This might sound like a strange thing to say but I was blessed this past week to go to a funeral. I was asked to accompany my daughter to a funeral of someone I never knew. This person’s name was Ruby and she died at the age of 86. The funeral was held at New Foundation Missionary Baptist Church. Unfortunately I did not catch the name of the preacher who spoke that morning but his words left a great impression on me and I am sure on everyone else who attended Ruby’s funeral.
It was clear from everyone who spoke about Ruby, her children, grandchildren and friends, that Ruby had a deep love for Jesus Christ. Everyone who knew her was certain that she must now be at the side of the Good Shepherd. We were told Ruby’s favorite reading in the Bible was Psalm 23, and it was on Psalm 23 that the preacher spoke.
I offer you this 4thdayletter today as an Easter gift from a woman I never knew, who by all accounts may now be in the presence of theLord.
Psalm 23 is perhaps the most familiar Psalm and the most memorized verse in the Bible after the Lord ‘s Prayer. It is very popular as a reading for funerals and it is for that reason that it fits so well as the topic of the4thdayletter during this week leading up to the Passion, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The LORD is my shepherd;
there is nothing I lack.
In green pastures he makes me lie down;
to still waters he leads me;
he restores my soul.
He guides me along right paths
for the sake of his name.
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 comfort me.
Here is my best attempt to capture some of what the minister shared with us that morning. To start with, he invited us to see that this psalm is written from the sheep’s perspective. Therefore, I invite you to look at this verse as if the sheep itself wrote the verse.
When a sheep is with the flock and in the care of the shepherd there is not much for the sheep to worry about. The sheep pretty muchjust gets to roam around and eat and all of the hard work is left up to the shepherd. It is the shepherd’s responsibility to lead the sheep to good pastures to eat, to still waters to drink, to lead them out of the desert to safer pastures, and to guide them down safe paths.
Unfortunately sheep often wander away from the shepherd’s care. Have you ever found yourself acting like a sheep and wandering away from God’s care?
Sheep are part of a group of animals that chew their cud. They have a unique digestive system whereby they must regurgitate their food back up into their mouths and essentially eat their own vomit. Isn’t that just disgusting? It is essential that they eat from good pastures. Eating bad food or from bad pastures causes them to just chew their cud more often. Let me ask you, have you ever eaten from the wrong “foods of life?” In other words, have you done some disgusting things in the Lord’s sight? If we allow him to, he will guide us back to his life giving bread. He who eats of his bread shall have eternal life.
Another interesting fact is that sheep do not drink from running water. It is said that sheep would risk dying from thirst rather than drink running water. Turbulent or moving water scares the sheep. Therefore the Good Shepherd must lead them to still waters. When a sheep wanders away from the flock it risks not finding still waters.
Let me ask you this, have you from time to time wandered off course and found yourselfwith turbulence in your life? If a sheep were to fall into the turbulant waterit will drown. Have you ever found things so turbulent, hectic, and stressful that you felt like you were drowning? Jesus our shepherd wants to calm our souls. He wants to give us the peace that only He can give. He wants to lead us to still waters, that is, if we just let Him. If you find yourself in trouble today, call out to Him. He will never abandon us.
At times the shepherd must lead the sheep across barren desert lands. There are all kinds of dangers lurking there. There isthe obviouslack of food and water of course but there is also the risk of the sheep stepping into a crack in the parched land and becoming stuck or breakingits leg. There is also a risk of getting caught in thorn bushes and dying in the desert heat.
Have you wandered into things that you should not have? Have you found yourself stuck in the cracks of life? Are you struggling to free yourself from some addictive behavior? Are you caught in the thorns of sin? Each time we wander away from God we encounter more of these risks. The great news is that the shepherd never tires from saving us. No matter how many times in the past He has come to our rescue He will come again if we just call out to Him.
Finally, sometimes the shepherd must lead the sheep along dangerous mountain paths. Ifa sheep wanders off here,it risks falling off the edge of the cliff. They can so easily fall to their death if they don’t keep their eyes on where the shepherd is leading them.
Have you ever found yourself on the edge? Perhaps spiritually you are losing your firm footing and about to fall into the spiritual valley of death. What is it in your life that has you in spiritual danger? Call out to Jesus right now, and allow Him to reach out to you gently with His rod and staff and coax you away from falling.
My friends, our God wants to lead us to restful places in our lives. He wants us to rest assured in His presence if we but let him. He leads us, and guides us, makes us hang out in green pastures and only takes us to the cool, still waters.
The fact is these verses were not written by a sheep. No, they were written by King David. David’s story is one of having wandered away from the Lord. In David we clearly see a sinner. Can you see some of your own traits in David? It is clear David strayed off path and walked through the valley of death. It is also clear that he repented and was brought back safely into the Lord’ graces.
Even though David made mistakes and he might have experienced spiritual desperation as a result of his sinfulness, when we read Psalm 22:25-26we see David’s joy of the Lord has been restored and he speaks of a shepherd who will always be there for us.
For he has not spurned or disdained
the misery of this poor wretch,
Did not turn away from me,
but heard me when I cried out.
I will offer praise in the great assembly;
my vows I will fulfill before those who fear him.
So here we are looking forward to Easter and I thought this message delivered at a funeral ties in well with this week. After all, it was Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday that opened wide the gate of Heaven for all believers. It was this resurrection that gave hope and joy to everyone gathered for Ruby’s funeral. It is the Resurrection of Jesus that allows us all to look forward to the day that we will gather together in the presence of our Shepherd in the green pastures and still waters of everlasting life.
Have a Blessed and Joyous Easter!