Familiar words

Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my shepherd.”

One of the things that can happen when we come to a passage from the Bible that is very familiar to us is that we can quickly read by the words without really meditating on what’s being said. A practice that has helped me along these lines over the years is to roll each word of such passages over in my mind emphasizing that word in its context. As an example, let’s look at the first part of Psalm 23:1. This five-word sentence begins with the word “the.”  It tells us that “The Lord is my shepherd.”  It’s an exclusive term.  There aren’t many Lords. There is only one. As Jesus told us, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father but by me (John 14:6).” There are many imposters. There are many who would claim to have all the answers. There are many who may claim that if we listen to them and follow them that we would be better off for it than if we followed the Lord of Psalm 23, but they are all liars, false shepherds, whose purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy the sheep, rather than give them life.

But then the next word; “The Lord is my shepherd.”  And who is the Lord?  He is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Psalm 24 says that He is the King of Glory.  He is the Lord over all.  Again, looking at Psalm 24, we are told that “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.”  He is in sovereign control of the entire universe. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  He is the great I AM. He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.  To think that this awesome being has told me that He is my shepherd is an awesome thing.  There is absolutely no one greater Who could be caring for me. I know He sees and knows everything about me.  I could be in no better hands for You, Lord “open your hand; (and) satisfy the desire of every living thing (Psalm 145:16).”  You are all sufficient. You will supply all my needs, for you alone can supply all my needs.

But then, “The Lord is my shepherd.”  It’s not that He could be, or might be, or should be. No, He absolutely is my shepherd at this very moment in time. Right now, at this very moment “You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it (Psalm 139:1-6).” Isn’t this such an awesome thing to remind ourselves of, i.e., at any moment of any day in any situation in the face of any need, the Lord is right then and there, my shepherd. He will not let me down. He is faithful. He never slumbers or sleeps. Nothing ever passes His notice, not for one second, not at any moment in my life. 

And then, “The Lord is my shepherd.”  It’s a very personal relationship.  It’s a relationship that I actually possess.  Just like I can speak of my wife as one who I am intimate with and who is intimate with me in such an exclusive way, so God is in a personal, intimate, relationship with me. He has time for me. He knows me. He is so awesome in His being that He is attentive to my prayers as if I was the only one He is listening to.  His Word is personal to me. It is something I can trust in and believe in as a message written to me, personally.  I have a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe. I have access to Him at any moment.  And if I, alone, of all His sheep was to stray, He will reach out to me and draw me back, though He has 99 others who stay close to Him. 

Finally, “The Lord is my shepherd.”  Think about this metaphor that our God uses for Himself.  A shepherd is One who cares for his sheep. He is a protector of his sheep. Nothing touches any of His sheep without His intimate personal awareness. He allows nothing to befall His sheep that is not meant for good to them. This strong shepherd wants us to know “that for those who love God all things work together for good,for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).”  He wants us to know that, just as a shepherd gently leads his sheep as he cares for them, He too is never harsh with us, but He “will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young (Isaiah 40:11).”  He corrects us with His rod like a father disciplines the child he loves, and we can lean on Him as on a staff, for He can handle with ease any problem we bring to Him. 

What a wonderful thing is the Word of God. What a treasure to those who would but meditate on it day and night as the Lord Himself has urged us to do (Psalm 1).  May God help us to think deeply on the Word of Life, for He has told us that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).”  What a wonderful privilege and awesome blessing there is in store for us if we would but breath in the words that our loving Lord has breathed out upon us. Praise His awesome and wonderful name!

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