Protector of the Flock

Protector of the Flock

TEXT: Psalm 107:39-43; Luke 15:1-7

God is good, God is faithful, and God is involved in the lives of people like you and me. That’s the constant refrain of Psalm 107 and the basis of our current series, “My Story, My Song.” Psalm 107 begins with the three verse refrain that declares that God is good, God is faithful, and God is involved in human lives. And then there are some six stanzas, each with anywhere from 4-9 verses each that explore different examples of how God is involved.

So far we’ve looked at the opening refrain and the first four stanzas:

vv. 1-3       REFRAIN – God is good, faithful, involved
vv. 4-9       God provides for the thirsty and needy soul
vv. 10-16   God offers freedom for the captive
vv. 17-22   God welcomes the foolish home
vv. 23-32   God is present and guides in the storms of life
vv. 33-38   God is stronger than the powers of this world

Today (vv.39-43) we are concluding Psalm 107 with a reminder that God is persistently merciful and faithful, caring for His own like a shepherd cares for His flock.

Persistently Faithful, Persistently Involved (Psalm 107)

Today’s verses actually conclude the ones from last week where God’s power was on display through dramatic reversals of powers and situations. That reversal language continues into today’s verses with God taking those who are “diminished and bowed down through oppression, misery and sorrow” – presumably at the hand of powerful princes of this world, God “pours contempt upon princes and makes them wander in a pathless waste.” The needy, on the other hand, who WERE those wandering lost, the Lord sets “Securely on high away from affliction…” (vv.39-40)

The upright, that is those who trust and obey the Lord, see God’s work in the world and are glad – they praise the Lord. However in the end the unrighteous – those who reject and turn away consistently from the Lord – will be silenced. Unrighteousness itself will having nothing to say any more before the redemptive and transforming power of the good and faithful God.

And so these verses and the whole Psalm end with this question: Who is wise?

It is the one who listens to these things – all the stories and songs of the goodness of the Lord – and who considers the lovingkindness (HESED) of the Lord. We are brought full circle to the opening chorus, the opening declaration: God is good, God is faithful, and God is involved in human lives.

Each week we’ve considered story after story from Psalm 107 about this declaration. We’ve heard examples in different settings and circumstances about how God still moves and acts. Each week we’ve also heard testimonies from fellow church members, about God’s presence and goodness in their lives.

Who is wise? It is those who hear the truth of these descriptions of God and these stories of friends and listens and believes.

There is one more line in today’s verses that I stepped over because I want to use it to connect to our New Testament reading. In verse 41b, after the great reversal of princes and the needy, the Psalmist says that the Lord “makes His families like a flock.”

If these stories of God’s involvement in the lives of human beings didn’t connect, consider this final metaphor. It’s the one our church is named after. The Lord is a Good Shepherd, caring for His own like a flock. Think through all the examples of Psalm 107. The Good Shepherd tends the thirsty and needy (vv.4-9); the Good Shepherd frees those captive and bound up (vv.10-16); the Good Shepherd welcomes the lost and foolish home (vv.17-22); the Good Shepherd is present as guide, even in stormy weather (vv.23-32); and the Good Shepherd’s intent is the blessing and good care of the flock (vv.33-38).

The Good Shepherd is the perfect picture to capture the truth-claims of the refrain: God is good, God is faithful, God is involved. So the Lord is a Shepherd – good, faithful, and involved in guiding and protecting the flock.

The Lost Sheep (Luke 15)

Jesus told a story using this same image and metaphor. It was the first of three describing God’s persistent compassion toward the lost. In it he asks, “Who among you, if you had a hundred sheep and lost one, would not leave the ninety-nine to go after the one which is lost?… And when found would call together friends and neighbors to celebrate. (vv.3-6) Jesus was explaining why he spent time with tax collectors and sinners… his punch line that all heaven would rejoice over one lost person found.

Even if Jesus’ audience had forgotten the history of Psalm 107, they understood shepherding. Like the Lord in Psalm 107, a shepherd would deal with hunger, thirst, lostness, danger, and more. The Good Shepherd would persistently seek out a lost sheep in order to rescue and bring it home.

And lest his audience miss this story, Jesus told two more… about a lost son and a lost coin. Each painted a little different picture of the good and faithful God, but each pointed to the joy over the lost, sinful, captive, oppressed, or defiant person coming home. Our middle hymn, a paraphrase of Psalm 23, tells this story of the providing, guiding, defending Shepherd. And our final song captures the language of the bold persistence of God in the face of the kinds of obstacles and hindrances that seem insurmountable to us. Seemingly reckless in its face-any-challenge love, but perfectly faithful and focused coming from the Good Shepherd.

Who is wise? The one who listens to these things, ponders, and trusts them in their life.

My Story, My Song

Psalm 107 and the story of the Lost Sheep cover an astounding amount of territory with the claim that God is good, faithful, and involved in our lives. Have you experienced that persistent love of God? Has God received you warmly after a time of wandering? Or has God broken through obstacles and chains to reclaim your life? Has God run to meet you in joy or seemingly searched the far reaches of human experience to get your attention and call you home?

These are the stories in Psalm 107 and the picture in Luke 15. Does your story intersect these stories at all? Even if not dramatically so, can you believe and trust them?

Many people believe or go through extended times of believing that God wouldn’t want them. But that’s not the God described here. Jesus pointedly told these stories to teach us that God and all Heaven rejoice when a person comes home. I know I’m talking to a bunch of church-going people, but it’s entirely possible to sit here and feel unworthy or unreachable by God. If you’d like to talk some more about your own story or have questions, I invite you to reach out to me. I’d love nothing more than to talk to you.

Do you know what is wise? Listen to these stories and believe them! This is what is true about God! Amen!

Rick Bean sharing “My Story, My Song” testimony
“My Prayer” (Bean) – Eric VanderHeide, soloist, Rick Bean, piano

Some Music Used

  • Preludes
    • Better is One Day
    • Who You Say I Am
    • Blessed Assurance
    • How Great Thou Art – Chopin Fantasie Impromptu (Rick Bean, piano)
  • Yes and Amen (Housefires)
  • The King of Love (arr. Austell)
  • My Prayer (Bean)
  • Reckless Love (Asbury)
  • POSTLUDE: If It Had Not Been (for the Lord on my side) – Rick Bean, piano