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Friday, April 11, 2014

The Lord Is My Shepherd

Psalm 23:1-6 (ESV)
1  The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2  He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
3  He restores my soul. He leads 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 mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

I;ve read this Psalm at many funerals. I know what it says. Why can tell others how it assures them in their own time of trouble. So, why don't I act like I believe it?

As hard as I try, I still act like there is no God watching my back. I worry when I don't need to worry. I am like an Israelite  living off of manna for twenty years and worrying whether or not it will be there tomorrow. Why should I worry if the Lord is really my shepherd? Does anyone think that sheep worry whether or not the shepherd will be there tomorrow?

God has always led me. He has always taken me to where I needed to go even when I didn't like the route He took. He has always led me to righteousness when I wanted to go another way. He has been my righteousness. He has given me assurance that He will be with me in death. He has promised me that I will overcome my enemies. He has always given me goodness and mercy.

For some reason I think it is logical to believe God generally but doubt Him in the specifics. Does that make sense? Not really.

I suppose I don't want to go through some of the things God wants me to go through. Thus, I worry that God will take me where I don't want to go. I don't realize that the green pastures and still waters are often across a hot, dry desert. I don't want the skinned knees on the way to the Promised Land. I am quite happy with my spiritual condition and don't want it challenged. I like my faith just where it is, thank you. If faith is going to grow, I want it to grow without trials.

Yet, I still have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death if I am to need His comfort. I must sit before my enemies if I am to see His triumph. Both places look like total destruction if He wasn't there.

So, I say it again, "The Lord is my shepherd." I know its true. I should stop worrying about things. I need to walk with Him and leave the rest to the Shepherd.


Anthony Chia said...

I have expounded on this Psalm 23 in a multi-part series on my blogsite (look under Psalms sub-heading, if interested).

This is a commonly quoted psalm, for it has some of the most beautiful promises of God. Yet, not many really meditate on this psalm so as to capture the fullness of what the psalmist, David, was saying.

Actually, we need to study the character, David, in Scripture, what he went through. Also, we need to appreciate that, when we look at the shepherd, we necessarily need to look at ourselves as the sheep.

This is a shepherd-sheep metaphor. We need to meditate on the metaphor, getting an understanding of what is involved in the routines of the shepherd and the sheep, especially we who are city-dwellers. There is the part of the shepherd and the part of the sheep. For example, if a sheep follows NOT the shepherd together with other sheep, it is quite possible it be lost - get lost in its way, and even be devoured by a wild beast.

Oh, I don't think it is that bad, for Ps Prentis; he must be posturing the general believer more than his personal state when he was using himself like an example of one who struggles with the psalm, like believing it and yet with much doubt.

When we say we believe but at the same time, are with much doubt, that really is believing with much unbelief, and it can get to the state of double-mindedness. The apostle James warned that double-minded people cannot expect to receive anything from God.

So, the promises of God, including those in this psalm, MAY NOT come through to you, if you are double-minded. It is still often "MAY" (not never), for, there is still the grace of God and God's wisdom for a scenario, where often we see it as "it is about me", when there are others, and ramifications, that God looks at, in His wisdom in dealing with things. It is because it appears to be "working" sometimes (despite our unbelief, for example) and sometimes, NOT, that, to many people, it is confusing, and they would flip-flop in their belief of the promises.

Often, too, there are conditions attached to promises. Just as you are to believe, you are to fulfil the conditions of a promise, but it is possible still, that at times, your imperfect condition fulfilment, still wrought you the object of the promise (grace, wisdom or sovereignty of God at work). But it is still you are to understand God does NOT put in the conditions for nothing. We are to endeavour to do, to the best we can, with sincerity and humility of heart.

And so we need to develop certain postures as we develop in the faith: Mature believers don't profane the grace and mercy of God. Mature believers know God knows best. Mature believers know they are to obey the words of God, including the conditions. Mature believers know the motivation behind every promise, including the conditions attached, if any, is God's love, and so, "it is for our good", and God is desiring us to grow in godly character, including most importantly, holiness. Mature believers know they must NOT in any way, in their living, ways and actions, in words and in thought, and, yes, including our teaching of others, insinuate God is NOT holy. The "no-no" insinuations included, God is not righteous, wicked, cannot be trusted, not faithful, and without compassion.

Situations may seem to be God is NOT righteous, but He is always righteous. We may NOT agree, but that is because we have NOT the fullness of circumstances of a situation, He has; and that is because we have NOT the wisdom that He has: and that is because we lack the fullness of understanding of what holiness of God demands; holiness which God is forever "set apart unto". Do you know that without pursuing holiness, godly wisdom cannot be wrought!


Anthony Chia said...

cont. from above

God has made clear that justice and righteousness is the foundation of His throne, and love and faithfulness goes before Him (e.g. Ps 89:14). It is justice and righteousness first, and these are to be administered in love and in faithfulness. We cannot, for example, just demand love and faithfulness from God, but ignoring justice and righteousness.

What I want to underscore is that we got to get to know God or our Shepherd, and so, His ways, to properly claim the promises here, and to apply them in our lives.

If I tell people if they want to operate in the power gifts of the Spirit, they got to live a righteous life, some, perhaps, quite a few, nowadays, will balk, protest even! "No-lah, I have heard of this real case of this "scoundrel" who frequents the red-light area, involved in debauchery, cheats people, but is a believer, who, on this occasion, laid hands on a sick person, in the name of Jesus, and got him healed. Righteous living NOT required-what!"

I called this, forming doctrine and theology from mere experience; and it is wrong. Generalizing this way is wrong, and the things that make it coming up wrong, are the grace (which can be for the ministee), wisdom (God knowing certain things we don't, and these call for the divine action we see) and sovereignty of God! Theology and doctrines are to be derived from the specific words of the Word and the overall counsel of the Word, NOT from experiences per se; experiences (only) serve to testify to the truths and ways of God. Many people conclude from their experience, that Ps 23 "doesn't work", but there is problem when we just conclude from our experiences. For example, our actions are from motivations, even our motivations matter to God. When our motivation is unrighteous, divine action we expect may not come through.

It is like the story of an alien boy from the moon (assuming there is alien on the moon) who comes to earth, and sees a boy throwing a ping pong ball to the cement floor. The alien is fascinated with the ball falling to ground and bouncing a couple of times before it stops on the floor. He quickly snatches the ping pong ball and teleports back to the moon, thinking that it must be the ball, and he got the ball. Back, on the moon, the alien boy does exactly as he saw the boy on earth did with the ping pong ball. But it does NOT work; no falling to the ground and no bouncing a couple of times! Why? It is because it is NOT just the ping pong ball, there is the gravitational force on earth that isn't there, on the moon. Using experience alone, to form theology is NOT right, too inadequate.

If you want to operate with any frequency or consistency in the power gifts of The Lord, you need to be conducting your life righteously. Why? Because in the eyes of the people, your frequent operation in those power gifts, signifies there is a mark of God's approval on you, like there is a rubber stamping on your forehead that everyone can see. God is righteous and righteous in all he does, and so, must you, too, if you are of God. You have to do your best; yes, God is the one who appoints you, but He is also the one who can stop the flow of the anointing and power, when your unrighteous life insinuates He is ok with unrighteousness (it is NOT ok).


Anthony Chia said...

cont. from above

The above is just to illustrate we need to get know The Lord and his ways. Otherwise, it will be the case of "so very often we don't get it or we miss it". There is a good story about the spurned graduation gift, that we sometimes, heard some preachers used to illustrate this, and how we miss the love of God. To me, it is also a story to support my holding out of the fullness of love of God is already there, for you (and so, God's love for you, does NOT increase or decrease, like you do something wrong, he loves you less), like a beam of light (a beam of love), inside of another beam of light (holiness); you just need to align into the beam (of love), otherwise, you miss it; it is NOT God does NOT love or does NOT give you what you would like to have. You can get to that story (“the spurned graduation gift”) on the internet by just typing in google search, this: "bible with the car key inside"

"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want" is deep. It holds true. You and I need to know (ginosko-know) The Lord, and know how it operates.

Do I NOT struggle with this Psalm? Of course, at this juncture, I still do; but the chief of which, is NOT I do NOT believe my God is the Omni-God who can do all things, and is shepherding me, rather it is I am still struggling to align myself to His ways, particularly, in the area of "hearing" his instructions, and obeying Him, so as to be following Him. Just from the angle of my idiosyncracies, waywardness, and much failures and failings, I can appreciate how great the love and faithfulness of the Lord have been for me, in still repeatedly coming for me, caring for me, and providing for me. I can only be thankful to Him, and be humbled by it all. That I have NOT come into the fullness of blessing, is NOT the fault of the Lord. In thankfulness and humility, I must persevere in following the Shepherd. The more I do that, the more I will love my Lord; and that is what the Gospel is about – The Love Story, that the Lord is in love for us, to the fullest, for He even died for us, when we were yet sinners.

We are the sheep, are we NOT? For He is the Shepherd. Sheep follows the Shepherd, am I NOT right?! To follow, we need to hear and obey, am I NOT right?! What did Jesus say? “My sheep hears my voice and they follow me” - John 10:27.

You want those nice promises? Are you trying to listen to Him or are you shutting His voice out? Are you obeying and following Him? Is obedience necessary? Of course, how else does one follow if he does NOT obey?! Please, don't tell the Holy Spirit, "I go with you, in spirit". Don't laugh, so very often, we actually do that, although we don't literally tell Him in the face! It is so very often we do NOT follow The Lord or the Holy Spirit, and that is the problem.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions