Divine Presence (Psalm 23) – April 12, 2023 (105-106/365)

Once more, unto the breach. Let’s review what we talked about so far.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Shared with the kids, and then inadvertently shared on Easter. We established with the Junior and Senior High students that we can esteem the Creator of the Universe and all that is seen and unseen, He who is beyond time and space – He is good, He is great, glorious, strong and wise, and among all of this, we can call Him our Shepherd. He who is not only THE Lord but the Lord of Lords (that is, the Lord over any and all other people, things, and/or combination of these two that have power, influence, and control over us), He is our Shepherd. As such, because God is our Shepherd, one natural response for us to to proclaim as David did: we shall not want.

Indeed, the Lord is our Shepherd, and we have everything we need, and everything we every long for, we at least know that He knows, and He responds – not necessarily according to our own limited knowledge, but He definitely responds with his infinite power, His eternal peace, and His everlasting love towards us.

And just to add, Christ was the One who worked – He paid the greatest price in order for us to have the boldness to say that not only is this great and glorious God OUR God, but He is our Father, who loves us. Only through Christ can we have the confidence to proclaim and declare that God is our Father who is for us, and not against us; that He is faithful to make all things work for us, because we have responded to His great love.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

We established that of all things, the Lord desires that we lie down. He makes us rest. And not only does He want us to rest, but He wants us to lie down in green pastures – That is, to be in a position of rest, in open fields where threats can be seen from a mile away. As shepherds bring sheep to rest upon lush, fertile lands safe for grazing, so, through Christ, God brings us to opportunities and to safety. God’s first priority as our Shepherd is to have us rest in peace. That’s right – for the Christian, resting in peace is not just something we say for the dearly departed, but it is our first and foremost state, thanks to Christ.

He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.

Just as a shepherd would guide his flock to waters to drink, so Christ brings us to the life-bringing water; In fact, He Himself is the water of Life, isn’t He? And what’s more is that when we drink from Him, when we give intentional consideration or even the slightest belief towards who He is and what He has done, He says it Himself, out of our bellies shall springs of living water burst forth.

But note that the good Shepherd does not merely lead us to any body of water, but by still waters. Water that is safe to drink. Water that is free of contamination. On that note, Christ does not just give us water, but Living water, and Living Water that calms us down.

I’m inclined to believe that as we are brought to rest, and peace, and calm, restoration for our entire beings – body, soul, and beyond – that just follows. David saw it and I’d like to think that’s what brought Him to write these words as the very first blessings for us to ponder on right after we give consideration to the Truth of God being our Shepherd. However, we’ve also found out that peace is not just the first thing that David wrote about – in the Gospels, at least Luke and John pointed out that the very first thing Jesus told the disciples when He first saw them after His resurrection were ‘Peace to you’ or ‘Peace be with you’.

David proclaims that the Lord is our Shepherd, and the first things we are given is rest, peace, calm, and restoration. Christ rose from the dead, and I could imagine the first thing He says to the disciples is ‘Shalom’ – or, rest, peace, calm and restoration.

We say that in Christ, all of God’s promises are ‘yes and amen’, but we also take this time to thank Him – for, indeed, no matter what happens, we are sure to have rest, peace, calm and restoration.

And really, if that’s all we cover, that’s plenty! But believe it or not, there’s so much more:

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

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.

As we went along with Psalm 23, discussing it with the kids, we took on these two verses. To say that God leads us is to appreciate how we aren’t just given directions and/or provision, but He joins us by leading us; That is, He is with us through it all. And He doesn’t just lead us anywhere! No, friends, the paths He leads us to are paths that are righteous, as He is righteous. And in fact, if we were to stretch this a little further, we’d also discover that He who makes the crooked paths straight (whether literally or in our own minds) – He is the same God, He is the same Shepherd who makes our paths righteous.

Christ is our righteousness who is with us, and He is righteousness along the paths that we take. He does this, not only because He cares for us, but He goes so far as to lead us ‘for His name’s sake’ – that is, it’s in His everlasting nature to ensure that we are never without His presence.

And He truly is with us, even when we insist on our own way, and find ourselves in danger – but here’s the thing, in the recent articles I’ve been writing, we’ve also established that we are never in any eternal danger, and we would not be in trouble for too long in this world – it’s our safety in the Lord that stands, till the end of time and beyond. But during those times that we are in darkness, or in the valley, even in situations so grave that we clearly see death before us – Friends, understand, again, that we are never without His presence. Even in the valley of the shadow of death, He is with us. Christ paid a great price for us to boldly say that we are not alone, but we are with God, and God is with us, even in such a place so horrid as the valley of the shadow of death. Christ is with us, and therefore, we shall fear no evil.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Oh, I think I also went as far as talking about verse 5 as well – because, see, just as Christ is with us no matter where we are in the paths we take, so He is with us when people, even our enemies take their paths towards us. Friends, whether we move, or whether the world moves towards us, behold: Christ is not only with us, and Christ not only comforts us with His rod and His staff, but look: He goes so far as to prepare food for us, as our enemies watch and gnash their teeth. We feast while those who intentionally proclaim themselves as our enemies are starving in anger.

And He STILL does not stop there! For look, not only are we fed so lavishly, but friends, we are commended, anointed with oil, appointed to greater things, all while our enemies watch and grind their teeth in jealousy! And not only are our plates filled with the finest of delicacies… but behold, our cup overflows as well!

So where do we stand so far?

God is our Lord, THE Lord, the Lord of Lords, and He is, among all great and glorious titles ascribed to His name, not just A shepherd, not just THE shepherd… No, God, who is the Lord, is OUR Shepherd. He ministers to us, first and foremost, by giving us rest, peace, and calm, so we are duly healed and restored.

We see how David says this from His experience as a literal shepherd, and we also see how Christ, who is our Good Shepherd, did all the work – He was born, He lay down His life, He rose again – All for us, first and foremost, to find shalom: The same rest, peace, calm and restoration. I only say this based on the records that share that the first things Christ said in greeting His disciples after His resurrection was along the lines of ‘peace be with you’.

Moving on, it’s not only God’s desire, but it’s also apparently God’s nature and will for us not only to be at peace, at rest, and calm unto restoration; following this, it’s also God’s nature and will for Him to lead us and guide us along paths that are righteous, just as He is our righteousness no matter what path we bring ourselves to take. And see here, even if those paths lead us to clear danger, and danger so intense that we are literally in the shadow of death, even then we can be at peace, and even then we are comforted, because Christ is with us even there. He is as close to us – well, He is our literal righteousness, along paths, along the valleys, and even at the top.

So it’s clear that He’s with us in the paths that we take, but it’s also pointed out that even when those who intentionally proclaim themselves as our enemies take their own paths towards us, against us, to the point that we are surrounded, guess what? God, who is our Shepherd, continues to be with us – and not only are we protected and comforted, but look – He feeds us. Our enemies starve, but we are well fed. And He anoints us. Our enemies lack satisfaction, but we are given commendation before their very eyes.

Now I look at the following text:

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

…and considering everything else we’ve covered up until this point, until this very last verse, I think it is prompt for us to truly proclaim, in thankfulness, and in awe – That the Lord is not only giving us direction, not only giving us provisions for our travel, but He, as a Shepherd, is with us; yes, no matter where we stand at any given moment, no matter what chapter of our lives we are in, whether we are at the beginning or the end, or whether we are up high or down low, we can say God is with us along the way, and His mercies and His goodness follow us, indeed.

Consider the peaceful green pastures. Consider the calming still waters. Consider the byways and the highways, the walkways and the roads. Consider how some paths are right, and some lead to darkness.

And friends, consider all this, and know without a shadow of a doubt that this Lord of Lords considers all this within His Creation, and His domain. We can never say that we are physically outside of the Lord, because we are IN all of His domain, His glory, His house. What I’m saying is that wherever we are, we are in the House of the Lord.

Now I’m not sure if this is what I want to share to the kids, but I do want to go ahead and just wrap it all up tomorrow, for them to have a reminder of God’s goodness, by God being our shepherd. All made possible, all guaranteed, of course, by no less than Jesus Christ, Son of God, our Savior, and our Good Shepherd. Amen.

Until the next post, God bless you.

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