Psalm 23: 1 – 4

The Lord is my shepherd, I will not be in need. He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for the sake of His name. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

Yesterday in our discussion of Psalm 138 I mentioned that I was reminded of Psalm 23 so I thought we should have a look at it. Many of you know this psalm from the King James Bible which is poetic and lovely, but it is good for us to look at a variety of versions. This is the New American Standard.

So, I want to use your imagination again today. Picture yourself as a little lamb with Jesus as your shepherd. The first thing represented is provision. The Lord provides for you. You have everything you need. Then we see him leading you to a place of comfort and peace. Here you can lie down and not worry. The pastures are green, ripe with nutritious food and a comfortable place to sleep. There is a bubbling brook there with sweet, clear water, no raging rivers to ford, just a pleasant sound to lull you into peaceful slumber. Of course, this is restorative. He wants you to lie down and rest your mind and body. He is standing guard so that you do not have to worry. Be at peace and rest.

Jesus has a stake in all this. Not only does he love you. Not only did the Father give him charge over you but also, his name is at stake. He leads you in right paths to protect and bless you but if he didn’t, his name would be smeared, his lordship tarnished. He has a duty to lead in right paths. If you stumble and fall off the edge of a narrow trail, his name is besmirched. So, he keeps his little ones from harm.

Lastly, and this reflects back to yesterday, we can be in the midst of trouble, in the very valley of death and yet have no fear. We think of the rod as a disciplinary tool. Jesus thinks of it as a protection tool. The staff and rod show their first use when a ravenous wolf appears. You may be threatened by the wolf but then you see the shepherd’s crook flash from the corner of your eye and the wolf scurry for cover. He also uses his rod and staff to guide you so that you are kept to the safe path. Remember, he is leading us all to fertile fields with creeks of refreshing water. If you stray from the correct path, you will not arrive at Eden. Therefore, Jesus uses his staff to guide you, keeping you on the fruitful path. The path is narrow which leads to the land of plenty, so he is vigilant to guide you with the rod and staff so that you do not stray and find yourself in a thicket.

So much of what Jesus does in our lives is directly spoken to by this psalm. He is obligated, by God Himself, to guide us, to lead us in the way we should go. His rod and staff comfort us because our confidence is boosted and worry eradicated as we perceive the protective guard rails he establishes for us. The moment we begin to wander in the wrong direction he nudges us back in the right direction. He is constantly trying to direct us. Only stupid sheep ignore their shepherd. Ignoring his voice leads to being lost, lonely and without provision. Seek him, yes, but seek also his instruction and guidance. Daily listen to his direction for you.

I hope you were able to enjoy your visual journey as a lamb. Perhaps you added your own images.  It is a good visualization to play with. As you wander, visually, with Jesus, you see the care with which he guards his beloved.

God is . . . joyful in righteousness

1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 5

Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness.

What do you think of when you hear the word unrighteousness? At some level we hear “wrongness” don’t we? Something is not right. One of the definitions of righteousness means essentially that we are in our right place with God. It has to do with where we are in relation to Him. We are righteous in Christ who has placed us in right standing with God. The other use of this word is the one we probably think of more often. It refers to our personal adherence to a code of behavior or laws. When we hear someone is unrighteous we tend to think of them as being wicked. That is going a bit far but certainly one who is wicked is not in their proper place with God and is not following the social mores or laws.

When I hear the word “righteous” I think of Jesus. I have hung my hat on 2 Corinthians 5: 21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Our standing with God is assured. It is not earned. Jesus gave it to us in His sacrifice and it would be repugnant to try to earn it. We are in our right position with God because Jesus bought it with his blood. Of course, our God will not rejoice in our being unrighteous or not in the spot Jesus bought for us. He is not satisfied with us not being in Jesus and standing in the grace Jesus wrought for us. If we do not accept who we are in Christ, the Father cannot rejoice. He can only grieve.

There was an exchange made at that altar of the cross. The sin of the world was laid on the lamb in exchange for the righteousness of God. All of my sin and yours was put on the altar so that we could arise in Christ Jesus in the glory and majesty of His victory and righteousness. Our only task is to intertwine ourselves in the love of Jesus. We put our wrongness on his rightness and his rightness wins every time. The Father is glorified and made joyful when we immerse ourselves in the light of Jesus. He rejoices when we rely upon 2 Corinthians 5: 21 and claim Jesus’ victory bigger than our failures. He is happy when we raise Jesus up above our self-aware shortcomings. We are right in Christ and that is the only way we can ever be righteous. Love rejoices when we abide in love.