Reflections on the Psalms: Psalm 23 Part 3

These past two weeks I’ve shared some thoughts on Psalm 23.  Today, I want to look at the final section of this great song of David.

psalm-23Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. –Psalm 23:5-6 (KJV)

There’s something very poetic about the way the King James Version translates the Psalms.  However, I also really enjoy the way the Message (Eugene Peterson) translates these great thoughts:

Your beauty and love chase after me
 every day of my life.
 I’m back home in the house of God
 for the rest of my life. -Psalm 23:6 (Message)

In section one of this psalm, we saw that the LORD is our Shepherd.  In section two, we saw that the LORD is our Guide.  In this final section, David wants us to see that the LORD is also our Good Host.

The LORD is the host at a banquet prepared for his child.  Before entering the banquet hall, the host would anoint the honored guest with oil  (Luke 7:46) made by adding perfumes to olive oil.

God is pictured as caring for my needs in the midst of the evil forces that attempt to destroy my life and my soul.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. -Romans 8:31, 37-39 (ESV)

The good news is that there is room for all of us at God’s table.  And he freely shares with all.  I may eat at the LORD’s table in faith, fully at peace and protected by the shed blood and broken body of the Good Shepherd Jesus.

The talk of a feast anticipates a victory celebration, where the enemies are present as captives; or an accession feast with defeated rivals as reluctant guests.

But the prospect is better than just a feast!  In the Old Testament world, to eat and drink at someone’s table created a bond of mutual loyalty and could be the culminating token of a covenant (Exodus 24:8-12 and 1 Cor. 11:25).

Jesus invites us into that covenant relationship with him.  Not on the basis of what we have done, but because of what he has done for us.  Jesus laid down his life so that we could enter into covenant with God.  Despite all our failures and despite everything we face in this world, we are invited to join Jesus at his Father’s table.

Here’s the good news for us: 

Its about being more than just God’s acquaintance, invited to come for the day.  It is to LIVE with Him.  It is the end of a long pilgrimage.  A coming home.

Reflections on the Psalms: Psalm 23 Part 2

psalm-23I love the Psalms.  They are such rich, authentic prayers by real, broken people.  Last week, I shared some reflections on the first part of Psalm 23.  Today, I want to look at the middle section of Psalm 23.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. –Psalm 23:4 (KJV)

1.) In times of trouble, God wants us to go from talking about him to praying to him.

At this crucial moment of terror in the valley of the shadow, David turns to God and instead of speaking about God, he prays directly to him. God- its your rod and its your staff that comfort me.

Its so easy to talk about our problems to other people and to forget to actually turn to God in prayer, and share with him our fears and worries.  God wants us to be in relationship with him and to trust him.  This starts with being open and honest with God.

2.) The Dark Valleys are a part of God’s Plan

As I reflected on this part of the Psalm, I’ve realized that the the dark valley is as much a part of God’s “right paths” as are the green pastures.  Just because we find ourselves in a uncertain and scary time of life, it doesn’t mean that we are out of God’s will.  Our loving shepherd is right there beside us- even when we face darkness and trouble. I pray that this gives you (and me!) comfort when we find ourselves in tough times.

A friend recently pointed out to me the story in Matthew 14 where Jesus sends his disciples into the storm.  They found themselves in a very scary situation- where the waves were tossing them and they were uncertain about what was going on.  However- Jesus sent them there so that they could witness his glory when he walked on water and calmed the storm.  Sometimes, Jesus sends us into the storm so that we can learn to trust him more and so that he can be glorified.

3.) God’s rod and staff comfort

David, who was a shepherd in his younger years, uses shepherd imagery quite well. Typically, a shepherd had a couple of tools at his disposal.  The “rod” is a short club that is a weapon of defense or discipline; a cudgel worn at the belt.  It symbolizes God’s strength, power, and authority.

The “staff” is a long slender stick with a hook on one end.  It is used to draw a sheep close the the Shepherd, guide it in the right way or rescue it from trouble.  God’s rod and staff reassure us of God’s love and guidance in our lives. They were used to walk with and to round up the flock.

God both disciplines and guides those he loves.  We can be confident that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, knows what is best for us.

Whatever you’re facing today- talk to God about it.  And remember that just because you are in the valley, it doesn’t mean that you are outside of where God wants you to be.  He is with you.  There is no reason to fear. He is with you.

He is with you.

Reflections on the Psalms: 23rd Psalm

slide-02The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Psalm 23:1-3 (KJV)

This is probably the most well known chapter in the Bible.  John 3:16 takes the prize for the most well known verse, but when you are talking about a whole chapter, almost everyone is familiar with Psalms 23.  Even in scary movies, they will quote it: yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…

I love that this chapter has troubles and goodness in the same passage.
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