In Psalm 23:1-3a, we talked about how what God wants for us primarily is to rest (to lie down), to have peace (in green pastures), to be calm (led to still waters), and for our souls to be restored.
And now that I think about it, in line with what I’ve had in mind all this time, could rest and peace be for the woman who endures pain in childbirth, and could calm, stillness and restoration be for the soil that man is to plant upon?
Following this train of thought, could we say that resting in peace is not just in the expiration of our mortal bodies? Could we say that the rest we have in Christ, and the peace that He brings us is present in pain, and therefore also in pleasure? Is it also in our past and present, just as we expect it in our future? Could we say that the calm, stillness and restoration are what tides us over here and now, even as we work the accursed soil?
It feels as if the same Christ who said, ‘Come to Me, and I will give you rest’, is the same Prince of Peace who came to us, and became our rest.
In a more recent session with the junior and senior high kids, we went over Psalm 23:3b-4, and we established that in addition to our being given rest and peace by Christ, He gives us direction – in fact, He not only tells us where to go, but He goes ahead of us, leading us ‘into the paths of righteousness’, or as I would like to see it, to the paths that fit us as new, righteous creations. He’s with us through the entire journey – before, during and after every checkpoint. And furthermore, He does this ‘for His’ Name’s sake’; Because we are led, He is glorified.
But even in our inglorious moments, even when we make blunders and even intentionally go our own way at times, we are sure that even then, He is with us. For see, just as He does all He can to ensure that we are graciously led into and through the paths of righteousness as we were born to do, so He is with us through the valley. We will still make mistakes while we are in this world, even with the Lord wanting the best for us and guiding us in the best ways He could – and these mistakes would indeed, leave us in the shadow of death. But He leads us in the paths of righteousness, and we shall fear no evil, for when we find ourselves in danger, even then He is with us, His rod and His staff, they comfort us.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
And as we wrap up Psalm 23, we see – when we find ourselves in darkness, or when we are brought into the shadow of death by our own doing, yes, we are comforted by the Most High; But when it’s darkness that comes to us, or when those who have intentionally refused to take in Christ pick us as their prey and their targets, shall we then, fear? By no means – For the same Shepherd who is with us in the valley is just as present; He is as close to us as He could ever be, even when we are surrounded by the enemy.
At first glance it does seem a little awkward to read – when our enemies are around, of all things, He prepares a table before me? Well, I’d like to think that eating isn’t the first thing on my mind when I see there are threats nearby. What I’d like to have all of us consider is that even with our enemies around us, the power of Christ is present, much so that we have peace, peace enough to eat and enjoy what is set before us. And it’s a taunt to our enemies, a little more for them to see, that not only are they unable to eat us, but we are also eating.
It’s the same thing when our heads are anointed. I read anointing and I think of how kings were anointed – The enemy has no choice but to look and starve as we are eating. The enemy has no choice but lash out as we are the ones recognized and reconciled and anointed by God. Again, all through Christ.
But I think I remember reading somewhere that there’s something else to being anointed – When sheep are anointed, they aren’t exactly being promoted. No, the oil they are anointed with is for the threats smaller than wolves, lice, ticks and louse that make their way to the skin. In the Shepherd’s presence they are safe from bigger threats – safe enough for them to eat at their leisure. In the Shepherd’s presence, they are also safe -safe enough for them to be vulnerable and not be harmed, as they are cleansed from smaller threats.
So we shall not be shaken by the circumstances and dangers that have great potential to harm us from the outside, neither shall we be moved by the disease and the maladies of the mind and body that try to take us down from within. For just as Christ is with us through the paths of righteousness, He is with us in the dark valleys – and He protects and serves us when the darkness intentionally moves against us. Surely this gives us cause to celebrate – our cups overflow, indeed!
Friends, Christ is our good Shepherd. He makes us rest, He brings us peace, He calms us down, and He restores us. He wants what’s best for us, and He does so in this life by leading us in and through paths that suit us, paths of righteousness. But even when we find ourselves in the valley of the shadow of death, we should not be afraid – For even there, our Shepherd is with us.
And when it’s the darkness that tries to make its way to us, let them stumble and fall! For see, Christ will not allow us to be snatched from His hand. His presence is as His lovingkindness, enduring forever, beyond the pain and the torment we experience in this life. In His presence, we enjoy His blessings, while our enemies have no choice but to look. In His presence, we are promoted, and we are cleansed, while our enemies gnash their teeth.
What else is there for us to say, in the light of a salvation so great, a salvation we have only through Christ?
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Sorry, I’ve been away. But I suppose I’ll be ready for my talk with the kids the next time I see them.
Until the next post, God bless you.
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