The Lord is my shepherd. The Lord is my host. - Citylight Church (2024)

Scripture: Psalm 23
Preacher: Pastor Matt Cohen
BIG IDEA: The Lord is my shepherd. The Lord is my host.
1. He leads me the best way (vv. 1-4)
2. He provides for me abundantly (vv. 5-6)

ESV Study Bible
Heidelberg Catechism
The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment” by: Jeremiah Burroughs.

Sermon Transcript

Through the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are adopted as God’s sons and daughters and made family with one another. The Lord’s Day is our weekly, joyful family gathering. Let’s stand and welcome one another like family.


Now is the time in our gathering when we turn our attention to God’s word. Please open your Bible or the Bible under a seat near you to Psalm 23 on page 428. While you’re turning there, on Sunday June 9, at the conclusion of missions conference week, Citylight Church will be commissioning Tim and Sarah Shutes, along with their team, to plant Citylight NYC during both of our morning services. At Citylight Church, we believe that God’s primary plan for advancing the gospel is the local church, which is why we love and devote ourselves to being a church planting church. Citylight NYC will, Lord-willing, be the fourth church plant sent out from Citylight Manayunk. I’m letting you know ahead of time because I don’t want anyone to miss out on that incredibly significant commissioning on Sunday June 9 and the opportunity to honor Tim’s eleven years of faithful pastoral ministry here at Citylight Church.

Let’s turn our attention now to Psalm 23. I’m going to do something a little different this morning. I am going to read Psalm 23 to you. Then I’m going to read an anti-psalm 23 written by the late biblical counselor David Powlison, which describes how life can often feel when we don’t live moment-by-moment with the Lord as our personal shepherd. Then I’ll read the real Psalm 23 a second time.


Psalm 23 (on screen)

Anti-Psalm 23

I’m on my own.
No one looks out for me or protects me.
I experience a continual sense of need. Nothing’s quite right.
I’m always restless. I’m easily frustrated and often disappointed.
It’s a jungle — I feel overwhelmed. It’s a desert — I’m thirsty.
My soul feels broken, twisted, and stuck. I can’t fix myself.
I stumble down some dark paths.
Still, I insist: I want to do what I want, when I want, how I want.
But life’s confusing. Why don’t things ever really work out?
I’m haunted by emptiness and futility – shadows of death.
I fear the big hurt and final loss.
Death is waiting for me at the end of every road, but I’d rather not think about that.
I spend my life protecting myself. Bad things can happen.
I find no lasting comfort.
I’m alone … facing everything that could hurt me.
Are my friends really friends?
Other people use me for their own ends.
I can’t really trust anyone. No one has my back.
No one is really for me — except me.
And I’m so much all about ME, sometimes it’s sickening.
I belong to no one except myself.
My cup is never quite full enough. I’m left empty.
Disappointment follows me all the days of my life.
Will I just be obliterated into nothingness?
Will I be alone forever, homeless, free-falling into void?
Sartre said, “Hell is other people.” Thave to add, “Hell is also myself.” It’s a living death, and then I die.

Psalm 23(on screen)


“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Those may be the best known words written in the Bible. And since the Bible is the best-selling book of all time, those may be the best known words ever written anywhere. What do these most famous words mean? What King David isn’t saying is, “Lord is my shepherd; I have no desires.” Rather, he’s saying something more like, “The Lord is my shepherd; I have no lack”, or, “The Lord is my shepherd; I have what I need,” or, as Ray Ortlund says, “The Lord is my shepherd; I’m not freaking out…My life is rest in motion.” When David says, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want,” he is speaking the language of contentment and who of us doesn’t want to learn the secret of contentment?! The Lord is my shepherd; I am content.

In one of my favorite books of all time, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Jeremiah Burrough’s, writing in the 1640’s, describes contentment this way: “Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.” Christian contentment is deeper than the shifting sands of our circ*mstances. Again, Burrough’s writes, “Now I say that contentment is a quiet frame of spirit and by that I mean that you should find men and women in a good mood not only at this or that time, but as the constant tenor and temper of their hearts.” I shall not want, I have no lack, I have what I need, and I am content.

How in the world could David honestly write those words three thousand years ago? David’s circ*mstances were a bit like yours and mine; anything but serene! His predecessor King Saul tried to murder him, the Philistines sought his life, he lost his best friend Jonathan in battle, he suffered the loss of a child as the Lord’s discipline for his adultery with Bathsheba, and his favorite son Absalom betrayed him. How could David possibly say, “I have no lack, I have what I need, I am content”? How can you and I say such words in the midst of our difficult lives? The answer is found in personally experiencing the two metaphors used to describe the Lord in Psalm 23. In verses 1-4 the Lord is described as my shepherd who always leads me the best. And then in verses 5-6 the metaphor changes and becomes even more intimate. The Lord is my host who lavishes me with the best meal and because he’s my host, I can enjoy it even when my enemies are before me. How can we honestly say “I have what I need” and experience contentment? The answer is the big idea of Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd. The Lord is my host. The Lord is my shepherd. The Lord is my host. And the word “my” is very important. The personal pronouns “I,” “me,” and “my” are repeated sixteen times in the psalm. At Citylight Church we revere, love, and honor Christian community. But Christian community is built on individual people who each personally experience the “my-ness” of the Lord. So, what does the Lord my host and my shepherd do for me such that I can say, “I am content. I have what I need in all circ*mstances?” Two things according to Psalm 23 and we’ll take them one at a time this morning: 1. He leads me the best way (vv. 1-4) and 2. He provides for me abundantly (vv. 5-6).


You and I can say, “The Lord is my shepherd and I’m content; I have no lack,” because the Divine shepherd leads us the best way. He’s with us, but he’s out in front, leading the best way. Let’s see where he leads us. Psalm 23:2-3 – He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. The Lord leads his sheep to green pastures. Green pastures are where weary sheep feed on lush grass and are nourished and revived. The green grass is God’s word. The Lord leads you to the nourishment of his word, which revives your weary soul so that your life can be rest in motion. Psalm 19:7 David said that the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving his soul. Next, the shepherd also leads his sheep to still waters. Grass is for nourishment, but water is for cleansing from sin and restoration. In Psalm 51 David said, “wash me and I will be whiter than snow…restore to me the joy of my salvation.” The Lord feeds you, cleanses you, restores you, and he leads you in paths of righteousness. Sheep aren’t particularly intelligent and neither are we. We rarely seem to know exactly what to do or where to go. You can trust that the Lord leads you the right way because He does it for his name’s sake. He’s staked his reputation on you; you can trust him. However, in Psalm 23:4 we learn that the Lord doesn’t only lead us to the nourishment of his word, the cleansing of his grace, and on the right path of his name’s sake. He also leads us into the valley. And the open valley is dangerous for sheep. And notice that when the Lord leads David into the valley, David stops talking about the Lord and begins speaking to the Lord. We shouldn’t talk long of the Lord without talking to Him. Psalm 23:4 – 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. Why would a shepherd knowingly lead his sheep through the deadly valley? To take them to a better place. David didn’t know all the reasons why the Lord took him through so many valleys, but David could trust that wherever the Lord wanted to go and wherever the Lord wanted to take me is better and with the Lord leading, David had nothing to fear, even death. The Lord led David the best way; to renewal, cleansing, restoration, on the right path, even when the path leads through the valley. That’s why David could say, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want, I have what I need, and I am content.”

Guys – we can say, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want,” in a way that David never could because we have a personal relationship with the Lord who took on flesh to be our Good Shepherd. In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:11, 27-28). Friends – Jesus Christ is the Lord, the Psalm 23 Good Shepherd in the flesh. The Lord Jesus Christ went through the valley of the shadow of death on your behalf, he died for your sins, and he rose again to adopt you into his flock. He leads you the best way. He leads you to His word, the bread of life, that nourishes your weary soul. He leads you to the living water so that streams of eternal life flow from your eternally cleansed and forgiven heart. Since he laid down his life for you, you can trust that he is always leading you the right way, even when you’re in the valley. He’s staked his reputation, his name, on you, Christian. And while you walk the dangerous and narrow path of faith, you have nothing to fear because with the Good Shepherd, though you die, you will never perish. Not even the deepest valley can snatch you out of his hands. That’s why you can say with even greater gusto than David ever could, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want, I lack nothing, I have what I need, and I am content.” Christ our Good Shepherd is all and with him, even if we possess nothing, we possess everything.

Do you remember Jeremiah Burrough’s definition of contentment? “Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.” You, yes you, can have that if the Lord Jesus Christ is your shepherd. You can have a pleasant, quiet, content frame and you can even delight while walking through the valley because Jesus Christ is your Good Shepherd. You possess him so you lack nothing, can be content. Look to him to lead you to green pastures, still waters, a restored soul, on the right path, even through the valley, and you’ll have everything you need. He leads you the best way; that’s the first reason why you can say that you have what you need. The Lord is your shepherd who leads you the best way. Now, that tends to be all we know about Psalm 23. But there is more. Even more intimately than the Lord being my shepherd, the Lord is my host. Secondly…


I’m not a big foodie, but I love steak. Let me be clear. I do not like steak; I love it! A few years ago, I received, as gifts, multiple gift cards to Barclay Prime, which is arguably the best steakhouse in Philadelphia. The steak I ordered was the single greatest piece of food that I have ever eaten. To be clear, I am perfectly content with Outback, but Barclay Prime was over the top wonderful, it was far more than I needed or desired, it was abundant. And along with the incredible food, the service was top notch. Barclay Prime is the kind of place where they let you choose which steak knife you want to use and when you use the restroom, you come back to a folded napkin. According to Psalm 23, David could say that he lacked nothing because the Lord was his host, who welcomed David to his table, protected David from his enemies, and provided for him abundantly. Psalm 23:5 – You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. With the Lord as his host, not even David’s enemies can spoil the abundant provision of the Lord. In Psalm 16:5-6 – The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. [6] The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. That’s why David could say, “I am content, I shall not want, I have not lack, I have what I need.” The Lord was his host, taking him in from danger, and providing for him abundantly.

Citylight – we can say, “I am content, I have what I need, and my cup is filled to the brim” with greater confidence because the Lord Jesus Christ is our host at a greater table than David ever enjoyed. In Luke 22:14, 19-20 we read: And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him…And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” [20] And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. Friends – We can have a sweet, quiet, gracious frame of spirit in all circ*mstances because Christ has provided for us abundantly. Each week when we come to the Lord’s Supper, or the Lord’s Table, we are renewing our faith in Jesus Christ’s most abundant provision. He laid down his body to be broken and his blood shed on the cross to forgive our sins and clothe us in his perfect righteousness. We have been so abundantly provided for that not even our worst enemies who despise us for our faith in Christ can spoil our intimacy with the Lord our host. I love the way question 60 of the Heidelberg Catechism captures how abundantly Christ my host has provided for me: How are you right with God? Only by true faith in Jesus Christ. Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments and of never having kept any of them, nevertheless, without my deserving it at all, out of sheer grace, God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me.

And since Christ our host has so abundantly provided for us, God the judge has become our Heavenly Father. And he will pursue us with his goodness and mercy until the day when our faith becomes sight in his house and city forever. Psalm 23:6 – Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Citylight Church that is why you can have a sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit and freely submit to and contentedly delight in all circ*mstances. That’s why I can have nothing and possess everything. The Lord my shepherd. The Lord is my host.


I love the way that the great Puritan Pastor Thomas Brooks put it in his book Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, “The enjoyment of Christ without honour will satisfy the soul; the enjoyment of Christ without riches, the enjoyment of Christ without pleasures, and without the smiles of creatures, will content and satisfy the soul. ‘It is enough; Joseph is alive’ (Gen. 45:28). So saith a gracious soul, though honour is not, and riches are not, and health is not, and friends are not, it is enough that Christ is, that he reigns, conquers, and triumphs. Christ is the pot of manna, the cruse of oil, a bottomless ocean of all comfort, content, and satisfaction. He that hath him wants nothing; he that wants him enjoys nothing. ‘Having nothing, saith Paul, ‘and yet possessing all things’ (2 Cor. 6:10).” Pray. Communion.


Q & A 75

Q. How does the holy supper remind and assure you that you share in Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross and in all his benefits?

A. In this way: Christ has commanded me and all believers to eat this broken bread and to drink this cup in remembrance of him. With this command come these promises: First, as surely as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me and the cup shared with me, so surely his body was offered and broken for me and his blood poured out for me on the cross.

Second, as surely as I receive from the hand of the one who serves, and taste with my mouth the bread and cup of the Lord, given me as sure signs of Christ’s body and blood, so surely he nourishes and refreshes my soul for eternal life with his crucified body and poured-out blood.

The Lord is my shepherd. The Lord is my host. - Citylight Church (2024)
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