Psalm 23 Reading
I want to read a few verses that I’m sure are familiar to many of you.
Psalm 23. A psalm of David. He says in verse 1:
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. (Psalm 23:1)
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, (Psalm 23:2)
he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:3)
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. (Psalm 23:4)
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:5)
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. (Psalm 23:6)
I want to talk from this topic today. It’s it’s an affirmation. It’s a declaration that gives me comfort whenever I’m stepping into a season and I believe it will be helpful for some of you as well:
Title: He Directs My Steps
Necessary Endings Book
Years ago, Dr. Henry Cloud wrote a book called ‘Necessary Endings’ that is excellent.
If you haven’t read it, the book could be summed up in this statement : Entrance into new seasons must be preceded by exits from old ones.
He writes that endings are not always evil, but that endings are necessary. You cannot say hello to certain new things until you say goodbye to some old ones. So entering into the life that God has for us requires that we be willing to leave certain things.
And I feel confident that I can say for most of the people in the room that we are ready to experience some new things.
Some of our would even go so far as to say that we’re ready to experience some new problems. Not that we want problems at all, but if you’re like me, you’re ready to be done with the reoccurring cycle of the same issues year after year.
And what Dr. Cloud is saying in his book is that for us to enter into new seasons, we have to be willing to say goodbye to some old ones.
That idea is not original to him. We see this over and over in scripture:
- To say hello to Canaan, we had to say goodbye to Egypt.
- To say hello to Christ’s church, we had to say goodbye to our idea of the temple.
- To say hello to Grace, we had to say goodbye to legalism.
The words of God spoken through the prophet Jeremiah gives us some insight.
When God says to his people that he knows the plans that he has for them. Plans for good and not evil, plans to give them a hope and a future.
Notice that God says “I know the plans.” He didn’t say “YOU know the plans.”
Which shows us something rather obvious, and that’s that God knows some things about your future that you don’t.
Therefore, if we’re going to get to his desired destination for our lives, it means we’ll need to develop the ability to trust God in what we can’t see.
In Psalm 23, David gives us a metaphor that is extremely helpful in understanding how this works. And it’s captured in this phrase: The Lord is My Shepherd
He is saying “I see God as more than a savior. I see God as a shepherd.”
- I see God as one who does more than save my life. I see God as one who leads my life.
- I see God as more than one who cleans up my past. I see him as one who guides my future.
- I see him as one who does more than handle my mishaps and my mistakes. I see him as one who directs my steps.
The Lord is my shepherd.
Story of David
Psalm 23 Background
What’s amazing about Psalm 23, is not just who wrote it (David), and not just what he says, but WHEN he says it.
In fact, historians and bible scholars teach us that Psalm 23 is said to be written after David is a king.
Think about that. So as he’s writing this prayer/song/poem, he’s reflecting on his time as a shepherd, and has this revelation: As I was to the Sheep, So God is to me.
The Lord Is my Shepard.
- What I did for the Sheep, God does for me.
- The way I protected the Sheep God has protected me.
The way I led the Sheep from where they were to where they needed to be. They didn’t even know they were on their way to green pastures and if they would have had their way, they would have veered from the path that I was leading them on.
But I led the Sheep to places that they didn’t know they were going to, but they were glad when they got there, is the same way David is saying: “God has led me. As I was to the Sheep, so God is to me.”
David Looking @ his life
And so this is just me, but when I imagine David writing Psalm 23, in the palace. This is how I imagine it happening.
David is thinking to himself “How in the world did I end up here?” In all my years on this planet, I never even considered ending up here. There was no scenario, outside of divine intervention that I could have ended up here. No amount of strategic planning would have ended me up here.
And he looks at where he was and where he is, and he says The Lord has been my shepherd. And if you know his story, I bet you know exactly what he means…
David Story Overview
Wanted a King
Traditionally, when the story of David is taught, it begins in 1 Samuel 16. But there are things that happen before 1 Samuel 16 that are important to the story.
To just fly through the story, there was a period in Israel’s history where they were led by religious and civil leaders called judges. This is the political structure that God intended for them. But Israel would look at other nations who were led by kings and would want to emulate what they saw in other nations.
See, they were overexposed. Too much exposure isn’t good. ==Because too much exposure can awaken in us an appetite for things that aren’t for us.== The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
So Israel starts wanting what’s not for them. Because they’re overexposed, they develop an appetite for something that they want, but they don’t need.
So they keep asking God for a King. That’s not what God wants for them, so he tells them ‘No’. But they keep asking and asking and asking until God finally gives them what they ask for.
See, they weren’t going to learn from instruction, so now, they were gonna learn from experience.
He told them what would happen if they got a king. He told them the misery that would come upon them through a King, but they didn’t listen.
God would have preferred for them to learn through instruction. But since that didn’t happen, they were about to learn through experience. And the very thing that God said would happen did happen.
The king that they picked was a man named Saul. And Saul, was a fine King for a season, but Saul’s greatest failure was his success. ==Nothing fails like success.== ==It’s difficult to be successful at being successful.== And Saul became intoxicated with success. He became arrogant. He became untrustworthy to God.
Now understand, God didn’t remove Saul because he imperfect, David was just as imperfect, and probably worse. No Saul was removed not because he was imperfect, but because he was untrustworthy.
==God can use imperfect people. But it’s hard to use people you can’t trust.==
So God removes him and replaces him. But what’s weird is God fires Saul, but he doesn’t tell him. He tells the one who appointed him, Samuel the prophet, but he doesn’t tell Saul.
==So Saul is occupying a role for a season, not knowing that God’s blessing has left him.==
So God tells the man that appointed Saul, Samuel the prophet, beginning in 1 Samuel 16, Samuel is crying. He’s mourning over the fact that Saul’s been rejected as King by God. He’s upset, he’s mourning, he’s angry and God asks him a question.
The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? (1 Samuel 16:1a)
In other words, ==your tears won’t change my mind about what’s best for my people.==
==And you’re delaying your progress in the future because you’re reminiscing a past I’m not gonna let you revisit. And no matter how much you mourn over that, he says you’re not going back to it.==
Samuel was upset that Saul was fired, but what he didn’t realize is he’d be more upset if God let him stay.
This is my experience, ==God will let you cry a little now to protect you from crying a lot later.==
Fill your horn with oil (we’ll talk about that in a minute) and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” (1 Samuel 16:1b)
Samuel goes to Jesse’s House
So Samuel travels to Jesse’s house.
And Jesse basically does a runway show of his sons so that Samuel can determine which of these sons is to be anointed King. They don’t realize that’s what Samuel is doing, that’s Samuel and God’s little secret.
The first son he walks out. His name is “Eliab”. I mean he just just got swagger on level ten. I mean, this dude is cool.
Samuel says: “Oh this must be the Lord’s anointed, he walks like a king. He he looks like a king. but God says to Samuel “Man looks at the outward appearance. I look at the heart.”
==He says the criteria you use to determine who should be in certain roles is not the criteria that I use.==
So the next son comes out and the next one comes out, and each time God tells Samuel “Nope, not this one.” “Nope, not this one.”
They go through all seven sons. And God refuses them all. So Samuel’s confused, and he says “So this is all your sons?” And Jesse says (This is the David translation) “Well, there is one more, the RUNT OF THE LITTER, but I didn’t even bother inviting him.” Samuel says “Well go get him. We won’t sit down until he’s here.”
So David comes. He not nearly as impressive as his brothers, but as soon as Samuel sees David, God says to Samuel “This is the one. Anoint him.”
So Samuel pours this oil on David’s head. Just like he writes about in Psalm 23.
So David’s sitting there all greasy. Just oil everywhere. All greasy. And then something strange happens: Samuel leaves. He just leaves.
So David’s sitting there all greasy, with his family looking at him and I’m sure he’s thinking “Okkkkaaaaayyyyy….. Are you gonna like come back for me or something? Not sure what we’re doing here.”
But scripture says that from that day forward the spirit of the Lord came powerfully on David..
So he’s empowered immediately. So ==his ability changed, but his responsibility didn’t==. He’s got the ability of a king but still has the responsibility of tending to his father’s sheep. He finds himself in a season we might refer to as ‘The Middle’, which we talked about last week. And it was important. I’ll show you why.
Saul – Distressing Spirits
So back at the palace, Saul, the King, is having some mood swings, the bible says he’s dealing with “distressing spirits”. And in those days, one of the ways that they attempted to remedy distressing spirits was through music. So the people close to Saul are discussing Saul’s mood swings with him and floats the idea of getting a musician to play for Saul. That sounds fine to Saul so he tells them to find one. And one of the people close to Saul says: “Let’s call for one of the sons of Jesse. I’ve heard him play and he’s good.”
Now it doesn’t tell us who this person is, or how they happened to hear David play.
==You never know who’s watching you.==
David could have felt undervalued and unappreciated. He could have felt he was like he was being looked over and ignored. But even without him realizing it, somebody was in the right place at the right time who saw his gift. They didn’t need it at the moment, but they kept it in mind for a future season, and when an opportunity opened up, David’s name came to their mind.
So David becomes a musician and armor bearer for Saul. But what’s interesting: He never abandons his responsibilities at his fathers’s house.
==David understands that if it wasn’t for the house, he wouldn’t have had an opportunity in the palace.==
So one day, David is getting ready to go to work – at the palace. And his father tells him “Hey, while you’re out, since you’re going over there anyway, take some food and supplies to your brothers, who are in the military”.
David does what he’s told, and he takes the food and supplies to his brothers and, while he’s doing so, he overhears this Philistine giant named Goliath who’s talking smack and insulting the armies of Israel. So David hears this and just thinks “Ummmm….. Is anybody else hearing this? None of you fancy army boys are gonna take care of this?
But everyone’s afraid to challenge him. There’s this whole thing about representative battles where each side would pick a champion and they would fight one-on-one and whoever would win the fight would win the whole battle. Now that I say that, that actually sounds pretty good, we should bring that back.
But no one wants to challenge Goliath.
And David says “Hey quick question, if someone were to take on Goliath and win, what would he get? I’m asking for a friend.”
They said “Well, he’d get one of the Kings daughters.”
David says: “Okay, alright, alright. Not too bad.”
They say: “No taxes!”
David says “Oh I’m in. No taxes? I’m in.”
And David says “I’ll do it. He’s an uncircumcised Philistine.”
And David keeps referring to him as that. An “Uncircumcised Philistine”.
And I used to think “Oh my God, was Goliath naked?! How could David tell?!?! That’s nasty. That’s no one’s business. And David, even if he is naked, you’re not supposed to look. My eyes are up here David.”
No, here’s what David is saying. He’s saying “He doesn’t have a covenant with God.” Circumcision was a sign of the covenant.
So he’s saying “This giant doesn’t have a covenant with God, we do.”
Which tells us something. ==Everybody saw he was a giant. David saw he didn’t have a covenant with God.==
They look at the same thing, but they see something different. Because ==It’s not what you’re facing, it’s the story you tell yourself.==
So they saw the same thing and they told themselves one story. David told himself another story. They say “Wow, He’s big” David says “Yeah but God’s on our side.”
- He’s got size, but we have acovenant.
- He’s got a sword, but we have a covenant.
- He’s got strength, but we have a covenant.
- He’s got a spear, but we have a covenant.
- He has armor, but we have a covenant.
I have an agreement with God that he doesn’t have. God said he’d fight my battles. God said he’d be my defender and my protector.
So David says “I’ll fight him.”
So he goes and tells Saul that’s he’ll fight him and Saul basically says “Thanks so much David, but you’re not really the type of person we have in mind for this particular position. No offense David, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, but you’re a lame, wimpy musician.”
But then David does something that smart people do, and that’s this: ==He finds the courage to fight his present battle by remembering his past victories.==
He fills himself with faith by reminding himself of God’s faithfulness in the past.
So he tells Saul “Well, when I was taking care of my father’s sheep, a lion and a bear came and attacked the sheep and God helped me defeat the lion and the bear. And the same God who delivered me from the lion and the bear will help me defeat the giant also.”
What’s interesting is that, at the time when David was fighting the lion and the bear, it felt to him like agitation. It felt like an inconvenience. But ==some trials that feel like agitation and really preparation.==
Because if it weren’t for the lion and the bear, David would not have developed the confidence required to even take on let alone defeat the giant.
So Saul says “Alright David, you can fight. But you’ll need the right armor.” And he gives David his armor and he gives David his weapon.
He walks around for a bit and says “I can’t wear these.”
“I know historically everyone has done it like this. Wearing this. But I can’t do that. That’s not how I fight. And I may not fit into your warrior box, but if you let me do it my own way, I’ll show you that I can do with rocks with other people can’t do with spears.”
==Sometimes in life, you have to break the mold and do it your own way.==
See there was nothing BAD about Saul’s armor. It just wasn’t FOR David. And it takes courage to say “Thank you. I know you’re trying to help. And I’m glad that that’s worked for you. But I’m gonna have to do this how God made me.”
Five Smooth Stones / The Battle
So David goes to the brook, collects five smooth stones. That’s right, right? He gets 5. But he only uses 1. Which tells us something: That boy knew how to use his slingshot. His weapon may have been unconventional, but that boy knew how to use it.
The bible says David takes a stone, puts in into his slingshot and hits the giant where he’s exposed. Right in his forehead.
And he hits him from a distance. Because David knows that Goliath’s strength doesn’t matter if he can’t get close to me.
His strength was only an advantage in close combat. See, Goliath had strength, but David had reach.
And some of us, ==we spend all our time focusing on what we DON’T have instead of what we DO have.== Maybe for some of us, God is saying ==”You may not have their strength, but they don’t have your reach.”==
So BAM, he hits Goliath right between the eyes and Goliath goes down. Now, if this were me, it would have been the end of it. I’m not getting close to the giant. But David runs up on Goliath, and grabs Goliath’s sword. ==So he takes what the enemy was going to use against him and uses it against the enemy.==
He takes Goliath’s sword and cuts off Goliath’s head. Because he wants to make sure Goliath isn’t just DOWN, but DEAD.
You know, ==some things we think are dead and really just down==. And we don’t finish it off. And then we enter into a new season of life, and that issue that we thought was dead resurrects itself. And the issues we had in the old season, are now back up in our new season. ==Because we knocked it down, but we didn’t cut it’s head off.==
So from that, through a series of different events, David becomes king.
So let me get to my list here. I have 3 affirmations from the life of David that I believe can help you in seasons where you find yourself in need of direction.
1. I don’t need control, I need confidence.
Now listen, I don’t mean confidence in yourself. I mean confidence that God is your shepherd.
==Because it takes confidence to trust God when you’re not in control.==
See, David didn’t have a 10 year plan for getting into the palace. There’s no way he could have orchestrated the complex series of events required to get him there.
So David wasn’t in CONTROL, but he had confidence in God. His Shepherd.
That’s is the thing about a car. There’s exactly one driver’s seat. And only one person can be driving at the time. Now I don’t want to break into Carrie Underwood “Jesus take the wheel” here.
So let me switch metaphors and say Jesus is the shepherd, you are the sheep. He leads, you follow. So you’re not in control, but you’re 1000 times safer, then if you were just trying to make decisions with your sheep brain.
See giving up control is difficult, but when we really think about it, it’s logical because you really don’t have nearly as much control as you think.
Even when we think we have it, we don’t.
- We can control our actions, but we can’t control other peoples actions.
- We can control how we treat others, but we can’t control how others treat us.
- We can control how careful we are when we drive, but we cannot control how careful other people are when they drive.
- We can control how we construct the bid, but we can’t control whether or not the bid is accepted.
- We can control whether or not we put the offer on the property. We can’t control whether or not the offer is accepted.
- We can control how good our application is, but we can’t control whether or not we get the job.
==We contribute, but we don’t control.== We influence, but we do not determine outcomes.
And on the surface, that may seem like bad news, but it’s the best news. Because you, my friend, are a terrible driver. Im not talking about your car, I’m talking about your destiny.
==Apart from God’s divine, supernatural direction and guidance, there is exactly 0% chance you will end up living to your full potential.==
But that’s what’s so amazing about God. Is that he makes moves you CAN see, and he makes moves you CAN’T see. And both are required to get you to where you need to be.
I don’t need control, I need confidence.
2. God goes before me
Now what does that mean? It’s means that when God has something for you, he shows up early to make sure it’s ready for you.
Back to David as King
So back to David writing Psalm 23. He’s King, sitting in the palace and probably asking himself something that I sometimes ask myself: “How did I get here?”
- Because I wouldn’t be in the palace if Israel hadn’t saw me as king.
- Israel wouldn’t have seen me as a king, if they weren’t celebrating my victory.
- They wouldn’t be celebrating my victory if I hadn’t defeated Goliath.
- I wouldn’t have defeated Goliath if I hadn’t fought Goliath.
- I wouldn’t have fought Goliath if I hadn’t heard Goliath insulting Israel.
- I wouldn’t have heard Goliath insulting Israel, if I wasn’t around.
- I wouldn’t have been around, if I wasn’t bringing supplies and food to my brothers.
- I wouldn’t be bringing supplies and food to my brothers, if I wasn’t working in the palace.
- I wouldn’t be working in the palace, if someone hadn’t seen me playing my harp.
- And no one would have seen me play my harp if I wasn’t playing my harp.
- I never would’ve had that divine opportunity if I hadn’t been anointed by Samuel
- I never would have been anointed by Samuel if Samuel hadn’t come to Jesse’s house
- Samuel never would’ve come to Jesse’s house if God hadn’t rejected Saul.
So for all of David’s amazing characteristics – his love for God, his heart for God, his trust in God, his courage, his devotion, none of them could have got him where he was.
==Maybe we’re taking too much responsibility for our success when all along, God has been directing our steps.==
3. I will not carry more than I’m designed to carry.
When we attempt to manipulate outcomes, what we end up doing is bearing the weight of something that we were never intended to bear. We’re bearing God weight, because only God can control outcomes.
And when we bear God weight, we crumble under the pressure of weight we were never intended to carry.
God has shoulders that are broad enough to handle weight, to control outcomes
- to speak to wind and wind stops blowing
- to speak to thunder and thunder stops roaring.
Only God can handle God weight.
And too often we stress, and strain, and overwhelm ourselves with anxiety, because we’re trying to carry something God never intended for us to carry. That’s God weight.
==You can’t control the future. That’s God weight.==
- You can have courageous conversations, but you cannot control the other persons response. That’s God weight. Someone needs to hear this: You are 100% responsible for 50% of the relationship.
- You can control how you parent, but you can’t control your child’s decisions.
And when you carry God weight, you crumble under the pressure, because you were never intended to control outcomes. We control our decisions, God controls outcomes.
Lunch with Gary This past week, I went to lunch with my good friend Gary Kerns, whom I love deeply. So he picked me up in his fancy mustang and took me to a place I have never been – Copper Canyon Cafe. So I’m riding in the passenger seat and I have no anxiety at all. I’m relaxed even though I have no idea where we’re going. I knew we were going to lunch at a place called Copper Canyon Cafe, but if I were to to drive myself I wouldn’t be able to do it, because I don’t know the way. I didn’t know where I was going but I was completely relaxed because I was in the car with someone who did. And he knew the best route to get us there on time.
Now what you did when you made the decision to follow Jesus was you got in the car with him and you’re in the passenger seat, he’s in the drivers seat. And so you’re not in control, but you’re perfectly safe, because ==even though you don’t know where you’re going, he knows where you’re going and he knows how to get you there on time==.
He is my shepherd and I will lack nothing.
And today what I think the Holy Spirit is challenging some of us with is to control less and trust more. And I truly believe that he wants to help some people this morning who are carrying unnecessary weight that he’s asking you to cast on him.
Peter says “Cast all your cares on him. Why? Because he cares for you.” That he’s saying “You don’t have to carry that. That’s too heavy for you. I’ll carry it for you.”
Some of us are crumbling under God weight. And I believe God is wanting to make a divine exchange with you. Where he takes that God weight from you and says “Here. Take my yoke upon you. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Some of you, it’s a miracle that you haven’t crumbled under the pressure of what you’re holding.
- Trying to fix what you can’t fix.
- Trying to control what you can’t control.
And today the Holy Spirit is saying “I don’t want you carrying that anymore. I don’t want you living like that. It’s too heavy. That’s God weight. You’re spending too much time worrying and you’re not resting.”
I want to tell you, I’ve lived this. I’ve experienced the weight, and I’ve experienced the freedom of putting that weight on God’s shoulders.
I’ve learned that before you let it go practically, you have to let it go emotionally. It’s too much for you. It’s too much.
God is saying “Give it to me.”
- Give me the child. It’s my child. He’s always been mine.
- Give me the marriage. Give it. You’ve done what you can.
- Give me the business. Give it. – Too many variables that you can’t control. I’ve always had you, and I always will.
- Give me the doctors diagnosis. Give it. That’s God weight.
So lord, I pray today, for everyone in this room and everyone watching online.
We give you what we have.
- We give you ashes, you give us beauty.
- We give you tears, you give us joy.
- We give you the spirit of heaviness, you give us the garment of praise.
And today, I declare that this would be a moment of exchange. Where we cast our cares and our worries, and our weight, we cast that onto you, and we take on your lightness and your freedom.
Jesus, you are our shepherd and you know the path we need to be on. And you know the pace we need to walk it to get there on time.
Lord lift that burden.