I was asked at the last minute to deliver a homily recently at a relative’s funeral. What I shared…
Story was told of a Sunday school teacher and she was asking her class, “Children, do you know who wrote the Psalms?” A little boy raised his hand and replied, “My Maths teacher!” We are not talking about sums, but the Psalms. Psalm 23 is perhaps the best known and best loved Psalm in the bible. God has used His Word in this Psalm throughout the generations to bring comfort and hope to His people. This evening, I want to share a few thoughts based upon Psalm 23 and I pray it will minister to you.
“The Lord is my shepherd.” And we in Singapore have no clue what this means. There are no shepherds. There are no sheep. Those of us who live abroad or who have travelled to places with shepherds and sheep may be more familiar with this metaphor. The Lord is my Shepherd. We are His sheep. Sheep are entirely dependent on the shepherd for every aspect of their well-being. The shepherd provides for His sheep. The Shepherd guides His sheep. The Shepherd protects His sheep.
“He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters.” The Shepherd provides sustenance for His sheep. Now it is true that God provides for our material needs. We are not self-made people, people. All that we have, all that we possess comes from the gracious hands of Almighty God. But here, it is our deeper soul needs that’s being addressed. “He restores my soul.” Perhaps the most painful experience we can have here on planet earth is losing a loved one. There is an ache. There is an emptiness. God says, I will fill your heart, I will restore your soul. My comfort is here because My Presence is always with you.
“He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
Here the shepherd guides His sheep. And we all need guidance. There’s a multiplicity of decisions we need to make in life. Which school to attend. What vocation to choose. How to occupy our time (for those who ave retired). Whom to marry (those of us are married, that’s already decided, live with it, make the most of it). etc. But God says, if we so choose, He will lead us in His ways. And that will be for our good and for His glory.
My vocation is not entirely my choice. It was God’s leading. I remember when I was in year 3 (of 4) studying Civil Engineering in NUS. Many of us were already thinking and planning what we would do after we graduate. And the impression I got was God was not leading me into the CE industry. There was a morning where I was reading the bible… Isaiah 49:6 “I will make you a light for the nations, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth” and I felt God speaking to me about full-time Christian ministry. So I wrote that passage down in my journal. Some time later, I was attending a Christian conference and the speaker was challenging people for full-time Christian ministry and he spoke from Isaiah 49:6. Connection. When he invited people to respond, I stood up because I knew God was leading me.
Has it been easy? Absolutely not. I mean finances is a one area of struggle. Not that I am living from hand to mouth. God has provided. Rather, it would have been nice to be able to give more to my parents (who brought me up, and still take care of my kids while my wife and I are at work)… thanks mom and dad. But it is the influence I’ve been able to have that I’m thankful to God for. The opportunity to share His gospel. The privilege of seeing God at work in the lives of the people I minister to. Friends, don’t make decisions, big or small, based purely on human reasoning. Leave room for God to lead and guide. Because it is in this that we can experience first-hand His presence, provision and power.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.” Now, I want to focus the main point of this evening’s message on this verse. It is full of feasting language. A table. A cup. Food. Drink. There are three snapshots related to Jesus in the Bible, that has to do with food and drink. I want to explore each of them and then tie them all together. The first is Jesus’ first miracle. Do you know what that was? The setting was Jesus was invited to a wedding. And the wine ran out. What’s a party without wine? And Jesus turned water into wine so that the party could continue.
Now think about it. If I was Jesus, I’m not sure if that’s the first miracle I’d do. It seems a little trivial. I may have chosen something a little more spectacular to announce my arrival on the scene. Like healing the blind. Or walking on water. Or casting out demons. Or raising the dead. And Jesus actually did all of these subsequently. Why this of all the miracles He could have done? I want you to keep this train of thought in mind.
The next snapshot is the Last Supper. Before Jesus was crucified, He celebrated the Passover with His disciples. Remember Jesus’ well known words? He took bread, broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you… and He took wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood…” Bread, signifying Jesus’ broken body. Wine, signifying Jesus’ shed blood.
The last snapshot is found in the last book of Revelation where the picture of the new heavens and the new earth are described as “the marriage supper of the Lamb” of God, Jesus Christ. Let me tie these three pictures together.
Jesus’ first miracle was done at a wedding because He was looking ahead to the future wedding, where God would be united with His people forever in grand celebration. But the way in which God would get us there is through crucifixion and death of Jesus, His Son. The bread symbolising Jesus’ body broken. The wine symbolising Jesus’ blood shed.
Dear friends, there is a coming kingdom. There is a future celebration. It is a marriage supper that God invites all of us to be a part of. And the way to be a part of it is through the forgiveness of our sins through the Cross of Jesus, God’s Son. I close with the last verse of Psalm 23, (printed on the service bulletin) “Surely goodness and lovingkindness shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
The greatest hope in all the world is this: there is eternal life in Christ. And it is freely available to all who would repent of sin and trust in Christ. This evening, God invites all of us to be a part of the marriage supper of the Lamb, where we would join sister Mdm _____, who has gone on ahead of us. What a glory! Shall we pray?