For the Flock, Day 15

Today we will wrap up this series on the 23rd Psalm.
I hope it has been a blessing to you!
There’s a little treat for you at the end of today’s post.

Psalm-23

Final thoughts:

David talked to himself a lot in the Psalms.
(Why so downcast, oh my soul? Put your hope in God. Ps. 42:11)

David talked about God a lot in the Psalms.
(As for God, his way is perfect. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him. Ps. 18:30)

David talked to his people a lot in the Psalms.
(Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous. Sing to him a new song. Ps. 33:1,3)

But mostly, David talked to God in the Psalms.
(To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. Show me your ways. Ps. 25:1,4)

All of these methods are good, even all at once. David often wove in and out of talking to himself and God, talking about God, and preaching to the people, all in one psalm.

The beloved 23rd Psalm is one example. David started by talking about God, and then couldn’t help but talk directly to God. That’s a good lesson for us, too. We should never leave the study of God without going to the throne of God. The walk of faith is about formation, not information.

So, let’s pray.

Dear God, how could I ask for anything more when I’ve got such a great Shepherd? You take me places where I can rest and be fed, where I can quench my thirst in peace and safety. You take all the frenzied parts of me and put me back together. During these scary, dark days, when death seems near, I know You are walking right beside me so those sinister shadows can’t hurt me — it’s not so scary after all. Your guidance and yes, even Your discipline make me feel secure and comfortable. You put on a spread for me, right in front of my adversaries. You pour the oil of blessing on my head — it fills me to the brim and spills over. Without a doubt in my mind I know I will see your love and goodness at every turn. I plan to move into Your house, God, and stay forever and ever.

Let’s close this series of posts by listening to the 23rd Psalm
as David would have read it.

 

 

For the Flock, Day 14

“And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6

There’s no place like home.

There’s nothing like coming down highway 80 between Montfort and Livingston.
I can see cornfields on both sides of the road stretching out to the horizon.
I cross the railroad tracks and see the farm buildings in the distance.
I approach the stand of cottonwood trees that line the yard.
I hear the sound of the gravel driveway under the tires.

I half expect to see my mom in the kitchen window, doing dishes.
Or my dad pulling the gate to the barnyard closed and walking up toward the house.

Of course, I don’t live there anymore
and my parents have been gone for many years.
The railroad track has been removed
and some of the cottonwood trees have fallen.
But I can go there in my mind.
Home.

corn

There’s no place like Home.

There is nothing like the place that is being prepared for me.
I will see astounding beauty stretching into all eternity.
I will cross over the river and catch sight of a glittering city.
I will approach the parade line of welcoming saints.
I will hear the sound of my Savior’s voice saying, “Well done.”

Then, I fully expect to see Mom and Dad and Grandpa and Boppy and Grandpa and Grandma and all those who are joyfully going about the business of heaven.

Of course, I don’t know half of what is waiting for me there.
More than I can imagine.
But I can go there in my mind.
Home.

David knew it was true.
One day, he would dwell in the house of his Lord forever.
That was the best way for David to end his psalm.
It’s the best way for us to close every day.

home

This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through. ~Jim Reeves

*Coming next: Day 15 — a final thought on Psalm 23!

For the Flock, Day 13

“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.”
Psalm 23:6

I once heard of an old farmer who had three dogs. He named them Surely, Goodness, and Mercy, because they followed him everywhere all the days of his life.

As sweet as that is, it paints the wrong picture.

God’s goodness and mercy don’t tag along behind us
like a good little puppy dog.
Oh no.

The word “follow” means “to chase after, to pursue.” Think of a bloodhound hot on your heels and you’re closer to the truth. We are pursued by goodness. We are chased by mercy. They are hunting us down.

Even though Absalom was in full pursuit of his father’s life and his father’s kingdom, when David looked behind him, all he saw was God’s goodness and mercy.

The valley taught David some valuable truths:
He had a Shepherd who was out in front, leading him.
The Shepherd’s good gifts were closing in behind.
He was in the right place.

 “You hem me in behind and before.” Psalm 139:5 (NIV)

I look behind me and you’re there,
then up ahead and you’re there, too –
your reassuring presence, coming and going.
(Message)

sheep 3

“All my life you have been faithful.
All my life you have been so, so good.
With every breath that I am able,
I will sing of the goodness of God.
Your goodness is running after, it’s running after me.”
Goodness of God, Bethel Music

For the Flock, Day 12

“My cup overflows.” Psalm 23:5

At the beginning of his psalm,
David said he lacked nothing.

By the end of his psalm,
David said his cup was overflowing.

What happened in between those two statements?

David preached to himself.
“This is what I know to be true of my God:
He is my Shepherd.”

David rehearsed the ways of God.
“This is what I’m finding to be true as I walk with Him:
He leads me.”

David remembered the faithfulness of God.
“This is the truth that holds me up:
He is with me.”

David recalled the kindness of God.
“This truth is ever before me:
He comforts me.”

As we preach, rehearse, remember and recall,
our cups will overflow.

VesselOverflowing-564x440

For the Flock, Day 11

“You anoint my head with oil.” Psalm 23:5

It had been an emotional, exhausting day, but David felt like a new man after resting and eating. He couldn’t neglect his physical needs even during a tumultuous time. Although his dire circumstances didn’t change, David was able to find refreshment for his soul as he felt God’s welcoming presence, His joyful presence, and His healing presence — an anointing.

I’m glad we don’t anoint our heads with oil anymore.
Greasy, stringy hair is not a good look for me.
But it was big in Bible times.

oil2

Kings were anointed with oil at their coronations. (2 Sam. 5:3)
Priests were anointed with oil when consecrated for ministry. (Lev. 8:30)
Oil was used to heal sick people. (James 5:14)
It was applied to open wounds. (Luke 10:34)
Oil was a symbol of joy. (Isaiah 61:3; Hebrews 1:9)
Oil was used in lamps to provide light. (Matt. 25:3-4)
A good host always provided oil for guests’ heads. (Luke 7:46)
Solomon really liked his wife’s perfumed oils. (Song of Solomon 4:10)
Jesus was anointed by Mary and He called it “a beautiful thing.” (Mark 14:6)
The oil of anointing is symbolic of the Holy Spirit’s presence. (Luke 4:18)
Jesus’ very name (“Christ”) means “Anointed One”.

My current favorite reference to oil in the Bible is in Matthew 6.
“But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face.” (Matt. 6:17)

“When you practice some appetite-denying discipline to better concentrate on God, don’t make a production out of it. It might turn you into a small-time celebrity but it won’t make you a saint. If you ‘go into training’ inwardly, act normal outwardly. Shampoo and comb your hair, brush your teeth, wash your face.” (Message)

That’s a good word for me today.

These are difficult days, but as long as I stay healthy,
I don’t need to look like a bedraggled, slipshod saint.

Since we are all on a forced “fast” from normal life for a while yet,
let’s not forget to brush our teeth and wash our faces.
Perhaps use a little hairspray.
Maybe even dab on a smidge of perfume.
Ask for a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit.

“Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” Matt. 6:18

For the Flock, Day 10

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”
Psalm 23:5

Back on Day 3, I raised the possibility that David wrote this psalm when he was on the run from his son, Absalom. (Read more about that in 2 Samuel 15-17.)

Absalom was coming fast and furious with his army of twenty thousand. A spy working for David tipped him off and David crossed the Jordan in a nighttime escape with all his people. They came to a place called Mahanaim and stopped to rest.

The next day, three of David’s friends from Gilead —
Shobi, Makir and Barzillai — showed up.
And were they ever a welcome sight.

“They brought bedding and bowls and articles of pottery. They also brought wheat and barley, flour and roasted grain, beans and lentils, honey, curds and sheep, and cheese from cows’ milk for David and his people to eat.” 2 Samuel 17:28-29

They prepared a table for David in the presence of his enemy.

After you’ve stopped to ponder that for a moment, here are three other thoughts:

David might have stopped at Mahanaim for a good reason. When the patriarch Jacob arrived there, 930 years before David did, angels of God met him and Jacob said, “This is the camp of God!” (Gen. 32:2) Jacob spent the night there, wrestling with the Lord.
Lesson #1: When facing trouble, stop and rest (or wrestle) in the camp of God.

Barzillai’s act of kindness was remembered. “Now Barzillai was a very old man, eighty years of age. He had provided for the king during his stay in Mahanaim, for he was a very wealthy man.” (2 Samuel 19:32)
When David was nearing death, he advised his son, Solomon, “But show kindness to the sons of Barzillai of Gilead and let them be among those who eat at your table. They stood by me when I fled from your brother Absalom.” (1 Kings 2:7)
Lesson #2: When someone else is facing trouble, do what you can to ease their pain, no matter how old you are. A kindness can be remembered for generations and may come back around to you.

David’s three friends brought food and bedding for their king, but David recognized it as provision from God.
Lesson #3: When friends help you out in troubling times, be thankful for them. They are the hands of God.

table

For more on David and his friends, see
Treasure and More Treasure

 

For the Flock, Day 9

“Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

David knew from experience the equipment a good shepherd carried.
A rod was used to fend off predators and protect the sheep from danger.
A staff was used to guide the flock and keep them from going off the path.

David’s comfort came from the knowledge
that his Shepherd was protecting him and guiding him.

staff

We call our favorite cozy blankets “comforters”.
We call home-style food that brings thoughts of childhood “comfort food”.
When Jesus introduced the Holy Spirit,
He used the nickname “The Comforter”.
(John 14:26, KJV)

Unlike a blanket that wears out,
and unlike the fleeting satisfaction of a favorite meal,
this Comforter settles our spirits and reassures our fears from the inside.

We are definitely out of our comfort zones right now.
That uneasiness we feel in our guts is real.
We need to know where to go for such a time as this.
Go to the Comforter.
Then pass some of that comfort on to others.

“God does not comfort us to make us comfortable,
but to make us comforters.”
Dr. John Henry Jowett