by Jeff Morse
I have had the idea for a long time that some passages of Scripture that are often used and even may be memorized by some of us could use a closer look. We tend to do most things in too much of a hurry these days and reading the Bible is no exception. How much more of God’s glorious creation can we see walking than we can driving 70 mph down the interstate? How much more can we see in reading Scripture if we find a quiet place, open our minds, open our hearts, invite the Holy Spirit and then open our Bibles?
I have always asked a lot of questions. I don’t know how my parents and siblings kept their sanity through my childhood. I am not fully convinced that all of them did. You will hear many more questions than answers today as we take a closer look at Psalm 23 and try to hear God speaking to each of us and to the lives we have in Christ.
“The Lord is my Shepherd.”
It sounds simple doesn’t it, but when we say these words we are confessing that we believe in the Lord and claiming we will let the Lord lead us. And who is the Lord? We say quickly that Jesus is Lord and that is true for us but this is a Psalm of David. Jesus quoted David in Matthew 22:43 when arguing with the Pharisees as saying “The Lord said to my Lord.” Who was the Lord to David? Who is the Lord to you? Can we say truthfully that we let our Lord be our Shepherd and lead us, or does pride sometimes tell us “Its our life” and we can lead it ourselves. I pray that we all find enough humility to trust in the Lord and let the Lord lead us.
“I Shall not Want”
Does anyone here manage to “not want?” Are we content in all circumstances? “A wise man wants what he needs. A fool needs what he wants.” What do we really need other than food, clothes and shelter? We need the Lord! How much more peace would we have if we truly stopped wanting and trusted the Lord to provide for our needs and learned the difference?
“He Makes Me Lie Down in Green Pastures”
Has God ever made you do something? I have been dragged screaming and kicking many times into the green pastures of my life. Between Moses and Jonah I am in good company. We don’t know what is best for us. The Lord does.
“He Leads Me Beside Still Waters”
Where are the still waters in your life? Aren’t the rapids more exciting? Not for me! Find a quiet place in your life and go there as often as you can with Jesus to pray and meditate on God’s word.
“He Restores My Soul”
What is the soul? Even the most skeptical intellectual if they are honest with no thought of God has to admit that humans are magnificently different and above all the other living creatures and are hard pressed to explain what they like to call the human spirit. If everyone could put aside their pride and find the courage to face the truth, they would see we are part of a plan God calls creation. Our soul needs to be restored because we are sinners, prideful and disobedient and we damage it. Our free will can be very costly indeed. Praise God for never tiring of restoring us. Nobody else can.
“He Leads Me in the Right Paths for His Name Sake”
Where do the paths of our lives begin? Were they laid out for us even before we were born? Will we trust our Lord to show us the right paths forward? You have heard people say, “it’s my life.” As Christians we know this is not true. Our life is in Christ and belongs to Christ. Do we remember what David apparently knew by the Spirit when he penned this Psalm; that it is for the glory of the Lord and his name’s sake that we exist? We must admit that the depth of God’s identity and even the name of the Lord are wonderfully and infinitely beyond our comprehension. But our lives would be much more beautiful if we would spend our days for his glory rather than for ourselves.
“Even Though I Walk Through the Darkest Valley I Fear No Evil for Thou Art With Me”
David had struggles most of us can’t even imagine but we all have dark valleys in our lives. Death, war, sickness, unemployment, depression, persecution, addiction, temptation to name a few. Evil is not hard to see in this world and never far away, but we never need to feel alone for the Lord is with us always and we never need to fear evil for the evil one has been defeated. When trouble comes turn to the Lord. When you pray or sing unto the Lord watch evil flee.
“Your Rod and Your Staff They Comfort Me”
These tools of the shepherd were used to lovingly thump the sheep onto the path to safety and pasture. How hard we need to be thumped is up to us. Take comfort in knowing our Shepherd leads us in right paths and will not spare the rod or spoil the child.
“You Prepare a Table Before Me in the Presence of My Enemies”
The Lord has a plan for our lives here and in heaven for eternity, yet we spend a great deal of time making our own plans in our own strength. Do we forget we have a life partner with all knowledge even of the future who will never lead us astray? If you wonder who your enemies are remember Jesus said those who were not for him were against him. David found comfort in knowing that his enemies had no power to thwart God’s plans for his life and we can have the same comfort.
“You Anoint My Head with Oil”
Symbolically this is David’s recognition of God’s blessings in his life. God has anointed each of us in many different ways. Count your blessings.
“My Cup Overflows”
Our cup is the life we are given. We can do nothing to deserve life and its blessings yet we have abundant life now and forever through God’s grace and our Lord’s sacrifice. Truly our cup is overflowing!
“Surely Goodness and Mercy Shall Follow Me All the Days of My Life”
I wonder how those who don’t know the Lord decide what is good. There is no good apart from God. If you read the news or look around the world it is easy to see how quickly and how dramatically things go wrong when we stop looking to God for the truth. God’s goodness follows us even when we take the wrong path and is right there with us when we finally turn back in the right direction. The Lord will never let go of your hand. God’s mercy is steadfast love, forgiveness of sin, life eternal and all unfathomable blessing that we do not and cannot earn or deserve.
“And I Shall Dwell in the House of the Lord My Whole Life Long–Forever”
This building when we are in it is a holy place, a sanctuary but it is not the house of the Lord this Psalm speaks of. I know that Jesus went to prepare a place for each of us in heaven but I believe as David did that I dwell in the house of the Lord now. The house of the Lord is on the pond, in the woods, on a mountain top, on the sea and in the air. The house of the Lord is all his holy creation and has no boundary other than the boundless love that makes our pasture safe and full of joy. The house of the Lord is in our hearts. Home is where the heart is and if we are wise even for a moment our hearts are with our Lord and our God. Your pew Bibles says we dwell in God’s house our whole life long. Other translations say forever. Since we believe in eternal life the meaning is the same. My belief in eternal life has allowed me to completely avoid a mid life crisis.
Whether my questions are the best or my conclusions are altogether right I hope and pray that one thing we all learn today is that close examination of the Holy Scriptures is good for the soul and of great benefit to our lives and God’s Kingdom.
I pray you all find a quiet time and place to open your Bibles everyday. Don’t worry too much about how much you read as we have seen God can pack a lot of message into a few divinely inspired words. You wouldn’t think of going off in your car without putting gas in it. Why would you head off into the day or sleep without putting God’s word and a prayer in your heart?