Jesus showed time and time again that He would and could provide for those who followed Him. Just as a shepherd provides for the sheep, so does Jesus provide for His followers. No better description of this exists than Psalm 23
David is an old man when he wrote the Twenty-third Psalm. He had seen tragedies and disappointments, but he also had come to know God - a good shepherd who gives to his children more than they deserve. The good shepherd provides:
- provision - I have all that I need;
- peace - I have rest from a weary journey;
- protection - I have safety from my enemies;
- providence - I have guidance in times of confusion;
- presence - I have a companion when the way is lonely;
- paradise - I have a home awaiting me in heaven.
David knew that God was beneath him in green pastures, beside him in still waters, before him at the table, behind him pursing him with goodness and mercy, beyond him preparing a heavenly home, and with him all the while as the good shepherd. David had been given more than he deserved.
I. God's goodness comes from His nature, not our worthiness (v. 6)
Surely denotes a fact as certain as it is comforting. Too good to be true? No, God is much too good not to be true. He is good - as good as we're capable of imagining Him to be - the only good person in the world.
II. God's love comes from His character, not our virtue (v. 6)
The Psalms are filled with affirmations of God's love for us: Psalm 13:5, 31:7, 86:5, 136 - 25 times. In Psalm 23 David writes "Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life" (Psalm 23:6 NIV).
David's word for God's tender affection is a term used in the ancient world to mean love that flows out of deep emotion rather than duty. It's a kind and gentle love. That quaint, old word lovingkindness may still be the best translation of all. But, however it is defined, I don't deserve it.
God's nature is to love - sacrificially, selflessly, extravagantly - beyond our wildest expectations. Never was this truth more magnificently portrayed as on the old rugged cross by his sinless son dying on behalf of sinful humanity. Giving us the opportunity of salvation and eternal life, that which we do not deserve. But that is just like God's love, stimulated by His character, not by our virtue.
III. God's house draws us home (v. 6)
There is something magnetic about home. It always draws us back. If you have stayed over with a friend for the first time, you long for home. If you have been out on the road for what seems like a month of Sundays, you desire your own bed. If you are away at college sharing a dorm room with a slob, you miss your own room - neat and organized.
David closes the Twenty-third Psalm with a mighty crescendo of faith when he declares, "And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever" (Psalm 23:6 NIV). Look at this verse closely.
The word and is one of the most important connections in the Bible. It connects yesterday and today and tomorrow. God says, "I've got this great life planned for you and surely goodness and mercy will follow you through it, but that's not the end! I've got something else at the end!"
The word dwell means to reside or to settle down and be at home with.
The word house means the family or household or flock of the Good Shepherd. It denotes to be in God's presence.
The word forever means the length of one's days, for all of one's time. David is saying that he never wants to step away from God. He craves to remain in the aura, in the atmosphere, in the awareness that he is in God's house, wherever he is.
If you could ask God for one thing, what would you request? David tells us what he would ask. He longs to dwell in the house of God. David doesn't want to chat or a cup of coffee. He wants to move in with him . . . forever. He doesn't seek a temporary assignment, but rather lifelong residence.
God's home is something we don't deserve, but one that is freely given.
LaGuardia's gesture of mercy
One winter's night in 1935, Fiorello LaGuardia, the irrepressible mayor of New York, showed up at a night court in the poorest ward of the city. He dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench. That night a tattered woman, charged with stealing a loaf of bread, was brought before him. She defended herself by saying, "My daughter's husband has deserted her. She is sick, and her children are starving."
The shopkeeper refused to drop the charges, saying, "It's a bad neighborhood, your honor, and she's got to be punished to teach other people a lesson."
LaGuardia sighed. He turned to the old woman and said, "I've got to punish you; the law makes no exceptions. Ten dollars or ten days in jail." However, even while pronouncing sentence, LaGuardia reached into his pocket, took out a ten-dollar bill, and threw it into his hat with these famous words: "Here's the ten-dollar fine, which I now remit, and furthermore, I'm going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant."
The following day, a New York newspaper reported: "Forty-seven dollars and fifty cents was turned over to a bewildered old grandmother who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her starving grandchildren. Making forced donations were a red-faced storekeeper, seventy petty criminals, and a few New York policemen."
Sometimes we get what we don't deserve. That old grandmother, by the letter of the law, deserved punishment. But she didn't get it. She deserved justice, but she got mercy. She deserved a stay in the city jail, but she got to go back home. She deserved the accompaniment of criminals, but she found her self in the presence of her family.
(Craig Brian Larson, ed., Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993, p. 11.)
God's love through the eyes of children
Third and fourth-graders at Wheaton Christian Grammar School were asked to complete the following sentence: "By faith, I know that God is . . .
- "forgiving, because he forgave in the Bible, and he forgave me when I went in the road on my bike without one of my parents" (Amanda)
- "providingful, because he dropped manna for Moses and the people, and he gave my dad a job" (Brandon)
- "caring, because he made the blind man see, and he made me catch a very fast line drive that could have hurt me. He probably sent an angel down" (Paul)
- "merciful, because my brother has been nice to me for a year" (Jeremy)
- "faithful, because the school bill came, and my mom didn't know how we were going to pay for it. Two minutes later, my dad called, and he just got a bonus check. My mom was in tears" (anonymous)
- "sweet, because he gave me a dog. God tells me not to do things that are bad. I need someone like that" (Hannah).
(Edward K. Rowell, Ed., Fresh Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1997, p. 92.)
No place like home
John Howard Payne had been away from home for nine years. One afternoon he stood at the window watching the throngs of people, happy, hurrying, going home. Suddenly he felt lonely, there in a Paris boardinghouse room.
Impatiently he turned from the window. He had work to do. It was perhaps an important play he was writing. He had no time for sentimental dreaming. But the mood and the memories of a little town on Long Island would not leave him.
He picked up a pencil and began writing: "Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam, Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home."
(Charles L. Allen, God's Psychiatry, Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1981, p. 36.)
Additional sermon starters
The miracle of multiplication (Mark 8:1-10)
Jesus is motivated to provide for his followers that he concerned about the most basic of needs including food. Jesus took a little lunch and multiplied it into a feast showing his compassion and care for his followers.
Anchors for life's storms (Acts 27:14-26)
In the midst of the storms of life God will give us the needed tools to weather and prevail. Just as he did for Paul when he was shipwrecked we can find the provisions of courage, protection, purpose, and presence. These are the anchors that steady our resolve and keep us strong.