The Lord is my Shepherd

Do you know the rest?  Chances are that, of any scripture there ever was, this surely makes the Top 5 or even Top 3 most popular and recognizable pieces of God-breathed word.  It's the 23rd Psalm, written by King David, and it was the focus of our education today during the closing of a 15 week in depth study of his life as a "man after God's own heart."

Now, this post is for all my Princesses out there, but if you're in the mood to read something covered in Jesus and sprinkled with my own faith then read on..

A bit of history:  Though many scholars suggest that this Psalm was written when David was young, the vast amount of mature content in just these six short verses causes other scholars to suggest otherwise.  As I sort through the emotions that are left from hearing the analysis of the 23rd Psalm, I find myself most excited to share it with you, and then humbled to embrace it's promises.  If you've noticed how I have mentioned this Psalm you'll see it's a bit out of the norm.  Not any other Psalm is addressed the way this one is.  Most times we say "Psalm 100" or "Psalm 18"; this one is most often called "The 23rd Psalm."  There are many amazing cries to the Lord that are archived in the Book of Psalms, but this one stands alone in its collective reflection and satisfaction with God's love.  This is why I am most excited; regardless of when in his life David actually penned these words, there is an applicable message in each verse, written for just about anyone, believer or not.  As I take you through each verse I will touch on the points that Beth did as well as some background info on David to further drive the point home.  Short and sweet, but you'll be filled just the same.
With all of that said, I will dive in and as I write this I am praying that you find the message meant for you :)

The 23rd Psalm reads a little something like this..

1. The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 
3. he restores my soul.  He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.  
4. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

**During the video lesson Beth Moore read this aloud from the King James Version and my goodness was it emotional just in that.  Almost immediately you could hear sniffles and silent "Amen" whispers around the room.. there was certainly much, much healing connected to these words**

So to begin~

The LORD, as it is written in all capitals this way, denotes the God that is described as "I AM THE I AM."  He is LORD of all; creator of all.  Most important here is that David penned it to remind himself of who his God is; the God that was, is and is to come.  

As a shepherd himself, David could not think of any better way to describe the God that cares for him, watches over him, guides him and protects him.  He would seek out lost sheep in the fields, feed them when they were hungry, comfort them when they were sick, and weep when they were lost forever.  God is just that to His children.

The LORD is my shepherd

He then says "I shall not be in want."
The KJV simply says "I shall not want."  Though it rarely happens, I find that this is one of the times where it's a true blessing that a couple words were added to the NIV translation.  To be in want is to be captive to a need.  To be in want is to rely on something.  To be in want, in this case, is to be in want of the world and it's distractions from the truth.  For us to say "I shall not want" just doesn't cut it; wants come and go.  But to be in want encompasses the plague of a deadly want that drives a wedge deeper between us and our Heavenly Father.

I shall not be in want.

As David knew what his sheep needed, so does the LORD.  He makes us lie down in green pastures, surrounded by His glory and presence and He leads us beside quiet waters, full of peace.  God will always guide His children to where they are supposed to be, but just as sheep wander, so do we.  The one point that Beth made that hit me was that He MAKES us lie down.. we forget that He can and will do what He pleases with His sovereign power, when He decides to do so.  Think about that..

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters

The next verse is profound for David due to his past and its sinful history.  Here David praises God in saying "he restores my soul."  To restore is to bring something back.  Isn't that what our God is always trying to do; bring us back to Him?  And how He does so is even more remarkable; He guides us in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.  Here is David's ultimate praise, as he was one who turned away from God but still speaks on the urge in his heart to always do the right thing.  God does not force, though He can.  God guides and waits for His children to be obedient.  Doesn't that word make you shudder?  It should; it bears a lot of weight and responsibility.  But direct obedience leads to a life of joy, and no matter when David found that joy, it is present in this verse.  God doesn't make us perfect; we've already shown Him that we will not be perfect.  What He does do, however, is inject us with His power and give us opportunity to use it.  Here's how:

Philippians 2:13 reads
"for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."

That word "works" is translated from the original Greek word "energeo" and it literally means "to put forth power."  God literally injects His power into us, and it is up to us to use it.  He didn't just give this power to an empty person either; we have a heart, mind and conscience that tells us when and how to use this power.  Problem is, we have a wicked one (the devil) who tells us that we are incapable of using it.  The best thing we can do to please God and shut down evil is to faithfully and obediently act on those deep-rooted feelings that arise.  In doing so we glorify Him; we are acting according to His will, for His name's sake!

He restores my soul.  He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.

Everyone has likely heard the next verse.  David really lays down the realization of his worldly surroundings when he tells God "even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."  Woah.  Ok first, as scary as "the valley of the shadow of death" may seem, we are going to dig a bit deeper here, too.  David penned these words from inspiration, ok?  Divine inspiration.  As he searched for the words to describe the way we are on earth, detached from the Heavenly realms, he finally describes this valley.  Think about the valleys that run between mountains.  The deep rolling cool and damp valleys.  Now imagine a valley overrun by a dark shadow.  Now imagine that shadow caused by death itself.  Ladies, it goes further.. the original Hebrew word that "death" was translated from is "tsalmawet", a death that is "THE DARKEST OF THEM ALL".  I didn't even know that there were levels of death in these ancient languages.  We here just know death..  But here it is describing the most scary place you could ever imagine in your entire life on earth with time to review and rewrite.  The valley, of the shadow, of the darkest death.  David points out how we are walking through it, and how it is possible to be comfortable, if God is with us.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

The next verse appropriately follows, describing the table that the LORD prepares before him in the presence of his enemies.  If you know David, you know he had a lot of 'em for a while there.  He was a great King, but a great sinner at times, too.  He was hunted by a jealous King shortly after he was anointed and he was hunted by those avenging men who were killed at his hand.  He hid in caves and came face to face with many demons.  David had a lot of enemies.  Hold that thought as I explain the table.

The table that God will prepare is a metaphor.  If you have never understand the communion or the feast or the table at which we dine with God, for simplicity's sake I will just say that it is the place where we exercise our number one purpose as those who God created; To engage in communion with Him and feast on Him!  The physical table is where you recline and dine.  The physical table is where the family gathers and talks.  The Heavenly table is where God will bring us after the tribulation, to celebrate our eternity with Him.  It's not dinner that is the keyword, it is FELLOWSHIP.  To take your time with God and literally eat and drink Him in is the purest form of engaging in relationship with God.  
~Moses experienced it in Exodus 24:8-11 when he climbed Mt. Sinai and dined with God and some of his men.  We read this and think there was as picnic.  It's an understandable misinterpretation until we picture that they dined ON God; on His presence, on the tangible air surrounding them in that cloud.  They were wrapped in the LORD and feasted and filled on it.  
~I don't think I need to refresh your memory of the Last Supper, but if you need to look it up to further understand His explanation of the communion, go to Luke 22:14-20.  Here, Jesus explained that His shed blood was to be the new covenant with Him.  
This right here is what God wants most from us; that we are hungry for Him.  

So to prepare a table in the presence of David's enemies means that David is going to engage in extreme fellowship, to literally be drenched in God's presence, all the while his enemies stand around and watch; helpless, hopeless, without effect and dumbfounded.  He will anoint us and fill our cups to the point that is runs over, all while the wicked one watches, knowing he is powerless against this most high relationship between man and his Creator.  Dang..

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

David closes by acknowledging the inevitable; that goodness and love will follow him all the days of his life.  The word "follow" here is translated from the Greek word "radaph" and literally means "to be chased, pursued."  It was used in connection with the hostile action of enemies, how they are relentless.  Talk about a spider-monkey kind of love, Ladies!  That is how God follows us!!  That is how God goes after his Princes and Princesses!!  He doesn't just walk behind and let us know He's there from time to time.  He PURSUES.  And isn't that what we want?  To know that we are being pursued?  To know that we are watched and taken care of?  To know that someone desires fellowship with us?  Beth made a clear point that as women, we want someone to care for us more than anything else, and yet, we are the caregivers in most cases.  Ladies, God is our caregiver, and His house is ours.  David says "I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever" and so should we.  

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

If you've stuck with this I really hope and pray that you've taken anything from this breakdown.  Beth spoke for an hour on these points and I've typed it in a fraction of that to avoid full on plagiarism and also to save my joints.  This message was just too much to keep quiet.  It's such a familiar passage, but I never knew the deeper meaning.. and isn't that how life happens sometimes?  

As we approach Thanksgiving dinner I cannot help but draw two very distinct correlations.  

First: Do not take for granted the familiar.  If you can, take the time to look into the words I have highlighted, the scriptures I supplemented with, and even try to memorize this passage.  Also, do not take for granted your very familiar family.  You have the opportunity to start fresh on Thursday; take every moment for what it is and get a deeper, refreshing feel for your family.

Second:  Take the time to recline and dine.  Engage in fellowship with your family this holiday.  Take this opportunity to connect to God in an empathetic way; as you spoon your potatoes and fill your wine, glance up and down the table and take in each person gathered there.  Think about how long they've waited for this dinner with their loved ones.  Think of the year you've had together and on your own.  Live in the moment of true familial fellowship, and thank God that you are all there at that very second.  You think one year between dinners is long, try the eternity God is waiting for the dinner He is preparing for us.  

That relationship, summed up in six verses, is what carried a King through a life of pain and sin, to a death that left him known as a "man after God's own heart."  That relationship can do the very same for us.  

I haven't posted a devotional in a long time.  It's been a couple of months of feeling detached from God and struggling to find my connection.  This shook me out of that funk.  Between today, the beginning of the new Princess Posse study on Jesus' brother James, and my revelations from Korea, I am ready to give it all to Him again.  

Happy Tuesday~

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