Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.
Though named as King, David was pursued by a jealous King Saul for ten long years. Still, he could say of God, You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. Can you face trials with that kind of confidence? Today, more lessons from Psalm 23. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, as persecution against Christians mounts, many of us might need that table God prepares in the presence of our enemies. And you know, Dave, I think everyone who is listening knows someone who needs that word of encouragement today.
Just yesterday, a politician text me and she said that she is being vilified in the press wrongly, being lied about. And so the question is, how can her soul be settled? Well, thankfully, she's a wonderful Christian and I encouraged her to trust God. And indeed, just as this Psalm says, God is able to prepare for us a place to eat, even in the presence of our enemies. I hope that you today, my friend, are encouraged as a result of the ministry of Running to Win. And at the end of this broadcast, I'm going to be giving you some information as to how you can double your contribution to help us get the gospel to even more people.
But for now, let us listen. David who wrote this Psalm, you remember experienced the bitterness of sin, adultery and murder. And he knows what it's like for the restoring shepherd to come and to say, David, you're off the path. I have to pull you back into fellowship with myself so that I can continue to lead you, to lead you in paths of righteousness. So you'll notice that he comforts the sheep.
He defends the sheep in verse five. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil.
My cup overflows. Imagine the sheep is now on the other side of the valley. That's where the green grass is. That's where the table is prepared. And the shepherd has prepared it. He's gone on ahead. He's checked out the grass.
He's checked on the water to make sure that it isn't polluted. It's the best meal that the sheep can possibly ever have. And where does it happen? Right there in the presence of its enemies. If you can feel content in the presence of your enemies, you have won the battle with fear. If you can feel content exactly where God has planted you with people who are against you, people who are lying about you, people who would like to destroy you, people who would like to see you fail and right there you are content. That is the provision of God.
And how does it work? You stay very, very close to the shepherd. The reason that the sheep can graze in the presence of enemies is because the sheep knows that the shepherd is close by and the shepherd is watching the sheep as he or she eats.
The shepherd is there. Jesus said on one occasion, I send you forth as lambs in the midst of wolves. Sheep are very defenseless. They have no way to protect themselves. A dog can kill a hundred sheep in a night and there's nothing that the sheep can do if the dog is wild and out of control.
There's just nothing that they can do. And Jesus said, you know, you're like sheep, but I'll stay with you there in the presence of your enemies. Right where it hurts the most.
Right where the most damage against you is possible. I'm there with you. And now it's at the end of the day for the sheep. The sheep is coming back into the fold.
He says, you anoint my head with oil. You remember Jesus said, I am the door of the sheep. No one gets past me unless he belongs to me. And if you've been to Israel, you know, they have those long, long stone fences and then they will have a gate. And that gate basically is the shepherd at night because he's going to distinguish. These are my sheep. These are your sheep.
Let's keep them all straight and they know his voice. And as they come through the sheep gate, he looks at them. He notices that they are bruised.
Maybe the cheek has been cut. Perhaps an eye, a twig has hit an eye and the sheep is in pain. He notices all the scars that the sheep has and so he anoints them with oil medicinally.
He takes care of it. He gives them some comfort and the sheep feels so much better that they have somebody who cares about them and somebody who is meeting their needs and somebody who is aware of their aches, their pains and the scrapes that they picked up in their experience of the terrain. And so the scripture says that as their cup runs over because it is nighttime but they need a drink before they are put to sleep at night.
And so he takes a cup and he fills it very, very full because remember, sheep do not like to get their wool wet and so they prefer a very full cup and they drink and they do so contentedly. He not only anoints my head with oil, my cup overflows. And then there's a last commitment that is made and that is that he stays with them to the end. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Goodness means that God is going to provide for my needs. Mercy means he's going to take care of my sins. And when it's all over, when the last words have been said and the last rights have been pronounced, it is then that he shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Jesus is going to be there when we reach the other side. And how long is Jesus going to be our shepherd? You say, well surely this relationship ends at death and the answer of course is no because it says in Revelation chapter 7 verse 17, they shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore.
The sun shall not strike them by noon nor any scorching heat. For the lamb is in the midst of the throne and he will be their shepherd and he will guide them to springs of living water and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes. He's our shepherd forever as he guides us even in heaven. Now there are five very quick lessons that we need to learn from this psalm.
I'll give them to you very quickly. First of all, when we have the shepherd, we really need nothing else. When we have the shepherd, we really need nothing else. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
I have no lack. Do you remember in the Old Testament, you had what was known as Levites. All of the other tribes were given an inheritance. God says this is the boundary of Judah, this is the boundary of Ephraim, but you Levites, you don't get any land. If you had been a Levite, how would you have felt about that?
You probably would have thought to yourself, well what a bummer. Everybody else is getting land and we're not getting any, but you know what God said to the Levites? He said, I am your portion. You are the portion of my inheritance and you maintain my lot. God says you've got me.
And I speak to those of you today who do not have the wealth of others, who do not have the prestige of others, the looks of others, the power of others, the influence of others. Do you have the shepherd? If you have the shepherd, you have all that you need for your journey home. You say, well does God really take care of his sheep like you've described?
Isn't this just poetry? I'm thinking of a man who was in a truck and he had an accident and the truck went off the road and into the ditch in wintertime and the man was so wounded he could not get his way out of the truck and find his way back home. But he did write some notes and one of the things that he said was this, I am in his hands.
Weeks later his body was discovered and he was dead. Did God take care of his sheep? Was God there? Was the shepherd there as this man was suffering in despair, unable to get help? The answer is yes because even there God was giving grace. Even there the shepherd was walking with him through the experience so that he could write a note of faith and hope and confidence that no matter what happened to him he would arrive eventually in heaven safely under the care and the guidance of the good shepherd. He carries us all the way home as it says in the text, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I'll dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Second lesson is this, that the best advice, the best advice I can give you today is to stay close to the shepherd. Stay close to the shepherd.
Let me ask you a question today. Did they have a whole map of the land in their head? Did they know what lay on the other side of any given hill? Did they understand the number of hyenas that were present, the bears that were present? Did they know all that?
Did they know where the polluted streams were versus the good streams? Of course not. All that they could possibly do is to depend upon the shepherd and you and I are like that. We think we know what lies on the other side. We think we know what green pastures are greener and better than the ones that we are here. So that person that you want to marry that people are trying to convince you to not marry but you know what is best even though he's not a Christian or she's not a Christian but after all you know better than God.
Do you really? Do you really know better than the one who is omniscient, who knows you very well, who knows all details of the universe with unerring accuracy? Wouldn't it be better to trust his judgment than yours because you don't know what lies on the other side of that valley? I think of the number of people who have made bad decisions living in arid conditions now, living in barrenness and hopelessness because at some point they said I'm not following the shepherd, I'm going to do my own thing. Follow the shepherd.
That's the second lesson, third lesson. The needy sheep has particular interest. The needy sheep, I could say the most needy sheep, has the particular interest of the shepherd.
Jesus told a story about a man who left the 90 and nine. He was entrusted with 100 sheep. If you're entrusted with 100 sheep and you come home with 99, it doesn't look good. People say to themselves what kind of a shepherd is that? He had 100 and he can't bring them all home. So what the shepherd does is he leaves the 90 and nine and he goes looking for that one sheep.
A couple of comments. First of all, nowhere in scripture do we have any hint or for that matter in history do we have any example of a sheep who went searching for the shepherd. Sheep don't do that. Sheep are always going away from the shepherd. Sheep are always doing their own thing.
Sheep are always following their own paths. Now it's the shepherd who goes looking for the sheep. And so what the shepherd does is he finds that sheep and brings him back and rejoices and is glad that there still are 100, the same number that he began with in the morning.
That's why some of us believe that once you've trusted Christ as Savior and you belong to him forever, that's why some of us believe that you will be saved eternally and you can't get lost as one of God's sheep. It's because the shepherd's commitment to you is so strong as Jesus said in John chapter 10 very clearly, where Jesus is saying, he says, my father who gave them to me is greater than all and no man is able to pluck them out of my hand. And then he says, my father and I are one and no man is able to pluck them out of our hand. You have hands in harmony. You have the hand of the father. You have the hand of the son.
The sheep have been given to the son by the father as a gift and the commitment of the good shepherd is to bring them all the way home. Bruised? Scarred?
Yes. Some with wasted lives on the wrong side of the valley, to be sure, but they will make it and they too will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. There's a last lesson and that is that we must learn the value of the personal pronoun. We must learn the value of the personal pronoun. You'll notice that David said the Lord is my shepherd. There is a story that perhaps some of you have read about which evidently is true where an actor stood up and quoted Psalm 23 and everyone was so impressed by his voice, by his inflection, by his ability to be able to stand with such confidence and say such a wonderful piece of poetry. But the actor also was friends with a pastor who was sitting in the audience and asked him to come up and to quote it. And when the pastor quoted it, virtually many of the people were in tears. He didn't quote it as well, but the actor said later, I know the Psalm, but he knows the shepherd.
That's the difference. There are some of you out there who know the Psalm. You know of the shepherd, but you cannot say like David did. The Lord is my shepherd. How do you become one of God's sheep? In helplessness admit your sinfulness.
Admit that you cannot save yourself. If God is speaking to you at this moment, I can assure you it is the voice of God who is seeking you because left to ourselves, as I mentioned, we do not seek God, but God may be speaking to you today and you may say, I want to be one of God's sheep. If that's what the spirit is saying in your heart and you know who you are when I'm speaking like this, why don't you say I'm a sinner and I receive today the free gift of eternal life. Today I want to be able to say the Lord is my shepherd.
Forgive my sin. Make me one of your followers and cause me to understand that I need you desperately, both now and forever. Let us pray. And our Father, we do ask in the name of Jesus that you, the good shepherd, might now be seeking. Go up and down the rows of the Moody Church as well as other places where this message is being heard today, whether on the radio or CD or the internet, where people have joined us all over the world this morning. And we ask in Jesus' name that you shall find, you shall find sheep. Some discouraged, some lost, some angry, but Father, draw them. Overcome their resistance, I pray.
And may they believe in Jesus at this very moment. You talk to the good shepherd right now, no matter where you are. If the good shepherd's talking to you, and you are, of course, one of his sheep, you talk to him. But if you're not one of his sheep, talk to him.
Tell him you want to be saved. Receive our prayers today, Father, we ask in the blessed exalted name of Jesus. We are only sheep. You are the shepherd.
How desperately we need you. Help us, we pray in Jesus' name. Amen. Amen. My friend today, I hope that you are blessed as a result of the ministry of Running to Win.
If you have been blessed, it's because people just like you have invested in this ministry. August is a very important month for us. As a matter of fact, August 31st is the end of our fiscal year. And we have some friends who said that they are willing to double any gift given during the month of August up to $90,000. Well, you can do the math.
You know, $5 can become $10, $50 can become $100, $200 can become $400. Would you help us? What an opportunity it is for you to become involved directly in this ministry. Now here's what you do. Go to rtwoffer.com.
Maybe you didn't have a pencil handy, so I'm going to be giving that to you again. Or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. Go to rtwoffer.com. Of course, as you might guess, R-T-W-Offer is all one word. Or if you prefer, call us at 1-888-218-9337.
That's rtwoffer.com. It's time again for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question you may have about the Bible or the Christian life. Pastor, we're taught that the Bible is without error.
This is a problem for Fred, who listens in Florida. He found this discrepancy in the Old Testament. The account of David numbering Israel and Judah in 2 Samuel 24, verse 9, gives the figure of 800,000 for Israel and 500,000 for Judah. But the account in 1 Chronicles 21 gives these numbers, 1.1 million for Israel and 470,000 for Judah.
Can you explain this? Fred, you've asked a very difficult question, but the good news is that all of these supposed discrepancies have been answered by Bible scholars. There's much in the Old Testament that we don't know.
Sometimes facts are left out. If we had all the facts, we believe that the Bible is in agreement with the truth. But to comment more specifically, for example, it says in Judah, one account, the Samuel accounts, is 500,000. The 1 Chronicles accounts is 470,000. Maybe we can account for that simply by the fact that the Bible uses round numbers, just like newspapers do today. As a matter of fact, just today I was hearing the number of people killed in an earthquake, and it said in the Haiti earthquake, I believe 200,000. Well, we say that that is true, even though you and I know that the number isn't exactly 200,000.
And the Bible uses that kind of numbering as well. When it says that 25,000 people died in the plague, it means approximately 25,000. But the other discrepancy is a little bit more difficult. It says in 1 Samuel that there were 800,000 men who drew the sword, and I think in the 1 Chronicles account it says 1.1 million.
I'm not sure that I have all the facts that I can reconcile those two, but here are some ideas. I took the time to read the passage and to check a commentary or two, though my explanation is not exhaustive. For example, in the Chronicles account it says expressly that the tribes of Levi and Benjamin were excluded from the count. Now, could it be that later on they were counted, and the chronicler who wrote the book of Chronicles therefore included the larger number?
That certainly is a possibility. The other thing that's very interesting in passing is that the Samuel account speaks about the number of valiant men. The other account speaks of those who drew the sword.
So maybe even there there is a distinction. But this is an opportunity to affirm our faith and to say that we believe that if all the facts were known, the Scriptures would agree. Fred, let me encourage you to keep reading your Bible. We do come across very difficult passages.
Don't get hung up on them. Read the ones that are clear, and we will trust God for the rest. Thank you, Fred, and thank you, Dr. Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at rtwoffer.com and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer, or call us at 1-888-218-9337. That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Next time in our series we turn to Psalm 32 to see how God shows Himself when we are forgiven. This is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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