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The Story
23 Psalm

This morning we begin with one of the most popular songs ever written... Psalm 23.

Psalm 23 A PSALM OF DAVID.  The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.  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, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

It would be fascinating to know how many people have been inspired by the words of this song. Thousands?  Millions?  I would guess billions have read these words; quoted these words; sang these words... These words have to be as inspiring as... “The Sermon on the Mount”, John 3:16; and “May the force be with you.”

We don’t know exactly when David wrote this Psalm.  I suppose, it could have been at any point of his life.  But, this morning, I want to explore just that.  I want to ask... what if?  What if... the 23rd Psalm was written at different points in David’s life. I think it means different things at different times in David’s life.  Consequently, the 23rd Psalm can mean different things at different points in our lives. 

Let’s play... What If?

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What if... The 23rd Psalm was written when David was a teenager watching his father’s sheep.  We know that during his teenage years David was good at two things... the sling and the lyre. 

What if... David was strumming his lyre one summer evening.  He is sitting around a campfire, strumming chords while marveling at the stars.  David is thinking about the power of his God...YHWH.  The comfort and peace... perhaps he has just written the line... “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.”  “YHWH is to me as I am to these sheep.  He cares for me, he watches over me.  I don’t want anything; my lyre, a campfire, some snacks... life is... but before he can say good...

Out of a bush bursts a mountain lion; 80 pounds of muscle and speed. Before, David could even process what is going on, the lion pounces on a lamb who was at the edge of the flock... in a burst the lion and the lamb are gone.

David, with the power of YHWH in his sling, which is never far away, is up and chasing the lion.  In one swift motion a rock comes out of a pouch.  With two quick turns a rock is sailing out toward the lion... bam right in the rump.  Startled and hurt the lion drops the lamb and disappears into the night.

As the lamb is cuddled in David’s arms, the next verse in his song writes itself... “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 (sling) staff, they comfort me.” 

At this point in David’s life the song is about faith in YHWH’s protection. YHWH is to me like I am to my sheep.  HE gives me everything I need... all I need to eat.  All I need to drink.  Protection from anything that could go wrong.  Even scary things like lions which come up in my life... YHWH is there to care for me... David finishes his song with... I shall dwell in the (protection) house of the LORD forever.

Not long after the song is written, David stands in the valley of Elah, another valley of death, facing a giant named... Goliath.  It is the same powerful song.  Even in the presence of this blasphemous Philistine David fears no evil. 

Listen again to the 23rd Psalm written as a teenager... Listen for the courage to face all the challenges of his coming life!   

Psalm 23 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.  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, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

If David wrote the 23rd Psalm as a teenager it is a song of courage; a song of faith. 

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But what if the 23rd song was written later in David’s life.  What if the 23rd Psalm was written in Ziklag.  Two significant events happened to David in the city of Ziklag.  Let me backstory these two events.

David and his group of 600 fighting men decide to return home from fighting.  They are going home for a bit of R&R.  They are anxious to see the families.  Hold their kids. Kiss their wives.  Make sure everything is good at home.  They travel for three days to their home in... Ziklag. 

1 Samuel 30:1-6 The Amalekites had made a raid against the Negeb and against Ziklag. They had overcome Ziklag and burned it with fire and taken captive the women and all who were in it, both small and great. They killed no one, but carried them off and went their way. And when David and his men came to the city, they found it burned with fire, and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him raised their voices and wept until they had no more strength to weep. David's two wives also had been taken captive, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. And David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in soul, each for his sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God.

David has cried all of his tears.  His men are talking about mutiny. His wives and kids are missing... Kidnapped? Abused? Tortured? Dead?

What if in that setting David writes his song...

Psalm 23 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.  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, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Wow.  When David’s family is in the valley of the shadow of death... can there still be faith in YHWH?  When our loved ones are in the valley... it is a different type of courage. 

David enquires of YHWH.  David chases down the Amalekite raiders.  David rescues his wives and kids and all of his men’s families.  David kills all the kidnappers.  David returns to Ziklag.  But then the second significant event happens in Ziklag...

2 Samuel 1:1-4 When David had returned from striking down the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag.  And on the third day, behold, a man came from Saul's camp, with his clothes torn and dirt on his head. And when he came to David, he fell to the ground and paid homage.  David said to him, "Where do you come from?" And he said to him, "I have escaped from the camp of Israel."  And David said to him, "How did it go? Tell me." And he answered, "The people fled from the battle, and also many of the people have fallen and are dead, and Saul and his son Jonathan are also dead."

What if the 23rd Psalm was written at the news of his best friend’s death?

Psalm 23 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.  Even though I (they) walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

When the ones we love do not come out of the valley; not the shadow of death; but the reality of death... where is our faith?  Sometimes our love ones are in the valley... that is a different kind of courage; a different kind of faith. 

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What if David wrote the 23rd Psalm even later in his life.  What if it was written at the death of the un-named baby boy.

You know this story if you read The Story this week...

David falls for Bathsheba.  David sleeps with Bathsheba.  David has Uriah, her husband, killed.  David is confronted by the prophet Nathan. Nathan tells David a story about lambs being stolen.  David loves lambs.  David is angry at the person who would steal a beloved pet lamb... Nathan delivers the harshest line in the Bible...

2 Samuel 12:7-9,13-14 "You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul.  And I gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites...  13 David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." And Nathan said to David, "The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.  Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die."

David prays for the baby boy.  David weeps for the baby. Seven days David fasts... for the baby.  But their baby boy dies.

What if David wrote the 23rd Psalm at that point in his life?

Psalm 23 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.  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, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

The song means faith in a different way, altogether.  It is not the courage to face lions or giants.  It is not the faith to keep going even when loved ones are in the valley.  This is a faith which starts over when you are in the valley of your own making.  This may be as hard as it gets... to have the courage to come out of the valley of sin.

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What if David wrote the 23rd Psalm at the end of his life.

1 Kings 1:1 Now King David was old and advanced in years. And although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm. 

1 Kings 2:10 Then David slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David.

What if David wrote the 23rd Psalm in the days when he could not get warm?  What would it mean?

Psalm 23 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.  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, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

 We, all, will go the way of the earth. This is yet another form of faith.  A courage that the LORD, as our shepherd, will walk with us through that last valley.  Death is not a part of life.  Death is our enemy.  We defeat death through the power of faith in the One who conqueror Death in his resurrection; our LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ!  Our LORD pioneers the way through the valley of the shadow of death to dwell in the house of the LORD forever.  Knowing that is faith!

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 What does the 23rd Psalm mean to you, today?

--Is it the faith of youth... to face all the lions; all the giants of life; all the enemies that lie before you... with courage!  A faith that YHWH will be your rod and sling to conquer all the challenges in your future! A faith to go forth to be his anointed!  The 23rd Psalm inspires us with courage to sling all the lions we may face! Amen?

 What does the 23rd Psalm mean to you, today?

--Is it a faith that is required when those whom you love are in the valley of death?  Throughout your life, the ones you love may not come out of the valley.  The 23rd Psalm inspires us with the courage to be strong for our loved ones. Amen?

 What does the 23rd Psalm mean to you, today?

--Is it a faith which repents; a faith which walks out of the valley of our own making; the courage to overcome our mistakes?  The kind of 23rd Psalm inspires us to call YHWH my shepherd... again. Amen?

 What does the 23rd Psalm mean to you, today?

--Are you closer to the end of the valley than the beginning.  Each of us will one day face our last enemy; death.  The 23rd Plasm inspires with a faith that we shall dwell in the YHWH’s house forever.  Amen?

Let’s stand and sing the 23rd Psalm...

Tim Stidham

April 8, 2017

Los Alamos Church of Christ

 



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