Archive for September, 2011

September 30, 2011

How God Can Take Our Rending Hearts

by Bethany

Relevant Text: Ps. 83:1
Full Text: Ps 80 + Ps 83

Silence | The Israelites were surrounded by their enemies. They felt like God was silent – not giving them any assurance that He would save or rescue them. As Asaph pled, “O God, do not keep silent; be not quiet, O God, be not still” [1]. Would God be silent right when His people needed Him the most? No. He would never be silent or quiet or still when it came to acting on behalf of His people. Yet, He allowed Asaph to write down his feelings in Israeli’s hymnbook. Rather than ignoring their confusion, they were to sing it back to Him. This is astounding.

Lovingkindness | One pastor showed how remarkable this is by an analogy. He asked his audience to imagine a loving wife who told her husband about times when she felt his absence – when her mother died, when the children were problematic, when difficulties arose with friends. Then, he asked, “Now, what if your husband said, ‘You know, that is such a good point. Let’s write a poem about that, and we’ll sing it every morning’? Well, after you picked yourself up off the floor you’d wonder what was going on! And, you see, God, who is innocent of any and all of those kinds of charges, still says, ‘I understand that My people think that there are times when I’m silent and still when they need Me. I’m not. I’m working when they’re sleeping. I’m watching when they’re blind. I’m undertaking for them when they don’t have the ability in and of themselves to put one foot in front of the other. I know that My people feel that way. So, Asaph, you write it down in the Book, you put it in the songbook of the people of God, and you have the people of God sing it to Me. I can take that, because I’m their God and I care. And I want them to know that I care, and I want them to know that I can take it when their hearts are rending and they need to cry out to Me because they’re not sure that I’m there for them, even though I am’” [2].

Prayer | Lord, Your lovingkindness is overwhelming. Yet, that’s hard to see when our future seems uncertain. In those moments, therefore, grow our faith to believe what we cannot see – that You are here – as we sing songs to You. Amen.

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[1] Ps. 83:1 NIV 1984  |  [2] Ligon Duncan, God Help Us. Sermon, 8 January 2006 (evening), Psalm 83.

September 29, 2011

How to Move from Despairing to Praising

by Bethany

Relevant Text: Ps. 77:11-12
Full Text: Ps 74 + Ps 77 + Ps 79

Despondency | In Psalm 77, the psalmist is miserable: “Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever?” [1] Yet, by the end, he worships: “Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God?” [2]. How did he get from despondency to praise? He intentionally recalled God’s work: “I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds” [3].

Memory | As John Piper notes, there’s a difference between passive and active remembering. Passive remembering says, “I recall what God did, but it doesn’t change how I feel.” Active remembering, however, says, “I will call to mind that my Lord Jesus … hung on a Roman cross of torture and execution in horrible pain next to a man who had lived a life of sin … that the thief next to him said, for some wonderful and inexplicable reason (for he was cursing at first), ‘Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!’ I will meditate on the grace of God that brought that change of heart. I will muse on how unlikely that was and how hopeless that request was. I will talk to myself about how this man had no time to become good and deserving before he died. I will think about what kind of grace he thought might be available from this dying Christ. Then I will remember … that Jesus said to the thief, ‘Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.’ And I will praise here and muse on his answer a long time … This is a wonder. Here is a dying man declaring a life-long thief accepted and loved and heaven-bound. Here is a grace that sweeps a lifetime of guilt away in an instant. Here is a power that says death can hold neither you nor me. Here is an authority that decides who goes to heaven and who doesn’t. He is an immediacy that says it will happen this very day. No purgatory, no testing, no penance. Just absolute forgiveness and acquittal and cleansing and acceptance” [4].

Prayer | Lord, Forgive our skimming over Your great works and cause us to remember Your deeds, so that we are rooted in Your greatness and can weather the storms of our despondency. Amen.

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[1] Ps. 77:7-9 NIV 1984  |  [2] Ps. 77:13-14 ff NIV 1984  |  [3] Ps. 77:11-12 NIV 1984  |  [4] John Piper, “I Will Meditate on All Your Work and Muse on All Your Deeds.” Sermon, 2 January 2000.

September 28, 2011

When the Reality Replaces the Shadow

by Bethany

Relevant Text: Ps. 24:3-4
Full Text: Ps. 122 + Ps. 24 + Ps. 68

Mirrors and Reflections | Today, we see God’s glory as a poor reflection in a mirror [1] – inferring His mystery from the stars, His grandeur from the mountains, His love from our relationships, His power from the seas. There will come a day, however, when the inference will be replaced by the reality. God Himself will live among us and we’ll see Him face to face. His glory will be our light: “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it” [2].

Clean Hands and Pure Hearts | Yet, who will enjoy this direct experience of God? As David asked, “Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?” [3] At first glace, David’s answer seems hopeless: “He who has clean hands and a pure heart” [4]. After all, who among us has clean hands and a pure heart? Before despairing, however, let’s consider David himself – a man after God’s own heart who committed adultery, covered it up with murder, and failed to discipline his children. Obviously, based on his own actions, David wasn’t a man with clean hands and a pure heart. Rather, as David knew, he was blameless in God’s sight because God had forgiven him: “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit there is no deceit” [5].

Prayer | Lord, Like David, our hands are dirty and our hearts are filthy. As Jesus taught, we’re unclean because of the things that come from our mouths and reveal our hearts [6]. We’re sinfully and hopelessly imperfect. Yet, in Christ, You came to wash our hands and purify our hearts. By his blood, You freely and willingly and joyfully offer us forgiveness so that we can be like David – forgiven sinners who are justified by faith and made ready to ascend Your holy hill. Therefore, we thank You for not merely changing our bad habits, but for changing our hearts through the Spirit, as You make us more and more like You. Amen.

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[1] 1 Cor. 13:12  |  [2] Rev. 21:22-26 NIV 1984  |  [3] Ps. 24:3-4 NIV 1984  |  [4] Ps. 24:3-4 NIV 1984  |  [5] Ps. 32:102 NIV 1984  |  [6] Jesus, “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean’” (Matt. 15:18-20 NIV 1984) (see also Matt. 12:33-36 – a good tree produces good fruit, a bad tree produces bad fruit, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks … For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”)

September 27, 2011

Our Father Who Art in Heaven

by Bethany

Relevant Text: Ps. 103:13-14
Full Text: Ps 103 + Ps 145

Fathers | What would it be like to have an absent or bad father? Thankfully, I don’t know because my dad is wonderful. One of my brothers, however, does know what it’s like. Although our dad was great, my brother now works at the Big Oak Ranch in Alabama as a parent to three teenage boys whose biological fathers are derelicts. There are boys all over the Ranch whose dads refuse to speak to their sons or make promises and don’t follow through. My brother and sister-in-law raise the boys who live with them as their own – alongside my niece (their biological daughter) and nephew (their adopted son from Vietnam).

Image | God designed fatherhood to communicate something about Himself: As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust” [1]. After all, the Lord was God the Father to the Son before He was God the Creator to Adam. Thus, when we see good fathers, we see shadows of what God is like. Yet, God knows that the image is not the reality; He knows that fathers are like dust because their days are short and imperfect: “As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more” [2]. Thus, good fathers recognize their brevity and point their children beyond themselves to God: “But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children – with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts” [3].

Prayer | Lord, We all come from different backgrounds with different experiences with our fathers. Although You designed fatherhood to tell us something about Your compassion and love, some of us have a hard time understanding what You’re trying to communicate because we have had absent or bad fathers. Heal our wounds and give us fresh eyes to see You as our Father and, as we increasingly understand Your fatherly love, help us to love those whom You have entrusted to our care by pointing them beyond us and to You and Your everlasting care and love. Amen.

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[1] Ps. 103: 13-14 NIV 1984 | [2] Ps. 103:15-16 NIV 1984 | [3] Ps. 103:17-18 NIV 1984

September 26, 2011

How to Wait on the Lord

by Bethany

Relevant Text: Ps. 20:7
Full Text: Ps 20 + Ps 21 + Ps 144

Waiting | God repeatedly tells us to wait on Him. Over the summer, I realized that I didn’t really know what that meant. Yes, I was praying for certain things, but my prayers were mainly lip service because – in truth – I was trying to make things happen on my own. When I got frustrated, I knew things had to change. So I spent most of my summer learning to wait on God.

Looking | I learned that waiting on God always means looking to Him. Rather than immediately turning to research or friends, waiting looks to God and seeks His counsel. As the Psalmist lamented, “[The Israelites] soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his counsel” [1]. Yet, the posture of waiting is not sitting around and twiddling our thumbs; it’s standing at attention like a soldier looking to a commanding officer or a waiter looking to a restaurant patron: “I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation” [2].

Being | Sometimes waiting means being still [3]. For example, when the Israelites saw the Egyptian warriors and chariots behind them and the Red Sea before them, they didn’t know what to do. Thus, God said, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still” [4]. Then, He parted the sea, led them across it, and drowned the Egyptians.

Acting | Sometimes, however, God calls us to act. Yet, even in our acting, waiting relies on Him [5]. Thus, the Psalmist reflected, “No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save … We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name” [6].

Prayer | Lord, Answer us when we are in distress. Send help from Your sanctuary. Give us the desires of our hearts. For although some trust in chariots and some in horses, we trust in the name of the LORD our God. You will lift us up to stand firm. Thus, we wait on You, seeking Your face, being still, and relying on You even as we act [7]. Amen.

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[1] Ps. 106:13 NIV 1984  |  [2] Ps. 5:3 NIV 1984  |  [3] Is. 64:4 (“Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” NIV 1984).  |  [4] Ex. 14:13-14 NIV 1984. See also Is. 30:15.  |  [5] Prov. 21:31 (The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD.” NIV 1984)  |  [6] Ps. 33:16-22 NIV 1984  |  [7] Prayer adapted from Ps. 20.

September 23, 2011

How David’s Prophetic Words Prepared Us for Jesus

by Bethany

Relevant Text: Ps. 110:1
Full Text: Ps 2 + Ps 110 + Ps 29 + Ps 96

Psalm 110 | Fifty days after Jesus’ ascension, Peter preached the gospel in Jerusalem: “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God … and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead” [1]. He continued: “God has raised this Jesus to life … Exalted to the right hand of God” [2]. Then, he quoted the prophetic words of David in Psalm 110 to show that God had made Jesus both Lord and Christ: “The Lord said to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’” [3]. Immediately, the people believed and Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized … in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off” [4]. That day, about three thousand people became believers.

Psalm 2 | As the church grew, it was persecuted. Yet, its boldness was resolute. For example, when the religious leaders told Peter and John to stop preaching the gospel, they replied, “[W]e cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” [5]. Upon their release, they returned to their church, where everyone prayed David’s words in Psalm 2 to ask for courage: “You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: ‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.’ Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the peopleof Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus … Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness” [6]. Then, the place where they were meeting was shaken and God filled them with the Spirit to speak the word of God boldly [7].

Psalm 96 | Lord, Thank you for prophetically speaking through David to prepare us to receive Jesus. By your providence, “the world is firmly established” [8]. Therefore, we “worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness” [9]. Open our hearts to treasure your word as much as the early church did so that, when your promises are fulfilled, we have eyes to see it. Amen.

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[1] Acts 2:22-24 NIV 1984  |  [2] Acts 2:32-33 NIV 1984  |  [3] Acts 2:34-35 NIV 1984 (quoting Psalm 110:1)  |  [4] Acts 2:38-39 NIV 1984  |  [5] Acts 4:20 NIV 1984  |  [6] Acts 4:24-29 NIV 1984 (quoting Psalm 2:1-2)  |  [7] Acts 4:29  |  [8] Ps. 96:10  |  [9] Ps. 96:9

September 22, 2011

How to Make War on Envy

by Bethany

Relevant Text: Ps. 37:4
Full Text: Ps 37 + Ps 101 + Ps 133

Envy | It’s not bad to want something that someone else has. Sometimes it can even be good – like when those things are intimacy with God or healthy and long-lasting friendships or opportunities to participate in advancing the kingdom through work or travel. Where it goes wrong [1], however, is when we start resenting others for having those things and start asking ourselves, “Why do they have that and I don’t?”

Opportunity | Unfortunately, this world is full of opportunities to be envious – political candidates lose elections, single friends attend weddings, parents of chronically sick children have play dates, basketball players sit the bench, colleagues get promoted, an attractive woman walks in SoHo during Fashion Week. Even Peter – after Jesus told him how he’d glorify God in his death – looked at John and asked, “Lord, what about him?”, and Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” [2]. As C.S. Lewis once reflected, the mere desire to be part of “the inner ring” in any situation generates jealousy in most of us [3].

Attack | So how do we attack envy when it rises up in our hearts? Fundamentally, it’s a fight for faith because envy is a symptom of not trusting or delighting in God. As David sang, Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong … Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him” [4]. In the face of jealousy, God wants us to trust and delight in Him. The more we believe that “He will make [our] righteousness shine like the drawn, the justice of [our] cause like the noonday sun” [5], the less envious we are of others because we know that He has appointed the best things for our greatest good.

Prayer | Lord, We confess that our hearts have been jealous when we have forgotten that we have the greatest honor and privilege that exists – namely, knowing You and being found in Christ. Thus, turn our eyes away from looking around at others and lift our heads to look to You. Open the eyes of our hearts to see the staggering promises that You make to those who trust and delight in You [6]. Amen.

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[1] Ps. 37:1 (see also Prov. 23:17, Gal. 5:6, 1 Ptr 2:1)  |  [2] Jn. 21:21-23 NIV 1984  |  [3] C.S. Lewis, “Inner Ring” (the Memorial Lecture at King’s College, University of London, 1944): “I believe that in all men’s lives at certain periods, and in many men’s lives at all periods between infancy and extreme old age, one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside … Often the desire conceals itself so well that we hardly recognize the pleasures of fruition. Men tell not only their wives but themselves that it is a hardship to stay late at the office or the school on some bit of important extra work which they have been let in for because they and So-and-so and the two others are the only people left in the place who really know how things are run. But it is not quite true. It is a terrible bore, of course, when old Fatty Smithson draws you aside and whispers, ‘Look here, we’ve got to get you in on this examination somehow’ or ‘Charles and I saw at once that you’ve got to be on this committee.’ A terrible bore … ah, but how much more terrible if you were left out! It is tiring and unhealthy to lose your Saturday afternoons: but to have them free because you don’t matter, that is much worse.” (source: The Inner Ring). Consider the mother of two disciples who once asked Jesus, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom” (Matt. 20:21 NIV 1984).  |  [4] Ps. 37:1-5 NIV 1984  |  [5] Ps. 37:6 NIV 1984  |  [6] e.g., Rom. 8:28-39, 1 Cor 3:21-23, Is. 64:4. Ultimately, all of our desires will be satisfied. God has given us desires and wants that cause us to long for Him. He is our delight. He is our joy and treasure. Even if it meant that we’d have to give up all of our gifts to gain the kingdom of heaven, it would be worth it because the treasure of being found in Jesus is incomparable and eternal (see The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl, Matt. 13:44-45).

September 21, 2011

The Planetarium of the Skies

by Bethany

Relevant Text: Ps. 15:1
Full Text: Ps 15 + Ps 19 + Ps 36

Planetarium | We get impressed when we look at the stars in the dome of the Hayden Planetarium. Yet, we live in a theater that is ten million times bigger and more magnificent and more unpredictable and more thrilling than any planetarium: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge” [1], and we take it for granted – complaining when it rains or when humidity gives us bad hair. In a few months, we’ll delight in the first fresh snowfall of the season and, days later, we’ll complain about the dirty snow that remains. We are fallen creatures whose eyes get tired of God’s beauty.

Training | As Christians, however, we can see the language of nature better than most people because we have trained eyes. When untrained eyes look at the Mona Lisa, they passively receive its beauty and admire its artistry. When trained eyes look at it, however, they study, inspect and analyze. They know about da Vinci’s life, style, era and tools. They are visually acute and perceptive. As Christians, not only do we see the general revelation of nature that untrained eyes see: “Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” [2], we also see the specific revelation of the written word (the Bible) and the incarnate word (Jesus) that trained eyes see: “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward” [3]. We see nature’s beauty clearly because we know its Painter.

Prayer | Lord, Thank You for speaking to us through nature without a voice [4] – we see the same moon and sun that hangs over London and that hung over da Vinci. Your beauty crosses over cultures and over time. Train our eyes by Your Word to delight in Your visual revelation. Amen.

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[1]Ps. 19:1-2 NIV 1984 | [2] Ps. 19:4 NIV 198 | [3] Ps. 19:7-11 NIV 1984 |
[4] See Ps. 19:3 (“There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” NIV 1984)  |  [FN] Some ideas were adapted to New York from Piper’s sermon, Sky Talk (1980).
September 20, 2011

Life Need Not Be Full of Sound and Fury

by Bethany

Relevant Text: Ps. 131
Full Text: Ps. 62 + Ps. 131

Result: “My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.” | Pride isn’t just about self; it’s also haughty about others – in order to see one’s own superiority, one must see others’ inferiority. Yet, David isn’t proud or haughty. Neither does he concern himself with grandiose endeavors or glories. He doesn’t think he can change the world; he knows that’s God’s job. He depends on God for everything – even his daily bread [1].

Route: “But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.” | David isn’t proud, haughty or arrogant because he’s quieted his noisy heart [2] [3]. He’s weaned himself from grasping at wind through God’s promises. David Powlison observes, “When a hungry child is placed on his mother’s lap, he is agitated. He roots around, squirming anxiously. If he doesn’t get immediate attention and satisfaction, he frets and fusses. He is frustrated and peevish because he wants something … You witness the childish versions of things that destroy adults: anxiety, depression, anger, jealousy, discontent, and confusion. We’ve all seen that. But then have you ever seen that same child two weeks later, when he is successfully weaned? The difference is amazing! A dramatic change has taken place. Now when that child is placed in his mother’s lap, he sits quietly, giving his attention in a different direction. The child rests upon his mother, at peace … Envision your own soul as a small child sitting on your lap. You used to be noisy, squirmy, and demanding. Now you sit still. That’s the picture of learning peace” [4].

Reason: “O Israel, put your hope in the LORD both now and forevermore.” | Jesus is our hope. Certainties – not impossibilities – lie with Him. Hope in God knows no limitations. The humility of Christ defeats our noisy, proud self-will. Jesus calms the storm within our hearts because he takes away our fears. Let us be weaned from our anxious pride as we learn to feast on His peace.

Prayer | Lord, We confess that our souls are noisy, trying to accomplish things too wonderful for us. Release our grips on things that are meant for You alone to handle. Wean us from ourselves and help us put our trust and peace in You. Amen.

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[1] “From your daily bread to your abilities and opportunities, these are gifts from God that you don’t control. What happens when you attempt to control another person’s attitudes and choices, to bend them to your will? You set yourself up for all sorts of ugly things. Despair or rage, anxiety or short-lived euphoria, suspicion or manipulation. What happens when you attempt to ensure that you will not get sick and die? You become obsessed with diet and exercise, or litigious towards doctors, or plagued with fear that any nagging pain might be the big one that finally gets you. What happens when you are obsessed with getting people to like you? You become flirtatious or artificial, a coward or a deceiver, a chameleon or a recluse. What happens when you live for success in sports, career, or your physical appearance? You get injured. You finally retire. Someone comes along who is better than you or better looking. You get old and wrinkled. You die. But when you pursue what you are called to pursue, it makes sense you’d have composure. You’ve discovered what you’re made for. Paul once put it this way, ‘Flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart’ (2 Tim. 2:22)” (David Powlison, “Peace, Be Still: Learning Psalm 131 by Heart.” The Journal of Biblical Counseling (Vol. 8:3, Spring 2000).

[2] See also Is. 57:20-21; 2 Ptr. 1:4.

[3] His life is the opposite from Macbeth’s characterization: “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Act V; scene v.

[4] David Powlison, “Peace, Be Still: Learning Psalm 131 by Heart.” The Journal of Biblical Counseling (Vol. 8:3, Spring 2000).

September 19, 2011

The Lord Is My Shepherd

by Bethany

Relevant Text: Ps. 23:1-2
Full Text: Ps. 16 + Ps. 23 + Ps. 27

The Lord Is My Shepherd | Having grown up as a shepherd boy, David knew what sheep were like. He knew that they weren’t very intelligent, that they were quick to panic and flee in danger because they couldn’t defend themselves against predators, and that they needed shepherds to protect, direct and provide for them. Nonetheless, he likened himself to a sheep and God to a shepherd. Yet, he didn’t see God merely as a shepherd; he saw God as his shepherd. He belonged to the Lord. He had been bought at a price and God took great stock in him. In His care, David never lacked anything that God deemed was good for him: “I shall not be in want” [1].

In Paths of Righteousness | David praised God for His directing love: He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” [2]. Yet, David knew that the “paths of righteousness” weren’t just through “green pastures” and “quiet waters” [3]; they were also through “the valley of the shadow of death” [4]. In the pastures, God would teach David how to remember Him in the midst of his prosperity – with grass all around him and light to show the way. In the valleys, God would teach David how to cry to Him in the midst of his adversity – with death-threatening gorges and darkness to obscure his view.

He Restores My Soul | As the Lord knows, our hearts are downcast when our spirits are broken: “A man’s spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?” [5] Thus, He restores our souls by breaking the yoke of our anxieties, giving us hope in the valleys, and reminding us that – by His grace and power – we will enter a final pasture in His presence through the blood of Jesus, the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep: “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” [6].

Prayer | Lord, You are our Good Shepherd, who leads us through paths of righteousness – pastures and valleys. In Your divine providence and love, You make us increasingly like You because, by nature, we are mere sheep – unable to comprehend Your fullness apart from grace. Teach us to take joy in following Your guiding staff, as we remember that we belong to You and are safe eternally in Your care. Amen.

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[1] Ps. 23:1 NIV 1984  |  [2] Ps. 21:3 NIV 1984  |  [3] Ps. 32:2 NIV 1984  |  [4] Ps. 23:4 NIV 1984  |  [5] Prov. 18:14 NIV 1984  |  [6] Ps. 23:6 NIV 1984

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