“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Psalm 23:1
Dear Faithful Friends and Saintly Seed-Sowers,
Grace and peace to you during this time of the Covid-19 shutdown and slow down. For the next six weeks, we are going to walk slowly through Psalm 23. Psalm 23 is only six verses and 117 words. During your stay-at-home time, or go and work and go home time, why not open your bible and slowly read and pray this Psalm? When I was in seminary, a group of us got together and taught ourselves how to pray the psalms. We picked a psalm and went line by line, reading it out loud and then pausing to see if we were inspired to pray. You know what? It was an amazing experience. I encourage you to pick up this Psalm and pray a word or a sentence. Ask God to fill your heart and mind on how to pray for those you love. The Holy Spirit will move you and lead you. I’m praying for you! Let me know how it goes!
Martin Luther called this psalm “a little Bible,” and he just might be right. There are six verses, 117 words but we will certainly come to know the Lord as we study this psalm. Once we know him as our shepherd, we can find it easier to trust him. The twenty-third Psalm is the most beloved Psalm in the Psalter and possibly is the best- loved chapter in the entire Bible. The great Baptist preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, called it “the pearl of Psalms.”[i]
Millions of people have memorized this Psalm. Ministers have used this Psalm to comfort those going through personal trials, suffering illnesses, and facing death. Max Lucado has a way with words, he described Psalm 23 this way, “Do more beloved words exist? Framed and hung on hospital walls, quoted by the young and whispered by the dying. In these lines, sailors have found a harbor, the frightened have found a father and the strugglers have found a friend. And because the passage is so deeply loved and widely known can you find ears on which these words have never fallen? Set to music in a hundred songs, translated into a thousand tongues, domiciled (God makes his home) in a million hearts. One of those hearts might be yours.”[ii]
King David, the shepherd boy, gives us 115 words to explain the first two words of his psalm, “The Lord.” In the opening of his book, “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23”, Phillip Keller presents us with probing questions, “The Lord! But who is the Lord? What is His character? Does He have adequate credentials to be my Shepherd — my manager — my owner?”
The word “Lord” is the English translation of the great Old Testament personal name for God. This name for God was first revealed to another shepherd of long ago–Moses. To read about Moses, go back to Exodus 1! Moses—the baby born and set in a basket floating on the Nile. Moses—found by pharaoh’s daughter. Yes, THAT MOSES! By now Moses is an adult, he has run away from the palace and is on the backside of the wilderness when he encounters a burning bush. In this encounter with the burning bush, God reveals His name to Moses as “Yahweh.” The word “Yahweh” is a verb and it literally means “I AM who I AM — I will be who I will be.” The word “Yahweh” appears over 6,800 times in the Bible. “Yahweh” was so holy of a name that the Hebrew people didn’t use it, instead they used the names “Jehovah” and “Adonai” in place of “Yahweh.”
This is the name “Yahweh” that David gives us in Psalm 23. What the shepherd King is telling us is that the Shepherd Lord is inexhaustible, self-sufficient, all powerful and timeless. “I am who I am” needs no power, He is all powerful. “Yahweh — I AM who I AM” is UNCHANGING! Unchanging means that God was, is, and will always the same. Yahweh was the same yesterday, Yahweh will be the same today, and Yahweh will be unchanged and unchangeable tomorrow and forever and ever. Yahweh is our great “I AM.”
I have a poster in my office that reminds me that no matter what I am going though, Yahweh is with me: “I was regretting the past and fearing the future. Suddenly my Lord was speaking: ‘My name is I AM’ He paused. I waited. He continued, ‘When you live in the past with its mistakes and regrets, it is hard. I am not there. My name is not I WAS. When you live in the future, with its problems and fears, it is hard. I am not there. My name is not I WILL BE. When you live in this moment it is not hard. I am here. My name is I AM.’”[ii]
This is exactly the promise that David is giving us when he begins Psalm 23 by saying, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” The Lord is our Shepherd NOW — not just in the past or in the future. The Lord is with us now and He is Yahweh– UNCHANGING! The Lord wasn’t your shepherd yesterday and turned the job over to a new shepherd. NO. The LORD is your shepherd from all your yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows!
Friends, this is Good News! This is grand news! This is glorious news as we find ourselves in the middle of a stay-at-home order with only essential people working. As we wonder what will happen to our future, we are to remember that no matter what changes are happening around us, one thing is certain: our God will never change. His love for us is unchanging–even in the middle of a pandemic. YAHWEH remains the same despite everything else around us. YAHWEH, I AM, our GOD is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. We can rest secure in who God is. We can exclaim with David — “The Lord is my shepherd” — no matter what else is going on in the world. Say it with me, “THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD!”
POINT 1: GOD IS UNCHANGING. GOD IS THE SAME YESTERDAY, TODAY AND TOMORROW.
We have a God who is all-knowing, all-powerful, everlasting, and unchanging. We have a God who hears us, we have the love of Christ who died for us and rose again, and we have the power of the Holy Spirit within us. That is our SO WHAT for today! If only we could learn to fully trust “The Lord is MY Shepherd”, we would have more than enough grace for every sin, more than enough direction for every decision and more than enough healing for our hurts.
I’ll write more in a few days and tell you a story about the little child who exclaimed, “The Lord is my shepherd, that’s all I want!” For now, I want you to pray, “THE LORD IS…” We are just about to find out that the holiest name on the planet is MY SHEPHERD, my personal shepherd.
See you Sunday on our online church ….
theseedchristianfellowship.online.church at 10 A.M. Pacific Time
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God loves you and so do I,
[i] C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 1, Psalms 1-26 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1968), 335
[ii] Max Lucado, Safe In The Shepherd’s Arms, (Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2002) 10
[i] Phillip Keller, A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), 1
[ii] Helen Mallicoat