A Psalm that is Repeated – Psalm 53

Psalm 53 is nearly identical to Psalm 14.

If God says something once it is important; it is His word after all. If He says it twice, we must give it special attention. But what if God says it thrice? This Psalm is quoted by Paul in Romans 3.10-12. “This demands out keenest concentration, contemplation, assimilation, and even memorization…we are to ‘read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest.’” (Boice). There is no vain repetition with God. Spurgeon suggests that David wrote the 14th when he was young and turned his attention to it later in life for a “revision” of sorts. What he found was that men were no better later in life as they were when he was younger. Yet God takes care of the faithful who live surrounded by sin & evil. How bad is it really in the world? According to Psalm 53, it is really, really bad. We might say it’s a bad, bad, bad, bad world.

“To the choirmaster: according to Mahalath. A Maskil of David.” The superscription of this psalm calls it “a maskil.” A maskil could mean this is 1) a contemplative song [think about it, hmm…]; 2) a psalm imparting moral wisdom; 3) a well-written psalm (NET).

The Fountain of Sin (1a)

1The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

“Fool”: this word is typically used to describe a moral deficient person, an impious individual. A fool is one who “finds pleasure in evil conduct” (Prov 10.23, NIV). Not intelligence but impiety is in view. This personal rebellion is what stimulated their “repentance” about God’s existence.

“Heart”: The moral corrupt person must first convince him/herself there is no God. So here is self-deception. So they “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1.18).

“No God”: Ultimately, then, this is a choice to disbelieve in God. There may certainly be real challenges to their faith & attempts to make atheism appear reasonable or rational, but at the heart of atheism is personal rebellion.

The Filthiness of Sin (1b)

They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.

“Corrupt”: Here is the deceptiveness of sin – it masquerades as something beautiful & desirable. Like how homosexual behavior is simple another alternative lifestyle or being for abortion is “pro-choice” (who would want to take away options?). Sin makes men altogether filthy.

“Vile”: or “have committed abominable injustice” (NASB). Is there really any greater injustice men can commit than to make sin seem attractive?

The Fact of Sin (2)

2God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.

“God Looks Down from Heaven”: Holy God, perfect & sinless, sitting upon His majestic throne looks down upon the earth. What does He see? A planet full of sinful men & women. All our sinful hearts & lives are open before Him.

The Witness of God: Do any seek after Him? When Paul quotes this verse in Romans 3.11 the answer is “no one understands…seek for God.”

The Fault of Sin (3)

3They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.

“Fallen Away”: Is sin really that bad? YES! It is iniquity, unrighteousness, there is nothing good in it, it is evil. It is turning away from the right path, the path of life, to the path of death.

No One Does Good: Not only have we turned from God & corrupted ourselves, our interpersonal relationships are ruined because of sin. We do not do good to others.

The Folly of Sin (4)

4Have those who work evil no knowledge, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon God?

“no knowledge…do not call upon God” is language indicative of those who never made time for God in their lives and their foolishness will ultimately find them out. Listen to the excuses people make when it comes to knowing God…

“I didn’t know you existed”: God has gone to great lengths to reveal Himself in the world & the Word – how will this sound to Him?

“I didn’t think you were important”: How insulting to God! What was more important? TV, fantasy football, Facebook, work?

“I didn’t have time for you”: Yet you had time for every other frivolous, meaningless thing; everything you believed was important, but wasn’t.

The Fruit of Sin (4b)

“…who eat up my people as they eat bread…”

Barbarity: these “eat up my people as they eat bread.” These devour the weak & the poor that they might become strong & rich. This is an apt description of the dog-eat-dog world that then was and still is.

Cruelty: when the deceitfulness of sin hardens men’s hearts we should expect to see even the family unit being destroyed. Just plain mean, acting  like junk yard dogs toward one another.

The Fear (and Shame) of Sin (5)

5There they are, in great terror, where there is no terror! For God scatters the bones of him who encamps against you; you put them to shame, for God has rejected them.

God their Enemy: Here is the main variation between this and Pslam 14. “great terror where there is no terror.” Their own consciences frighten them, their imaginations fill them with terror. There is a very real fear that cannot be erased: God is & God fights against them.

“God has rejected them”: They are right to fear because it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. “The wicked flees when no one pursues” because in reality God is hunting them!

The Faith of the Saints (6)

6Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

The Present Evil World: Sin abounds here & has made men barbaric & cruel. Our experience is one where sin wins: the righteous are vilified & destroyed. It’s as common as men eating bread. (Romans 3.10-20; 21-25)

Look Upward: First, our Savior has come & delivered us from the bonds of sin. We are no longer corrupt & vile because of Jesus. Second, we wait in anticipation for when Christ comes back to set to right all that is wrong:

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 1:5–12, ESV)

We are surrounded by sin & evil in this world. The world hates us but God has rejected them. When Jesus comes He will demonstrate that finally & fully. May we be found worthy when Jesus comes.

(Outline adapted from Matthew Henry)

Advertisements

The Marks of Mercy – Psalm 51

The superscription for this Psalm gives us the historical background: To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba” (Psalm 51:title, ESV). These events are recorded in 2 Samuel 11-12 when David lusted after & committed adultery with Bathsheba, covered up his sin by deceit & murder, and presumed he had committed the perfect crime with none the wiser. But God sent the prophet Nathan – “You are the man!” In contrition & repentance, David cried out to God in prayer which is recorded in this Psalm.  His spirit & heart is broken so he turns to the only One who can mend heart & soul. This Psalm shows how God is abundantly merciful on the penitent sinner. In the New Testament we read about God being “rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2.4). But how rich is He in mercy? Make no mistake, the riches of His mercy are on display in the Old Testament just as they are in the New. God demonstrates the riches of His mercy in David’s life in Psalm 51.

Note: Observe that David addresses his prayer to Elohim and not Yahweh, Jehovah. It is as if he feels absolutely unworthy of voicing the proper name of God and simply prostrates himself before the Make

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

David immediately appeals to God for mercy, even before he mentions his sin. He begs/pleads for mercy as a brokenhearted sinner. This mercy comes from the “steadfast love” or “loving-kindness” of God. What a fitting word: loving-kindness. Wrapped up in it we see the certainly the love of God (that wonderful, matchless love) and the kindness/tenderness of God. And certainly it is steadfast.

By this mercy, God, “blot out my transgressions.” The first prayer is for mercy; this second is for the removal entirely of his offences from the book of God. Think India ink with a fountain pen – when you commit sin, the India ink bites into the pages of your life, mar it. Only the divine ink can blot it out, completely cover over that sin. This is according to the abundance of God’s mercy. Are you concerned about the abundance of your sins? Be advised that God has an abundance of mercy for the penitent sinner.

2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! 

Not like a man washing his body but as a person would wash a fouled, dirty garment. The stains are not removable by human ability and work; only divine detergent, only the blood of the unblemished can wash thoroughly the offender. Wash me, the penitent sinner from my iniquity, that thing which pollutes me.

Hebrew parallelism is used to repeat the request: Cleanse me from my sin. Transgressions, iniquity, sin – in other words, cover every form of moral impurity, every offensive stain that is evil. And truly David’s sins are multiplied: adultery, fornication, lies, murder, self-deception.

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

David, once self-deceived and refusing to acknowledge that he had done any wrong, fully acknowledges his wrongs. But truly he knew them for he committed them. They have been told him and he has been found out. I assume there is embarrassment, shame, guilt…as well there should be. Knowledge of sin will produce

But not only has David acknowledged his sins, but they are ever before him. On every face, over ever scene, in every place David looks he cannot escape his sin. It weighs on him and it is impossible to forget as long it oppresses the soul of man. Only God can remove this weight of guilt.

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

While there are other parties David has offended (Bathsheba, Uriah, Israel), there is none that is higher than God. Every sin is against God! And every sin is an open offense before God and all of heaven. Nothing escapes his sight and he recognizes the evil of sin.

Hence, the perfect God is found true and right in his words and judgments. The iniquity was indisputably committed; it is unquestionably foul and wrong; and God’s condemnation of that sin is just and without blame.

5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Not that any baby is born with sin; sin must be committed and a baby can no more commit sin than it could perform arithmetic. Rather, David, in the throes of contrition over his sin, overstates the case in his confession to God. There is no good thing in his life at this point and David’s whole life is painted the hue of sin.

6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Mark 1 of mercy: Honesty with self over what you have done; truthfulness (6). The preceding 5 verses have been bringing us to this first mark. A person who receives divine mercy must first be honest about their state before a holy God. Honesty concerning your sin will enable you to recognize your sin and admit it plainly to God (that’s confession). And this recognition of sin will produce the contrition we see in this Psalm, the broken-heartedness over sin, the sorrow for his iniquity, and will lead to repentance.

David is saying he is an adulterer, he stole another man’s wife, he had that man killed, he lied about it, covered it up, he deceived people about it. What do we need to be honest about in our life? What’s your secret sin that your hiding from everyone else. You may fool the whole world, but the eyes of God are on you.

7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Mark 2 of mercy: Request for forgiveness (7-8). Hyssop is from the mint family of plants and was used for cleansing a person from defilement from touching a corpse or from leprosy. And surely David is defiled. So he asks to be purged (purified, removed) from his sin. Only with the complete removal of sin can David be clean/pure. Again the request to be washed (see v.2).

But if we are going to ask for forgiveness, be sure we also receive that forgiveness. God wants to hear the pleading of our hearts as we confess wrong. But don’t continue carrying around what God has forgiven. Have faith God has forgiven (and he has, 1 John 1.9) and move on to service (Heb 9.14). God can, will, and does forgive the penitent sinner.

Satan will whisper doubts in our ear; he’s been since the beginning. “Has God really forgiven you?” We need to confident and stand on the word of God – “Yes He has!” Don’t put a question mark where God has put a period.

8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.

Request forgiveness and receive it. God wants to hear the pleading of our hearts as we confess wrong. But don’t continue carrying around what God has forgiven. Have faith God has forgiven (and he has, 1 John 1.9) and move on to service (Heb 9.14). God can, will, and does forgive the penitent sinner. Rejoice in His forgiveness!

9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

Mark 3 of mercy: Believe that God has forgotten as well as forgiven. And here is the difficulty for humans: that an omniscient God can forget sin. Nevertheless, Jeremiah 31.34b, Hebrews 8.12b. God can turn his face from our sins, blotting them out so as to never remember them. He no longer sees them. This harkens to the mercy seat (Exodus 25.17-22). The mercy seat was above the Ark of the Covenant and was the resting place of God. Every year on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest would enter the Most Holy Place and sprinkle blood on the mercy seat 7 times to make atonement for the people. The people drew near the mercy seat to receive mercy from the Lord.

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Mark 4 of mercy: Allow God to work in you (v.10). See 2 Corinthians 5.17, God creates new motivation (heart) and desire (spirit). David is asking for restoration to the place he was before: a faithful and fruitful person. “Give me the fortitude to get on track and stay on track.”

11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

Mark 5 of mercy: Believe in God’s presence (v.11). Does David have Saul in mind? Perhaps. But he has seen what it looks like to live without the presence of God and he does not want that. According to Ephesians 3.16-17, Christians have both the Spirit and Christ within them. Take heart that if you are forgiven, you are fit for His abiding presence.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Mark 6 of mercy: Restoration of joy (v.12). He’s back with a song in his heart and smile on his lips. Does not mean he has forgotten, but he has joy. Like Paul: he never forgot where he came from (chief of sinners) but he had joy (Philippians 4.4).

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.

Mark 7 of mercy: Proclamation of salvation (v.13). Go tell someone about the God who saved you, what he has done. Was sin bad? Yes, but once on track, headed in the right direction, now we can benefit others.

In order to fully experience the mercy of God, it may be helpful to ask several pointed question to see if you are fully back.

Is the anger, hurt, & resentment still in force? Is the guilt, shame, & disappointment still overwhelming?

Are we in prayer as much as before or even more? It is not embarrassment but sweet conversation.

Can I thank God for the lessons learned & the character gained from this experience?

Can I talk about the hurt without recalling all the stuff that devastates? Can I do that without being hurt? Can I help others?

Do I accept full responsibility for my sins? Or am I still trying to blame someone or something else?

Do I still love myself or am I punishing myself?

Am I imposing some kind of consequence or penance for what I have done? By the way, that is legalism.

So long as anger, lack of prayer, blaming, self-imposed punishment remains, we hinder the full experience of God’s mercy.

We need to trust that Jesus has forgiven fully. God shows this kind of mercy to those who are merciful (see Matthew 5.8). That is the final question: it is not a question of what sort of life you are living; it is not a question of if you have interest in the kingdom of God. It is simply “are you showing mercy?” That is the test from the beatitude from Jesus. For if you do not show mercy, how can you expect God to show mercy to you? Since God has been so merciful to you, how could not show mercy to others? “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful” (Luke 6.36). Receive His mercy.

Desiring God – Psalms 42-43

Book 2 of the Psalms begins with this desperate desire for God expressed by men who shouldn’t even be alive. Psalm 42 is the 1st of a dozen Psalms (42-49, 84-85, 87-88) written by the sons of Korah and is intended to be coupled with Psalm 43 (cf. 42.5, 11; 43.5 – same chorus). Their daddy (or distant relative) led a rebellion against Moses with 250 community leaders. See Numbers 26.9-11, their daddy & his band died, but the sons of Korah did not die. In fact, Korah was one of five major Levitical families (see Numbers 26.53; 1 Chronicles 6.31-33). The sons of Korah are a family of Levites David organized into a musical guild; they were a Levitical family of singers. In gratitude to God they devoted themselves to producing praise. God is the craving and desire of the depressed and despairing soul. How vital is knowing God to the saint? Psalms 42-43 reveal how vital God is to the soul.

The superscription of this psalm calls it “a maskil.” A maskil could mean this is 1) a contemplative song [think about it, hmm…]; 2) a psalm imparting moral wisdom; 3) a well-written psalm (NET). Psalms 42, 44, 45, 52-55, 74, 78, 88, 89, & 102 are also maskil Psalms.

Desire for God (42.1-5)

 

1As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.

2My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

Thirst (1-2): “My soul” speaks to the Psalmist’s inmost self, his deepest life, his essential being; this is what is most desperate for God. This desire for God is just as vital as the body’s need to drink. Is communion with God an urgent need of your soul, even as drink is vital to your body?

3My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”

Tears (3): Tears are the bread of the brokenhearted & the drink of the despairing (cf. Psalm 80.5). Tears come because of the hatred of his enemies

4These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.

Tabernacle/Temple (4): Although the temple may yet to be built, they certainly had the tabernacle as the house of God. Regardless, this verse communicates the Psalmists intense desire to be in God’s presence & seek His face. Essentially he says he was the 1st one through the doors when they were opened. He probably would have lingered as long as possible, being the last one out the door when the shouts & songs were over. What about us in the temple of the Lord today? Do we have this intense longing for God’s presence? Wild dogs couldn’t drag us away from being here!

5Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation

Chorus (5, 11; 43.5): “Cast down” is the language of depression. “Why?” Persecution? Sure, v.3, 9-10; 43.1 all indicate this is the case. Deprived from word & worship of God? Absolutely, v.1-2 indicates this is probably the primary reason for a downcast disposition. Ever been here? Drowning in tears, with a heavy heart. Feelings of sadness like a prison you can’t break free from?

Depressed Over God (42.6-11)

6and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.

7Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.

8By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.

9I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me?

Abandoned by God (6-9a): This is how the Psalmist feels. Verse 6: “Jordan…Harmon…Mount Mizar” are all places east of the Jordan River & are a long way off from Jerusalem. It is as far as you can go and still catch just a glimpse of the Promised Land. “God, I feel far away from you” whether physically or figuratively. Verse 7: Billow upon billow like he is lost as sea with the waves crashing upon him. The Psalmist is overwhelmed by trials. Rarely is it just on trial, one problem; it is not single file trials, but a battalion of billows. Verse 8: I know He loves me & I sing songs of His steadfast love every day. Verse 9: God is not acting quickly enough; it feels like He has forgotten me.

Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”

10As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”

Attacked by His Enemies (9b-10): Builds from verse 3. “When you need Him your God is absent!” All day long they taunt. Non-stop.

11Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

Reasons People Get Depressed: Even the saints of God can struggle with depression. “Why?” Could be because of temperament, physical conditions (weather, environment), down reaction following great blessing, attacks from Satan, attacks from unbelievers, unbelief (in self or others), disappointment with life, personal failure, burden of growing old. In these Psalms there are several reasons also: 1) Absence from God’s presence (1-2); 2) Challenges from unbelievers (3, 10); 3) Remembering better times (4); 4) Overwhelming trials (7); 5) Impatience with God acting (9) – God is not acting quickly enough; 6) Attacks from ungodly people (43.1). These and other reasons are why people struggle with depression.

How to Overcome Depression: Not only does this Psalm give reasons for depression but it also gives us hope in overcoming it. 1) Long for God (1-2) – run to the living water just as a deer flees to the flowing streams. 2) Remember (4): Those happy memories are meant to help not hurt you. 3) Self-reflection (5, 11; 43.5): “Why do I feel this way?” Think about your thinking, identify the lies & replace those with truth. 4) Hope in God (5, 11; 43.5): He is a recourse for your soul. 5) God still loves you (8): We are reminded of His “steadfast love” upwards to 50 times in Scripture for a reason. 6) Wait for God’s defense (9; 43.1-2): We don’t like to wait, esp. when times are hard. We get impatient & want to fight our own battles. But it is God who justifies. 7) Worship (43.4): The soul is nourished by coming into His presence & seeking His face.

Defense from God (43.1-5)

1Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me!

2For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?

Remember God’s Defense (1-2): Let God fight your battles.

3Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!

4Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.

Rest in God’s Goodness (3-4): Come taste His goodness & worship Him.

5Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

Revel in God’s Hope (5): “Why?” is asked over & over. It is the question which won’t go away. After each one – “Hope in God.” A stunning, surprising declaration. He is the answer which won’t go away. We are surprised by hope in God who saves & secures us. For us under the New Covenant we have the added promise of the peace of Christ (Phil 4.6-7).

We were dead in our trespasses & sins; we are not supposed to be alive & yet we live forevermore because of God. If by grace God has spared us a fate worse than death, wouldn’t we desire to be in His presence, thirsting for His living water?

At its heart this is a psalm for the depressed, those down in the dumps, those saints of God who are feeling blue. In gratitude, praise God for His mercy & grace.

Stabbed in the Back – Psalm 41

The occasion for Psalm 41 is the aftermath of David’s sin with Bathsheba. God had told David “the sword shall never depart from your house…Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house” (2 Samuel 12.10-11). A couple years after this prophecy is uttered, Absalom, David’s son, steals the hearts of the people (ch.15) & performs a coup to steal the throne from David. Sick & on the run, with the sword of his own house in his back, David pens this Psalm. The main idea of this Psalm is that God’s blessings are upon the man of integrity. What do you do when you’ve been stabbed in the back? Psalm 41 speaks a word from to God to the betrayed.

The Beatitude of the Social Worker (1-3)

1Blessed is the one who considers the poor!

Consider the Poor (1a): The bliss of God belongs to those who give attention to poor/weak and treat them proper. “Poor” here could be the impoverished, tho David saw himself as “poor & needy” (40.17). Could be the humiliated & weak. Not merely in thought (“bless their hearts”) but in action (cf. 1 Jn 3.18). Brethren, we’ve done some of this; let us seek to do this even more.

In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him;

2the Lord protects him and keeps him alive; he is called blessed in the land; you do not give him up to the will of his enemies.

3The Lord sustains him on his sickbed; in his illness you restore him to full health.

Count Your Blessings (1b-3): The common denominator of all these is peace.  1) Deliverance (1b): “Day of trouble” or “evil day” (cf. Ephesians 6.13, any day the evil one or evil ones come against you). 2) Protection (2a): Mortal life is kept by the immortal God. 3) Prosperity (2b): material & financial blessing in the land. 4) Sustenance (3a): YHWH is the God of health so when you’re sick He sees you thru it. 5) Restoration (3b): YWHW ensures you make a full recovery after illness.

YHWH’s deliverance in the evil day; His protection from foes and keeping you alive; how blessed you are in life; God seeing you thru sickness & bringing about full recovery – all of these blessings are related to how you treat the poor. You are blessed with these IF you consider the poor. Think about how much we pray for the sick among us; God answering those prayers is directly related to how we treat the poor. Your peace is related to how you treat the poor, the little guy. God cares for them; we should too.

The Plea of the Sick Warrior (4-9)

4As for me, I said, “O Lord, be gracious to me; heal me, for I have sinned against you!”

Heal Me (4): “Be gracious to me” is a common plea found throughout the Psalms (15 x’s in the Psalms; twice in this Psalm). We especially need God’s grace when we “have sinned against You.” Herein is why sin is most grievous: it is directed toward God. So David cries out for healing (lit. heal my soul), body & soul, the whole being because of sickness & sin.

5My enemies say of me in malice, “When will he die, and his name perish?”

6And when one comes to see me, he utters empty words, while his heart gathers iniquity; when he goes out, he tells it abroad.

7All who hate me whisper together about me; they imagine the worst for me.

8They say, “A deadly thing is poured out on him; he will not rise again from where he lies.”

9Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.

Help Me (5-9): Verse 5: Modern vernacular – “Drop dead!” This is akin to Ike Taylor in Tombstone saying “I hope you die” to Doc Holiday after losing to him in gambling. But also, may there be no memory of him in the pages of history. Wow!

Verse 6: Lies are crafted & spread abroad. “It is perfectly marvelous how spite spins webs out of no materials whatsoever” (Spurgeon).

Verse 7: Many commentators put the writing of this Psalm when David was running for his life from his son Absalom. One of his advisers, Ahithophel, seems to now hate David, advising Absalom to go kill David & he would lead the charge (2 Samuel 17).

Verse 8: “deadly thing” or “evil disease” (NKJV) seems to indicate David has fallen ill. Meanwhile, his enemies gloat over this.

Verse 9: For David, Ahithophel, his adviser, had betrayed him, stabbed him in the back. Further, when Ahithophel realizes his advice has not been taken by Absalom, he goes home & hangs himself (2 Samuel 17.23). Why did he betray David? Why such a violent response when his advice is rejected?

Ahithophel had a son named Eliam who was one of David’s mighty men (2 Samuel 23.34). That’s the same group Urijah ran with. He was married to Bathsheba whom David committed adultery with back in 2 Samuel 12. Want to take a guess who Bathsheba’s daddy was? 2 Samuel 11.3, Eliam, making her Ahithophel’s granddaughter. AND if David could do what he did to Urijah…what’s stopping him from doing this to my son? This was his chance to finally get David after years of his rage simmering. Bitterness, hatred, anger, revenge…this stuff ate him alive.

Help Me Again: While this certainly explains David’s situation, being a prophet he spoke of Christ. Indeed, the latter portion of verse 9 is quoted in John 13.18 by Jesus of Judas. Truly, you go through these verses & Christ is seen in each of them. Though He was sinless, He certainly needed the grace of God (v.4). His malicious enemies did want Him to die & His name to be forgotten (v.5). Their hearts were full of iniquity & they crafted lies to convict Him (v.6). The chief priests & Pharisees imagined the worst for Him, even death on a cross (v.7). They were so adamant about Him not rising from the grave they posted guards at His tomb (v.8). And it was Judas who betrayed Him, even one of His disciples (v.9).

The Prayer of a Sincere Worshiper (10-13)

10But you, O Lord, be gracious to me, and raise me up, that I may repay them!

11By this I know that you delight in me: my enemy will not shout in triumph over me.

Imprecation (10-11): “I may repay him.” For self-revenge? No, but the righteousness of God is at stake because these guys are seeking to hurt the Lord’s anointed, something even David did not dare do though he had opportunity. As his kingly duty required of him (cf. Romans 13.4), he would change their shouts of victory into cries of mourning or silence them permanently. But that would be the sign that God took pleasure in His servant. NT Update: Christ, 2 Thessalonians 1.8-10.

12But you have upheld me because of my integrity, and set me in your presence forever.

Integrity (12): David is confident that he has treated the poor, weak, emarginated right. In fact, although at one point he had a “lame” policy for his kingdom (2 Sam 5.8). However, when it came to Jonathan’s relative Mephibosheth, who was crippled, David allowed him to eat at his table. So David too longs to sit in the King’s presence forever.

13Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! Amen and Amen.

Invocation (13): As this Psalm closes & as Book 1 of the Psalms closes, we have a final exclamation praising God.

Again, David’s deliverance was related to how he treated the poor/weak. This was his integrity. When you’re stabbed in the back, that may be all you have. Keep looking to God’s grace, His blessings during these hard times.

When You’ve Blown It Again – Psalm 32

The haunting, terrible reality for all Christians is that we fall short of the glory of God far too often. Once is too often, by the way. We do slip up, trip up, & fall short or miss the mark. As Christians we strive to be like Jesus, but we sin. 1 John 1.8, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Notice that John includes himself. It is right to feel guilt over sin; in fact we ought to because when we don’t something is wrong. What do you do when you are in the throes of despair over sin? Psalm 32 offers light & hope in darkness & despair. God thoroughly forgives our iniquity, transgressions, & sins.

The superscription of this psalm calls it “a maskil.” A maskil could mean this is 1) a contemplative song [think about it, hmm…]; 2) a psalm imparting moral wisdom; 3) a well-written psalm (NET). Psalms 42, 44, 45, 52-55, 74, 78, 88, 89, & 102 are also maskil Psalms. “Of David” means this was written by David and this fact is confirmed by Paul (Romans 4.6-8).

God Deals With Our Sin (1-4)

Like the Sermon on the Mount this Psalm begins with a beatitude. This is the beatitude of the forgiven lawbreaker.

1Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

2Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

Sin Expiated [atoned for] (1-2): Three (3) words are used in the 1st two verse to describe sin: transgression, sin, iniquity. 1) Transgression: crossing a boundary, i.e. God’s law. 2) Sin: missing the mark, not doing what God has commanded or doing what God has commanded not be done. 3) Iniquity: internal defilement of the soul, moral distortion. All three of these God handles. With transgressions, He “forgives,” i.e. they are taken away like a burden. With sin, He “covers,” i.e. they are hidden from His sight. With iniquity, He does not “count” them, i.e. they never hit the record. But cleansing of all sin begins with genuine, real repentance, not pretended penitence (“no deceit”). Salvation from sin flows into a sincere heart before God.

3For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.

4For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

Sin Experienced (3-4): Here is the soul crushing reality of sin. David “kept silent” about his sin. Why keep silent? Could have been out of pride (stubborn refusal to confess), neglect, despair (“How could God forgive me?”), guilt (don’t deserve? Exactly! That’s grace). But the longer he kept it in, his physical condition took a turn for the worse as he “wasted away” (weak, exhausted, aged). He groaned all day; so while he may have been silent over sin, he was groaning in sorrow. Verse 4: God’s hand is helpful when He reaches down to help us up, but it is heavy when it comes down upon us due to sin (cf. 38.2). If his finger can crush, what pressure must His hand bring? Further, the heat of divine justice has withered David, dried him up like a twig.  All of this shows us the awful experience of unconfesed sin.

God Hears Our Confession (5-7)

Confession brings joy!

5I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

7You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah

Individual (5, 7): Verse 5: Here is true repentance in action. First, David takes ownership of his sin – “my sin…my transgressions…my iniquity.” Mine, all mine. My rebellion & self-will & perversion (cf. James 1.14-15). All this he “will confess” to God, that is, his intention & inclination is toward God. Notice: David can’t even get the words out and God already forgives! Like prodigal son (Lk 15). AND God not only forgives the sin, but “the iniquity of my sin” or “the guilt of my sin” (NIV). The very blackest part God blots out! God deals with the root of sin, the virus of moral depravity. He does not merely mow over the weed; he pulls it out at the root! God’s pardon is deep, thorough. Verse 7: It is no wonder David views God as his personal city of refuge, city to hide from the avenger of blood, preserved from death, with shouts & songs  because he is safe.

6Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him.

Everyone (6): David says to God that everybody ought to do what I am doing. David wants everyone to experience the joy of salvation. This is the best deal around – total, full forgiveness of all sin & a new heart on top of it. This doesn’t make what we did right; it makes Him good.

God Instructs Our Hearts (8-11)

Some say this is David instructing others as he vowed to do (51.13). Others say this is God speaking & instructing us after reconciliation.

8I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

9Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.

God Guides the Godly (8-9): God guides us with spiritual & moral guidance. He reveals to us the way we should go thru His word. Further, He watches over us as we walk in His way. Verse 9: these beasts need a bit & are forced into service. Ours, tho, is a willing service. They are “without understanding,” but we are rational creatures rendering to our Maker what is rightfully His.

10Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.

God Guards the Godly (10): Sorrows are guilt, shame, anxiety (over relationship with God), fear/terror, anger, bitterness. “The wicked” are acquainted with these. “He who sows sin will reap sorrow in heavy sheaves” (Spurgeon). “Every wicked man is a miserable man” (Clarke). However, those whose faith is in YHWH are surrounded by His unfailing love. Morning & evening, in company & alone, in sickness & health, in life & in death – everywhere & always.

11Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!

God Gladdens the Godly (11): Joy accompanies forgiveness. So holiness & joy are welded together.  Note that only “in the YHWH” can we experience joy for only YHWH can atone for & absolve us of sin thereby making us “righteous” & “upright in heart.”

I believe many Christians need this reminder of reassurance of remission of sin. Guilt is crippling & hinders us from fulfilling the purposes of God in our generation. But God has dealt with our sin & continues to deal with our sins. We are forgiven to the uttermost, and God calls us to live with & for Him.

Prayer: For the forgiveness of our sins, the blotting out of our transgressions, and the remission of our iniquity, even the iniquity of our sin, we praise thee, O Lord.

Let the King Come In – Psalm 24

Whatever happened to the Ark of the Covenant?

Hollywood has made a lot of money off of the Ark of the Covenant (Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark) and this single item has been the object of a lot of speculation. Where is it? What happened to it?

Special Study – A Brief History of the Ark of the Covenant

The Ark of the Covenant (AKA the ark of the Lord/God & the ark of the testimony) was the sacred portable chest which represented the presence of God. It was a rectangular box made of acacia wood and measured 2.5 X 1.5 X 1.5 cubits (or approx. 45 X 27 X 27 inches). It was overlaid with gold, had four gold rings (two on each side) through which two poles could be passed through to carry it, and was built by a man named Bezalel (see Exodus 25.10-22; 37.1-9).

God was very specific concerning its dimensions, how it was to be carried, and who could carry it. Levites were to cover it with the veil between the holy place & the Most Holy Place (Numbers 4.5) before they could carry it using the acacia wood poles. For 40 years they transported the Ark whenever the Israelites broke camp in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 10.8). Each time they departed and each time they rested, Moses sang a song or gave a brief benediction (Numbers 10.35-36).

The Ark contained a copy of the Ten Commandments written on stone, a jar of manna, and Aaron’s staff (Hebrews 9.4). The Ark served as the meeting place for the people of Israel where God would reveal His will for His people to His servants Moses (Exodus 25.22), Aaron (Leviticus 16.2), and Joshua (Joshua 7.6).

When Israel went in to conquer the Promised Land the Ark played significant roles. When the Israelites crossed the River Jordan, the priests who were carrying the Ark went in first to stop the waters from flowing so that all Israel passed through on dry ground (Joshua 3.13); it was as though YHWH Himself was passing through the river (v.11). At Jericho, seven priests blowing trumpets led the march around the city walls with the Ark following behind them and the rest of the army behind them (Joshua 6.8-9). When Israel renewed covenant at Mount Ebal & Mount Gerazim, there was the Ark between the two mounts in the midst of the Israel and surrounded by elders, officers, judges, and the priest who carried it (Joshua 8.33).

Following the conquest of the land the people set up the tent of meeting at Shiloh and this becomes the place where the Ark resides for some time (Judges 18.1). At some point during the time of the judges the Ark was moved to Bethel (Judges 20.24-27) before being moved back to Shiloh during the time of Samuel (1 Samuel 3.3) and remaining there until Israel went to war with the Philistines (1 Samuel 4). After suffering a loss in battle to the Philistines the Israelites concoct a superstitious idea that the Ark of God will save them rather than the God of the Ark (v.3). So the Ark is brought from Shiloh to Ebenezer where the Israelites were encamped and in the ensuing battle the Ark is captured by the Philistines (v.11). For seven months the Ark remains in Philistine hands but is quickly returned due to plagues among the people (1 Samuel 6). The two milk cows which pulled the cart upon which the Philstines had placed the Ark went straight to Beth-shemesh (v.12). The men of Beth-shemesh send messengers to Kiriath-Jearim to come get the Ark because 70 of the men have died because they looked upon the uncovered Ark (v.19-21). So the men of Kiriath-Jearim take the Ark to the house of Abinadab whose son Eleazar has charge of the Ark.

The Ark remains in his house for 20 years, except for a short field trip to Saul’s camp near Beth-aven (1 Samuel 14.18) though David says the people did not seek God during Saul’s days (1 Chronicles 13.3). After several decades (some say upwards to 70 years), David decides to move the Ark from the house of Abinadab at Kiriath-Jearim (AKA Baale-Judah, see 2 Samuel 6.2) to Jerusalem (about an 8 mile trek) where he has set up the tent of meeting (2 Samuel 6; 1 Chronicles 13). However, during the transportation of the Ark, Uzzah reaches out to steady the Ark and is struck dead. Angry & afraid, David reroutes the Ark to Obed-Edom’s house. He appears to be a Levite since he is a Gittite, that is, a resident of the Levitical town Gath Rimmon.

For three months the Ark remains in Obed-Edom’s house and his household is blessed because of this. When David learns of this he decides the time is right to move the Ark again. This time, though, they are going to do it right with only Levites carrying it as YHWH had specified (1 Chronicles 15.2, 15). Further, every six steps a sacrifice is offered (2 Samuel 6.13). All of Israel shows up and celebrates as the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH is brought into Jerusalem.

During the reign of Solomon is when the first temple is built. This glorious & splendid temple becomes the permanent dwelling of the Ark. A great ceremony is held when they bring the Ark into the new temple (1 Kings 8). At some point it was moved out of the temple and had to be returned during the reign of Josiah (2 Chronicles 35.3).

Now this special study concerning the Ark of the Covenant is important to the study of Psalm 24. Psalm 24 is about the glorious entrance of the King into the temple, i.e. God, symbolically represented by the Ark, entering His temple. What must it have been like to see the Ark enter the temple? Psalm 24 transports us there when the Ark would have entered the designated place, first the tabernacle and later the temple.

 

Bringing the Ark to the Gate (1-6)

1The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, 2for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.

Total Rule (1-2): God is sovereign over everything – world & people. The Bible tells us He created the world (Gen 1.4).

3Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? 4He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.

Total Religion (3-4): 1) Question (3): For the Israelite, this would no doubt have conjured up Mt. Sinai – Ex 19.12-13, 23. Only Moses was allowed to ascend the mountain. 2) Quest (4): Asking the question leads to a quest, the quest for practical morality leading to holiness for the purpose of ascending the holy mountain of God. Four (4) aspects of practical morality: 1) Clean hands – pure actions. 2) Pure heart – pure motives. 3) Humble Soul – right relationship with God. 4) True Lips (right relationship with others.

5He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. 6Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah

Total Reward (5-6): Blessing & righteousness from God. This is the reward for seeking the face of God (cf. 27.8; 105.4). Selah is the pause button in Psalms – time to meditate & contemplate the things just sung.

Enter the King of Glory (7-10)

The follow closing section of the Psalm was intended to be sung antiphonally with three different parts: the crowd as they drew near the temple, the voice within the temple, & the spokesman for the King. It breaks down as follows:

Approaching Crowd

7Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.

Voice Inside

8Who is this King of glory?

Spokesman for the King

The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle!

Approaching Crowd

9Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.

Voice Inside

10Who is this King of glory?

Everyone

The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory! Selah

In this moment of pause, this is an “ah-ha” moment! They would have done this when David brought the ark into the tabernacle and then again when Solomon completed the temple.

The Ark of the Covenant & the Christian

Disappearance & Tradition: It is uncertain when & how the Ark was lost; the Bible is silent on the matter. After the deportations under Nebuchadnezzar and the destruction of the temple in 586 BC nothing is known concerning what became of the Ark. In fact, it is not listed as the spoils of Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25.13-17; Jeremiah 52.17-23) leading some to think it may have already been lost. Indeed, Jeremiah had prophesied of the day when the Ark would no longer be visited, remembered, or talked about (Jeremiah 3.16). They wouldn’t even miss it.

Various traditions exist about what happened to the Ark of the Covenant: some Jewish traditions say Jeremiah took the Ark & hid it, some even specifying he hid it in the mountain where Moses is buried; another source says Josiah hid the Ark under a rock “in its place,” that is, under the temple; one legend says an angel came and removed the Ark before the destruction of Jerusalem. But all traditions point to the exile as the time for the disappearance of the Ark.

The Ark of the Covenant was conspicuously absent from the 2nd & 3rd temples. In fact, Josephus explains that in the Most Holy Place “there was nothing at all…and not to be seen by any” (War of the Jews 5.219). They didn’t even rebuild it just as Jeremiah said. Ezekiel’s vision (40-48) does not include the Ark. According to the rabbinic writings, where the Ark would have been was a “stone of foundation” three fingers high. The last sighting of the Ark of the Covenant was by the apostle John in the Revelation (11.19), but given the symbolic nature of the prophecy, it is doubtful this was the literal Ark of the Covenant.

Why God Would Allow the Ark to be Lost? Partly, because He knows men will worship anything & everything except Him. If we had the Ark of the Covenant, people would worship the relic rather than the Righteous One. But also, God paves the way for something greater by allowing the Ark to be lost to history. No longer would He dwell above the mercy seat, above the Ark of the Covenant, between the cherubim, in the Most Holy Place, behind the veil, in the temple in Jerusalem. No, now His Spirit resides in Christians who are the temple of God (1 Cor 3.16-17; 6.19-20; 2 Cor 6.16). When we became a Christian, we let the King come in, opening the door of your heart at which Jesus stood and knocked – “be lifted up, you doors!” And He continues to reside within us each day as we confess “YHWH Almighty is the King of glory” & therefore the King of my life.

What is very interesting about this Psalm is that it was always sung on the 1st day of the week in Jewish worship [Psalm 48 the 2nd day; 82 the 3rd; 94 the 4th; 81 the 5th; 93 the 6th; 92 the 7th, i.e. the Sabbath]. Every Lord’s Day, tho we may not sing this Psalm, we unite with the spirit of this, renewing our devotion to our King & calling on Him to enter our lives & live in, with, & thru us. The Lord wishes to enter your life so that He might save you and change you.

Won’t you let the King come in?

The Best Known Psalm – Psalm 23

The superlatives concerning Psalm 23 are numerous: Spurgeon calls it “the pearl of Psalms.” Alexander Maclaren says we would be better off losing many of the big fat books written than we would losing this single Psalm. James Montgomery Boice calls it the most beloved psalm in the Psalter.

Not only is Psalm 23 the best known & most loved Psalm; it is perhaps the best known & most loved chapter in all of Scripture. Millions of people have memorized it even tho it may be the only text they’ve committed to memory. It has dried the eyes of many brokenhearted saints; it has shaped many hearts; it has brought many peace. It has spawned Christian urban legends like the one about the two men who recite this Psalm – one reading it with great elocution to applause, the other citing it from the heart leaving the crowd in tears. When asked the difference, the first man replied, “I know the Psalm; he knows the Shepherd.”

God is Shepherd of His people. What does it mean for YHWH to be my shepherd? Psalm 23 enables us to come to know the Shepherd.

YHWH My Shepherd (1a)

1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

The Sovereign: YHWH, the “I AM.” He is the infinite God (timeless), the self-sufficient one, lacking nothing & needing nothing. So…the One who needs nothing comes near to help the need. He condescends to be the shepherd of His people.

The Shepherd: As in other ancient societies (e.g. Egypt, Gen 46.34), shepherds were considered the lowest folks in society who engaged in the lowest of all work. Typically, the youngest in the family got the unpleasant assignment (e.g. David). It was unending, thankless work of nourishing, binding, caring, etc. some of the dumbest animals on the planet. No one choose to be a shepherd…no one except YHWH. The cosmic sovereign Ruler of the universe stoops down to care for His people. It was despised work, yet it is divine work.

“I Shall Not Want” (1b-6)

Or I have everything I need or I don’t need a thing. Come what may, I will not lack, not b/c of my skills or ability, not b/c of my wit or wisdom, but b/c YHWH is my shepherd. I shall not want…

2He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.

Solace (2): Green pastures & still waters are pictures of peace. Laying down is a picture of rest. So with YHWH as my shepherd I have peaceful rest, solace. But for sheep to lie down, they need to be free from several things (see Keller, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, 23) – fear, friction, flies, famine. In similar fashion, for us to rest in God/Christ we must be free from fear (“perfect love drives out fear”), friction (interpersonal conflict, “be at peace with one another”), spiritual “flies” (such as guilt, doubt, shame, bitterness), & famine of the Word. God is the perfect provider of all these so that we might find solace in the Savior.

3He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Salvation (3a): “Restores my soul,” i.e. He saves my life. Keller (51-52) says the parallel is a “cast” sheep. How often do we end up on our back spiritually & yet the shepherd comes & stands us upright? For the purpose of walking in paths of righteousness.

A Standard (3b): He leads me in paths of righteousness. See Isa 53.6, left to our own desires, we end up on the wrong/crooked path. But with YHWH as our shepherd, He keeps us on the straight/right path. “For His Name’s sake” – i.e. to display His glory & grace; because He is good

4Even 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.

Security (4): “Valley of the shadow of death” see Keller 76-77:

It is customary to use this verse as a consolation to those who are passing through the dark valley of death. But even here, for the child of God, death is not an end but merely the door into a higher and more exalted life of intimate contact with Christ…The Good Shepherd knows this. It is one reason why He has told us, “Lo, I am with you alway” – yes, even in the valley of death.

But this also points to the shepherd’s ability to protect his sheep in times of danger. Fearless because He is with me. Note also, the valley is as much the right path as the green pastures & still waters. The rod & staff, one a weapon to fight off predators, the other designed to correct the sheep. Again Keller:

It was the rod of God’s Word that Christ, our Good Shepherd, used in His own encounter with the serpant – Satan – during His desert temptation. It is the same Word of God which we can count on again and again to counter the assaults and attacks of Satan (91-92).

5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Supplies (5): A great feast is prepared with oil & wine (“cup”). Some see here a shift in imagery, but Keller sees continuation in the sheep imagery. First, the “table” are the high table lands, a mesa where the good food is. Second the oil would be used during summer time (“fly time”) to ward off bugs & infection. Third, wine would be used during the winter to ward off chill. Point: all year round God is there with exactly what His people need.

6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Sanctuary (6): Out of God’s mercy comes His goodness. Thru black days & bright days, goodness will supply our needs & mercy will blot out our sins. Dwelling in His house forever. A heavenly home certainly, but in the here & now we have a “household,” that is, we are part of His flock. Why would we leave? We have everything we need. “I shall not want.” He is the good Shepherd.

Tho this imagery of God our shepherd is in the Old Testament, as New Testament Christians we must never forget that the same imagery is applied to Christ.

Jesus My Shepherd

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly...I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,” (John 10:10, 14)

The Good Shepherd (Jn 10.11, 14): He promises self-sacrifice. He also promises to “know” us. That is, He is well acquainted with us. Jesus knows you & is always with you (Mt 28.20). So we can say, “You are with me.”

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,” (Hebrews 13:20)

The Great Shepherd (Heb 13.20): He equips us to do His will. Notice what He equips us with – “everything good.” Isn’t that what we have seen in Psa 23- solace, salvation, a standard, security, supplies, sanctuary, & more!

And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Peter 5:4, ESV)

The Chief Shepherd (1 Pt 5.4): He will reward faithful under-shepherds with glory.

“The Lord is MY Shepherd,” but what happens when I am shepherd? Max Lucado helps us understand what that looks like:

I am my own shepherd. I am always in need.

I stumble from mall to mall and shrink to shrink, seeking relief but never finding it.

I creep through the valley of the shadow of death and fall apart.

I fear everything from pesticides to power lines, and I’m starting to act like my mother.

I go down to the weekly staff meeting and am surrounded by enemies. I go home, and even my goldfish scowls at me.

I anoint my headache with extra-strength Tylenol.

My Jack Daniels runneth over.

Surely misery and misfortune will follow me, and I will live in self-doubt for the rest of my lonely life.

Now – which of these would you rather have? God as your shepherd who richly provides you everything good so you say “I shall NOT want” or you as shepherd which only gives you headaches & heartbreak. Kind of a no brainer… Let HIM be YOUR Shepherd.