Call to Worship Psalm 23 (NIV)
Great is Thy Faithfulness
It is Well with My Soul
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.
Scripture John 10:1-10 (NIV)
Sermon The Good Shepherd
When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time at my Grandma and Pap Cartwright’s house. We lived across the field from them, about as far away as I am from the chicken farm here. And in the late afternoon, you would often find me and my grandfather watching westerns on television.
We watched Gunsmoke, and the Big Valley, and of course, we watched Bonanza, the show with the family whom my family shares a name with. Those Cartwrights lived on a big ranch called the Ponderosa. On that ranch one of their big concerns (besides the sons and their constant problems with women) was rustlers: cattle rustlers and sheep rustlers.
Because it seemed that no matter how many ranch hands you had, and no matter how good of watch you kept, there were always a couple sneaky rustlers finding their way onto your property trying to take what didn’t belong to them.
Sheep rustling wasn’t something new to the Old West. This is a crime that’s been around, I imagine, ever since there have been herds of sheep. In fact, it still goes on today. A recent report claims that it is still a problem out west. The only difference they say, is that in the New West, you can’t hang a rustler from a tree like you could in the Old West.
In Jesus’ day, sheep farming was a popular occupation. Sheep were an important commodity is the biblical Middle East. So, as you can imagine, sheep rustling was a problem then, too. That’s why the shepherd was such an important person.
When you think about it, sheep really give everything they have. Sheep provide milk, meat, and wool. Their skins can be processed into soft leather. Thanks to modern technology, lanolin is extracted from their wool, and lanolin is used in everything from cosmetics to pharmaceuticals, to motor oil. Sheep make contributions to medicine and research. In fact, scientists are using wool proteins to create new wound dressings, bone graft implants, and medical sutures.
But here’s the thing, without the shepherd, they might not be able to do any of that. Like I said, in Bible times, the shepherd was of utmost importance and the shepherd, too, was giving his all ……for the sake of the sheep.
At night, sheep were gathered into a sheepfold to protect them from thieves, weather, or wild animals. Sheepfolds were usually caves, sheds, or open areas surrounded by walls of stones or branches. The shepherd often slept across the doorway of the fold to protect his sheep. So, the shepherd wasn’t just the shepherd, but he also functioned as the gate to the fold.
This helps us understand what Jesus was saying in our Gospel reading today. In John 10:1-10, Jesus uses sheep and shepherding as a metaphor to teach the people about himself. In the passage, he refers to himself as both the Good Shepherd (verse 11) and the Gate (verse7), which I have always found to be kind of curious. But when you think about it, this is true because the shepherd served as both to his flock.
Interesting fact about sheep: a sheep that has not been clipped, if it ends up on its back, cannot get up on its own no matter how hard it tries. It takes the shepherd with his trust crook (Psalm 23 calls it his rod and staff) to get a hold of the sheep and flip it back up on its feet again.
Jesus, our Good Shepherd, does the same thing for us when we get flipped over and out of sorts. Jesus reigns us in and flips us back on our feet again.
That’s a good thing, and something we should always be thankful for. Because just like the rustlers and robbers who try to sneak into the sheepfold to steal the sheep, we, as God’s children are always in danger of the things that try to steal our peace and joy.
This passage was talking about the false prophets and teachers of the day who preached lies instead of the truth. We need to be aware that there are still false teachers out there today. This is why we need to be in God’s Word regularly, so we recognize a lie when we hear it.
But we also need to guard our hearts of other “thieves and robbers” that steal our joy in the end. We need to be aware of the things that pull us away from God.
Scripture talks about such things:
- Romans 12:22, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
- 1 John 2:15, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
- 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
- Hebrews 12:2 tells us instead of making the things of the world….money, material things, popularity, power….anything that gets in front of our relationship with God as top priority…we should be “fixing our attention on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of the faith, who, in view of the joy set before him, endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
- Jesus Himself said in Luke 12:15, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness (don’t be always wishing you had other people’s stuff), for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
A few passages talk about Jesus as our Good Shepherd. Perhaps none more beautifully that Psalm 23, written by David, himself a former shepherd boy.
I want to read it to you from the Message version of Scripture today.
Psalm 23, “God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction. Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I’m not afraid when you walk at my side. Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure. You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing. Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.”
“Jesus, you let me catch my breath, you revive my drooping head, you send me in the right direction. I feel secure with you beside me.”
In describing the Lord as our shepherd, David wrote out his own experience because he had spent his younger years caring for sheep. Sheep are completely dependent on the shepherd for protection, provision, and guidance. As the Lord is our Good Shepherd, so we are his sheep. This doesn’t mean we are passive, frightened animals. It means we are obedient followers who are wise enough to follow the one who will lead us to right places and in right ways.
This psalm isn’t about the animal-like qualities of sheep, but about the discipleship qualities of those who follow. So when you recognize the Good Shepherd, follow Him! When we allow God, our shepherd to guide us, we find contentment. When we don’t, when we decide to go our own way, we cannot blame God for the circumstances we find ourselves in.
Remind yourself of this the next time you are tempted to go your own way, instead of the Shepherd’s way. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
Blessing for the Day (based on Psalm 23, John 10, 1 John 3:16-24)
Go now with your trust in the good shepherd,
and let us love, not just in words,
but in truth and action.
Believe in the name of Jesus Christ,
and love one another, just as he has commanded us.
And may God be at your side, even in valleys of death.
May Christ Jesus be the cornerstone of your life.
And may the Holy Spirit abide in you
....and tend you with love and mercy all the days of your life.
We go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
…In the name of Christ. Amen.
Copyright © 2003 Nathan Nettleton LaughingBird.net