Last week we looked at 1 Corinthians 15:25 and saw that Jesus is presently a Reigning King, a Warrior King, and a King who is building His church and kingdom invincibly — sometimes even using the wrath of pagans to do so. That is encouraging, but today's message is just as encouraging. I'm going to switch gears today and begin a series that shows the humiliation of that great King to become a shepherd. It's Psalm 23. And it's important to realize that a shepherd was about as far removed from kingship as you could get in terms of employment. If you were applying for a job, a poor person might apply for a shepherd's job if he was hard up, but he wouldn't apply for a king's job. And the average king wouldn't even think of being a shepherd. And yet, like David, our King is both.
The covenant that this Shepherd made with me
The Psalm begins with the amazing words: "The LORD is my shepherd..." Notice that the word "LORD" is in all capital letters. In the NKJV, when that happens, it is a reference to Yahweh. Yahweh is God's covenant name. So the first point deals with the covenant that God has made. And there are many reasons why theologians say that Yahweh is the covenant name. I'll just give you one: the first time that the name Yahweh occurs in the Bible is in Genesis 2, and it's in chapter 2 that God outlines the covenant details that He is making with His finished creation – He goes to the special care of making Adam, then modeling to Adam the work of creating a garden, then placing Adam into the Garden, then giving him covenant instructions, then giving him a wife, etc., etc. Chapter one is Elohim (the Almighty God) and chapter two is Yahweh Elohim – the Almighty who has committed Himself to a covenant relationship with His creation.
The greatness and humility of this Shepherd
So the second point deals with both the greatness of our Shepherd as well as His humility. He is not just the exalted Almighty Elohim; He is also the close personal Yahweh who is willing to commit himself in covenant. This is not Deism where an Almighty God winds up a clock (so-to-speak) and then lets it take care of itself. This is the Almighty God who cares about His creation, sustains it, sees it as very good, and enters into covenant with it. When you are too big for your britches, think about all that is involved in the name Elohim, and you will be humbled. When you think that you are so lowly that God couldn't possibly care for a worm like you, think Yahweh, the God who entered into covenant with His creation to sustain worms, jelly fish, stinky sheep, and humans. "Yahweh is my shepherd." The exalted Lord who breathed the universe into existence has humbled himself so much that He was willing to take the job of watching messy sheep, feeding them, protecting them from wolves, protecting them from themselves, carrying wounded sheep into the pen and giving them medicine, and involving himself in all the unclean work that constitutes shepherding stinky sheep. The words "Yahweh" and "Shepherd" are really amazing when you consider them deeply.
The personal interest that this Shepherd has in me
But so is the little word "my." This is the third point — the personal interest that this Shepherd has in me and in each of you. God doesn't just say that He is the shepherd of Israel. He is that, and that in itself is amazing. But any individual who sings this Psalm can say with David, "the Lord is my Shepherd." Not just "our Shepherd"; "my Shepherd." When Jesus makes His covenant pledge to us as the Shepherd of the church, He also makes it with each individual member. In fact, in Revelation 3 Christ assures us that even if the whole church has rejected Him and He is outside the church doors knocking, that if anyone hears His voice and opens the door, He will come in to the church and minister to that person as He partakes of the Lord's Supper. Let me quote that verse: "If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." And that's what this Shepherd does in verse 5 of our Psalm — He invites David personally to His table. David says, "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies." Every covenant had a covenant meal.
And when we come to the Table of the Lord, we come as a group, we come as families, and we come as individuals as well. Jesus is a personal Shepherd. John 10:27 says, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." And that is in part what we are committing ourselves to do when we come to the Lord's Table. We are committing ourselves to listening to our Shepherd's voice and following Him. But that same chapter says that Jesus knows each sheep by name. He knows their needs. And it is on the basis of that fact that the next phrase in our Psalm says, "I shall not want." And we will look at that next week, Lord willing.
But as you come to the table this morning, thank God that you are one of His sheep – that He has first of all entered into a covenant with you, secondly that the exalted Elohim who breathed the worlds into existence has become the very close Yahweh to you, and thirdly, that He cares very much about each one of His sheep individually. Jesus promised in John 6:39, "Now this is the will of the one who sent me — that I should not lose one person of every one he has given me, but raise them all up at the last day" (NET). Hopefully you will appreciate the incredible privilege of having Yahweh spread His table before such lowly sheep as us. Let's bless Him.