Shepherd

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.

Safe Passage

Psalm 138: 7

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will reach out with Your hand . . . and Your right hand will save me.

This reminds me of the Twenty-third Psalm. Even as we find ourselves surrounded by trouble, we can rest in confidence knowing the Father’s hand is nearby. As I ponder this verse, I also find myself thinking of Isaiah 30: 21, “Your ears will hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.” One of the ways the Lord saves us is by speaking to us and warning us from paths of danger. During the bombing of the train in England and the 9/11 bombings in the US, multiple reports emerged from people saying they just had a feeling to get off a stop earlier than normal or not to go to work that day. Our Father guides in the way to go, steering us from trouble.

Sometimes, though, it is hard to get out of the path of danger, as has been the case for the last twelve months. Still, your Father is there with you to guide and protect you. He may give you instructions or ideas that keep you safe. It is imperative that we continue to grow in our ability to hear His voice because one thing is sure, there will always be trouble. Jesus said so. In these days it seems the trouble is increasing exponentially so we need Him close, more now than ever before.

He has not abandoned His people. Even as we look back over the last twelve months and the horrible suffering and loss, we can know that our Father was with us. He is with us now and that confidence in His attendance helps guide us deeper into His presence. As we continue to passionately seek Him, we will get better and better at hearing His voice and recognizing His touch.

We certainly need Him walking alongside us day by day and, fortunately, He has promised to do just that. You have His word that He will save you in the midst trouble. It is a promise upon which you can rely. Never tempt the Lord your God by putting yourself in harm’s way. Do not fail to listen to His wisdom for you. It might mean walking home by a different route or any number of seemingly small details, but His hand is there to guide and save you. Bless His name for His good promises and mighty hand.

Sheltering in Place

Psalm 57: 1       NLT

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy! I look to you for protection. I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until the danger passes by.

Did you know God has wings? I didn’t. I never thought about it until now though I have read these passages many times. When you picture Him, do you picture Him with wings?

Have a look at Psalm 36: 7, “How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings,” (NIV). God’s wings are a place of refuge for people. One translation says, “All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings,” (NLV). Not only is He a place of shelter of refuge but this inn is open to all humanity. This shows God’s great, unfailing love as well as His compassion and understanding. He has spread His wings for all humanity to seek shelter in Him. I cannot help but find the play on words interesting as we constantly discuss “sheltering in place.” He is the shelter in which we should hide ourselves until the danger passes.

I am reading a story about a dragon rider and his dragon. They were on a long journey through the wilderness. At night the dragon would cover her rider with her wings. The rider was safe and dry under the protection of those wings. As I read, I could feel the comfort of looking up and seeing the shelter of the wing. That is what made me begin to understand the security of our Father covering us with His wing. We are safe and secure as He shields us from the dangers of the world.

Ask yourself, “How does one hide beneath the shadow of God’s wings or how does one take refuge in the shadow of His wings?” Is this something we do in prayer, meditatively, by the confession of our mouths or in our hearts?” How did David run into the strong tower of God’s protection? I ask you because that was very real for David. The threat to his personal safety was very real so he needed a very real solution. It was neither an ethereal nor a hypothetical question for David. He was saved time and time again by hiding himself in the refuge of God’s care.

This is the part I can answer for you. God is there with you right now. He has His wings extended as an invitation to enter into the shelter of His protection. His love and concern for you are very real to Him and He has you on His mind at this very moment. However, it is clear from these verses and others that David, as well as other writers, were the actors in the passages. They were the ones who hid themselves in the refuge of God. They sheltered themselves under the shadow of His wings. God didn’t kidnap them and put them in the safety of His shelter. We must run into His embrace. So, run – run to your Father. Hide yourself under His wing and stay there until the danger has passed.

If this devotion has helped you, will you forward it to someone else? Most everyone you know needs some comfort right now. Thank you.

Not My House

Psalm 91: 10

No evil will befall you, nor will any plague come near your tent.

This verse was written for today. There are many great utterances from the Lord which are appropriate for our current situation and I will be sending them to you over the next weeks but is there any verse more timely than this?

Psalm 91 is such a great chapter anyway. If you have not read it in a while, take some time to read it. You will find it greatly encouraging. You may find yourself thinking that the author was looking through a crystal ball when he wrote it. You know, sometimes working with God is that way. You are in the present, but He also has His mind on the future.

We can use this verse a couple of ways. First, as a prayer, and while I am in this thought, “Father, in the name of Jesus, I pray these words over every single person who reads this devotional. Lord, put a bubble of protection around them, their families and their homes. Father, I declare in the authority I have in the name of Jesus, that evil will not befall them and that no evil, plague or virus shall come near their abodes.”

Now, you can pray that every day – which brings me to the second use of this verse. Simply speak it over you, your family and your household daily. That is how we activate the gifts of God. First, of course, believe them and believe they are for you even if written a very long time ago. Second, believe these God utterances which have been captured in the Bible have actual meaning and power for you and for today. Then, speak them as if they are true, as if you believe them. What does that look like? “No evil shall come nigh me nor shall covid-19 or any other dis-ease come to my house.” Or, “I will not contract covid-19 nor will I get the flu.” It’s all about positive declarations made continually.

And here is one time I use them which sometimes puts people off, but we are talking about life and death here. If someone speaks fear in my presence or if someone asks if I am worried, I come out with “No evil shall come near me and no disease may enter my house.” Does it make you sound a little weird? Well, yeah. I don’t care. My health and my relationship with my God are more important than anyone’s opinion. This is key. It is very nice to receive the great verses, but it is critical that you know how to use them. That is why I am spending the extra time to write to you about application. You are getting training on how to walk in them and I am very much hoping you are applying yourself to using these teachings. I know this makes the devotional longer, but I feel a strong responsibility towards you. I am going to work hard to deliver to you the good news and a fresh Word from God daily.

God wants you safe. I want you safe. He has given you His good word and I am going to teach you how to wear it like a holy robe of His grace. You are clothed with the Word of God and it keeps you. Blessed be the Lord and praise to His name.

Cheer and Courage

Psalm 31: 23 – 24              Passion Translation

Listen to me, all you godly ones: Love the Lord with passion! The Lord protects and preserves all those who are loyal to him. But he pays back in full all those who reject him in their pride. So cheer up! Take courage all you who love him. Wait for him to break through for you, all who trust in him!

I hope some of you took me up on the idea of reading each of these psalms in their fullness as your daily Bible reading. I recommend you read this psalm in the Passion Translation. It reveals David’s emotions and the context of his lyrics better than any of the other translations. If you read the whole psalm, you will see how he arrives at this concluding statement.

He felt abandoned by the Lord, but then realized God was on the scene rescuing him. David hid himself in the Lord and was vindicated despite those who spoke ill of him and mocked him. In the end, David and Yahweh have again triumphed.

David learned something on this journey and what he learned he summarized and attempted to convey through this song. The morale of the story is, take heart, be of strong courage. Let your heart be fortified because the Lord, your God, is on your side and together, you will prevail. God has never forsaken you and never will. Like David, there may be times you feel very alone. You may wonder where God is. Well, I can tell you. He is right there with you. If you close your eyes and listen to the voice of your heart, you will find God’s presence there with you.

David advised us to love God passionately because he learned that this is the secret to life and success in all things. Jesus, referring to Deuteronomy 6: 5, said, “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH,” (Mark 12: 30). See, I am guessing there is a huge life lesson in here from David and now Jesus. What are they telling us? David and Jesus are teaching from the same book here. In fact, if you want to see how tuned into the spirit of Jesus David was and how relatable Jesus found David’s writings, look at verse 5 where David wrote, “Into Your hand I commit my spirit,” the words famously uttered by Jesus on the cross. Both of these men knew suffering. They knew what it was like to face unprecedented tribulation. And now, in this seminar living in the breakthrough their combined recitation is love God with all you are, with all the strength of your body, mind, spirit and soul. This is how we get our breakthrough. This is how we live in the blessing of the Lord. We throw our whole selves into a love relationship with he who died for us and the Father who gave him up for us. He is the Lord of the breakthrough, the one who breaks through the barriers and problems for us. Our part is to love him passionately, and why wouldn’t we?

Blessed Refuge

Psalm 5: 11 – 12

Let all who take refuge in you rejoice. Let them sing with joy forever. Protect them, and let those who love your name triumph in you. You bless righteous people, O Lord. Like a large shield, you surround them with your favor.

I hope you are enjoying this sojourn through the psalms. David reminds us, today, that there is blessing, success, victory, protection, joy and favor for those who take refuge in the Lord.

David found his respite in the Lord.  He had a way of intertwining his existence with that of God and that was an uncommon space for the Old Testament believer. I love reading David for this reason. He had an enviable relationship with the Lord. We get to peer into this relationship through the songs written by David. Can’t you almost hear his heart soar as he sings, “Let them sing with joy forever.” As he wrote these words, I believe he was basking in the presence of the Lord. You can hear the praise and reverence in David’s lyrics but you also sense the deep intimacy he had with Yahweh.

As you read this psalm, you hear about the favor of God surrounding you. You may even rejoice at the simple acceptance that God blesses us, His righteousness. Most of all, though, today I hope that you will not only hear the substance of David’s song but even more so the tone of his conversation with the Lord. I hope that through these words, you will glimpse the heart and passion of David seeing the inspiration of his affection for the Lord. I think if we will take our time with these words, we will find our own hearts stirred. Maybe we will raise our voices or pen a beautiful lyric of our own. Maybe you can write a love song to the Lord. If you do, I hope you will share it with the rest of us.

Have a blessed day in the Lord. Rejoice in Him.

Selah

Psalm 32: 7 – 8       Amp

You are my hiding place; You, Lord, protect me from trouble;
You surround me with songs and shouts of deliverance.
    Selah.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you [who are willing to learn] with My eye upon you.

This is a good time to learn about the word “Selah” because it impacts the understanding of this psalm. One of the primary ideas about this word is that it indicates a pause. We find this word mostly in the Psalms so one might ask if it represents a musical interlude or just a pause in the lyric or instrumentation. It turns out that it has more to do with ideas represented in the lyric than it does to the lyric or melody specifically. It calls the listener, or in our case, the reader, to pause and consider the immediately preceding lyric. Today’s psalm was written by David. When we hear or read “Selah” in the above passage, he wants us to stop and consider the meaning. He has just said something very important and he wants us to stop and be sure that we have taken in that important thought.

There is a second use of Selah. It is used as a bridge or a connector. It alerts the listener that the stanza which is about to follow is thematically tied to that which has just preceded. In other words, the psalmist wants us to hear the next passage with the former still in mind. So stop and hear what has been said with a mind to integrate it with what comes next.

In today’s scripture selection, David confesses his confidence to God. He is able to hide himself in God, receiving protection and deliverance from trouble. He says, also, God surrounds him with joyous songs and exuberant shouts. That isn’t the end though, because in the next stanza, God answers him.

In the combination of these two verses we see a great deal of their relationship. Not only does God protect David but you hear David’s confidence in that protection. David is the one who proclaims that he is protected from trouble. His trust in God is the unspoken refrain. Yahweh answers his confidence and trust with, “I will lead you. I will counsel you. I will be your mentor and will guard your way and keep my eye on you at all times.”

There is a relationship between these two verses and these two people. That is what we are supposed to see in this psalm and that is what the word Selah reveals to us. These are not two independent ideas but rather a revealing of the intermingling of their lives. This is a model of how our lives are meant to be. We also have a hiding place, we are hidden in Christ. We should have the same confidence is the three persons of the trinity as David sang of here. I am hidden in Christ and thus protected from the danger and trouble of the world. God is my helper, my right hand and my deliverer. God, for his part, will lead me and guide me in the way that I should go because I have hidden myself in Him. Selah!