This month as a church, we had the opportunity to take a close look at Psalm 23. We celebrated our Pastor's Appreciation by studying our relationship with Christ, The Good Shepherd, through the dynamic of a shepherd and flock. We took Psalm 23 verse by verse and each night we were blessed with the opportunity to learn about a new aspect of our Shepherd.
23:1 - The Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want.
Pastor White started the series teaching us about the importance of recognizing Christ as our shepherd. The significance of the fact that Almighty God, the creator the of the universe, is our shepherd right now. In John 10, Jesus teaches that He is the Good Shepherd, perfect and complete. In Him, we have protection and provision. In Him, we shall not lack anything we need. We learned that there is a danger in claiming the Lord as our shepherd, but not fully accepting, or submitting to Him. But when we do submit to Him, He supplies every need.
23:2 - He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
We learned in home Bible studies about His peace in life's meadows. 2 Timothy 1:7 promises us peace and rest. Sheep cannot rest if they are afraid or if there is any tension in the flock, as His sheep we learn that in Christ every fear is gone, we learn to keep our eyes on the shepherd and not on others. We also learned that getting to green pastures is a journey, and sometimes we are already there and we don't realize God's provision immediately. Still waters represent peace, calmness, and provision. A shepherd would lead his flock to water not only for hydration, but also to clean and bandage any wounds. When we took a look at 'lead,' we learned that means to cause to move forward by the hand. A beautiful example is when Peter walked on water and began to sink, Christ stretched His hand to Peter and caught him. Often when the storms of life hit and we look around, our Shepherd is holding His hand out to us to lead us to still water.
23:3 - He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.
We broke this verse into two services and the first night we just focused on Christ's restoration of the soul. The line 'He restoreth my soul' is intensely personal in nature and shows the focus God puts on our hearts and emotions. He not only cares if we have what we need, but how we feel. In spite of what we face in life, He made a way for us to experience true joy the only way true joy can be experienced, through Him. We took a look at a sheep and what it meant for a sheep to be 'cast down.' Sheep can lose their center of gravity easily and become stuck on their backs and begin to lose circulation. They can die unless the shepherd rescues them, but a shepherd doesn't simply find the sheep and prop it up. The shepherd has to gently roll the sheep over and hold it up until circulation is restored before the sheep can return to the flock. This is a beautiful picture of Christ and how He restores us when life knocks us off of our feet.
The second night we learned about God's plans for life's pathways. We learn from Psalm 16:11, "Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." God's plan for our life is for us walk with Him and to bear the fruit of His Spirit. He leads us in His perfect plan to ultimately bring Him glory.
23:4 - Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Brother Shayne taught us that Psalm 23 is a valley psalm. There are valleys in the Christian journey because valleys are a by product of mountains. Gravity draws water down and there are times you have to leave the clarity of the mountain to get a drink from the well. Psalm 22 represents Mount Calvary, Christ's sacrifice on the cross. Psalm 24 represents Mount Zion, Christ's ultimate victory. Psalm 23 is the valley between these mountains. We learned that we walk through valleys, we don't stay there. And even though we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, we are not alone. We have to learn God as our comfort, so we can comfort others. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.
Psalm 23:5 - Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Brother Levi taught us about the provision God gives us. Prepare here means set, ready, or equipped and food represents strength and energy. Even in the midst of our enemies, God has already equipped us with everything we need. He has prepared a calling for our lives, and even when it seems like we've made a mistake, God's ways are higher. The prodigal son is a beautiful example of when we try to fix our situation on our own, God has prepared a feast.
Brother Travis talked to us about the healing oil of our Shepherd. A shepherd would pour oil over a sheep's head to prevent parasites from crawling into its ear. These parasites can burrow into the brain and cause the sheep to beat its own head to try to get relief. Christ, our good shepherd, pours his oil over us to keep us from allowing the things of this life to eat at us. He shared that a cup that runs over saturates the things surrounding it, speaking of Christ's healing oil touching every aspect of our lives.
Psalm 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Brother Barry taught us that goodness and mercy promotes, produces, and enhances our lives. Christ is our father and sometimes His goodness and mercy means telling us no. We learned that follow here means pursue, chase, or hunt. David is saying that God's goodness and mercy chase him down. Deuteronomy 28:1-12 teaches us about special blessings for God's people. If we don't see God's goodness in our lives, we are often looking in the wrong place. Just as in Genesis 21:19, God didn't make a well for Hagar, he opened her eyes, often we are in a similar situation where God has already provided for us, but we need to pray He opens our eyes.