Security

Scripture: Psalm 23:1

 

Title: Security

 

Structure:

  • Introduction
  • The Lord is my security
  • Conclusion

 

Introduction:

Today we begin a new sermon series on Psalm 23

  • Some of the inspiration for this series comes from Kenneth Bailey’s book The Good Shepherd
  • The plan (God willing) is to focus on just one verse or one aspect of the Psalm each week
  • Today’s focus is the first part of verse 1: The Lord is my shepherd,
  • But, to get us into gear, let’s read the whole Psalm together, antiphonally
  • Which means I will read the words in plain type and you are invited to respond by reading the words in bold italics
  • From Psalm 23 we read…

 

The Lord is my shepherd,

I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,

He leads me beside still waters,

He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness

for his name’s sake.

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.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 

May the Lord illuminate His word for us

 

The Lord is my security:

NZ has changed a lot in the last 40 years or so

  • It seems to me we have become a more anxious society

 

When I was a kid growing up in the 70’s it was nothing to disappear for the day with my mates and not turn up again until dinner time

  • My parents didn’t worry about me or need me to text them – cell-phones weren’t invented
  • Some of the stuff we got up to was semi-dangerous I suppose by today’s standards but consequence is a great teacher
  • When I was five I walked to school 2 or 3 kilometres by myself – no worries
  • On holiday my cousins and I would walk to the beach by ourselves to go swimming & fishing – no sun block, little (if any) adult supervision
  • It wasn’t that our parents didn’t care – they did care very much – it’s just that people felt more secure, safer somehow
  • We didn’t feel the need to lock our houses or our cars during the day
  • And we didn’t have ads on TV every 10 minutes warning us to avoid some kind of danger

 

Don’t get me wrong – NZ is still a great place to live – it’s probably safer in many respects than most other parts of the world

  • It just seems that despite our advances in technology people are more anxious and less secure on the whole
  • These days there seems to be a lot more fear around
  • People are generally less trusting and less inclined to take risks
  • In fact we have a lower tolerance for risk

We try to eliminate risk in a whole variety of ways

  • Security cameras
  • Security lights
  • Security guards
  • Security alarms
  • Security clearance
  • Cyber security, anti-virus software & fire walls
  • Police checks
  • Warrant of Fitness checks and code of compliance certificates
  • Occupational safety & health procedures
  • Hazard management plans
  • Road safety messages
  • Insurance and so on

 

These things aren’t bad in themselves, they are quite sensible really – but I’m not convinced they make us any more secure – not deep down where it matters

 

Psychologically speaking security is a fundamental human need

  • We need to feel safe and secure in order to be able to function properly
  • Interestingly the Bible has quite a bit to say about security

 

As Kenneth Bailey notes, the predominant image of God found in the psalms is one of security.

  • Many psalms describe God using words like: shield, high tower, fortress, refuge, rock, stronghold or horn of salvation.
  • Psalm 18 includes many of these images…

 

I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised and I am saved from my enemies...   [1]

 

These images are understandable in an ancient Middle Eastern context where living out in the open made one very vulnerable.

  • People naturally felt a compelling need to reside in a well-fortified enclosure on the top of a hill to provide some security against Bedouin raiders or an invading army.
  • Yet overuse of such ‘homeland security’ language could produce paranoia and a siege mentality. [2]
  • And so the psalter offers other (less common) images of God which inspire security without the paranoia
  • One of those images is God as a Shepherd

 

Yes, the security God gives can be likened to something hard and unyielding like a high tower or a fortress or a rock or a shield

  • But God (and the security He offers) can also be understood in more personal, relational terms, like a shepherd

 

As New Zealanders we probably think we know all about sheep but actually the way we care for sheep is quite different from the way shepherds operate in the Middle East

  • In NZ our sheep are relatively safe
  • They are fenced in on farms and don’t normally face that many threats
  • But in Palestine sheep are far more vulnerable
  • They are literally led out into the wilderness to find pasture
  • In those trackless, fenceless open spaces the shepherd and his sheep are alone and at risk of bandits, wild animals, snakes and extreme weather
  • The shepherd and the sheep are without police protection [3]
  • It is a more dangerous environment than a NZ farm

 

The various kings of Israel throughout the Old Testament were referred to as the ‘shepherds’ of Israel

  • Why?
  • Because it was the king’s job to take care of the people – like a shepherd takes care of sheep
  • As head of the army the king was head of security for the country

 

Psalm 23 is attributed to King David

  • Before becoming the shepherd (or the king) of all Israel
  • That is, before becoming the guy in charge of security for his country, David was a shepherd of actual sheep
  • So he had a very grass roots insight into shepherding

 

 

When David writes, “The Lord is my shepherd…

  • What he means is, The Lord God is my King
  • Yahweh is my security
  • The Lord isn’t just my security when I’m behind the well-fortified walls of Jerusalem
  • He is my security in those situations where I must leave the safety of the fortified city and journey through the wilderness, unprotected

 

In other words, as my shepherd the Lord gives me the sense of security or the confidence to step out of my comfort zone and to go into new and unfamiliar environments – wilderness places where I am not in control

 

The Lord is my security when I step out into the unknown

  • The Lord is my security when my employment is uncertain
  • The Lord is my security when my health is uncertain
  • The Lord is my security when I start a new school and I don’t know anyone
  • The Lord is my security when I leave home for the first time
  • The Lord is my security when I have to leave my homeland to settle in a new country and the language is different and the customs and different
  • The Lord is my security when I become a parent and there is no manual
  • The Lord is my security when I leave a comfortable lifestyle to follow God’s call on my life

 

Let me tell you a story – about a guy named Pete [4]

  • Pete was a fisherman
  • He wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed but he was honest
  • You always knew where you stood with him
  • Pete didn’t have a filter – he had an unfortunate tendency to speak before thinking and it got him into trouble on occasion

 

One time he was out in a boat with his mates, at night, and it was getting pretty rough

  • As a fisherman Pete was used to a bit of chop but this was different – this was scary, even for him
  • This was a wilderness experience – a situation in which they had no control over the environment

 

As they were fighting against the wind and the waves, people in the boat began to notice this figure, walking across the water

  • Seeing someone walking on water was something completely outside their experience and so they didn’t know how to interpret it
  • I’m not sure about you but when I’m faced with something new and unfamiliar I tend to think the worst – Pete & his mates were no different
  • They jumped to the conclusion that they were seeing a ghost
  • Not Casper the friendly ghost but something more sinister
  • Some kind of omen of death
  • They were hysterical

 

The figure on the water was actually Jesus

  • Pete and his mates followed Jesus wherever he went
  • Jesus taught them how to be human – that is, how to trust God
  • In an attempt to calm them down Jesus said…
  • “Courage. It is I. Do not be afraid”

 

At which point Pete spoke without thinking…

  • “Lord, if it is really you, order me to come out on the water to you.”

 

Really?

  • He had to say that?
  • Couldn’t he have said something less risky like…
  • ‘Lord, if it’s really you, tell me what’s the first thing you ever said to me’.
  • Or something else no one but the real Jesus would know
  • Instead he had to risk his life by saying, ‘order me to come out on the water’

 

Perhaps I’m being a bit tough on Pete

  • Perhaps his first instinct was good
  • Perhaps this shows he was willing to think the best in this situation

 

In any case, Jesus liked where Pete’s head was at and said…

  • ‘Sweet – do it – come to me’

 

At this point Pete had a choice – either he could step out of the safety of the boat or he could stay put

 

In his book, ‘Take the Risk’, Dr Ben Carson (a gifted surgeon) assesses the risk in any given situation using four simple questions: [5]

 

  • What is the best thing that can happen if I do this?
  • What is the worst thing that can happen if I do this?
  • What is the best thing that can happen if I don’t do it?
  • What is the worst thing that can happen if I don’t do it?

 

(In many ways this is similar logic to Pascal’s wager)

 

The best thing that could happen, if Pete stepped out of the boat to walk on the water, is that he wouldn’t sink – he would know it was Jesus and everything would be alright again

 

The worst thing that could happen, if Pete stepped out of the boat, is that he could drown and his mates in the boat could drown as well

 

The best thing that could happen, if he stayed in the boat, is that he would survive but have to live with the shame of making an offer he couldn’t follow through on

 

The worst thing that could happen, if he stayed in the boat, is that he and all his mates would still drown anyway

 

Clearly, by this best / worst analysis, not taking the risk and staying in the boat was a worse option than taking the risk and leaving the boat

 

I don’t know if Pete thought it through like this or not but in the end he made a good choice – a courageous choice

  • On some level Pete had the imagination to believe that Jesus could do this
  • He had the faith to hope for the best and so he stepped out of the boat

 

At first things went well – Pete actually did walk on water

  • But when he took his eyes off Jesus and paid more attention to the strong wind he lost his confidence – he became afraid and began to sink
  • Interesting thing, even though he was sinking Pete still hoped for the best
  • He still believed this figure standing on the waves was Jesus and he said,
  • ‘Save me Lord”
  • So Jesus reached out to grab hold of Peter

 

Now the thing about Jesus is that grace & truth go together

  • You can’t have one without the other
  • The grace of saving Peter came with words of truth
  • “How little faith you have. Why did you doubt?”

 

This seems like an unkind thing for Jesus to say

  • I mean, it was a big deal for Peter to get out of the boat
  • He put his life on the line, not just to satisfy his own curiosity but for the sake of his mates as well
  • If Peter didn’t have much faith then the other disciples had even less – no one else was prepared to take the risk
  • I imagine Jesus’ words would have stung a bit – not just Peter but everyone else in the boat too, because they had all doubted

 

Jesus wasn’t being unkind though – he was simply being real, being honest

  • The truth is their faith (plural) was small
  • No point in pretending otherwise
  • Another word for lack of faith is insecurity
  • The wound of their insecurity had to be cleansed with the antiseptic of truth

 

Conclusion:

To say ‘the Lord is my shepherd’ and really mean it is to say that our security is in Christ – that we trust him in every situation – including those times & places when we are not in control of the environment

 

Please understand me – stepping out of the boat, leaving your comfort zone is not always appropriate

  • There are times when we need a fortress, a safe place, a refuge
  • But there are other times when we are better off to take the risk
  • Learning to trust Jesus as our shepherd (our security) takes time – it’s a process
  • Fortunately for us the Lord is patient

[1] Psalm 18:1-3

[2] Kenneth Bailey, “The Good Shepherd”, page 36.

[3] Kenneth Bailey, ‘The Good Shepherd’, page 37

[4] Refer Matthew 14:22-31

[5] Ben Carson, Take the Risk, page 105.

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