Savior, He comes into your life, forgives your sin and becomes your shepherd. Not only does He save you from your sin; He promises, “…I will never leave you, nor forsake you. So we may boldly say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

So, if you put your trust in Jesus, you can say, “NO FEAR!” He will guide you and protect you in this world and be your defense attorney at the judgment. Amen!

Following Jesus As Our Shepherd

  • #4 in series on Psalm 23

 “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3b).

David confidently says of the Lord, “He leads me…” Does He lead you? Here are some guidelines for following Jesus as your Shepherd:

 BY FAITH IN THE LORD. David began this Psalm with “The Lord is My Shepherd…” God will not lead those who do not have a faith commitment to Him. Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him for he who cometh to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him.” Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit your works to the Lord and your thoughts will be established.” This means you spend time in prayer, asking the Lord to guide you

 BY OUR SHEPHERD’S EXAMPLE.  David says, “He leadeth me…” Cowboys drive cows and horses, but a skilled shepherd leads his sheep. Jesus, speaking of Himself says, “He goes before them, and the sheep follow Him; for they know His voice” (John 10:4). Jesus has gone before us, setting a perfect example. “…He has done all things well…” (Mark 7:37). He went before us through His cross and resurrection. He opened heaven for us, ascending to the right hand of God. Charles Sheldon’s classic, In His Steps, challenges us to ask, “What would Jesus do?” in following Him.

BY HIS WORD. “…IN PATHS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS…” The Bible is our standard for righteous paths. You don’t have to pray about robbing banks, telling lies, or sex outside of marriage. The Bible has already said, “Don’t!” Even things that are not mentioned in the Bible are dealt with in principle. Read the Bible and follow it.

 BY SEEKING GODLY COUNSELORS.  Solomon says, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).  After prayer and Bible study, talk to Godly counselors. Start with your parents if they are still available. No one on earth cares for you more than your parents; even if you are grown. They still have more experience than you. Their counsel is especially helpful if they are living Godly lives; however, even if they aren’t Christians, they care and can share what they have learned. Talk to your pastor, your bible class teacher, a Godly elder or deacon, or other Godly relatives and friends, particularly those who are older than you and have struggled with the issues you are wrestling with.

BY HIS NAME.  “For His name’s sake.” When we walk in right paths, our Lord’s name is glorified. Jesus said, “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13).  He also says, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6b). We usually interpret this for salvation but it is equally true in prayer. Jesus is our access in prayer to the Father. This is far more than closing our prayer “In Jesus’ name, Amen.” His name includes His cross and resurrection. It should mean we are one with Him like a wife signing her husband’s name to a check.

BY HIS PEACE. This Psalm reflects God’s peace throughout. Paul said, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts….” (Colossians 3:15).  Finally, write down the various options and ask which will glorify our Lord’s name most. When you walk in God’s will, you will have God’s peace. When you stray from God’s paths, you will have heaviness. Prayerfully make that decision, writing it down in pencil. Sleep on it. If you have God’s peace about it in the morning, go with it. If you have heaviness, go through the prayer steps again. Let Him lead you in those “…paths of righteousness…” They are paths of safety, fruitfulness and happiness. Amen!

Restoration from Depression

#3 in Series on Psalm 23

“He restoreth my soul” (Psalm 23:3a).
Has depression invaded your life? Some hurt, failure, or sorrow you have been unable to successfully deal with? Depression usually results from a wrong response to trouble, though it may be caused by chemical imbalance. Regardless of the cause, there’s hope. Don’t give up. David says the Lord as his shepherd restored his soul. God can also restore your life even in the midst of trouble.

The Hebrew word translated “restoreth” was used by shepherds  for turning a “cast” sheep right side up. A “cast” sheep was on its back, unable to get up without help. It would vainly kick the air and bleat desperately for a while and then give up.

Growing up on the farm, my brother and I kept sheep. Dad said, “If you find a cast sheep, get it on its feet as soon as you can.” He explained that a cast sheep left overnight would not survive. The sheep would either die while cast, or lose it’s will to live and refuse to eat or drink if righted too late.

David makes a human application to “restoring cast sheep” in Psalm 42:5, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God…”

He knew that he was sometimes “cast down” like those pitiful sheep. Just as he as a faithful shepherd had been able to restore his cast sheep to their feet, the Lord, his shepherd, restored him to his feet when he was cast down in discouragement. Like sheep, our soul can be “cast down.”
Sometimes you may feel turned upside down, unable to get on your feet again. The Lord wants to shepherd you by lifting you out of the mire of depression and restoring joy and hope to your soul.
Depression can even happen to great Christians like Martin Luther, the leader of the reformation. On one occasion when he was in a period of deep depression, his wife, Katie, dressed in her black funeral apparel and came in where he was. He was startled and asked her who died. “God,” she replied. “The way you are acting, I am sure your God must have died.” Her act and words brought Luther to his senses. He saw his depression as a faithless reflection on the providential care of God and as such it was sin. He confessed his sin, prayed for a fresh supply of God’s grace and was soon back in good spirits again.

What can you do to recover from depression? Here are some suggestions:
(1) See your doctor to rule out any physical causes,
(2) Get sufficient food, water, exercise and rest,
(3) Count your blessings and praise God for them,
(4) Read the Bible, e.g. Psalms and the Gospel of John,
(5) Meditate on the cross & resurrection of Jesus for you,
(6) Ask God’s forgiveness for known sin, especially for your wrong response to trouble,
(7) Forgive those who hurt you (without an apology),
(8) Seek the fellowship of other Christians,
(9) Listen to good Christian music,
(10) Do something for someone else in need,
(11) Ask God to help you do what you ought to do, whether you want to or not. Right actions bring right emotions,
(12) Finally, believe and affirm, “Jesus is my shepherd. He restores my soul.” With God’s help, you can pull out of depression. Amen!

Still Waters of Satisfaction and Peace

#2 in Series on Psalm 23   “He leadeth me beside the still waters” (Psalm 23:2b).

What is your greatest physical need? You probably know, it is to breathe oxygen. You can not go without breathing much more than a minute without brain damage. Four to five minutes without oxygen is always fatal. Of course, oxygen is so plentiful in the air that the shepherd rarely has to be concerned about providing that for his sheep. However, the second greatest physical need for both sheep and people is for water. Two days without water can begin to result in very harmful dehydration, and three days or more can be fatal.

The Psalmist here in Psalm 23:2b deals with our need for water.  “He leadeth me beside the still waters.”  A shepherd has to see that his sheep get water or they will die. Christian shepherd, Phil Keller, in his book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, says sheep routinely rise very early, even before dawn to graze the green grass. Very often they get much of their water from the dew on the grass. This meets their need for food and much of their need for water

However, they need more water than that. Water is a special problem to sheep. Most have very poor eyesight and rapid brooks frighten them. Keller goes on to say, “sheep will sometimes die of thirst before they will drink from a noisy stream.” “Still waters” here suggest deep pools of placid waters. It refers not only to abundant supply, but also to easy access without danger. This does not happen accidentally. The shepherd would probably dig a well, build a reservoir by a spring, or dam up a stream to provide these “still waters.”.

We also need Spiritual water. This Scripture speaks not only of our physical need for water but implies our need for Spiritual water. Both provide satisfaction and peace.  A sheep or a human being who is separated from his water supply begins to be anxious and fearful. However, when the water is provided, the fear is taken away and there is satisfaction and contentment. When sheep have this food and water, they lie down in the green pastures, satisfied, and content.

Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37-39).

Jesus asks, “Are you thirsty? Come to me and drink.   He is speaking of thirst for Spiritual water..  Are you thirsty to know God?  Come to Jesus and believe in Him. Read His Word and drink of His Spirit. You can have satisfaction and peace both now and forever!  Amen!

Amazing Security

#1 in Series on Psalm  23

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures;”  (Psalm 23:1-2a).

David, having been a shepherd in his youth, sees himself as a sheep under the care of the Lord as his Shepherd. “want” here means to lack something he needs. David said that would not happen to him because the Lord, as his Shepherd, would provide all his needs. Here is absolute security.

This is amazing to me because I grew up on a farm with sheep and know how helpless they are without a shepherd; half blind, they would starve without a shepherd. When threatened by wild animals, their only defense is their legs, and they can’t run that fast. Clearly it is not self-confidence, but confidence in a shepherd who loves and cares for them.

Some think David may have written this Psalm as a shepherd boy and sang it to his satisfied sheep. However, most Bible teachers think David wrote it in his maturity, after he had seen proof the Lord cares for all who trust Him. In any event, all agree thatDavid wrote this Psalm to explain the Lord’s perfect shepherding of those who follow Him. That’s security.

How does one get this kind of security? For a sheep, it means having a good shepherd. For us it means finding the good Shepherd to care for us. David said, “The Lord is my  shepherd;” (vs. 1a).  He had made a choice to follow the Lord as his shepherd.

Jesus clearly fulfilled David’s shepherd vision when He said, “I am the good shepherd, the good Shepherd gives his life for his sheep” (John 10:11).

Sheep naturally tend to go astray. Isaiah 53:6 says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all” (Isa 53:6).

Phil Keller, a Christian shepherd and author of, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, wrote: “Sheep without a shepherd will either stay in the same field, grazing down to roots and dirt, or wander aimlessly to barren fields or danger. A good shepherd sees to it that is sheep always have enough good grass to eat. He goes ahead of his sheep and removes harmful plants and danger.” Sheep without a shepherd cannot survive. Neither can we. We must realize that and trust Jesus as our Shepherd.

However, only those who clearly decide to turn from their own way and follow the Lord Jesus may truly say “The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want.” All who trust in Jesus as their Shepherd will “not want” or lack anything they need.  Kenneth Taylor’s Living Bible paraphrases this verse, “Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need.”  Would you like to have that kind of security?

Consider this beautiful illustration of security in Jesus as your Shepherd.David says, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures” (vs. 1b). Keller continues, “…sheep routinely rise before dawn and graze until they are satisfied.David saw himself as a sheep lying down in a green pasture, satisfied and secure. The shepherd has led His sheep to lush green pastures, which satisfied their need. They ate all they needed and lay down safely in the soft greengrass to rest in the shade. These sheep who have a good shepherd were not worried about their next meal. Neither were they afraid of wild animals attacking them. They were secure in the Shepherd’s care. You also can have that kind of security!

How Jesus gives us security in life and in eternity. Not only was Jesus the good Shepherd, He was also “the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). How did He do that? By being the perfect sacrifice to pay for our sins on the cross.This means we can be forgiven and have eternal security. As the Lamb of God, Jesus “gave His life for his sheep” (John 10:11). This refers to the cross where Jesus died for you and me.  On the third day after His death, Jesus arose from the dead and is alive today and available to be your Shepherd. He also said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:  And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish,” (John 10:27- 28a). May God help you trust and follow Jesus as your Shepherd forever! Amen.

Is Jesus the Only Way to Heaven?

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Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

Our subject today, “Is Jesus the Only way to Heaven?

Many years ago in my first pastorate we were having a series of evangelistic meetings. The guest preacher from out of town said as he was leaving home he went by the Post Office to check his mail. While there he saw a lady from one of the other more broadminded churches in town.

She said to him. “I’ve heard you on the radio, and you are very narrow-minded. You say that Jesus is the only way to Heaven. I don’t agree with you. Consider this example. You live on one side of our town and I live on the other. We came by different routes but we both got to the post office. It’s that way about going to Heaven. If a person is sincere in their religion they can get to heaven by different routes. What do your think of that?”

My friend answered, “Well, for one thing, I don’t want to go the Post Office when I die. For another we can’t answer such an important question by logic and our opinion, but by what the Bible says.”

He then took his pocket New Testament and shared what the Bible says about how to go to Heaven.  In John 14:6 Jesus said…, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  Was Jesus telling the truth or not?

Who is Jesus? He was born of the Virgin Mary, but God was His Father. In fact, the Bible says that Jesus is God in the flesh. He could not lie. In the days of His flesh He was fully human but at the same time, fully God. He is the only human being who ever lived on this earth who never sinned. Since He had no sin, He could bear our sins on the cross making full payment for all our sins. On the third day He arose from the dead and was seen in His glorified body for some forty days. Then He ascended back to Heaven and is making intercession for us.

The apostle Peter preached that Jesus is the only way to Heaven. In Acts 4:12 He said, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

How can we be saved? John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The only way to Heaven is to repent of our sins and believe in Jesus for salvation. He is the only way. Trust Him for Salvation today!