Preface: The first thing professors of seminaries teach young bright-eyed pastors is that the most valuable characteristic of a good sermon is brevity. Unfortunately, not all pastor’s heed the warning (thus, the 56-point sermon lasting 124 minutes was born. I can see the congregation rolling their eyes into the back of their heads. I can almost hear the snoring!).
It’s true – and editorial decisions about a sermon have to be made through prayer and discernment. Today, I want to offer you a short preview of something that I wanted to include in this week’s message, but unfortunately did not make the cut.
As we near the end of our Summer of Psalms series, we’re going to be looking at the most famous Psalm this Sunday (Psalm 23). In today’s devotional, I want to invite you to meditate on the peace, guidance and protection you receive from God.
Psalm 23 says:
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. 2 He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. 3 He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. 4 Even when I walk through the darkest valley,[a] I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. 5 You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. 6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.
In clinical counselling situations – and also in psychology – researchers often refer to the principle of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
The basic premise of Maslow’s pyramid is that when you think about a person’s happiness and well-being, you can’t just consider their mental and emotional state. You have to think more holistically. You think about the whole person, starting with their basic needs. If basic needs aren’t being met, how can you possibly start to think about a person’s spiritual needs?
When I read Psalm 23 I see, thousands of years before Maslow, this is exactly what the writer is talking about. When you invite God into your life to be your shepherd, you’re inviting Him to be the shepherd of ALL YOUR needs. Not just your spiritual, but your physical needs.
Not allowing God to meet your physical needs leads to more exhaustion, more burnout, and more anxiety in your life. The less you include God, the more you begin to feel isolated.
You don’t want a shepherd to guide your life. You can do it on your own.
And suddenly, your Psalm becomes an anti-Psalm: I am my own; I can buy what I want. My bed is the softest made. Wherever I walk, people look in envy. Even though I walk through the valley of death I fear no one, for I am the meanest person in the valley. I spread a table finer than any of my enemies. The best of life will be at my fingertips all the days of my life, And I shall dwell in the best house in the city. This anti-psalm paints something of a picture of everyday life for so many of our friends and neighbors.
Instead of living a life of peace, you live in isolation. Life becomes ‘me and mine, hurry and worry, stress and strain’. Sounds exhausting.
Fortunately, the real Psalms is more freeing, more abundant and more spacious than the worry we so naturally tend to gravitate towards. Again, it says: 5 You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. 6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.
And when we invite God into our life and we allow him to be our real shepherd, we inherit a place in the house of God! Not only does God meet our physical needs (He prepares a feast), but he also meets our eternal spiritual needs. It says in Psalm 23 God will allow you to dwell in His house forever. Knowing the shepherd and trusting Him makes all the difference in your life, but it also makes all the difference to your destination.
He has a place prepared for you, to dwell with Him forever. When you choose to know the shepherd, you get to dwell in God’s house forever!