Friday, February 15, 2008

The Lord IS My Shepherd

by Kathy Lay

This Week's Verse: Psalm 23, A psalm of David, as detailed below. (NIV)

Our “assignment” for church this month has been to read through the Psalms. If ever mere words reflected the inner-most depths of the human soul, the poetic verses of the psalms do, don’t they? The entire gamut of human emotion is represented and cries to the Father are permeated with everything from frustrated questions to joyous praise, tormented anguish to awestruck wonderment, and contrite confession to holy obsession.

One of the most familiar psalms is the 23rd. It’s a psalm of lordship recognition and reliance, a psalm of comfort and peace, and a psalm of joy. Let’s take a walk through this psalm together and allow its promises to be written on our hearts.

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

Okay, I seriously doubt that sheep worry about much. They don’t fuss about their relationships, the weather, their wardrobe, or keeping up with the flock over the hill. What they DO do (and I’m sure there is plenty of that!) is follow their shepherd. He takes care of their every need and they know his voice.

Doesn’t He so fully meet our every need? Even the ones we don’t think we need met? Or the ones we’re not even aware of? He may grow us through “scarce” or “lean” times, but our Jehovah Jireh is our provider allowing us to have what we need when we need it and shaping us to want what we have.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,

This idyllic passage conveys nothing if not peace. Our shepherd has led us from the rocky crags or barren wasteland to a babbling brook awash with the fragrance of green shoots of grass that are dancing in the sunshine.

Do you ever find that sometimes He has to make us lie down in green pastures? This new spin on that word was brought to my awareness a few years ago when I was recovering from walking pneumonia. My good buddy, Karen, shed new light on this passage when she told me I was being made to lie down, or forced to slow down. From that point on, I embraced the tranquility that recovery time offered. That’s where our society is…technology allowing us to multi-task ourselves into ADD, activities across the board, or jobs that spur us to such a break-neck pace that sometimes our Father just has to make us rest. Thank You, Father!

3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.

Sheep can rest peacefully to restore themselves when their shepherd is guarding them. Then when it is time to get up and move to greener pastures, their paths are already marked out due to the shepherd’s careful planning.

Likewise, through rest and abiding with Him, we are restored. By and through and FOR His glory, we’re able to lead righteous, holy lives that are pleasing to Him, and truly satisfying to us. We’re not aimlessly searching because we’re restored to whole.

4 Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death, [a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

Remember now, if we’re sheep, we may get sidetracked by a really tasty looking tuft of clover just down the hill. Or maybe we stumble on a hidden rock (it’s probably hard to see our feet around all our fleece and fluff!) and actually roll into the valley. Or maybe a crafty wolf got a muzzle full of prime leg of lamb as he chased us to the valley floor.

We will have low points. We will wrestle with obstacles, loss, and overwhelming issues, but because our God is with us, we can accept these situations as seasons of growth and discipline if we humbly listen for His voice. Jesus said His sheep know His voice (John 10:4, 27) and He’ll call you by name (John 10:3).

Just as the shepherd’s rod and staff help guide the lost sheep back to the flock, so do our seasons of discipline. There’s hope and comfort in knowing that God’s shaping us for something better and we will emerge from the valley alongside His staff to see the mountaintop again.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Isn’t it awesome that our God loves justice? It seems that we’ve transitioned here from being a lost and found sheep to an honored guest. (Remember the prodigal story?) Enjoying a feast as the enemy looks on sounds pretty great, but before we gloat, let’s consider—why would God do this? He definitely wants to extend grace (praise Him!) and bless us, but I think there’s more to it than that. In our anointing and overflow of abundance, enemies will begin to want what we’ve got. That's when we're called to share the source. Our cup doesn’t overflow for overflowing’s sake…we have to pour it into someone else’s cup to avoid a mess!

6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

Our lives will be infused from the goodness, mercy, and love that He dispenses when we dwell with Him. Yes, we will be with the Lord forever in eternity, but until then, may His “Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” through the way we live for Him.

Father, thank you for being our Good Shepherd! As with all of Your precious, God-breathed words, write this psalm on our hearts. Help us to wrap our minds around your vast, merciful promises and trust like sheep do. Help us follow as sheep do. As we become more familiar with Your paths of righteousness and enjoy your blessing, help us pour that overflow onto others, dwelling in Your presence even in their presence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Has God’s rod and staff ever “comforted” you? Identify a time in your life when you were in a season of discipline, but then you emerged stronger in some way. Sister, if you’ve experienced this, you know the joy in “living Psalm 23”. You are blessed.

Note that verses 1-3 are talking about and describing God, whereas the remaining verses are addressed to God personally. Have you ever gotten so excited sharing a “God story” with someone that you broke out into praise? Again, if so, you are blessed. If not, pull a Sister aside and share your overflow!

Power Verses:
I Peter 2: 25, “Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls. (NLT)
1 Samuel 16:13, “Samuel took his flask of oil and anointed him, with his brothers standing around watching. The Spirit of God entered David like a rush of wind, God vitally empowering him for the rest of his life…” (MSG)


Anonymous said...

My goodness Kathy. That was a great treat to read on my lunch hour - especially on a Friday after a long, cold dreary week outside.

Anonymous said...

Your rendition of the Psalm is as good (or better) than that of The Message. I really enjoy the way you put our Father's words into todays language.

M. Milbourn said...

Kath - This was awesome. You're right, the Psalm 23 song would have topped it off. We're gonna have to figure out how to upload those!

Love you.

Anonymous said...

You should read "a shepherd looks at psalm 23" by phillip keller. It is a small book, but great impact.