Ever wonder what God might have to say to YOU today? Here are things to ponder, and things to receive into your heart. If you have a question, put it in the comments. I respond as much as I can.

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Sunday, February 24, 2019

Psalm 23: Transitions

Psalm 23 is full of transitions. We'll explore them today.
First things first, though. I know I've said this before, but this Psalm begins with David already saying, "The LORD is my Shepherd." The key to understanding this Psalm lies in the little word "is." This is the diary, so to speak of a converted man--one who already knows God and loves Him. It's incredibly important to know that this is a Psalm about relationship through life. It's about God and David, just as your own story should be about you and God.
Spiritual relationships have to be established. There is no such thing as an automatic relationship with God. You have to COME to the Lord, and ASK Him for His gift of salvation. When you do, you start a relationship that lasts forever, and that cannot end, because you already have eternal life:
Jesus said it this way (John 5:24)
"He who hears my word, and believes Him who sent me, HAS everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but has passed from death into life. Your life with God begins here, but it never ends.

That is how David starts this Psalm, with the relationship already established, with himself and the Father already in an "I Thou" relationship. .We see this throughout the Psalms. David and God. God and David. Always. Forever. Now. God never leaves, and David is with Him.

So the first word we have from David is, "The LORD (Yahweh) is my Shepherd. I shall not want." This is the topic sentence of the Psalm, and David proceeds to demonstrate what he is saying by referring to what he's experienced, and then by telling us how the future will go for him. David was a prophet, so we trust his words, but it's clear from some of the Psalms he wrote that he suffers like the rest of us. He has enemies. He is persecuted. He has troubles and trials common to all of us, but he always comes through them, because God is with him, and he is with God.

First transition:

Ps 23:2: "He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters." God provides food and drink. They never fail. Note that when difficult times come, David still has all the "good stuff" that's part of being one of God's children and having Him as Shepherd and Father. In other words, the things David mentions first are like the base of a pyramid, with everything else placed on top, so that the blessings he receives just keep piling up.

Second Transition:

Ps. 23:3 "He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake."
This is a reference to the times we fail, and of course it's historical, because David had some spectacular fails in his life, many of them in 2 Samuel and related to his adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of Uriah her husband.
When he went through this, David needed restoration and leadership. God was there. He didn't give up on David. Instead, He restored David's soul, and led him in the paths of righteousness. You and I often need the same. We mess up. We sin. We do horrible things. What then? Confession (Psalms 32, 51), and restoration (here). After we have done such evil, we not only need to be restored, we need to be led in the right paths. Our instincts are pretty much gone, and we have a tremendous amount of self-doubt. God takes pleasure in restoring us and leading us back into a righteous life. Even though you think this is impossible, He's right there, and He knows what to do with us, and if we work with Him, He never fails. confess and be freed, restored, and directed.

3rd Transition:

Psalm 23:4: "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."
The lexicons suggest that the "proper" translation for this is "The Valley of Deep Shadow," but they miss the point, which is that sometimes you really are in darkness. It's shadow, but it's dark. That's one of life's transitions--the days when you don't know what's going to happen; you don't even know what IS happening, so the future looks bleak and even the present is a great unknown. What happens when you are in that valley is this: The Shepherd is with you.  He never leaves. He gives you strength even when you don't know how you're going to survive. Remember Job. Everything is going great, and then...disaster from all corners, and no way out. That's the "Valley of the Shadow of Death." it's a time of fear. It's a time of suffering. It's a time that seems like it has no end--but the Shepherd's there, if you look for Him.

Isaiah 50:10 refers to this time: "Who is among you that fears the LORD, That obeys the voice of His servant, That walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God." It sometimes takes a lot to trust in Him, and sometimes will be saying things like, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust him," but when you seek Him, He appears and that rod and staff (protective and guiding) comfort you and keep you. I'm not saying it's easy. It's not. I've been there more than once, when it seemed so dark in front of me that I despaired of the future. Yet there He was. I just had to let Him show Himself to me. And he always was there. Always.

In fact, the darkness often gives way to the kind of blessing that David describes when he says,
23:5: "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows."

Final Transition, 23:6:
"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, 


I will dwell in the House of the LORD forever." 

I separated these two clauses to show you what I believe is happening--that the final transition isn't a real one

We really make a big deal over death. It IS a big deal, if you're not a Christian. You die, and then the next thing on the agenda is judgment. No do-overs (see Hebrews 9:27). On the other hand, if you ARE a Christian, you go immediately into the Lord's presence; Paul, the most prolific of the New Testament writers, puts it like this: "Absent from the body, present with the Lord." That's right. The final transition is like shedding an uncomfortable shell, and becoming what you really are, a son/daughter of the living and true God.
David doesn't mention it. What he does is move from "surely goodness and mercy..." to "I shall dwell." It's not, "I shall die and go to heaven," but a sudden event. One nanosecond, you're alive. The next nanosecond, you're Home. That fast. So fast it's immeasurable in terms of time. It's like you don't feel the transition part. It's like closing your eyes on earth, and opening your eyes in the presence of the Lord.  That is true, of course, ONLY if you belong to the Lord (see above), and if you are not just pretending to be Christian. Can you see how important it is to be real? To follow the Lord? 

This is the greatest blessing of all, because to the Christian, death is not death. It's going Home. It's like you say, "Beam me up," and even before you know it, you're there. It's an event apart from time. 
Jesus actually said the same thing:

John 11:25-26: "He who believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and he who lives and believes in Me shall never die.
There is no promise like this. Eternal life. Now. Never die. Never. 

Yours if He's YOUR Shepherd.

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