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The Fundamentals: Divine Sustenance Part 1

The Shepherd The Sheep And The Shortage

The Fundamentals:  Divine Sustenance Part 1

Psalm 23

1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:  he leadeth me beside the still waters.  3He restoreth my soul:  he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  4Yea, 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.  5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:  thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
The Shepherd The Sheep And The Shortage, what a fitting title for this series on the 23rd Psalm!  In this beloved Psalm, we see:

 * The Shepherd - Jesus Christ (Jehovah-Rohi - the Hebrew name for the Lord our Shepherd), the one who leads and guides and provides for His sheep.
* The sheep - anyone who believes, has repented of their sins, and made Jesus Lord of their life and
* The shortage - those necessary, fundamentals that He supplies that are vital to the survival of His sheep that He so dearly loves.

 If you are a Christian, then you will be comforted and encouraged throughout this study, for you will find that it is all about your Great Shepherd who is lovingly caring for you, even when you are walking though the valley of the shadow of death and when you are in the presence of your enemies.  He is making you lie down; He is leading you; He is restoring you; and it is He that is anointing you.  He is still there beside you, guiding you through, working it all out for your good - to grow and develop you into a Christian that is lacking no good thing.  It is all about Him!
Praise the Lord, He knows exactly what we need.  He knows what is vital or necessary for our existence.  Remember in our last lesson, we talked about accessories and fundamentals?  Those things that are not truly important for your survival are accessories.  Many times, those are the very things that we let distract us in life.  We spend our time and energy trying to get the accessories all matching, but yet we could survive without them.  This is the place where the enemy of our soul wants us to be - distracted with the non-important accessories, running in circles wasting our time, letting the days and years pass as we really don’t accomplish anything of any spiritual importance.  On the other hand, the fundamentals are those things that we MUST have for survival.  In our physical lives you can think of important fundamentals as being oxygen to breath, water and nutrition, shelter and the list goes on.  Just take away oxygen for four to six short minutes and you can see how fundamental it is - a person is left lifeless.  Spiritually, there are also fundamentals, and here in Psalm 23 we see them laid out before us.  These fundamentals are provided for each of us by our Shepherd.  For the first verse tells us, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall  not want."
He is our Jehovah-Jireh - the Lord our Provider.  He is our provider that makes us not have any want by providing for all of the Christian's Spiritual needs.
Our Shepherd, Jesus Christ knows us individually.  He is our bishop or overseer of our soul.  Think of someone that is watching over your every need.  In James 1:27 Paul writes:
"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."
One may read this verse and think, "to visit" means to meet together for tea and cookies and a nice little chat.  But a deeper look at this word reveals that it means to "bishop" or "oversee."  This visit is intended to aid or investigate their needs with purpose of helping or providing for the person.  In another part of a letter that Paul wrote from prison, he instructs his friends to visit him and bring his coat and parchments.  During biblical times, many of the essentials that prisoners needed were brought by friends or family who came to visit them.  So, here again we see that the visit was a form of caring for him - providing for his needs.  A shepherd would do the same for his sheep.  He would "visit them" by caring for them.  Each evening as the sheep entered the sheep fold, the shepherd would stand at the door and allow the sheep to pass between his legs one at a time.  Not only was he making sure that each one was there, but he was also squeezing them and running his fingers through their wool.  He would check for parasites, burs or little things that would bring irritation to the sheep.  He wanted to find those things that would keep his sheep from resting and sleeping comfortably.  The shepherd also did not want the sheep to disturb the other sheep in the fold due to its own discomfort.  Jesus is our Shepherd, and He is so very good!  He wants to do the same for you.  He loves you so much that He wants to "visit" you by putting a squeeze on you and seeing what you lack.  This may be uncomfortable, but He does it only to bring good to you.  He wants to remove from you those things that disturb your peace, He wants to pluck out those things that hinder your growth and make sure that you don't have error that is detrimental to your spiritual health.  This is all done by Jesus "visiting" you.  He may do this through the words of a Pastor, Chaplain, or fellow Christian.  The Lord Jesus may visit you by speaking to your heart though the reading of His Word - the Bible.  The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:16,

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:"

"Oh, Lord, 'visit' me!  Please remove from me those things that are harming my Spiritual development.  Remove from me those non-essential distractions that are weighing me down.  Help me to focus on what is truly fundamental - You!"

So, what exactly does our wonderful Shepherd provide?  We have seen that there is a shortage, and the Lord Jesus Christ wants to make up that shortage.  He wants to provide for you and me what is fundamental or vital for us so that we may become contented, productive, happy sheep.

Divine Sustenance

"He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters."  Psalm 23:2
Here we see the beginning of a list of what the Shepherd provides for us so we are not lacking nor in want of any good thing.

This is so exciting to see because that first statement "He makes me to lie down in green pastures" is suggesting that there is food involved for these sheep.  "He leadeth me beside the still waters" is suggesting that there is water available to drink.
Eating and drinking are both fundamentals for the survival of sheep, and the Lord Jesus Christ will provide both of these fundamentals for the sheep that He loves - you and me.  Many people look at this verse and get the idea that the Lord leads the sheep to the green pasture and says, "Ok, guys, lay down here in this green pasture and eat away."  Not being a shepherd myself, I once read, that shepherds take their sheep out in the early dawn when the grass is covered in dew.  They let the sheep eat to their hearts content, getting both the food and the water that they need.  As the sun rises higher in the sky, and the heat of the day intensifies, the shepherd then leads the sheep to a cool shaded green pasture so that they can lie down in the shade in safety and peace.  Here in peace, they can ruminate or chew the cud without distraction.
What exactly is chewing cud?  Sheep have four parts to their stomachs.  They eat their food; it goes into the first stomach where it is partially digested.  After the sheep has lain down in safety, it brings that food back to its mouth, where it chews it again, breaks it down even farther getting more nutrients out of it.  This process is repeated until all possible nutrients are removed, and the sheep has the nutrition that it needs to sustain it for a time.   When you think of it, it is kind of disgusting from a human's point of view, but it is amazing how God created this animal to be able to eat and process its food.  As we see here, when you lie down in the green pasture it is not to eat.   So, when Psalm 23 says, "He makes me to lie down in green pasture," we know that these sheep have already been fed, and now it is time for them to rest and to start ruminating or chewing their cud in comfort and safety of the green pasture.  Their caring shepherd has guided them to the places that best provide for their need.  To the best food for feeding and then to the greenest pasture for rest and digestion.
You may be wondering how this applies to the Christian's life.  Oh, it does without a doubt!  Think about it.  Do you know that it is vital, absolutely fundamental, that every sheep, every Christian has enough to eat and to drink?  Sure, without it, you would die.   Eating is a fundamental here in Psalm 23.  Jesus Christ, the Shepherd, is going to make available to us, His sheep the nutrition that we so desperately need.  The Lord will make the Word of God available to speak truth into your heart - for it is His word that sustains you.  It is His word that gives the Christian the nutrients that he/she needs to be a contented healthy Christian.  Maybe you have heard someone say or even said it yourself, "Wow that message gave me something to chew on!"  What is being said, is that message gave me something to meditate on, to think about, to ruminate on - just like a sheep.  After, you have read the Word, it might do you some good to think about it again and again, to bring it back to your memory and "chew on it" meditate on it a little more, asking the Holy Spirit to help break it down for your understanding.   And each time you do, you get more and more spiritual nutrition  or understanding from it.
Let's stop and think about what we are not referring to when we use the word meditate.  We are not talking about meditation as a nothingness, or a vacuum of thought.  Many eastern, transcendental religions encourage this type of meditation, that is a clearing of the mind to "nothingness." According to scripture it is clearly demonic.  We are talking about thinking and meditating on the Word of God - filling our mind and heart with its truths so that we can gain more understanding and growth from it.
It is not only important as a Christian that you eat and drink, but it is vital what you eat and drink.  An old preacher, back in 1600's, William Gurnall said, "If you don't eat, you die, but if you eat poison, you die sooner."  It matters not just that you eat, but what you eat.  If you eat the wrong thing, it could mean the end of you.  Look at society today.  We can see the old saying, "you are what you eat" is so very true.  Today, there is a shortage in the church of pastors feeding their sheep the good solid food of the Word of God.  When the church has not been well fed, you can imagine the weak and anemic condition of its congregation.  Without proper food, the Christian lacks strength and cannot resist infection.  In Ephesians 3:14-16 Paul says,
"For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named. That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man;"
This is so important for you to be well fed so, your body will be strengthened.  When you eat, it helps to restore your soul.  It is difficult to go on walking in paths of righteousness if you are weak and can't even take a step.  You need to be well nourished to face the valley of the shadow of death, or else that valley will get the best of you.  Paul says He prays that you be strengthened by the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, in your inner man.  The Christian needs food and drink in order to stay healthy.  You are what you eat.  If all I ever eat is chocolate chip cookies and candy (of course I like them), but if that is all I eat, guess what will happen to me?  My physical constitution will be weakened.  If you eat good quality food - your fruit and vegetables, they will nourish your body unlike the junk food.  Hey, isn't that why it is called junk food?  If you eat the good stuff instead of the bad stuff you are going to be healthy and your immune system is going to be stronger, so that you will be able to resist colds and flus that come at you.
 
Take a look at two men.  One eats healthy food and the other junk food.  When the flu virus comes in and hits both men, one gets the flu, and the other does not.  Is it because one man is a better person?  NO!  It is because one man has been eating junk food and the other man has been eating good food.  The issue is not the flu, but the constitution of the man.  The same spiritually applies.  If one man does not strengthen his spiritual constitution by feeding on the Word of God and meditating, ruminating, chewing the cud and letting the nutrition of the truth of it soak into him to strengthen him, if he does not do this, then he becomes spiritually weak.  If the other guy reads the Word, meditations on it, builds a relationship with the Lord, and strengthens his inner man, then guess what?  When the temptation walks in the door and hits both men, one gives in to the temptation and the other man doesn't.  Is it because he is a better man?  NO - but it is because his spiritual constitution is stronger.  So, it also is not the flu, is it?  NO - it is not.  It is not the temptation, is it?  It is not the temptation that hits you on the street, that determines your conduct.  It is not the temptation that comes your way that causes you to act the way you do, because the same temptation comes and hits both men, but one does succumb and other one does not.  Why?  Because the one has built up the resistance of His inner man.

I think that this lesson is obvious.  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside the still water.  Why?  Because Jesus our Shepherd knows that there is a valley coming.  He knows you are going to need strength in your body and health for your soul to recover.  He knows you are going to need strength to fight not just infection but the enemy of your soul.  Ephesians 6:12 says,

"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."  

We need, it is vital, it is fundamental to make up the shortage as Peter says in 1 Peter 2:2,

"...desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:"

Divine sustenance is the first fundamental for a reason!  It is so very important, that we cannot bypass around it

A Strong Tower of Peace

"The name of the LORD is a strong tower.  The righteous run into it and is safe."   Proverbs 18:10

The Testimony of Dave - A Gentleman in our Church
Many years ago, I gave my heart to the Lord, and He saved me, but over time, I walked away from Him and backslid.  For many years, I lived a life away from the Lord.  It was my fault, I had taken a wrong turn, the wrong direction, and had chosen to walk away from Him.  Praise the Lord, during that time, I had people praying for me!

Within the past year, I started going to church again, and there Jesus started speaking to my heart.  I asked the Lord to forgive me, and He faithfully saved me.  God is so very good!  I can trust Him, for He will NEVER let me down.  I was lost in sin and my destination was hell.  Now, because of Jesus' saving grace, my destination is heaven!  To me it seems that "Thank you" just seems like it is not enough, for I am absolutely NOTHING without Him!

Let me share with you the change that He has made in my life.  The Lord became my tower of salvation.  And in Him, I have found a peace that passes all understanding.  Inside the safety of His powerful name, I am at peace.  I have found safety and security in the Name of the Lord.  Now, I go to the House of the Lord every service and look forward to the word the Lord will speak to me, from the Word of God.  Every opportunity I have, I go to the altar and spend time on my knees praying and crying out to God on behalf of my family.  At times in the past, I would not go to the altar, but now I go for as long as I can, and I meet with my Heavenly Father there.  Praise the Lord, He baptized me in the Holy Spirit, and now I find the Holy Spirit nudging me and letting me know the places I should not go and the things I would not watch.  I don't want to disappoint Jesus - the One who loved me so much to give His all for me. It was His love for me that held Him to the cross.  I keep praying for Him to help me to recognize the voice of His Spirit and hear what He has to say to me.  This does not mean that I am now perfect, I still slip and make mistakes, but the Lord picks me up, corrects me and sets me back on the right path.  I want to live a life pleasing to my Savior!

There have been times in my life when the Lord has just washed over me a "wave" of peace.  One such time was when my wife was very ill.  The Doctor called to tell me that they were going to put a trach in her, I felt in my heart that they were not to do that procedure, that the Lord would intervene.  The next day when I went to the hospital to visit her, she was up walking around and off her ventilator.  Not only did she not need the trach, but the Lord Jesus did what the doctors could not do and healed her.  A couple of years later she did pass into Glory.  When she did, she left with a smile of peace on her face, prepared for where she was going.  I miss my wife, but I do not wish her back to this earth, for she is experiencing a love that I can not fully understand here on this earth.  I am ready for heaven for there I will see my Savior and my wife!

Because of what the Lord has done in my life, I want others to know Him.  I am not a preacher, but every opportunity that He gives to me, I share about Him.  The enemy is a liar and tries to tell me that I am not worthy to share with others, but this is NOT true.   I have been praying for the Lord to speak to my children.  Slowly they have been opening up and coming to me, asking questions.  I can see God working in their lives.  As a parent and grandfather, I can't think of anything greater than for my children and grandchildren to follow Christ.  Just recently, one of my sons came with me to church and the Lord met him at the altar of prayer and now he has given his life to Christ.  Now He is a changed man.   I am so thankful that He has found the peace that can only be found in the name of the Lord.
 
I want to tell you in the words of a song, "It is no secret what God can do.  What He has done for others, He can do for you!"

** Hallelujah!  The Sunday following Dave sharing this testimony with me, his second son surrendered his life to Christ!  The Lord of peace is faithfully answering Dave's prayers!  **

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