Blog / Book of the Month / Psalm 23 Sermon From August 2013 Prayer Service �You Are With Me�

Psalm 23 Sermon From August 2013 Prayer Service �You Are With Me�

Psalm 23 Sermon From August 2013 Prayer Service You Are With Me

Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / Wednesday August7th 2013: Season of Pentecost, Psalm 23.


         The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

                   He makes me lie down in green pastures.

          He leads me beside still waters.

                   He restores my soul.

          He leads me in paths of righteousness

                   for His name's sake.

          Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

                    I will 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 anoint my head with oil;

                   my cup overflows.

          Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

                   all the days of my life,

          and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD


(Psalm 23 ESV)


Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Amen.


Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our LORD and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. David was a shepherd king, so when a shepherd king says “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want,” what are we to think of that? And what does this mean for us?


In the ancient world, particularly at the time of David there was a popular idea that the king of a nation was the shepherd of the people. David then, who started out as a shepherd boy,[1] when he was anointed as king, was later able to see this connection between the work of a shepherd and the work of a king in a very personal way. He could see it in a way that someone born into royalty can often struggle to see. A temptation for any king is to think of himself as the ultimate shepherd, a shepherd with no authority above him, a king with no authority above him. You don’t have to be a king to think you’re above the authority of others or are above the authority of God. David does not show this sort of disregard for the LORD or for the LORD’S authority in Psalm 23, in Psalm 23 David talks of God being his Shepherd, the LORD being the Shepherd of the shepherd king: As is also the case with other Psalms David is talking not just about his relationship with the LORD, in David’s words you also see your relationship to God but interestingly Psalm 23 also directs us specifically to Jesus; The Psalm is very Messianic and points forward to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, and describes Jesus’ trust in His heavenly Father.   


Hang on to that thought as we continue: The Israelites before they had kings knew the LORD to be their King, when the people came to the Judge Samuel to demand a king like other nations the LORD comforts Samuel saying, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking Me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you.”[2] Through the Judge Samuel God would give them kings; first was Saul who was like the kings of the other nations, then came David the shepherd boy. David was different. His trust was in the LORD.


Psalm 23 shows us how David, unlike the Children of Israel, did not reject the LORD as his King over him, this is one of the reasons David is described as being a man after the LORD’S own heart,[3] For we see later in Scripture how Jesus too maintained humility and didn’t set Himself as more important than His heavenly Father. In fact Saint Paul says, “though [Jesus] was in the form of God, [He] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, [Jesus] humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”[4] Jesus like King David kept God as His King and took the humble path, a path that went right to the cross. Here we start to see how Psalm 23 is bigger than king David, bigger than me or you, and how you and I and all Christians are nestled into this Psalm.


Keeping all this in mind, think on Psalm 23 again: Think on it as Jesus’ prayer to His Heavenly Father, the same heavenly Father of whom Jesus says, “Just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”[5] The attitude of the opening words of the Psalm, what these words confess is this, thinking of them as the Good Shepherd Jesus' words, it's as though Jesus prays: The LORD is My shepherd King; the Shepherd King of Israel: With this King I shall not want. I lack nothing, He is My Father, He makes Me lie down in green pastures.


          He leads Me beside still waters.

                   He restores my soul.

          He leads Me in paths of righteousness

                   for His name's sake.


Remember how God the Father protects Jesus for the right time, keeps Jesus safe and secure from people like king Herod[6] and from those who wished to stone Him[7] until the day He was to save you at the cross, Isaiah prophetically says this about Jesus, Isaiah says “[the LORD] made My mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of His hand He hid Me; [God] made Me a polished arrow; in His quiver He hid Me away.”[8] Protected for a purpose: Set aside for action; Jesus the arrow of the LORD aimed at the heart of sin, aimed at the cross. Just like we heard in Psalm 18.


          Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

                   I will fear no evil,

          for You are with me;


Here we have a picture of the crucifixion, and if you recall in Psalm 22 we also had a picture of Jesus being crucified, a picture of Jesus trusting in the help of His Heavenly Father even in the midst of death and forsakenness. Here in Psalm 23 you can picture Jesus walking through the valley of the shadow of death as He is lead away from the Garden of Gethsemane in the deep darkness of that night, as He’s lead to His trial, as Jesus carries His cross,[9] walking to the place of crucifixion and even though He is beaten and bruised and bloodied and even though He knows He will die nailed to the cross,[10] Jesus can make that walk for us in our place right through the valley of the shadow of death. With every step He can do it without the fear of evil. “I will fear no evil” the Psalmist says, and Jesus prays and teaches you to pray “deliver us from evil.” The valley of the shadow of death for the Christian is not as fearsome as it could be because Jesus has walked it in advance for you and for this reason you can face it trusting in Him. 


Jesus trusts in the LORD, His Father, even as the shadow of the cross looms above Him. Jesus knows that His Father is with Him. That it is the “rod and [the] staff,” of the LORD, the Shepherd of Israel, that comforts Jesus as He is hanging on the cross. Jesus knows that His Father is in control, and that the LORD will bring Jesus through death. Psalm 22 had presented a picture of Jesus on the cross looking forward to the work He would do following His resurrection, a faithful looking forward to the glories that await Him on the other side of death. Psalm 23 has this same trust and hope.  


The Night before the crucifixion, at the Last Supper, Jesus says “Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”[11] Jesus who is both the host at the Last Supper and the sacred Holy meal by His presence in the bread and the wine looks forward to the future beauty and eternal nature of the meal He institutes, a meal that gives for you and I the same body that hung upon the cross, the same body that walked out of the tomb that first Easter Morning. Jesus looks to the marriage feast of the lamb which will have no end the glorious feast of heaven and when you think on Jesus crucified upon the cross and call to mind Psalm 23 in the midst of His crucifixion think upon what hope is in King David as He provides this picture of Christ:


          You prepare a table before me

                   in the presence of my enemies;


Just as Christ was surrounded by enemies as He hung upon the cross, we at the communion rail are surrounded by a world full of the enemies of Jesus and of us because of His names sake. Yet we need not fear, for Jesus is with us, we need not fear  for Jesus who is the Anointed of the LORD, [12] Who speaks of His crucifixion as a baptism when He asks His disciples James and John “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized [?]”,[13] this same Jesus echoes the words of Psalm 23 when David writes: “You anoint My head with oil; My cup overflows.” And because Jesus, who is the LORD'S Anointed, drank the overflowing cup of God’s wrath you now receive His overflowing cup of forgiveness. Because Christ took on death at the cross you now take on His eternal life, your trespasses were nailed there with all your troubles and every sin with Jesus and in Christ you’ve died and in Christ now you live.[14]


          Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

                   all the days of my life,

          and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.


As Christ walks to the cross, as His feet are nailed there, as they are lifted up goodness and mercy nip at Jesus’ heels. And now this goodness and mercy of the LORD pursues you, chases after you, follows you, and drives you to the final goal, to the house of the LORD.[15] The words Jesus said to His disciples on the Night in which He was betrayed are actively at work in the Church and in you as part of the church when Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.”[16]


All roads in Psalm 23 lead to this very point. The heart of this Psalm, the literal centre of it, is the phrase, “You are with me.” In the gospel of John Christ says, “I and the Father are one.”[17] At His ascension Jesus says to His disciples “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”[18] When King David writes in Psalm 23 of the LORD saying “You are with me,” this little phrase holds Jesus’ trust in His Heavenly Father and our trust in the promises of Jesus that ‘God is with us.’ Because of Jesus you can pray to the LORD with David and with all Christians saying with hope and trust “You are with me.” And if God is with you than there is nothing to fear, no shadow so dark that He can’t comfort you in the midst of it: This is why the Christian hangs on so tightly to Psalm 23. “For a Christian there can be no greater expression of confidence than the words, “You are with me.””[19] Everything in this Psalm for David about God’s love for him; everything in this Psalm about God’s love for Jesus in the valley of the shadow of death, everything in this Psalm about God’s love for Jesus at the cross and in His resurrection, is likewise true for you in Christ Jesus.


You now can turn to Jesus and call Him your Shepherd, your Good Shepherd knowing that He Himself was full of trust and trusted His heavenly Father perfectly. If you then have failed in trusting the LORD if you have rejected God as your King and Shepherd, repent and turn to Jesus He will forgive you. The Christian can trust this in their baptism; the Christian can trust the words “You are with me,” you can trust these tremendous words of Psalm 23. They are yours whether you are a king or not, whether you are a shepherd to others or you are the one being shepherded. In Them you know that the LORD is your Shepherded and He is with you, every step of the way. Amen.


Let us pray:

Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.




[1] 1 Samuel 16:1-13

[2] 1 Samuel 8:7-8

[3] Acts 13:22

[4] Philippians 2:6-8

[5] John 10:15

[6] Matthew 2:13-18

[7] John 8:59; 10:31

[8] Isaiah 49:2

[9] John 19:7

[10] Luke 22:47-70; 23

[11] Mark 14:25

[12] Luke 4:16-20

[13] Mark 10:38

[14] Colossians 2:13-14, “God made [you] alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross.”

[15] Acts 26:14

[16] John 14:1-3

[17] John 10:30

[18] Matthew 28:20

[19] A Commentary on Psalms 1-72, Northwestern Publishing House 2004, John F. Burg, pg 294.