Let me ask you a question. Do you have friends? Of course you do. Probably some of your friends are more recent friends, people whom you have known for not too long, but with whom you already have a warm friendship.
But some of your friends, and maybe very many of your friends, are old friends, people whom you have known for a long time, people with whom you have shared many years of common experiences and stages of life. Aren’t your old friends so very special to you? Isn’t it wonderful when you have a chance to visit with them and reconnect with them?
I’m proposing today that we together have a joyful and meaningful visit with a mutual Old Friend. This Old Friend is such a dear acquaintance and maybe you haven’t taken the opportunity recently to visit and reconnect, so we’ll take that opportunity together today.
Our Old Friend? The 23rd Psalm. Oh, how good it is to sit for a visit and be blessed again by these sacred words, especially in the King James Version.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
“The Lord is my shepherd.” Our visit reminds us of the beautiful relationship we have with our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Even though the Psalm was written long before Christ came to earth in human form, these words affirm Christ’s loving relationship with us. He is our Shepherd, even our Good Shepherd, which declares that we depend on Him and rely on Him for everything we need.
“I shall not want.” And the good news is that He provides everything we need, which is His grace, His forgiveness, His peace, His strength, His power, His connection to our lives.
“Still waters…green pastures.” Is this our natural and normal world? Unfortunately, no. Our natural world is chaos, fear, anxiety, skepticism. But Christ, through His Holy Word in Scripture and His Holy Spirit brings us to a reality in our lives of faith, hope, comfort, security, joy, and peace.
“Restoreth…leadeth.” As we continue to celebrate Easter, the glorious celebration of the purposeful death and glorious resurrection of Jesus, we celebrate that His resurrection gives rise to our resurrection, His victory gives rise to our victory. Even still, we, like sheep, are prone to stray to dangerous ways of living away from Him, but He lovingly leads and guides us back to Himself, again with His Holy Word and His Holy Spirit.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” Because of Jesus’ resurrection, death cannot defeat us nor cripple us with fear. Theologian Chad Bird* points out that the actual center of the 23rd Psalm, with equal words above and below, is the affirmation, “for thou art with me,” thus making this declaration and affirmation the most important message for us from our Old Friend. We are never left alone. We are never left to ourselves. Amen!
Now, our Old Friend shifts the conversation, but maintains the message.
“Preparest a table … anointest my head .. .cup runneth over.” Now we’re sitting at a banquet feast with our Old Friend. This banquet is thrown in our honor with glorious and gracious awards heaped upon us, all to show our enemies that the Christ has won the battle for us. And who are our enemies? Sin, death, and the devil. And they are all crushed by our Savior Christ.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” This goodness and kindness are the eternal grace and favor of Christ, which He chooses to lavish upon us constantly and continuously. Chad Bird points out that the Hebrew word for “follow” more correctly means that Christ will persistently pursue us and chase us down in order that we might never be without these blessings. How good is that?
“And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Amen! And Amen! Why can we be sure of this? What did we declare over and over on Easter Sunday? Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! That’s why.
Oh, dear Old Friend! It has been so good to visit with you! You always bless us and encourage us and strengthen us! We’ll visit again soon. In fact, we’ll probably be in a situation before too long that will bring us right back to you. Thank you, dear Old Friend!
(* Find Chad Bird at 1517.org. I recommend him highly.)
[Dr. Justin Kollmeyer, a thirty-seven year resident of Fayette County, is a retired Lutheran pastor. He offers his preaching and teaching pastoral ministry to any group seeking or needing a Christ centered, Biblically based, and traditionally grounded sermon or teaching. Reach him at email@example.com.]