Friday, May 8, 2015

A Journey Through Psalm 23

1 The Eternal is my shepherd, He cares for me always.
2 He provides me rest in rich, green fields
    beside streams of refreshing water.
    He soothes my fears;
3 He makes me whole again,
    steering me off worn, hard paths
    to roads where truth and righteousness echo His name.
4 Even in the unending shadows of death’s darkness,
    I am not overcome by fear.
Because You are with me in those dark moments,
    near with Your protection and guidance,
    I am comforted.
5 You spread out a table before me,
    provisions in the midst of attack from my enemies;
You care for all my needs, anointing my head with soothing, fragrant oil,
    filling my cup again and again with Your grace.
6 Certainly Your faithful protection and loving provision will pursue me
    where I go, always, everywhere.
I will always be with the Eternal,
    in Your house forever.
-Psalm 23 (VOICE)

Psalm 23 is one of the most famous set of verses in the Bible. Even many people who aren't believers [or perhaps once-a-year Christians] are familiar with these verses, as they have heard them recited at funerals or in times of distress as a source of comfort. However, as is often the case with Scripture, there is so much more to be learned from an in-depth study of what the psalmist was saying as he penned those wonderful 6 verses.

I chose the Voice Translation because I love the way they have rendered the psalms in today's English but have captured the overall mood and feeling that was being conveyed at the time.

In verse 1, it is established that God (the Eternal) is our shepherd. We are therefore compared to sheep. Let's stop and think about how helpless a sheep is without its shepherd. A sheep is a relatively unintelligent animal without much ability to take care of itself or capacity to think its way out of dangerous situations. Alone, or even in a flock of like-minded creatures, it is easy prey for the predator. A sheep needs a shepherd to survive and thrive. The shepherd protects and guides his sheep to green pastures.

In verse 2, we are reminded that we find our rest in God. Everybody (believer or not) must have rest, both physically so the brain can recoup its functionality and also spiritually (since we are spiritual beings). In the spiritual sense, some find their rest in artificial means, such as drugs or alcohol, or temporary carnal fixes like sexual addictions bring.

In verse 3, we discover that our Lord is also our GPS, pointing us through His Word and also fellowship with other believers onto the right path that leads away from destruction to eternal life and happiness. I remember how much time and how many miles I would sometimes waste trying to follow my own notes or a map to get to a location before I got my first GPS. Now that I have had one for some time, like a microwave oven or a cell phone, I cannot imagine how I survived without one! In much the same way, before I surrendered to Jesus, I wandered through life unsure of how to reach my destination-- or what that destination even was, for that matter.

In verse 4, I am reminded of the one thing most of us do not want to talk about: death. Oh sure, we acknowledge its reality and offer comfort to one another when faced with it. But, sometimes the words we speak taught in our faith don't match up with our feelings or actions right away. It is one thing for me to assist you in coping with the loss of a loved one and quite another when death hits close to home. I still come around to the fact that Jesus is real, loves me and takes care of those who die with faith in Him. But sometimes it takes a little while for that comfort to sink in as I deal with the initial grief of the loss. Why is that? If I think about what my faith tells me of our Lord and His heavenly realm, I should be nothing short of excited for those I lose in the knowledge that they are now present with the Lord. This psalm reminds me of that.

Verse 5 reminds me that God can and will take care of my needs, even when I feel surrounded by the enemy. He knows me and I am precious to Him-- even though I may not be feeling very "precious." Since you are so much more precious to God than a thousand flocks of sparrows, and since God knows you in every detail—down to the number of hairs on your head at this moment—you can be secure and unafraid of any person, and you have nothing to fear from God either. -Luke 12:7 (VOICE)

Ever been betrayed by someone you love? Most of us have in one way or another, whether it is business, a marriage, in the workplace or something else. People are imperfect sinners and will sometimes lie and cheat each other, doing things that are self-serving at the time. It really hurts when it is someone we trust absolutely and count on to be there for us in times of trouble. Verse 6 reminds me that God will not do that. I can say He has not done so, yet-- although I am not so sure I could say that about me in my relationship with Him. Sadly, I know I have betrayed Him lots of time. You may so you don't, simply because you don't "verbally deny Him" as Peter did, but you do. Every time we sin, we betray Him. Yet, He forgives us and chooses to forget that.You see, God takes all our crimes—our seemingly inexhaustible sins—and removes them. As far as east is from the west, He removes them from us. -Psalm 103:12 (VOICE)

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