The Lord is My Shepherd
Psalm 23 (Rev. Ahn Choongsik)
A psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in 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 paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will 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 anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
This morning we have a special speaker: Rev. Ahn Choongsik
He has served as senior pastor in a Korean church in NY and as a seminary professor for many years. After retirement in the US, he came back to Korea to retire (also mobilize the Korean church and teach here as well – also in hospitals – he came from Seoul last night).
It’s a God given, gracious opportunity to meet you and greet you and share with you today.
There is a word “shepherd” is mentioned 500 times in the Bible.
- They were shepherding for hundreds of years, so they were quite familiar with the role of a shepherd.
- In Palestine, sheep are a very familiar animal – they are eaten as daily food, skins are used for clothing, also wool.
- Sheep are very important and necessary animals for people in Palestine. This animal was also offered as a sacrifice, and they chose the BEST one to sacrifice.
Due to talking about sheep and shepherds, we must talk about both at the same time.
- There are many gentle animals in the world, but the sheep is incredibly gentle. Isaiah described the sheep “a lamb before the slaughter” (talking of Jesus).
- Of the shepherd, he goes out to find the lost sheep – the sheep is always protected by the shepherd – he couldn’t go out to find pasture or water by themselves.
As they were protected all the time, Ezekiel writes, “because the sheep had no shepherd, they were all scattered and the wolves killed and ate them.” This is why shepherds seek out their sheep.
Luke “Suppose one of you has hundreds of sheep, and loses one. What would you do? You’d leave the other 99 and go looking for the one who is lost until you find it. Once you find it, you’d be so happy that you’d call your friends and neighbors to celebrate. There will be more joy than this in heaven over one sinner who repents than over many who are righteous and do not need to repent.”
This parable shows the character of the shepherd – he will leave 99 and go looking for one. We should understand his love and mercy and sacrifice – that the prophet Isaiah has written of.
The prophet Isaiah wrote of God sending his only son to the world for us.
He gave himself for our salvation, for our freedom from bondage in sins, for our restoration in broken relationship with God, for our rescue from the belly of death.
Amazing story of Elizabeth – writer of they hymn “There were ninety and nine.”
“Lord, whence are those blood drops all the way that marks out the tracks. Then, will shadow for me the shepherd who could bring back. Lord, where are thy hands, wretched and atoned. Here appears tonight by many a thorn…”?
Elizabeth identified herself as a lost sheep, she understood that she was the lost sheep of Jesus Christ. She also understood that Jesus shed his blood on the cross for her salvation. The story of the lost sheep touched her heart and inspired her to write this poem.
1873, Moody was in England – with his reader Dave S… He was going to preach on this topic after a few days in Edinburgh, but had no good hymn to go along. By God’s providence, they found this poem in the newspaper at that time. They then prepared and performed the hymn for the congregation. What do you think most moved and touched the congregation? The voices? The music? The poem? All are partly true. But, it was the love and mercy of Christ that most moved and touched them.
Just like the lost sheep couldn’t come home by herself, but it depended on the willingness of the shepherd as well.
In the wilderness, the wolves would eventually kill the lost sheep.
In Psalm 23, David saw himself as the lost sheep, being protected by God all the time.
“He leads me beside quiet waters, he guides me into pasture. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear, for you are with me. Your rod and staff comfort me. You prepare a table for me before my enemies and my cup overflows.”
David was a WARRIOR and knew the triumph of victory. When returning home from battle, David had killed thousands of Philestines and the women came out from the towns and sang “Saul has slain thousands, and David tens of thousands.”
From that day, Saul sought David to kill him. So David fled and hid in Jeph? David saw that Saul was going to kill him – Saul was the king of Israel with all the power in the nation. But David’s most interesting thing was that God gave him the people and the nation of Israel.
David’s relationship with God was the most important part of his life. When he met Goliath, the Philestine called, “Hahah, have your ‘bravest warrior’ come down to meet me.” But David came and retorted, “You come against me with sword and spear, but I come after you in the name of the Lord God of Israel.”
David never broke his relationship with God, he was rather always dependent upon God. However, Saul didn’t listen to the prophets, nor commandments, so that the Spirit of God left him and his kingdom perished. In addition to this, he eventually took his own life. What’s his real problem? It’s described in 1 Samuel 15, “Which does the Lord prefer: obedience to the Lord or sacrifice? It is better to obey – rebellion is like idolatry and witchcraft. Because you rejected his commands, he has rejected you as king.”
We reviewed David’s relationship with God 3,000 years ago as well as Elizabeth’s in 1873. Where is God now? What is your conception of God? Think about it. Who is YOUR God?
Here’s my experience:
He’s been my God for my whole pastor’s journey, and will be with me in my future life as well. Like David, hiding in the wilderness, I also was hiding in an apple orchard in North Korea. My father and brother were in the house, and one afternoon 24 policemen came and encircled the house. A few hours before they came to search us.
Because of that, we were prepared at the critical moment. My friend was in the attic of the small room. My father was shoveled in the vegetable garden, my brother was laid down in the apple orchard. I was pretending to be a helper so I was in the living room with the grandparents. They searched us for 2 hours.
After 2 hours, a policeman came into the living room and went into the room where my friend was hiding. My heart stood still while the policemen are about to open the small door. The policemen tried to widen to gap between the bolt.
After a few minutes, he saw white bedding and shouted “Come out!” All 24 came to the living room and arrested them all. I was emotionally exhausted so like a stone.
Through the experience, I believe that God was with me during that critical moment. Not only then, but also all my life in the past. The only thing was, they couldn’t see me as one of the hiding people in the same house. Like David, I wasn’t handed over – I was like a lost sheep in the wilderness. I had no choice to do anything there. I prayed and asked God, “God of Israel, answer me!”
Later, in February, I met 2 officers from an island in the West Sea. They were the same two who took my father a few weeks ago. I had to decide to stay in North Korea, or go with the two officers to the island to escape North Korea. Either way, there is no guarantee.
But I was saved eventually.
Let’s look at Psalm 23 – David’s confession – “The Lord is my shepherd” – David did nothing for his own salvation – it was all done by the shepherd’s willingness. We must see that salvation belongs to our God 100%.
- Though David was a soldier, he didn’t depend on his military experience.
- Though a king, he didn’t depend on his power.
- Though a musician and poet, he didn’t depend on his own talent and ability.
The most important thing was his relationship with God.
His last words to his son Solomon clearly states the most valuable things to human beings, “My time to die has come – do whatever the Lord commands and obey all his commands. He will keep his promise when he found you that my descendants would rule the land as long as they serve him with all their hearts and spirits.”
This statement shows us his relationship with God and what he was most concerned about.
Now, I’m worried that you will ask me, “Did you obey all the commands in the Bible?” No, that’s why I need his love and mercy as a lost sheep. But I have some things to tell you proudly.
The North Korean govt told all the schools that the children must choose either church OR the school. If he wants religious freedom, you give up educational freedom. This is why I don’t have a middle school certificate.
Friends, don’t misunderstand. I had a strong face as a teenager? No, God protected me from cutting off my relationship with God entirely. Isaiah says, “But you Israel, are my servant, you are the people I’ve chosen – you are descendants of my friend Abraham. I brought you out of slavery and made you my servant. I didn’t reject you, but chose you. Do not be afraid – let nothing terrify you. I will make you strong and help you – I will protect you and save you.” We are all like lost sheep, but are not afraid of anything. The Lord Almighty will protect us and be will us even in the wilderness.
May God bless you, thank you.