I am incredibly grateful that, as a newborn believer, I was taught to read the Word of God every day. At first, I would sit down each morning, open my Bible, and read wherever it opened. However, my motives were not always the best. I read because I was told this is what God expected, and I wanted to be obedient. But I also wanted to check the box on the back of the offering envelope. In those days, we had offering envelopes with a checklist of things on the back that we should do each week. We were expected to pray, read our Bible, talk to others about Jesus, attend Sunday School, attend worship services, and give. And we were expected to check those boxes so the pastor would know we were doing what we were supposed to do. Those were all things a good Christian did. So, I dutifully read my Bible to “check the box.” For me, those early days were more about God establishing a habit in me of being in the Word daily than it was about me getting to know God.
About a year later, my mentor taught me a simple method to help me be more intentional about my daily Bible reading. They shared with me that they read five Psalms each day, beginning with the Psalm of the day. For example, today is January 11, 2021, so I would read Psalm 11. But they read a total of five Psalms and a chapter of Proverbs each day. The way to do this is to read the Psalm of the day, today being Psalm 11, and add 30 to the date read Psalms 41. Then add 30 and read Psalm 71, then 101, and finally 131. Since Proverbs has 31 chapters, we would read the chapter corresponding to the date, or for today, chapter 11. I would often write down things I learned about God or truths that struck me.
Over the years, I have learned to read with a purpose by slowing down and engaging the text interactively. We’ll talk more about that in a moment.
However, today I was captivated by Psalm 11.
David is in a desperate situation. He was surrounded by the wicked, and his life was in danger. Despite his circumstances, David stands firm because of his confidence in the Lord. It was a confidence born out of years of walking with God from the time he was a young shepherd boy in the fields to his present situation as King ruling Israel.
His well-meaning but fearful advisors counseled him to “flee like a bird,” in other words, “run!” But David refused to run away from danger. He marveled at the suggestion from the fainthearted advisors because running denied his faith in the Lord, and they should have known better. He wondered where their faith was when they counseled him to run.
When faced with the temptation to flee or not to flee from the wicked who surrounded him, David held fast to his faith in the Lord. Instead of fleeing like a bird to a mountain where he would be safe, he fled to the Lord for refuge. Escape was out of the question! He made that point crystal clear in his message to them. “In the Lord I take refuge!” (v 1)
Out of their fear, his advisors began to argue the facts of his situation in order to convince him to do so.
- The wicked slander and stalk-like predators for the kill.
- They lie in ambush with their tongues ready to hurl abuse at the godly. (v. 2) (Cross-reference Ps 10:8-9)
- The wicked lurk in the dark. The battle is not out in the open where you could see it. Evil is ubiquitous and yet not easy to spot. The wicked are treacherous, stealthy, and intent on maligning and making the godly fall. They are intent on making anarchy a way of life. (Ps 10:7-10, 37:14)
- The foundations are destroyed. These foundations refer to the law and order of society established by God at creation. This is the belief that God is sovereign over all of His creation and is sustaining the order of the world. God’s justice and law are being replaced by self-rule resulting in anarchy/chaos.
The fearful focus on their surrounding circumstances and ask, “What can the righteous do?” That is a horizontal focus. David, however, has a vertical focus, as we see in verses 4-6.
David was a strong leader; whose confidence was in the Lord. When the fainthearted asked, “What can the righteous do?” David responded that the righteous can trust in the one and only source of secure government – the Lord who
- has not left His holy temple.
- is still on His throne in heaven.
- is sovereignly ruling over His creation.
- sees and examines closely the activities of both the righteous and the wicked.
- tests and refines the righteous.
- hates the wicked and people who love violence. God is opposed to all who choose wickedness and violence in opposition to His will.
- will reward each according to their deeds.
- will destroy the wicked.
- will allow the upright to see His face.
David tried to help the fainthearted advisors see their circumstances from God’s perspective. Like a good leader, David wanted to move them from a horizontal focus to a vertical focus so that they would not be overwhelmed.
The kind of Godly confidence David displayed can withstand trials, persecutions, and temptations. David not only knows the truth about who is Sovereign over all the earth, but he also lives the truth so others may know God. Jesus also had confidence in the Father when He faced Satan’s temptations and the hostility of people. We can trust God to do what He said He would do!
Confidence in the Lord is a mark of Christian maturity!
Earlier I mentioned that I learned to read with a purpose by slowing down and engaging the text interactively. In doing so, my time in the Word was no longer merely an “academic” pursuit of knowledge. As I slowed down and interacted with the Word, both my mind and heart were engaged. In interacting in this way, the Word not only instructed and trained me how to be righteous, but it also reprimanded and corrected me in my thoughts and behaviors. But it didn’t stop there! The more I applied the truths I was learning, living in obedience to the Truth of the Word, the more I knew God intimately, and I grew spiritually. That growth has given me the confidence to stand firm in whatever situation I find myself in and to make Jesus known from those platforms.
Engaging the Scriptures
Here are some simple steps to help you interactively engage the scriptures.
Read Psalm 11 (It’s at the end of this blog)
Note: David is the one speaking, and he is speaking to his advisors.
This time mark LORD including pronouns.
(I use a triangle. However, you can color it, circle it, etc. The point is to slow you down and see what you are reading.) When reading scripture, I always mark God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
Re-read it. (I know, you’ve already read it twice, but it’s ok, it’s God’s Word.)
This time mark
wicked, including pronouns and synonyms. I use a W over the word.
righteous, including synonyms with a circle.
Now the fun begins as you engage more with the scripture!
Make a list. Look at each place you marked LORD and write down all you learn about the LORD. For example:
The Lord is
in His Holy temple
Make another list. This time write what you learn about the wicked.
Now we will drill down a little deeper by asking some questions using the 5 Ws and H questions. (Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?)
David is in a desperate situation surrounded by the wicked, and his life was in danger. What point does David make before addressing his advisors in verse 1?
What advice have his advisors given him according to verse 1?
Who are they worried about, and why are they concerned?
To get a better understanding of what the wicked are doing, read Psalm 10:8-9, and write down what you learn.
Note: These foundations in verse 3 refer to the law and order of society established by God at creation. This is the belief that God is sovereign over all of His creation and is sustaining the order of the world. God’s justice and law are being replaced by self-rule resulting in anarchy/chaos.
According to verse 3, what is the concern of the advisors?
Where is the focus of David’s advisors? Explain your answer.
From all you have seen so far, how would you describe/characterize David’s advisors?
What is David’s response, according to verses 4-6?
Where is David’s focus?
What do you learn about the Lord in verse 7, and how does that relate to the upright?
Something to think about
Do you look more like the advisors or David? What would others say?
Look at today’s culture. Do you see any similarities to the culture David was living in? Don’t just answer with yes or no, if so write out the similarities.
If so, what have you learned from Psalm 11 that will help you stand in confidence in an evil and corrupt society?
How mature are you? What do you need to do to grow in maturity?
1 In the LORD I take refuge; how can you say to my soul, “Flee like a bird to your mountain,
2 for behold, the wicked bend the bow; they have fitted their arrow to the string to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;
3 if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
4 The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man.
5 The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
6 Let him rain coals on the wicked; fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
7 For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.
This is part 2 of What in the world are they thinking?. To put you in context you may want to go back and read the previous blog, if you haven’t already.
We are living in times that seem to be increasingly evil. Times where right is wrong and wrong is right. As I scan through the news I often ask myself, “What in the world are they thinking?” Recently, as I watched current events unfolding, I found myself asking that question once again. This time God reminded me of Psalm 36, which I had just studied. I had read through the psalm several times but I just wasn’t grasping what it was saying, so I went back and drilled down a bit more. I thought you might need the answer to this question too, so I decided to do a short interactive study together.
You may be asking yourself what I mean by interactive study. This kind of study is a hands-on approach, not simply reading the text, to help students become more engaged with the text, and retain more of what they read. It is a tool to help students strengthen problem-solving and critical thinking skills, which will help you know and understand the author’s purpose for writing. In this short study we will be
- marking words – which slows you down to really see what is there.
- making lists – to lift the text off the page in order to see it more clearly as well as help imbed it in your mind.
- asking questions of the text, Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How?
(I suggest you either print this off and work on the copy, or you can mark right in your Bible.)
At the end of the day you will be amazed at how much more you pick up!
Context helps us better understand the circumstance in which something is written. So let’s take a look at what was going on when David wrote this Psalm.
David is no stranger to the schemes of the wicked, often he found himself in the midst of his enemies. I am sure he probably asked God that same question! (What in the world are they thinking?) Overwhelmed by the lifestyle and the wickedness of the ungodly as they plotted their schemes, David knew he had to refocus, and he knew where to find relief. Remembering God’s character and how He had worked in his life in the past, David responded to his circumstances by praying. The Lord answered his prayer with an oracle concerning the sinfulness of the wicked surrounding him.
Let’s get started.
- With that in mind read Psalm 36 without stopping. (We are using the ESV translation)
1 Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes.
2 For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.
3 The words of his mouth are trouble and deceit; he has ceased to act wisely and do good.
4 He plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil.
5 Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.
6 Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O Lord.
7 How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8 They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.
10 Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your righteousness to the upright of heart!
11 Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
12 There the evildoers lie fallen; they are thrust down, unable to rise.
Drill down a little deeper
What did you notice on your first read through?
Read verses 1-4. Who is David talking about?
Write wicked in the left hand column just below #1. (This will help you see clearly which group you are reading about)
Mark all references to the wicked, including pronouns, and make a list of all you learn about them. (I use a colored pencil to color the word. It makes it easier to see)
When was the last time you used transgression in a sentence? It is not a word we commonly use. When you see a word when reading your Bible that you are not familiar with you can google it or look it up the old school way using a dictionary. Transgression is “something that is against a command or law. It can be a failure to do your duty. A sin is a transgression against God.”
According to verse 1, what speaks to the heart of the wicked, and how much influence does it have?
Our belief systems determine our behavior. What is the basis for the beliefs and behaviors of the wicked in this verse?
What kind of relationship do they have with God? How does that effect their belief system?
Read back through your list about the wicked. How does what you learn about the wicked help you better understand the answer to the question, “What were they thinking?”
Now read verses 7-12. What group of people is David talking about in these verses?
Write believers in the left hand column just below #7.
Mark all references to the believers, including pronouns. Also mark the wicked in the same way you did in verses 1-4.
Make a list of all you learn about the believers in these verses.
Add any new insights you saw regarding the wicked from this passage, to your list on the wicked.
From what you read in this passage, what do believers base their beliefs and behaviors on?
How is this different from what you learned about the wicked’s belief system? Explain your answer.
Go back and read verses 5-6 again and mark God/Lord and pronouns. (I often use a triangle)
Write God in the left hand column just below #5.
Read verses 7-12 again and mark God, including pronouns.
Make a list of all you learned about God.
In verses 5-6, what are God’s character qualities you see here? How are they described?
How available are these character qualities to believers? Are they limited? Explain your answer.
Steadfast love – The Hebrew word the ESV translates as steadfast love is checed, and is also translated as ‘love’, ‘faithful love’, ‘lovingkindness ‘, ‘gracious love’ or even ‘mercy’ in other translations. The word is hard to define because it a deeper kind of love. It is a unique covenant love that only God can give. That love protects believers from the hostility of the wicked. It is a love, a mercy, a compassion that we can trust in regardless of what our circumstances may be.
A love that never changes, never fails. Always promised, always true.
According to verses 5-9, where can believers find relief from the hostility they are surrounded by?
How will fully understanding that truth help you live by faith and not in fear when you are overwhelmed by the culture you are living in?
David ends the psalm with a prayer in verses 10-12. What is he asking God to do?
In verse 12, what does David see will happen to the evildoers as a result of their wickedness?
Some things to think about
There are two philosophies and lifestyles contrasted in this Psalm, that of unbelievers and believers.
The philosophy of the wicked is based on the absence of their fear of God. Because of this, the wicked continue doing evil with no pangs of conscience, and no sense of impending judgment. The unbeliever soothes his own conscience to hide his sins. His speech is deceptive, divisive and immoral. They plot their evil schemes from the time they get up in the morning, throughout the day, and continue even after they go to bed at night. The wicked have no sense of responsibility to God for their actions, or fear of punishment, because of that they cease to “be wise and to do good.” They are totally self focused.
David’s philosophy of life (and that of believers), is to be based on their fear of God. In contrast with the corruptions of the wicked, an obedient believer’s life is characterized by
- their security in the Lord.
- abundant provisions.
- their lifestyle and understanding of God’s presence.
God’s steadfast love, faithfulness, righteousness and justice are inexhaustible resources for believers. Through them God preserves man and beast throughout life, in blessings for believers.
Despite the wickedness surrounding him, David found relief by focusing on God’s attributes, enabling him to not be distracted from what God has called him to do.
In the face of the circumstances that surround us, it is really easy to become overwhelmed by the wickedness. We don’t have to be! We can train ourselves to respond to the evil as David did by
- Responding with prayer.
- Refocusing on who God is and what He does. (In doing, so you will go from a horizontal focus, fixated on your circumstances, to a vertical focus, your eyes fixed on God.)
- Remembering what God has already done.
- Resting in the knowledge that God will do what He said He would do.
In doing so, you will not be distracted from what God has called you to do!
Stand firm! Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go! – Joshua 1:9
The Twenty Third Psalm is a three part series. If you missed Part One – The Lord is My Shepherd you should read it before reading this.
As we continue reading Psalm 23 we see the shepherd at work. He is the leader, provider and protector of his flock. He knows every animal by name, and values each one more than his own life. These verses take us to the heart of pastoral care.
Walking ahead of his sheep and calling them to follow, the shepherd finds fresh pasture to graze and safe places to drink. The shepherd takes care of his sheep in every way.
Psalm 23 – A Psalm of David
He restores my soul. (vs. 3)
As a shepherd leads his sheep to still waters for rest and cleansing, so the Lord restores and refreshes my soul! It is the Good Shepherd then, who in restoring our souls binds up our wounds, heals our sicknesses, and gives us strength in place of weakness.
The Lord (Jehovah Rapha – The God who heals) restores my soul, He restores my heart and the dreams once shattered are now replaced. He makes those things important which once were thought to be unimportant. He heals, showing that He knows where I am, and that He delights in me!
It is in the restoration of my soul, that I sense the Father’s love. It’s like the gleam in my earthly father’s eyes which said he loved me. I think maybe my heavenly Father had a gleam in His eyes also, when He knit me together in my mother’s womb. And as I look in the mirror I find that the Father has put the gleam back in my eyes! He restores my soul.
Strength returns and the Lord heals and creates life in me again, giving me the fullness of His heart. A heart of faith, love, hope and repentance, which I had compromised because I had become faint of heart. Now it becomes, once again, a heart confiding in God.
It is in that barren land of my soul that I am exposed to the delight of God’s heart once more. It is here that I become a woman who can show up once again to the battle and offer courage to many others who have suffered loss of heart!
He guides me in the paths of righteousness. (vs 3)
Sheep are notorious for straying, getting lost and taking the wrong path and falling into harm’s way. The shepherd knows this about sheep so he gently guides them, keeps them from getting lost and brings them safely back home.
The Shepherd knows I can be a lot like those sheep. In restoring our souls, He makes us hunger and thirst for righteousness. Righteousness is following the divine and moral law of God. It means in spite of what the world says we still have to take a stand for the things of God.
So He instructs me by His word, and He gave me the Holy Spirit to enable me to walk the paths He leads me down. When I stray from the path God has put me on, the Holy Spirit taps me on my heart, turns me around and says, “This is the way, walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)
The Lord restores our emotions, He gives us joy in the morning. (Psalm 30:5) That doesn’t mean we will cry all night but the next morning everything will be ok. It means the “dark night of the soul” may last for a season, but we will know joy again. In restoring our emotions, the Shepherd does not promise to keep us from all sadness, but He does promise that His joy is always waiting for us on the other side of our seemingly endless suffering. He will turn our mourning into dancing and replace our sackcloth with new garments of joy.
The Good Shepherd brings restoration to our minds. He changes our way of thinking by reminding us to look at everything with His perspective in mind. When we do He makes us wise and discerning. We no longer think as the world thinks, we look at life from God’s point of view. Instead of being self-focused we become God-focused. Instead of thinking the Shepherd is out to harm us, we embrace His love and ask Him what He is up to. As He restores our mind, this new way of understanding redefines who we are and how we live. We begin to hear and understand and know the voice of the Shepherd.
I can walk confidently knowing that God is going to lead me down the right path, guiding me each step of the way, knowing He will bring me safely home.
I need to remember that.
For His name’s sake. (vs 3)
Why does the Lord desire us to be on the right paths? It is for His name’s sake. For His name’s sake simply means for the reputation of God.
You may think that God can take care of His own reputation and you would be right. However, how people view Him in light of our behavior may cause them to believe that God is not worthy to be recognized as Holy and surrender their lives and follow Him.
God’s name is the name above every name. He does these things so that all who see will know that He alone is God. He is not doing any of this for my name’s sake, but for His.
How do you protect God’s reputation? The way I walk is making Him known to all who are watching. I need to be mindful of the way I live life, not just on Sundays but 24/7. I need to live so that I bring honor and glory to Him in all that I do, in my marriage, in my parenting, in my job and in my ministry etc. My mantra should be “To know Him and make Him known!”
I need to remember that.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me. (vs 4)
Even when sheep go through a dangerous valley, the shepherd is beside them. At the end of the day, the shepherd leads the flock back to the fold and stands by the open door to examine each one as it enters.
As I read this verse I am reminded that it that flowed from the heart of King David during a dark, painful time in his life. King David was experiencing a very difficult time, a time of hardship, great danger and deep suffering. In a broken world, these will invade our lives too. At some point we will also make that long, slow, painful walk through the “valley of the shadow of death.”
You may be walking in the valley even now. As I write I just returned from the area in town where an F3 tornado destroyed 344 homes and damaged countless others. I can’t even begin to fathom the darkness that overshadows the lives of the victims. As I’ve prayed for those I know and those I don’t know, whose lives were changed in an instant Easter night, a thought illumined the darkness that blanketed my heart as I prayed. In order for there to be a shadow, there must also be a light. That light is Jesus, the Light of the world. Jesus walks through the valley with us, always by our side. We are not alone!
Jesus is the Light, but He is also the Great Shepherd, who walks with us and guides us. He will comfort us with His presence, even in the valley of the shadow of death!
If I find myself in a valley of deep darkness (or shadow of death), I don’t need to be afraid, the Lord is with me and will guide and protect me, so that I can rest. When I begin to feel that fear welling up inside me – I need to refocus – and know that the Lord is my Shepherd and I am His sheep.
The Lord is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life of whom I shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and my foes they stumbled and fell. (Psalm 27:1-2)
I need to remember that.
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me (vs 4)
A shepherd carried a “rod” to fend off wild animals (1 Sam 17:43; 2 Sam 23:21) and a “staff” to keep the sheep in control. These represent God’s constant watch care over His own and brings “comfort” because of His personal presence and involvement with His sheep.
God has authority over my enemies. Even if I stumble, lose faith, lose heart, lose my grip on God’s words and become weak and afraid, I am able to trust God for the victory! He will never leave or abandon me! (Hebrews 13:5)
I can find comfort in knowing that God is El Roi, the God who sees all, and that nothing escapes His notice! (Psalm 139:7-12)
I am one of His sheep and He will deal with anyone who messes with one of His sheep!
I need to remember that.
Something to think about
As I feed on the richness of God’s Word and I’m cleansed in the still waters, I am refreshed and restored! Life takes on a whole new perspective and I am able to look ahead with expectation once again. But that only happens as I get to know MY Great Shepherd! The way I get to know my God is through His Word, prayer and obeying what He says.
Our restoration is also not simply individual. The Shepherd is never the shepherd of just one sheep. He is the Shepherd of the flock. In restoring the individual lives of the sheep, He also restores the life of the flock. He makes it a flock of healthy and strong sheep, able to band together for the good of the flock.
None of this restoration is instantaneous. The healing of the sick and the wounded takes time. The strengthening of those who are weak takes time. The renewing of the mind takes time. The Good Shepherd uses the flock in the restoration of the individual. As the individual grows stronger, he in turn is used by the Shepherd in the restoring of others. May we remember our restoration is not only about us, but part of God’s bigger plan! The Good Shepherd restores our souls so that we may be used by Him in the restoring of the souls of others.
As a young boy David tended his father’s sheep. (1 Sam 16:11) In the night watches he learned many valuable lessons for both life and his walk with the Lord. His encounters with the lion and bear prepared him for Goliath. Being anointed King by Samuel only to be sent back to the fields, taught him to trust God’s word even when his circumstances didn’t seem to line up with it.
The skills David learned shepherding his father’s flocks proved invaluable when the time came for him to lead God’s people. Many years later David uses his deep understanding rooted in his experiences in the valleys and in the shadows of death which surrounded him, to illustrate how God cares for His children in Psalm 23.
Psalm 23 has brought comfort to both believers and the lost as they read it and are able to personalize it.
I began writing to simply explore Psalm 23 and get a better understanding of it. But, as I wrote my thought processes began to morph and I have deleted much more than I’ve written. My thoughts meandered and I left the academic and gradually arrived at a destination that was not on my itinerary, a very personal place of rest which was God’s plan before I even began this journey.
I was reminded of my personal night watches and lessons learned and many still forming. Encounters, not with lions and bears, but with people. Encounters which have prepared me for different legs of my life journey, were brought into focus with understanding. An anointing received, yet to be realized. And I am learning to trust God even when I don’t understand.
This post is the first of a three-part series on Psalm 23.
Let the reading begin!
Psalm 23 – A PSALM OF DAVID
The Lord is MY Shepherd (vvs 1-2)
The LORD is MY shepherd, I shall not want. (vs. 1)
The Sovereign God, the covenant keeping God, the God of Israel is also a personal God who promises to take care of His people.
Jesus is the Great Shepherd who cares for the sheep. (Heb 13:20-21, Jn 10:14) He even knows them by name! The picture here is that of a shepherd and his flock. As we follow Him, He takes care of us.
In fact, as one of His sheep I will want for nothing! I will not want for
Rest and refreshment (Ps 23:2)
• Restoration and righteousness (Ps 23:3)
• Protection (Ps 23:4)
• Provision (Ps 23:5)
• A place to call home (Ps 23:6)
Because I am in covenant with God, I never have to worry when I follow the Great Shepherd; He WILL protect me and provide for me!
Because the Lord was David’s Shepherd, his needs were met. When the Lord is MY Shepherd, I have whatever I need; and if I don’t have everything I desire, I can rest knowing it is either not beneficial for me, or the time is not right for me to have it.
MY Shepherd is THE GREAT Shepherd!
I need to remember that.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. (vs. 2)
It seems that sheep are stubborn. They don’t have enough sense to know when to lie down to rest, so there are times that the shepherd makes them lie down in the lush green pastures where the sheep don’t have to move from place to place to be satisfied. Sheep have been known to stay in one place and eat until they eat down to the dirt. So, a good shepherd moves them to green pastures where they don’t have to search for food to eat and they can rest.
I am a lot like those stubborn sheep! I don’t know when to rest and often I go from here to there looking to be satisfied. There is always something else that needs to be done, ministry opportunities which need to be taken, relationships needing to be nourished and the list goes on and on! I stay in those fields of opportunity grazing until before I realize I have become parched and dry!
As God’s child I can find spiritual food in the green pastures of God’s Word. It is milk for babies, pasture for sheep, never barren, never eaten bare, never parched, but always a green pasture. (Heb 5:12-14)
Personally, I am in the Word on a daily basis – reading it, writing it, speaking it – yet at times I forget to feed on it.
It is at those times that God makes me to lie down in the green pasture of His word – feasting on its abundance, drinking in its healing and wisdom, gaining new strength.
Since I am so blessed with the green pastures of His Word, I need to be careful not to miss what God has for me there. I need to be intentional and not simply “run through” the fields of His Word but lay down in them and take up residence – rest in them.
It is there that I become quiet and content in my heart and mind, no matter what is raging around me. I can rest in Him.
I need to remember that.
He leads me beside quiet waters. (vs 2)
I have read that sheep are afraid of moving water. The least bit of movement and they will not approach the water; however, sheep will drink from still waters. A good shepherd leads his sheep beside the still waters. They are guided and led well. Not downstream, upstream or anywhere the waters are not still.
When life is swirling around me and I am pulled into its drama I become frenzied, fighting to overcome the rip tide that is pulling me away from my goal! In those times I long for a quieter place, a more peaceful pool where I can breathe without gasping for air, rest and not struggle to get to my destination. Only the Great Shepherd leads me to those waters – all I need to do is follow His leading.
I need to remember that.
As I said earlier this is part 1 of a 3-part series. You don’t want to miss the rest of the story!
Something to think about
Throughout the years the twenty third psalm has comforted people from all walks of life, in the most difficult circumstances. And why shouldn’t it? David writes from the heart about the lessons he learned during his night watches shepherding his father’s sheep.
David proclaims, “The Lord is MY Shepherd!” with an emphasis on “MY.” Alone in the fields all those nights gave him plenty of personal time with God. It was there that David grew in his understanding of who God is and his relationship with Him.
So much of our confusion and pain comes as a result of not knowing God — who He really is, how He works in our lives. Unfortunately, too often we spend more time reading books written by men and women about things in the Bible, listening to podcasts of great preachers and teachers rather than spending time alone with the Lord, reading His Word for ourselves. In a sense, we are eating “already been chewed food”, devoid of the nourishment which is essential for spiritual growth and a godly lifestyle, rather than feasting at His table.
The only way to truly KNOW God is by reading the Bible, spending time in prayer and obeying what God says. When you know God more fully, you’ll gain power to stand strong in even the most difficult and unpredictable circumstances. You’ll find strength for times of trial, comfort for pain, and provision for your soul’s deepest needs. You too will be able to say, “The Lord is MY shepherd!”
The Man was handsome; he had red hair, beautiful eyes and he loved God with all of his heart. But the thing that drew many people to him was the fact that he was probably the most joyful man they had ever encountered. His eyes twinkled and it is rumored that he was known to have danced freely in the streets as a younger man.
If you were to stop and ask about his story he would joyfully share it with you, leaving nothing out and capturing your heart with each twist and turn and ultimately surprising you with the ending. But rather than leave you hanging you can read it for yourself!
The Man was the youngest son of 8 children born to a hard workingman, who believed boys needed to learn how to work. As a boy his father taught him about God and he was a good student. While working for his father The Boy’s faith not only grew wide but it grew deep. The Boy learned how to overcome his fears and stand courageous, lessons that served him well later as he served as a commander in the military.
It was evident to all around that there was something special about The Boy. A stranger came to town and he saw it too and prayed a blessing over the young man.
The Boy understood who his God was and the covenant relationship they had. So when he arrived on the scene of a man bullying his brothers and their cohorts, calling God names and mocking Him, The Boy couldn’t simply stand by and watch. He had to take action and the young man knew God would be with him. Although the bully taunted him too, The Boy stood firm, faced the intimidator and literally stopped him dead in his tracks.
His bravery drew the attention of all who heard and they sang his praises for taking care of the bully. When The Leader in the community heard the story, he took The Boy under his wing and invested in his life. The Boy learned a lot from The Leader during the journey they travelled together. In fact, even though their time together was not always pleasant it was a time of great spiritual formation for The Boy.
Along that journey The Boy made a friend, not an ordinary friend but one that he loved like a brother. He was the kind of friend that you are fortunate to have during a lifetime. The two were inseparable!
The Boy became a young man and he grew in wisdom and strength and was loved by all, well almost everyone. The Man served The Leader well and honored him despite some questionable business practices and a growing spirit of jealousy. It was a jealousy that came from understanding that The Man was a man of integrity and that he loved God with his whole heart. Eventually The Leader’s jealousy got the best of him and he orchestrated circumstances to get rid of the young man. The Man left saddened by the way things had turned out.
Despite the unfortunate circumstances The Man understood authority and honored The Leader who was in authority, not only over him but the whole community. The Man did not bad mouth him, nor did he try to get The Leader removed from his position. As a result God honored that and eventually removed The Leader from authority and placed The Man into that position.
It was apparent, just like when he was a young boy, that God’s hand was on The Man.
The Man was met with success as he continued his life journey in this new position God had placed him in. He drew on the life lessons he had learned under The Leader and led with a rare combination of love and strength always looking out for the best interests of those who served under him. The result was that not only was The Man blessed but all who were led by him and their families were too.
The Man was at the height of his career; he ruled over a vast empire and his capital was enriched with international assets. But, in the midst of all this success The Man fell and his character became stained with the sin of adultery.
The day started like any other, except that instead of going to work he stayed home. While looking out at the view from his house, he saw a beautiful young woman off in the distance and she caught his attention. The man asked about the young woman and found out she was the granddaughter of one of his longtime, faithful and influential staff members, and the wife of a younger and most trusted staff. Even knowing who she was, The Man asked one of his staff to invite her over. From that moment on his life changed drastically!
As you may have guessed The Man slept with the beautiful young woman that day. The Beautiful One soon found out she was pregnant with The Man’s child. Her husband had been off working a special assignment so The Man brought him home hoping that he would sleep with his wife and no one would know (including him) that the child wasn’t his. Unfortunately, the plan failed. The Man then, knowingly, sent him out on a very dangerous assignment where he was killed. After the appropriate amount of time passed for The Beautiful One to grieve, The Man married her. They would live happily ever after and no one would be the wiser.
However, that was not to be. God sent someone to bring home his crimes to the conscience of The Guilty Man.
The Man was broken and became truly repentant. He wept bitterly and confessed his sins before God, (holding nothing back). He had committed adultery, murder, and he lied to cover it up. The Man understood that God was the One against whom he had ultimately sinned.
God’s man explained that even though The Man was repentant, there would be serious consequences to pay. The child that was born to The Man and the Beautiful One would die (and he did) and that the sword would never depart from The Man’s household because he despised God and taken the Beautiful One to be his wife. He also told The Man that God would raise up evil against him from his own household, his family would have no respect for him and that He would give The Man’s wives to a companion and he will lie with them in broad daylight (and it happened just as God’s Man said it would).
The Man was King David, the ruler of Israel.
[Although this is a fanciful description of some of the key moments in his life, the essence is true. This man, a national hero, with a passion to serve God withstood temptation again and again as he was attacked. But at one point he failed, miserably.]
King David also is the author of about 80 of the Psalms. Psalms 32 and 51 reveal the deep struggles of his soul and his spiritual recovery. How could King David (The Man) live such a joy filled life and be called “A man after God’s own heart” after all that he did and the consequences he suffered because of it?
Good question!!! He experienced Joy in the Shadow of Great Failure the same way we can!
Because of the message the angel brought the shepherds that night – “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy for you and all people; today a Savior has been born, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10–14) – we can all experience Joy in the Shadow of Great Failure!
Luke speaks of a global Gospel: the “Good News” is for everybody, not just the Jews! What was this good news? That God had sent a Savior, His Son Jesus Christ, to meet man’s greatest need, forgiveness of sins!
Having confessed his sins and repented, King David asked God to purify and wash him whiter than snow and to hear joy and gladness. He asked that God would create in him a new heart and renew a steadfast spirit in him. Then David asked God to “restore the joy of his salvation” and God did just that!!!
AFTER he sinned David continued to be known as a man after God’s own heart!
David’s career had been one of great prosperity and success prior to his sin. After becoming broken before the Lord, David did not allow his past failures to define who he was, instead David, having been restored by God, lived in the joy of his salvation.
What is keeping you from walking in the joy that is yours according to the message of the angels?
- Is it that you have never experienced salvation?
• Could it be that you have never confessed and repented of your sins before God?
- Or perhaps it is because you have not believed that God would do what He said He would do – restore you to the joy of your salvation.
Whatever it is won’t you determine today to make it right and to dance with joy, no matter the source of the shadows, on the platform where God has placed you!
To learn more about the life of King David I recommend you read 1 & 2 Samuel. You may be surprised by what you learn about “The man after God’s own heart”!
Fear unleashes a host of doubts. It chips away at our confidence in God’s goodness. If Jesus can sleep in the storms of the Sea of Galilee, is He asleep in our storms? Does He care? Our minds continue, “If God doesn’t care, then we must take control.” We become control freaks because we perceive a loss of control and somebody has to do something!
The disciples had every reason to trust Jesus. They had heard Him teach the Word and had even seen Him perform miracles, and yet they still had little faith in a crisis, when their lives were at risk. Fear is a powerful emotion and it takes over when we allow it. But faith is ever present and more powerful: it keeps fear in check. The Disciples’ unbelief encouraged their fear, and their fear made them question whether Jesus really cared. (Mark 4:35-40) It is a vicious cycle. Unbelief lead to fear, fear leads to unbelief and on it goes.
Simply telling people to “get saved and read your Bible” and then their fears and anxieties will disappear is not the answer. There is a growth process that involves the renewing of our minds through the study of the Word and learning to trust in God and not in ourselves. Faith casts out fear, but that faith comes as we learn to walk in obedience to the Word.
Help for Breaking Free from Fear
David wrote Psalm 56 when his enemies were seeking to destroy him. This Psalm provides a pattern to follow that will help us break free from the fear of man. Read the Psalm and then answer the questions below.
1 Be gracious to me, O God, for man has trampled upon me; fighting all day long he oppresses me.
2 My foes have trampled upon me all day long, for they are many who fight proudly against me.
3 When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.
4 In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?
5 All day long they distort my words; all their thoughts are against me for evil.
6 They attack, they lurk, they watch my steps, as they have waited to take my life.
7 Because of wickedness, cast them forth, in anger put down the peoples, O God!
8 You have taken account of my wanderings; Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book?
9 Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call; this I know, that God is for me.
10 In God, whose word I praise, In the LORD, whose word I praise,
11 In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?
12 Your vows are binding upon me, O God; I will render thank offerings to You.
13 For You have delivered my soul from death, Indeed my feet from stumbling, So that I may walk before God In the light of the living.
Answer these questions from the text above (You may want to write the answers out)
What do you learn about David?
In the face of his enemies David is afraid but he responds to the situation rather than reacting to it. How does he respond in verses 1-2?
In verse 3 we see it is not if we feel fear, rather it is a question of when. When fear comes we don’t need to fall victim to it and let it control us. Where was David’s focus?
What did David do that helped him refocus, thus keeping him from becoming enslaved by the fear of man according to verses 3-4?
What you learn about the men that were opposing David in verses 5-7?
Does David have reason to be afraid?
In the face of his enemies David calls out to God, what does he ask Him to do?
Immediately after telling God about his enemies David puts his focus back on God. What happens when we focus on the circumstances and not God?
What did David rehearse about God that helped in the face of his enemies?
David started off the Psalm afraid but ended by resting as He trusted in God.
It is not a sin to be afraid but if the fear of man is controlling you and God is not, then you won’t be refreshed.
5 Principles for Overcoming Fear
God does not want us to live in fear. But in order to overcome fear we must learn and apply some very simple principles as David did when he was afraid.
- Respond by going to God in prayer (Psalm 56:1-2)
- Refocus by focusing on God not the circumstance (Psalm 56:3-4)
- Rehearse what we know about God and His Word, in our mind (or verbally if necessary) (Psalm 56:4,11)
- Rest by trusting God in the circumstance. (Psalm 56:4,11)
- Respond, Refocus, Rehearse, Rest. (Psalm 3:1-6)
When we put our focus on Christ we are reminded He is ever present and all powerful. Then our struggles and fears are put into their proper perspective and our faith becomes stronger. The result of that is that we are able to be courageous and not be afraid. (Joshua 1:7)
Jesus Himself wages war against fear. In the New Testament He often commands us to not be afraid, or not to fear, or have courage. Of these, the statement He made more than any other was do not be afraid. Jesus doesn’t want us to live in fear; He calls us to courage. (Matthew 14:27)
Something to think about
Are you more afraid of the voice of man than the voice of God?
Do you have faith to stand confidently and say that the God we can’t see is far greater than the people we can?