************ Funeral Sermon on Psalm 23:4 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 27, 2015
"The Lord is My Shepherd"
Grover Crook funeral
Too often people try to cover death over with nice sounding words. We say passing, at rest, breathe one's last, beyond the veil, buy the farm, cash in one's chips, depart this life; according to Google there are at least 80 more expressions to cover the unpleasantness of death.
King David, the human author of Psalm 23, knows the truth about death. He identifies it as an evil (Ps 23:4). Even for someone older like Grover Crook it is an evil. God created us to live, not to die. God created us to live forever. So death is an evil. Death is an enemy. Death is the final enemy.
So, now, how do we deal with this unpleasant reality we call death?
Let's start with some unbiblical ways of dealing with death. The docetic view denies the reality of pain and death altogether. It is merely an illusion according this view. The docetic view is held by the Christian Science cult.
Many in our culture have a hedonistic view. This view seeks to reduce pain and acquire pleasure at any cost. To dull their physical and emotional pain, men and women turn to sex, illegal drugs, gluttony, and other sinful behaviors.
The goal of the stoic view is to let nothing bother us. We should do our best "to keep a stiff upper lip" and to "let nothing get us down."
Christians have been most affected by the stoic view. Regrettably, we are often prone to minimize the reality of our grief and act as if the proper way to face death is to pretend nothing of any consequence has happened. But this is not the approach of Jesus; after all, John recorded that He wept at the grave of Lazarus; He wept even though He knew He was going to shortly raise Lazarus from the grave. It is not sinful for us to mourn the loss of a loved one or to admit our pain. This is important to remember in the midst of a culture that wants instant gratification and believes it is a divine right to avoid pain and have a comfortable life.
So, what is the proper Christian response to death and dying? What should be your response to the death of Grover Crook? David says, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil ..." (Ps 23:4).
Let me explain the image. Sheep have to be taken from arid lands to new watering holes and green pastures. The sheep are taken through the valley of the shadow of death. Here is a reminder that often times the way is dangerous. There are steep paths dropping off into deep valleys. There are wolves and lions who wish to attack the sheep. There is the heat of day and the cold of night.
David was a poet, musician, warrior, prophet, and king; but, he began as a shepherd. He received his training to lead God's people in the pastures. God brought David from the pasture to the palace, but time and again – as we see in Psalm 23 – we find David returning to his humble roots.
Now, put yourself in David's study. Imagine you are sitting on a boulder in a pasture, surrounded by wooly sheep grazing on the grass. David sat there, and thought there, and prayed there, in this great outdoor study of his.
One of the things Loyd told me about Grover is that he was always out in the fields. I look at his picture; he is wearing a cowboy hat. That says it all. So I suspect that Grover, like David, spent a lot of time thinking and praying in the great outdoors.
Now, sitting in that outdoor study of his, David realizes something. He realizes he faces the same danger as his sheep – including death.
But he fears no evil, including the evil of death. Why not? Because he also realizes the Lord is his shepherd even as he is the shepherd of his sheep. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want" (Ps 23:1). Meaning what in the case of death? As David puts it in our text, "For you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me" (Ps 23:4).
The Lord gives comfort to His people. Which means the Lord gives strength. Strength to keep on living. Strength to keep on going. Strength to keep on striving. Which means the Lord also gives hope. Hope for the future. Hope for something better. Hope for an end to sorrow and pain and death and dying.
Many well-intentioned people promise that coming to Jesus will solve all of life's problems. While one day this will be true, in this life and on this earth and in this body we will always face the enemies of the world, the devil, and the flesh. God never promises that we will not suffer. His promise is that He gives comfort and strength and hope to His people.
Nothing explains this better than the phrase David uses for death. David calls death a "shadow." He still uses the word "death" so he is not trying to hide what happens. Yet, he calls it the "shadow of death." Meaning what?
Following the death of his first wife, renowned pastor and Bible expositor Donald Grey Barnhouse was taking his children to the funeral. They stopped at a traffic light and a large truck sped by, its shadow engulfing them for a moment. Turning to his grief-stricken children Barnhouse asked, "Would you rather have been hit by the truck or its shadow?"When a Christian dies, he or she is hit by the shadow of death. Yes, it is still painful. Yes, those left behind are in sorrow. Yes, they need comfort. But it is not final. Because those who are hit by the shadow of death are still alive. They are with Jesus and someday their body will be raised.
"The shadow, of course!" his children responded.
Barnhouse then responded, "That's what happens to Christians when they die. Your mother was touched only by the shadow of death."
I want to tell you, the family and friends of Grover, that when a Christian dies he or she is hit by the shadow of death. So there is nothing to fear.
I've been to lots of funerals over the years. Almost every funeral includes the words of Psalm 23 – even if the person was an unbeliever. So I need to tell you that what I am saying this morning applies only to believers. It applies only to those who have Jesus as Savior and Lord. If applies only to those who have come to Jesus, the Great Shepherd.
Funerals are always a good time to ask questions. So let me end by asking you, is Jesus your Shepherd? Is He your Savior and Lord? Because only then is death a shadow. Because only then does the Lord give you His comfort, His strength, and His hope.
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