Psalm 23, the shepherds Psalm. It may be the most smudged-bent corner page, with a lot of underlining going on in our bible. When we need comfort we turn there, when we need encouragement we flip to it.
Interesting, most scholars are in agreement that David wrote this poetic declaration later in his life, many years beyond his childhood. The once shepherd-boy now reigning king, with noble reality… felt, KNEW he needed to be shepherded, his opening words, “The LORD is my shepherd…”
Within the ancient Hebrew there are different writing styles in the Psalms, some are Acrostic, meaning each line begins with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. (See Ps. 9,10,25,34,37,111,112,119 and 145) Yet, they all hold the same theory that the middle of each Psalm carries the central theme. For the Shepherds Psalm, it is the latter part of verse 4, “… you are with me…” How beautiful is THAT. You can almost hear David, “I can’t do it alone, I made it out of the fields, now king and yet I find myself only a sheep needing to be shepherded.” Even though years have passed since his own shepherding days, what he writes is of current status, older David speaking of God as his Shepherd, “He makes me…leads… restores me… guides. (NOT – He made, led, restored and guided) It wasn’t a reflective time of days gone by. God was now.
How ironic though, often in today’s society we tend to gather our stuff and head out the door with great enthusiasm “I GOT THIS!” But do we? As we return home hurt, defeated and depleted of all energy not to mention a few torn up dreams. Do we allow our God to shepherd us? Does He make us, lead, restore us and guides us? Do we find ourselves in green pastures, NOT the envious stuff beyond the fences of our neighbors, but good GOD green stuff? (Let’s be real folks!) Are we enjoying quiet-safe waters? How about rest and refreshment?
As David writes, you can see a shift of focus. The first few verses are in the 3rd person, “He does…” as if pointing over at God and telling someone about Him, now in verses 4-5, “YOU are with me…YOUR rod and YOUR staff … YOU prepare a table… YOU anoint my head.” He is talking TO God rather than about Him, so very personal.
David knew the process of shepherding, the tools of the shepherd. The staff was used not only for ‘prodding’ along and warding off danger, but for counting. As the sheep would pass under the staff, the shepherd would inspect each sheep, placing his hands on them, they knew the comforting, protective touch and voice of the shepherd. David moved from the process of shepherding to … surrendering to the Shepherd.
Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” – John 10:11,14 May we too be shepherded, as we tell others about Him and make it so very personal, talking to Him, “YOU…!” May we pass under His staff and be counted among His own, knowing – hearing His guidance, His protection, His hands on us. Allowing, INVITING His direction to refreshing waters and perhaps some prodding. And oh His pursuit – “Surely Your goodness and love…”
I close with the words of Jesus’ brother Jude “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” – verses 24,25
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another toward love & good deeds.” – Heb. 10:24)
Recently I revisited Genesis 3, where God came to meet with Adam in the garden. It says “… He was walking in the garden in the cool of the day…” This said with such ease, as if it where a daily occurrence. Can you imagine God taking a stroll in YOUR backyard?
Yet today, this was no casual stroll. You see, Adam and Eve had just eaten from the only tree that God planted a sign in front of stating, ‘no eateth.’ Sure enough, our ancestors of all ancestors duth eat! Now they were hiding. Hiding from God.
“But the LORD God called to the man…” (verse 9) asking one of the most important questions ever stated in the Bible, in my estimation, “Where are you?” It does not describe the tone in which God said it, but I believe it was NOT a thunderous loud “WHERE ARE YOU!” (ok admit it, you hear Charleston Heston in your head don’t you.) God being all-knowing, He knew exactly where he was. The question was not intended to find the answer, it was intended for … Adam. “Where are you?” This spurred Adam to consider his location … he was hiding, placing intentional distance between he and his God. His situation… he disobeyed.
“But the LORD God called to the man, ‘Where are you?'” God was pursuing Adam, with tenderness, loving compassion. Sure He could have rigged the tree with a divine security system, that at the mere touch, heaven would zap Adam and Eve with enough force to turn them both back into dust. But He didn’t. He pursued them.
We know the rest of the story, banishment from paradise, consequences, sweat and pain. “But the LORD God called to the man…” God has ‘called’ throughout history. The Bible is the story of God’s pursuit of man. He pursues you, and pursues me. He has provided every avenue for us to respond to His call. God loves us so much, that at times there is the need for Him to ask us AGAIN, “where are you?”
Often our relationship with God, is one as a child, we cozy up in His lap, but there are times we squirm out and run off and play. “Where are you?” Another question has settled in my heart, “What would it look like, really look like, in God’s pursuit of me, if I allowed Him to catch me, ALL of me?” O to be caught of God!
King David penned the beloved Psalm 23, in the latter verse he closes with, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.” This follow is not a mere meandering behind, it is a PURSUIT. God pursues us.
Found among other poetic venues of David, Psalm 139 “O Lord, You have searched me and You know me… You hem me in behind and before.” Saying also, “You are familiar with all my ways.” The Lord knows where we are, He would like US to know as well.
So where are we? Has God visited our backyard recently? Perhaps we are hiding. Do we hear Him calling? Can we stop and allow Him to catch us in the pursuit, and be caught of God, He then can enfold us in His love, goodness and mercy. The grace filled pursuit of God.
It doesn’t matter WHERE we are … “But the LORD God called to the man”
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” ~ Heb. 10:24)