Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Psalm 23- Living this everyday

The Lord is my Shepherd

It becomes critical for every believer to begin to embrace the concept that “the Lord is my shepherd”. Not only does He love the other members of the congregation; He is also deeply concerned with, and in love with me! Sometimes we are so aware of our own personal struggles (and also unaware of the struggles of others) that we feel ourselves very unworthy of the attention and love of God. The good news is that you are not worthy of the love of God in and of yourself! None of us are! However the sacrifice which Jesus paid on the cross has made you worthy! Therefore we can boldly say that the Lord is my shepherd!

I shall not want.

We live in a culture very much influenced by material things We buy things from one another that we do not want, at prices we cannot afford, on terms we cannot meet because of advertising we do not believe. How often have you heard Christians complaining about what they “don’t” have, instead thanking and praising God for what they “do” have? Some would interpret this portion of Psalm 23 to mean that because the Lord is my Shepherd, I will not be left wanting because he will provide everything. Others would say that because the Lord is my Shepherd I should refrain from wanting. No matter how you choose to interpret this passage we find that there is one common denominator in both interpretations … the word “want”! Maybe it is time for you to begin to recognize the wonderful provision the Lord has already supplied. Or maybe it is time for you to reign in your desire for “stuff” … but either way; the control of “want” is up to you!

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures

This text is made up of two key Hebrew words. The first portion of the verse, “he maketh me to lie down” is translated from the Hebrew word rabats, which means to recline, to lie down, to make to rest or sit. The last portion of this verse, “pastures”, is the Hebrew word na’ah which literally means a pasture, a home, a habitation or a pleasant place. If we translate that into modern terms the verse could read, “He makes me sit or lie down at home!” The Lord created the earth in six days and then rested on the seventh. Not only does the Bible plainly state that the Lord rested, we also see that the Lord instituted a Sabbath day so that God’s people would also rest one day out of the week. Obviously God believed it was important for all of mankind to have a day of rest, or in modern terms “down time”. With work schedules, family schedules, social schedules and even church schedules we are often to busy to take advantage of what David felt when he said, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.” Maybe it is time to make some adjustments in our schedules so that we can enjoy the very thing the Lord desires us to have.

He leadeth me beside the still waters.

One of the most important resources for a shepherd was water. Water provided the sustenance and life required for the well-being of the flock. Just as God provided for David, he provides for us as well. Jesus said that he was the living water, and that if we drink of him we shall never thirst again. It is the Lord who is our provider, our comforter, our healer, our deliverer … our everything, however, one of the greatest struggles as a Christian is to allow ourselves to be consistently led by him! If we will allow him to lead us on a daily basis then we will never thirst.

He restores my soul

There is nothing so prone to go astray like lost sheep. Lost sheep may panic or wander looking to find their way back to the flock … all the while finding themselves farther and farther away from the shepherd and the rest of the sheep. We often read about the struggles of the children of Israel when they left Egypt. Time and time again they saw the mighty Hand of God perform wonderful miracles on their behalf; yet time and time again they also found themselves wandering away from that very same miraculous God! Oh how easy it would be to criticize their waffling walk with the Lord … were it not for our own inconsistencies! One of the many wonderful things about our God is that no matter how much we struggle, God always knows how to pull us back on track and restore our soul and the joy of our salvation! Just when you think you can’t take anymore, when you think that all hope is lost and that life will never be what it should, that is when the Shepherd of our soul always seems to reach down and pick us back up, get us back on track and restore us to a vibrant walk with Him!

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

This is one of the Old Testament verses which reveal and prophesy of the powerful work which Christ did for us on the cross … thousands of years before it even happened!

God’s desire all through the Old Testament was that he might change his people from a “have to” people to a “want to” people. Not just performing acts of righteousness because the law said they had to, but honoring His Word because they wanted to! The only way he could accomplish that goal was to get His word from tablets of stone into the hearts of men and women. (Jeremiah 33:31) God overwhelmingly accomplished this very desire when His son gave his life on the cross for us! Now we are not only given life instructions from God’s Word alone, but that Word is also confirmed within our hearts as he “guides us in paths of righteousness”.

Now here comes the best part … he doesn’t do it just because He wants us to live holy, or even because he loves us … but He does it for “his name’s sake”! What a powerful and relieving thought. God doesn’t tolerate my mistakes, shortcomings and failures because of something I have done (or need to do), He does it because of something His Son has done. Our righteousness could never hold God’s attention for one second of time. No matter how good we are we are never good enough to impress Him, or to be worthy of His attention; but He is incredibly impressed with and mindful of His Son! His Son is spotless, blameless, worthy, holy, pure … and the list goes on and on. It is because of the sacrifice that Jesus paid on the cross that God “leads us in righteousness”. It is for “His name sake” and not ours. Every time we think that God gives up on leading us in righteousness, remember that He does it because of Jesus, not because of you … so His mercies will never end.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

How may times have you heard someone share the gospel with a pre-believer only to hear them say those dangerously misleading words, “come to Jesus and all your problems will go away.” Nothing could be further from the truth! Does Jesus have the power to take all your problems away, sure he does, but in his infinite wisdom he realizes that it is not for your long term good for him to remove all of your difficulties.

Have you ever noticed that going to a weight room and watching people lift weights does absolutely nothing for your body? What is it that builds muscle and strength in your physical body? It is the resistance of the weight in your hands that actually makes your muscles grow stronger. Without the resistance your natural muscles would never have a chance to grow. Unfortunately that same principle exists in the spirit realm. Rather than God take the weight away from us, He provides us with the strength to lift the weight. This is one of the most fatherly ways that God helps us to grow. Rather than taking away our problems He often just helps us through them.

The term “shadow of death” was a Hebrew idiom which meant “the blackest darkness”. David was talking about times when he seemed to have to walk through the greatest struggles, the darkest times, the hardest battles he had ever faced. Although we would prefer to avoid those difficulties altogether, God often allows “hard times” so that he can make us a strong people.
If the thought of this discourages you, then realize this, you are in good company! The Bible says that Jesus himself was perfected by the things he suffered. (Hebrews 2:18; 5:8)

Difficult times can be trying, however there is nothing more rewarding than to see our faithful God come through when all hope is gone, faith is at it’s weakest point, and all reports predict the worst. That seems to be when God chooses to shine the brightest in our lives … in the valley of the shadow of death!

I will fear no evil for thou art with me

What an empowering statement. I will not fear … not because I am strong, not because I am full of faith, not because I have spiritual authority … but because you are with me! Now here is the interesting part … I am strong, I am full of faith and I have spiritual authority … once again, because You are with me!

Fear is one of the most powerful and frequently used weapons in the enemy’s arsenal. If the enemy can make us afraid then he has successfully created a self-imposed jail for us. It is like wrapping a rope around a person and instead of tying up the loose end, you ask the bound person just to hold it. Think of how silly that is, but that is what happens to us anytime we allow ourselves to be gripped by fear. All that is required to be free is to let go. Just let go of the thoughts, let go of the anxiety, let go of the lies, let go of the unknown … let go of the rope! The wonderful thing is that you can confidently step out in faith and let go of the rope because He is with you! “What if I am not strong enough, have enough faith, or have enough spiritual authority?” … you don’t have to, because He is with you!! BUT … because He is with you, you will have the strength, faith and spiritual authority that you need when you need it.

Thy rod and they staff they comfort me

Many people believe that David is talking about the rod of correction in this verse, but that is not the only function a shepherd had for his rod. Whenever a shepherd wanted to keep track of his sheep, to make sure that all were accounted for and safe, the shepherd would pass his rod over each one and count them. The staff in the Bible is the representation of the support of the weak. With this image of God’s rod and staff comforting us we know that he will helps us through our weaknesses and that He counts us as His own.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies

The word “table” in this verse comes from the Hebrew word shulchan, which means “a table as spread out with a meal.” This speaks of the provision of God in our lives. God wants us to see Him as our provider and our source. Your job is not your source, nor your spouse, nor the government, nor any earthly being or organization, but God alone. This does not free us of the responsibility of stewardship in holding a good job and being faithful in work as the Lord requires us to, but it simply means that God’s ability to provide for us is not limited to natural sources of provision. God is completely capable of calling the ravens (1 Kings 17:4), the poor (1 Kings 17:9), or even a rock (Numbers 20:8) to provide for you all that you need if He so desires, and you can trust that He very much desires to take care of you!

Another amazing point in this verse is where God placed this table of provision, “in the presence of mine enemies.” Why is this so important? It is obvious that God wants it to be clear to us that when He wants something done no man can stop Him or keep him from doing it, even your enemies! “What if my boss hates me and refuses to give me a promotion, what if my spouse is mad at me and refuses to allow me access to our money, what if the market doesn’t do well and my retirement fund isn’t growing, what if, what if.” Once again, no man can stop or slow the hand and provision of God when He is ready to move … not even your worst enemies!

Thou anointest my head with oil

There are many anointings recorded in the bible, and this verse probably is inclusive of all of God’s anointing and promises; however there is one specific area of anointing which seems to coincide with the remainder of this chapter and that is the anointing of joy. (Psalm 45:7)
There is a major difference between happiness and joy, and many Christians confuse the two quite often. Happiness is conditional upon our circumstances and seems to come and go as frequently as the changing of the wind. You get a promotion (happy), you find out that it is going to require more work hours (sad), but you realize that you will make more money (happy), but you also realize that you are required to pay more taxes as well (sad) … and this list could go on and on. Joy is something quite different. Joy is that state of peace, rest, gladness and cheerfulness that the Lord provides in spite of the circumstances. Nothing is more confusing to people who do not yet know the Lord than Christians who are able to walk in joy in spite of the circumstances around them. It is something only the Lord can provide, and He gladly anoints our head with the oil of joy.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.

The word “surely” is translated from the Hebrew word ‘ak which means, “certainly or only”. We have a guarantee from God’s Word that He will always be with us, always lead us and always guide us. The Bible says that He will never leave or forsake us. What a wonderful and powerful God we serve! Not just with us on the days when we are “good”, but a friend who sticks closer than a brother!

Dear Lord, help me to begin to walk in the promises of the 23rd Psalm. Help me to understand and accept what Your Word says over me, and help me to demonstrate your Kingdom to the world around me as I reflect more of You in my life! Amen! Amen! Amen!

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