by Pastor Toks Oshokoya (preached in 2010)
Psalm 23:1-6 “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.”
This is a very popular Psalm in the Bible and I have heard many preachers explain it. The most popular verse they use is the first verse, especially the ‘Prosperity preachers’. There are times a minister can preach that Verse 1 for four weeks,using different analogies and all is about material possessions. –the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want: I shall not want money, I shall not want X-Class,I shall not want this or that; but I want you to know that if read that Psalm from beginning to end, you will know that material possession was the last issue on the mind of God for that scripture. I also believe that the reason why God made that Psalm in a way that it is the most-read Psalm in the world. I have never heard a most beautiful rendering and explanation of that Psalm until I heard Hill Horsecoat explain it.
David was a warrior, but he started his life as a shepherd tending flock, so he knew how sheep behave. Everything he wrote in this Psalm were things that God taught him, contrary to his original nature. Verse 2 says, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures.” Notice that the scripture did not say, “He suggests that I lie down in green pastures”. ‘He makes me’ means that he beat my back until I lie down in green pastures. Many times, God has to force us to accept some things because we don’t know what is good for us, so He has to make us lie down, and leads us beside still waters.
There isn’t much difference between a sheep and a goat, the only difference is that once a sheep is given the rod of correction, it learns obedience; but a goat has to be beaten over and again,yet will not give heed. The sheep has to be given the rod of correction not because it doesn’t want to obey, but because it needs to be led. When God is your shepherd, He makes you; when God is your shepherd, He leads you. Not because you really want to go that way, but He leads you beside the still waters. What happens beside the still waters?
When you get to the still waters(after He has given you the rod of correction, made you and led you), you now observe what you ordinarily wouldn’t have observed – your reflection. Because the waters are still, when you look at it, you see your picture; you see who you ought to be.
Why are you a Christian? What is the essence of Christianity when God is your shepherd, not when your bishop or pastor is your shepherd? When God makes you, there will be things people will not understand about you. You will get to the point where you will be controversial, because He makes you.
Do you know that David was a unique personality? He was an Old Testament believer who was living in the New Testament grace. He was the one that said in Psalm 51, “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me”. In the Old Testament, they did not have a consciousness of the Holy Spirit in them, but David did.
There is a direct relationship between how you manage your money determines how much God trust you with spiritual blessings (Luke 16:10). It is a fatal mistake to assume that God’s goal for your life is material prosperity and/or popular success as the world defines it. In fact it is a great delusive mind condition to think that way.There are certain challenges in your life that God arranged to be there. The abundant life that Jesus promised has very little to do with material abundance, and faithfulness to God does not guarantee success in ministry or career. Paul was faithful but he ended up in prison. Do you know that from the day Paul got born again till the last two and half years of his life, he never had rest? The book of Acts 28 records the first time Paul had rest and that was under a controlled atmosphere; under house-arrest. But I think that was the first time Paul enjoyed real prosperity because the Bible says, “he lived in his own hired house”. That means he had enough money to pay the rent; and he lived in peace and was able to preach to people. He did not organize large crusades but I think he held house-fellowship meeting for that period before he was killed. What would you say about such a person as Paul?
The greater truth is that eternal values and rewards are greater than temporary rewards. John the Baptist was faithful, but he never was clothed in “designer” garments. He did not have that option; he was always clothed in Carmel’s hair. He could not eat at the Chinese restaurant; and at the end of the day, he got beheaded. The Bible records several others who were faithful but died poorly, some of them not even owning a house. Yet there were people like Herod who built a temple edifice. He built a temple for God, and you know how he died. There have been millions of faithful people who have been martyred and they lost everything; and came to the end of their lives with nothing to show for it. But I just want you to know that what we call the end is not the end. In God’s eyes, the greatest heroes of faith are not usually those who achieved prosperity, success and power in this life, but those who treat this life as a temporary assignment and serve God faithfully, expecting their promised reward in eternity.
God chose to create us for His own pleasure, not for our own pleasure. He wants you to live your life to serve Him. God told Pharaoh to allow His firstborn Israel to go and serve so that they can give Him pleasure. Pharaoh refused and God decided to kill all the firstborns of man and animal in Egypt. In order for God’s children to be protected, He told them to kill a lamb and sprinkle its blood on their lentils. Afterwards, they should eat the body of the lamb with unleavened bread. The moment the lamb is slain and the blood is used, you have to live the unblemished life of the lamb so that the lamb would not die in vain and you would be able to give God joy. He chose to create you for His own enjoyment. We were made in God’s image for His pleasure, not for our own pleasure or purpose. To give Him pleasure, you would have to find treasure. We should give God joy because we are His own, created by Him in His own image.
Proverbs 11: 30 the fruit of righteous people is a tree of life. The essence of Christianity is to win souls for Christ. If you are not winning souls for Christ, you are a fake Christian. If you cannot sanctify your heart, you cannot win souls for Christ. Remember, you were not created for your own pleasure, but for God’s pleasure.
There is a difference between look-alike and true image. Life itself is stress, not to punish you but to make you become what you ought to be. The Bible did not say we are here for self pleasure, but for God’s pleasure. How do you think God feels about you? Let me illustrate how God feels about us with a story.
A young preacher told this story to illustrate how we ought to relate to God in order to give Him pleasure. A man bought a bicycle for his son, and when his son was going to ride the bicycle for the first time, he took him to his Grandpa’s house, with all his Uncles and relatives gathered to watch him. As the boy began to ride the bicycle with shaky hands, everyone was smiling, clapping and cheering him on. But as he rode, his focus was on his father. Even when he fell, he would look at his father. If his father was smiling, then he would pick up the bike and continue riding again.
Why do you think his father’s approval was what mattered most to him? That’s because it was his father that the bike for him. The appreciation of his father is more important than that of everybody else.