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Worship Series: Connected
Worship Theme: Connected to the Shepherd
- CW 375 The King of Love My Shepherd Is
- Flute Solo: Alleluia! Sing to Jesus!
- CW 436 Jesus, Shepherd of the Sheep
- CW 432 I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb
Message: Connected to the Shepherd - Hidden in Plain Sight
Pastor Jon Enter
There are many things hidden in plain sight. Martin Handford understood this. Martin created Where’s Waldo. A guy in a red and white striped shirt with round glasses hidden in plain sight in a scene. Martin sold the Where’s Waldo franchise for 3.5 million dollars!
Advertisers are brilliant at hiding subliminal messages in plain sight.
What’s hidden in the Tostitos chips logo? The two t’s look like people. Between them is a chip in the shape of Tostitos and the dot on the top of the i is a bowl of salsa!
Baskin Robbins sells delicious ice cream. Do you know how many flavors? The logo tells you. 31 varieties!
FedEx delivers packages. To be successful, they need to be fast. Did you notice the hidden arrow between E and x?
Amazon sells everything online. Under their name there is a mark that most think is a smile. It is. But it also is an arrow from a to z since they sell everything from a to z.
Last one. This is an unintended hidden message in plain sight! Here’s the KFC logo with Colonel Sanders’ famous bowtie. A little child saw this and asked, “Mom, why does the man have such a tiny little, body?” Do you see it??!!
Once you see it, you can’t unsee it. Now, every time you see these logos, you’ll see them differently. That’s my goal today with our study of Psalm 23. This Psalm is saturated with word pictures hidden in plain sight that we’ve missed, looked right passed. My goal today, as we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday, is for you to forever see Psalm 23 differently just as now you’ll never see those logos the same again.
There’s a greater depth of peace in the Psalm 23 because we don’t understand the word pictures hidden in plain sight. Today that changes as we walk verse by verse through this great Psalm of picturesque peace!
Verse 1a - The LORD is my shepherd. Notice the name for God here is LORD (all capitol letters). That is God’s actual name. I’m Jon. God’s LORD. It’s two forms of the verb “to be” smashed together showing that God always was; he always will be; he’s eternal. Now this special, holy, personal name for God is only used when God is showing great grace! He’s either promising the line of the Savior or doing a mighty act of deliverance. The LORD, the God of full, free and forever grace is your Shepherd.
Verse 1b – I shall not be in want. We are like sheep vulnerable to every attack from predators. We are near death from the devil constantly. If you’ve know someone who has survived a near death experience, they’re forever changed. They realize the stuff they used to want in life is meaningless. Relationships matter. So also when you realize that you’ve faced death from the devil but are safe in your relationship with Jesus, the stuff you used to want, to value, doesn’t matter as it once did.
Verse 2 – He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters. Because of their nature, sheep will not lie down unless they are free from all fear (freed from friction with other sheep, freed from being pestered by flies, parasites or predators, and freed from hunger). Even when a shepherd provides tasty green grass for his sheep, some will still wander away. I read about a shepherd who had a sheep whose life he saved several times because it kept wandering off. So do you know what this loving shepherd did to save its life? He broke the sheep’s legs! The shepherd knew he’d have to carry the sheep from that day forward and he did. Because it was worth it to keep the sheep safe.
When has God allowed you pain so you were kept from hurting yourself further and were drawn into his arms? He carried you. He still is. He will never stop. All so you can lie down in his goodness and grace.
Verse 3a – He restores my soul. When a sheep falls onto its back, it can’t right itself. Did you know the backs of sheep are flat? Stuck that way, blood drains from its legs. Its leg muscles freeze. The body goes into shock. A shepherd knows not to abruptly pick up the sheep. He gently rolls the sheep over and blood returns to its limbs. Pain follows so the shepherd lovingly massages its legs. He then rolls the sheep to its other side repeating the process. Gently, slowly, lovingly RESTORING the sheep. We often charge our Good Shepherd with not restoring us from pain, from peril fast enough. This reminds us that God restores you on his timetable. He sometimes takes his time so the healing lasts. I want to challenge you for a moment. When in your life did you charge God with failure, with wrongdoing, with negligence of your life? You waited. You wanted. You writhed in pain and sadness for God’s relief. He knows what’s best and when it’s best to restore. Do you still have scars from that past? How does this verse and this understanding help?
Know this. Even while you waited for relief, he never left you. He guided you even when you didn’t know it. That’s the peace of our next verse. Verse 3b – He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Did you now that sheep can actually go months, if the weather isn’t too hot or they don’t strain themselves, without drinking large amounts of water. Most people don’t know this; shepherds do. Shepherds will rise early to lead sheep along right paths at the right time (early hours) to graze on dew covered grass. That little water sustains.
Even when you were waiting on God to restore you, to release you from the BIG PROBLEM in your life, daily Jesus guided you giving you just what you needed to be sustained, to be whole. He never left you or abandoned you. Your Good Shepherd leads you. He still does today.
Verse 4a – Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. This has got to be the most misunderstood verse in this Psalm. It’s such a shame; there’s such incredible grace here! Whenever I lead funerals and we speak together Psalm 23, it starts off with such peace. “The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.” Peace. Comfort. Then verse 4 sucker punches us right in the heart. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” Death. That word, that hurt, becomes our focus. How could it not? Someone we love is laid in a casket. But death is NOT the focus of this sentence grammatically or spiritually. “Of death.” It’s in a prepositional phrase so it's not a the focus. God calls death here nothing but a shadow! A shadow can’t hurt you. A shadow has no substance! It can scare you IF YOU LET IT but it can’t hurt you. Death is but a shadow for those who believe in the One who destroyed the power of death. What an amazing truth hidden in plain sight! Jesus has made death nothin’ but a shadow. Shadows scatter when light comes. Stand in the light of Jesus and the fear of death scatters.
Verse 4b – Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Your enemy, the devil, that prowling lion is looking for someone to devour. He’s looking to devour you with your sadness of the death of a loved one or the fear of your own death. Yet your Good Shepherd’s rod and staff bring comfort. The ROD was used as a weapon to protect the sheep from predators; the STAFF was used to guide sheep. With the cross as his rod, Jesus has beaten back the devil from attacking you and with the cross as his staff, Jesus forgives and guides you. The cross brings such comfort.
Verse 5a – You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. The picture of Jesus preparing a table for you to dine with you in front of your enemies is easy to understand. Eating with someone in Biblical times and still today is a statement of friendship. How incredible that the God of the universe wants to be in your presence! More on that truth soon...
Verse 5b – You anoint my head with oil. Get ready; this is a great hidden meaning! Sheep are always hungry. Some of the choicest grass is found beneath thorns and thistles. It grows long as it’s untouched by other grazing animals and the thick cover of the thorny bush keeps the refreshing dew on the grass longer into the day. Sheep cannot resist the temptation. When the thorns and thistles rip into the skin on the sheep’s head, flies feast on the open wounds. It’s painful. It brings infection. The shepherd doesn’t judge the sheep for its waywardness, he helps and heals by generously applying oil to the animal’s head. Oil protects sheep from the attack of flies and sooths its pain. When you cry out in pain to Jesus your Good Shepherd for your waywardness, he doesn’t judge. He anoints you with the oil of his mercy and grace. He helps. He heals.
Verse 5c – My cup overflows. Okay, this might just be my favorite hidden meaning. (Ah, it’s too hard to decide!) In biblical times, wedding celebrations would last up to a week, sometimes more. When guests arrived, they received a cup that would continually be filled by servants throughout the party, even for days. If your cup continued to be filled that revealed the host wanted you to stay longer. If your cup ran dry, it was the polite way to tell you it was time to go. Think about it. What does it mean that God makes your cup overflow? He constantly desires to have presence with you. Not just now but God loves you eternally!
Verse 6 – Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Don’t be tempted to read through to the end this psalm. Some of the greatest, most amazing, most comforting words are here in verse 6. Goodness and love will follow you? Goodness? Love? What? Really? Yes, friend. Really! We should have judgment and fear follow us. We should have guilt and terror pursue us. But you don’t. You don’t! You’re free of that as you lie down in the green pastures of God’s grace. You’re protected from that prowling lion as Jesus, your Good Shepherd, stands guard of your soul.
Sheep, actual sheep, are safe when they know their Savior’s voice and listen when he calls. You are safe when you do the same. You know your Savior’s voice who calls you by name. You are safe when he calls you from sin into salvation, from peril into peace. When you do, when you stand in the presence of Jesus, goodness and love will follow you all the days of your life and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!
Hopefully you will never read Psalm 23 the same again. Once you see these amazing pictures of grace, you can’t unsee them. That’s the point. God wants you to see his goodness, to know personally his mercy and to comprehend just how much he loves you! Amen.
The insights into Psalm 23 were taken from Phillip Keller’s book “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” There is way more information in his book.