As I was preparing for my Thanksgiving message I came across a book with some great insight into the 23rd Psalm. The author, W. Phillip Keller, was a shepherd his whole life and he speaks about the Psalm from a perspective that is completely foreign to me. But to understand it in its context David, the author of the Psalm, was a shepherd before he was king and the people of that day were a lot more familiar with sheep than most people today. I used some portions of his book to help guide me as I sat down to contemplate the Psalm.

This Psalm is mostly used in times of sadness and death, but I hope that it can also bring about feelings of joy and solace. I will be using the 23rd Psalm as the focus of the message for Thanksgiving. Believe it or not, we live in a world that is not content. We are always wanting whats next. We get one thing and then consume it and wait for the next thing to come out. When we read Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want.” We should be taken back a bit and wonder exactly how we get to a point where we don’t want anymore.

What do you want? It is a pretty frequent question that gets asked of us on a regular basis. We ask and get asked questions like: what do you want to eat? What do you want to drink? What do you want me to get you? What do you want for your birthday? What do you want for Christmas? (I know it is only Thanksgiving, but everyone else is going there). You get the point. People want to know what we want, we want to know what others want. I want, I want, I want…

The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want. We can learn a lot from this Psalm about the things we can be thankful for.

1. In this life the Good Shepherd gives us all we need.

It’s never easy to identify Jesus as the Good Shepherd because if he is the Shepherd then we are sheep. Sheep are among the dumbest and dirtiest animals in the world. So why are we compared to sheep? We are a smart and sophisticated people, look at what we have accomplished. We should also look around and see all the problems that we have created. We like sheep have gone astray.

Our Good Shepherd goes after the lost sheep to bring them back to the fold. He provides his flock with everything they need to live life to the fullest. We have a hard time distinguishing needs and wants. As Luther stated in the Catechism, “God provides me with everything that I need to support this body and life.”

In verse 2 of the Psalm there is an interesting perspective from Keller. Keller says that in order for sheep to lie down 4 things are required:

 First of all, they have to be full. Hungry sheep stay on their feet searching for another mouthful of food.

 Secondly, they must be unafraid. They will not lie down if they’re fearful. The least suspicion of wolves or bears & they stand ready to flee.

 Thirdly, they must be content. If flies or fleas are bothering them they’ll not lie down. They must be comfortable before they’ll lie down.

 Finally, sheep will not lie down unless there is harmony in the flock. If there is friction over the butting order among them, then they simply cannot relax & lie down.

Think about how true those are when it comes to our lives.

2. In the face of evil the Good Shepherd will protect

We have a protector that is greater than any MMA fighter or bodyguard on the planet. We have to face a lot of pain in this life. Sometimes we feel like we are all alone. But the Good Shepherd promises that we will never walk alone, we will never have to fear the valley of the shadow of death.

3. The Good Shepherd promises eternal life

We know that this is not it. God has a purpose and a plan for us here, but the pain, suffering and brokeness will not last forever. Jesus has promised to restore the brokeness for eternity when he comes back again.

This is the reason why we are thankful this year. We have a Good Shepherd that gives us all we need in this life. A Good Shepherd that is with us in the face of evil in this life. A Good Shepherd that promises this is not all that we have.

Thankfulness is not just something that happens once a year, but is something that is a part of who we are everyday of our lives as Children of the King.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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