“Jesus Guides His Sheep in the Right Path”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Psalm 23.3
Psalm 23. We are in Lord’s supper series on Psalms 22-24. Tonight we will look at just part of one verse in Psalm 23:3, but let’s read Psalm 23 and as you do you’ll recall the sheep imagery.
Psalm 23:1–6 1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalm 23 is all about how You can rest in the LORD’s future care for you.
In verse 2, You can rest in the LORD’s future care for you because he gives us nourishment…both in literal food and in spiritual food. And also from the first part of verse 3 … You can rest in the LORD’s future care for you because He provides spiritual restoration. “He restores my soul.” We’re tossed about by are own sin and troubles of life and he “restores our soul.” He has great compassion upon us and like a shepherd does for a wondering sheep, He brings us back close to Himself.
Our text tonight is just the next part of verse 3… “He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.”
ILL: So what are these paths of righteousness? For sheep, this means that they must be led in the right physical paths. Phillip Keller wrote “a Shepherd looks at Psalm 23” … I talked about that book last time and so you may remember that Phillip Keller was a shepherd in East Africa and as a shepherd there his experience would have been very similar to the shepherds of the Middle East in Israel.
And he notes in his book that sheep are creatures of habit. If the shepherd leaves his sheep those sheep would follow the same old paths. Those paths would become ruts and they’d destroy the land. The sheep also left to themselves would graze the same hills until those hills turn into desert wastelands. If left to themselves, they pollute their own ground until it’s corrupted with disease and parasites.
This is all because they were not lead in the right paths. And a good Shepherd recognizes that he must keep his sheep on the move. He can’t keep them in the same pasture …because before very long that pasture will be overgrazed, the trails would be rutted, and the land will be eroded.
Sheep need to be led in the right paths or they will be diseased and reek havoc on the land. Sheep need to be led in the right paths.
And we are no different. Spiritually, we need to be led in the right paths. What are those right paths that the Lord leads us in? The right paths are first … receiving righteousness from God. Second, it will be growing in righteous living, and third, the right direction in my life. These are the 3 paths that the Lord guides us in.
And so you can rest in the LORD’s future care because He will guide you in the right path. And what we’ll see is that He does this for His name’s sake.
He Guides Me in the Right Path
He lead me into the path of being declared righteous in God’s sight
So let’s take that first path God leads us down, which is receiving righteousness from God. This is the first path that God seeks to get anybody on. But the problem is, the vast majority of humanity is going down their own path. You can either be on your own path or you can be on God’s path. And like sheep, each one of us is stubborn and would rather go our own way.
Isaiah 53:6 6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way …
ILL: You too often choose to disobey God repeatedly all the while knowing that it is self-destructive. It only ends in disaster. That path, the path of our own way, only leads to destruction.
That’s just like sheep. Sheep will, without thinking, instinctively and predictably and foolishly follow another sheep along that same trail until that trail becomes a rut which eventually erodes into a huge gully…and destroys the land.
ILL: Phillip Keller notes that his first sheep farm he bought was a piece of land that had been “sheeped to death.” The landowner rented the place to a tenant. And that tenant piled in all the sheep and then left them pretty much to their own way. And it destroyed the land and the sheep. Fields were overgrazed and eventually could not grow any decent, nourishing grass. This caused great harm to the sheep, causing various diseases. What happened? When the sheep got their own way, it destroyed them and the land.
That’s just like people.
Proverbs 14:12 12 There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.
Most people find only that way, the way of death… just like those poor sheep.
So what do you do?
You repent; you change your mind; you get back on God’s path.
Go to Mark 8:34. Here we’ll learn how to get on God’s path. This is the path where God can give you His righteousness … 34 And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”
To get on the path where you receive God’s righteousness demands that you repent, that you change your mind about your sin, and seek the Lord. It’s pictured here as denying yourself and taking up the cross. The person who denies himself and spiritually takes up that horrific execution device is someone who says, “I’m done; I don’t want my life, I only want God’s life. I’m done doing life my way, I only want to do things God’s way. I’ve sinned and Lord Jesus, I’m trusting you alone. Please take over.”
And with this heart and with these words expressed to the Lord … God saves people like this. He then gives them his righteousness… And he can do that because he sent his son Jesus Christ to die for your sin and to give you his righteousness.
As the prophets and prophesied, the promised one, Jesus Christ, leaves His glory above and is born … God and man in one person. He lived a sinlessly perfect life. He was entirely righteous, a perfect standing before God.
And when he died on the cross, He took our sin upon Himself. And then God is looking at his son on the cross and he sees our sin. And he then pours out all of his wrath against our sin against us… upon his son. He is our substitute for sin.
But that’s not all. When someone does as we just described and they repent and they trust in the Lord, what happens is they receive Christ’s righteousness…the very righteousness of God. In God’s sight it’s as if they lived the very life of Jesus. They receive a perfect standing before God as if they had never sinned. The Bible says that not only are we saved by his death and that he took our sins away, but we are saved by his life because we receive his righteousness. And we receive his righteousness when we repent and trust in him to save us from our sins.
This is the very first path: Receive Christ’s righteousness… Receive a perfect standing before God by trusting in Christ and give up your life for his life for you. You can rest in the LORD’s future care for you because He gives you His righteousness.
He leads me into the path of growing in righteous living
And secondly, once you have trusted Christ, the Lord will lead you down the right path of growing in righteous living. What will happen is if you’ve trusted Christ, you’ll see your life growing more and more righteous. And it won’t be because you pulled yourself up by your bootstraps and did it all by yourself. No, your desire for righteous living will be empowered by God. You’ll desire righteousness if you’ve trusted Christ in a way that you never did before.
And you’ll find, just like the New Testament letters indicate, … You’ll find that that good news that Jesus died for your sins and raised from the dead will empower you to live godly. The gospel will empower your godliness. As you get to know the good news of what Christ has done for you and all of the glorious benefits of that is you contemplate that think about that pray about that, you will begin to rejoice over it and that will motivate you and empower you to live for the one who died and rose again on your behalf.
Turn over to 1 Peter 3. The gospel motivates our godly living. The benefits of God’s work in Christ will help us live for Him as we should.
1 Peter 3:8–9 8 To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 9 not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; [why?] for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.
Why should you be a blessing to someone who is evil to you? Because God has blessed you. You were evil in God’s sight and if you’ve trusted Him, God did a great thing for you saving you and giving you His righteous standing. And not only that, but also it says here that you are called to inherit a blessing. There are manifold blessings of heaven awaiting us. Once you understand that those blessings are for you…that will help you be kind to others today.
“Give a blessing instead; [why?] for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.”
The gospel will empower your godliness.
So whatever it is, if you are struggling with whatever sin you don’t really feel right now that you want to give it up … you need the gospel…you need to pray over the gospel…you need to think about what God has done for you in Christ .. and as you rejoice over that, whatever issue you’re having will begin to pail in comparison for what God has done in Christ for you for all of eternity.
TRANS: That second path of righteousness is that growing in a righteous life. You can rest in the LORD’s future care for you because He will help you grow to be more and more righteous. And the third path is that He will direct your life. He will direct your life rightly.
He leads me in the right direction in my life (Lord’s will)
When you are on God’s first path…the path of having received God’s righteousness and when you’re on God’s second path of growing in righteous living…This third path will come naturally … He will direct your life.
Sincere and earnest Christians often struggle with what they would say … “finding God’s will.” Finding God’s path for my life. Should I take this job, go to school, move here, get married, whatever … Like a sheep, we get so restless and anxious and nervous about God’s path for my life.
The problem is, we’re trying to guide ourselves. But really, that’s the Lord’s job. Our job is to get close to the shepherd. Like a good sheep, if we stay close to Jesus, the Good Shepherd, He’ll perfectly guide us.
Just seek to obey what is in His word, pray about what to do, and seek godly counsel and then make godly choices. It’s that simple.
If you’re walking with the Lord and you get godly counsel, you’ll be fine. But how will the Lord guide me? God will use his word, your conscience, your gifting, your circumstances … He will use his Providence and his people’s counsel to you as well.
You can rest in the LORD’s future care for you because he will perfectly lead you in your life.
TRANS: Back to Psalm 23 … and lastly before our observance of the Table tonight, He guides you for His name’s sake.
For His Name’s Stake
You can see that there in verse 3…
Psalm 23:3 3 … He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Why does he guide me in the paths of righteousness? Answer … He does this for his own name’s sake. It’s for the sake of his own reputation.
ILL: He will not have a bad reputation. If you think of a shepherd guiding his sheep, and think now about him being a bad shepherd… he just lets all those hundreds of sheep go wherever they want to go …and they are diseased and sick… His neighbors will not be thinking well of him. This bad shepherd doesn’t care about his reputation, his namesake.
But the good Shepherd will have a good reputation. He will guide his sheep to have that good reputation. He’ll be known everywhere as an excellent shepherd one who carefully and compassionately guides his sheep.
This is the way it is with Jesus Christ. He cares about his own reputation…so He will guide His sheep into and on these 3 paths.
If you turn off the path, He’ll find you and care for you as you need. You can rest in this. He’s doing this for his own reputation sake. He cares about his testimony with you and with others and so he will perfectly guide his sheep. Rest in His care and know He’ll guide you for the sake of His own name.
That doesn’t mean that you will be perfect and never sin, but it does mean that he will perfectly guide when there are problems. You can rest in his care because he cares for you … and not only because he cares for you but he cares for you for the sake of His own fame and reputation.
He will consult his own glory … alone as He guides you. His honor is at stake to heal you from all of your backsliding. If you are his sheep he will lead you on right paths. His own glory and fame in the world demands it. You can rest in the LORD’s care for you because He will guide you in the right path.