All Roads Lead To Jesus - Psalms

Reading: Psalm 23, John 10:1-21

My family and I enjoy watching talent contests on TV from time to time. In each season, without a doubt, some small child will come to center stage, introduce themselves and then belt out a tune that is both mind-blowing and mind-bending at the same time. We can’t believe the sound that is coming out of this 8-year-old. But there is something weird about it. It’s weird to hear an 8-year-old sing about the peaks and valleys of a long-lost love. It’s weird to hear them belt out tunes that were written by men and women who had experienced life, abuse, hurt, drug addiction, the weariness of a lonely road, or the political struggle of their time. It’s weird because we know that there is something that is not authentic about the performance. Yes, the child can sing. But the child doesn’t really understand the depth of the words that are coming out of their mouth. They don’t understand, because they haven’t yet been able to experience what they are singing about.

The best songs are written from personal experience. The Psalms were written from times of great joy and celebration and times of great grief. David wrote Psalm 21, 22, and 23 when he was being pursued by his enemies. He wrote Psalm 51 after the death of his infant son and after his sin with Bathsheba had been exposed. These Psalms resonate with us because they come from a place of authenticity. They can be sung in the day or during the longest night. The Psalms are gut-wrenching at times and vehicles of peace on different days.

Each of the Psalms not only opens the heart of the writer, but they also shed light on some aspect of the Christ that was to come. In every stanza of every Psalm, we hear the Christ singing these words back to us.

Psalm 23 is one of the most famous Psalms in history. It is read by parents to their children as they sing them off to sleep. It is read at the gravesides of countless saints and heathens alike. There is something comforting in the words.

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not be in want.” Can you hear some of the words from the 23rd Psalm come back to your mind and reach down into the depths of your soul? It’s like hearing a favorite melody of a favorite song when you were young. Jesus said that he is the Good Shepherd. When he calls, his sheep hear his voice. When 1 out of 100 sheep is missing, he goes out to find the sheep. He tends to his sheep with his words. He fights for his sheep and protects his sheep. His sheep have all of their needs met in him.

“He restores my soul.” I am weak. I’ve been weak for a while. I’ve been I ministry since 1998 and I have been a pastor’s kid for 44 years. I am especially weary these days. I’ve seen a lot. And yet, every day, without fail, Jesus restores my soul. For something to be restored, it must have been damaged, weakened, or hurt in the first place. When David wrote these words, he was in a depressive state. He wasn’t sure what the future might hold. Yet, he clung to the promises of God and declared that the Good Shepherd restores what had been broken.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” There is nothing pretty about death. We try to talk ourselves into finding the good in the bad. But death is bad. It’s always bad. At every funeral, the bodies are in a state of decay even in the midst of the flowers, the mortician haircut, and makeup job. The body is still dead. Death is the culmination of the penalty of sin. David sings his song in the face of death.  He sings because he is confident as the Good Shepherd leads the way before him with his rod and staff.

In many religions and myths, the Grim Reaper or some variation of the Reaper is our tour guide into the great beyond. But that is not what the Bible says about those who have faith in Christ. The moment we are absent from our bodies, the moment we die, we are present with Christ. For the faithful, and only for the faithful, Jesus Christ greets us at death. He walks us through the valley of the shadow of death. He has been there before. He knows the way. He vanquished death the last time he was there. So too will those who follow him.

“You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies.” This is a defiant lyric from the Psalmist. Not only has the Good Shepherd vanquished our enemies, but he feasts in their presence. What was once a scene of death is now a party about life.

Jesus is the Good shepherd that sings to us in the morning and in the darkest night.

My wife’s mother used to quote Psalm 23 to my wife every night before she went to sleep. Those were good days that my wife can hardly remember. She remembers the feeling even if the details have slipped away with the years that have passed. She wasn’t given many years with her mommy. Her mommy died suddenly when my wife was 11 years old. That changed everything. But she never forgot the nights her mommy sung the 23rd Psalm to her. Those were the nights when Jesus sang for her in the day. But when the night came, my wife continued to sing the words her mommy sang to her.  

My wife carried that Psalm into the cribs of her babies. When our children were young, she continued to sing them to sleep and to quote Psalm 23 before they went off to sleep. The Good Shepherd was there for my wife during the days of peace and he continued to guide her through the darkest nights.  

Listen, the night is long, and the night is cold. The night can feel as if you are all alone. But the same Good Shepherd that goes after the one, the same Good Shepherd that meets all of our needs, the same Good Shepherd that walks us through the terror of death, the same Good Shepherd that prepares a banquet for us, is the same Good Shepherd that carries you through day to day and year to year and from this life into eternity.

If Jesus Christ is the object of your faith, you will never be alone. He is the Good Shepherd from first to last.

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