Sunday, May 28, 2017, 11:22 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Oh, To Be Like Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 23 (NASB).
Not in Want (v. 1)
The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd. In his death on a cross, he laid down his life for his sheep. Through his death and resurrection, he provided the way for us, through God-given faith in him, to be delivered from slavery to sin and eternal death, and to be freed to walk now in Christ’s righteousness. He also became our merciful and compassionate high priest, who suffered like we suffer, and thus he is able to sympathize with us in our weaknesses. Not only is he our Savior, but he is also our provider and sustainer. We are not lacking in any good thing he desires for us. He meets all of our needs.
He Leads Me (v. 2)
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
Sometimes, though, as humans, we become anxious about our lives, our needs, our circumstances, and our loved ones, etc. And, there are times when we need to be reminded that he is our shepherd, and that we are not lacking in anything we truly need, for even when we do lack, he provides, or he fulfills us where we are lacking. He reminds us, too, that we need to put our trust in him and not in humans, and not in the things of this world, for all these things are going to pass away. Our trust needs to be solely in the Lord, and so we must rest in him, believing that he will provide, not necessarily all that we think we need, but what he knows is what we need.
Restores My Soul (v. 3)
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
When we feel anxious, and we call upon him, and he fills us with his peace, because we are now resting and trusting in him, he restores our souls. And, he leads us in the right way, in the way we should go; in the way of faith and rest in him, and not in the way of the flesh or of the world. He shows us his truths in contrast to Satan’s lies, and he teaches us his ways, which is the way to true peace and contentment. We can rest in him and believe him in all things because he is God, he is all powerful, and he is completely sovereign (in control) over all that he has made, and over all powers, dominions and authorities on the earth and in the heavenly realms.
The world teaches us many ways to live, much of which is in contrast to God’s ways. So, if we spend much time immersing (engaging) ourselves and our minds in the beliefs, attitudes, thinking, philosophies and behaviors of this sinful world, it will be reflected in our own thinking, attitudes and behaviors. Yet, Jesus will guide us in the paths of his righteousness, but we have to be open, available and receptive to listen, and then to do what he says. God’s grace, for instance, is not carte blanche (free rein) to continue in sin without guilt and remorse, using God’s grace as a cop-out for willful sin. His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and desires, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14).
Death’s Dark Valley (v. 4)
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
In our spiritual walks of faith in Jesus Christ, we will face hardships, persecutions, trials, tribulations and difficulties, as well as blessings. Sometimes our trials can be so troublesome that they are death-like, i.e. they hint to us a sense of hopelessness and despair, or an ending to something good, or a feeling of powerlessness over our circumstances. The reality of them may be, as well, that we are in danger of dying or of being killed, particularly for our faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, we are not to fear, for our Lord is completely sovereign (in control) over all things, and he will, in all things, work for the good of us who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Ro. 8:28), so we can rest in him.
I don’t ever have to be afraid of what humans may do to me, for my God is with me. He will lead me and guide me in the way I should go, and he will counsel me and watch over me. He, too, will console me and reassure me of his love, his grace, his mercy, his power and of his sovereignty. And, He will remind me that I can trust him, and that I can rest in him secure in all things. He has a plan and a purpose. And, his purposes will be accomplished. His plans cannot be thwarted! [Job 42:2; Is. 8:10; Is. 14:27]
Presence of Enemies (v. 5)
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we have one prime enemy, which is Satan. He is the enemy of God and of all who follow Jesus Christ with their lives. He is like a roaring lion roaming around the earth seeking whom he may devour. So, we are to resist him, flee temptation and sin, and draw near to God in full assurance of faith. He has followers, too, though, and they are our enemies, also, but we don’t fight him or them with physical weapons of warfare. We fight off our enemies with spiritual weapons of righteousness which God has given to us to put on daily, so that we don’t succumb to the enemy’s devices and strategies he uses against us (See: Eph. 6:10-20).
Again, we don’t have to fear Satan or his many hordes, but daily we must put on God’s armor, and when we do, we will be at peace and at rest. Our Lord will provide us with everything we need to remain strong in battle, to not give up, to persevere, to be at peace, to retain our joy, and to keep on serving our Lord despite all opposition forged against us. He will provide us with wisdom, insight, spiritual gifts, faith, words to say, and a song in our hearts, so that the enemy of our souls will not gain the victory over us. And, he will do this in the presence of our enemies so that they can see that God is with us, that God is all powerful, and that no weapon forged against us will prevail, not even death, for death to us only means life with God.
Goodness and Lovingkindness (v. 6)
Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
We read in Romans 8:14 that it is those who are led by the Spirit of God who are the children of God. If we live according to the sinful nature, we will die in our sins, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live with Christ for eternity. So, it isn’t those who merely profess faith in Jesus Christ who are the sheep of his pasture, but it is those who walk according to the Spirit, who do not live by the ways of the flesh, and who, by the Spirit, are putting sin to death. Being led by the Spirit means we listen to what the Lord says in his Word, and we follow where he (his Word) leads us, in the path of his righteousness and holiness.
We are those of whom God’s goodness and lovingkindness (covenant loyalty) will follow us all the days of our lives. We have the promise of an eternal home with God. And, God is completely faithful to all he has promised those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. We can totally rely on him to do everything he said he would do.
Yet, his goodness is not necessarily as humans might define “good,” but it is according to what is best (in God’s estimation) for us. It is what is pure, holy, righteous, moral, decent, upright, truthful and just, and what is in accord with God’s perfect plan for our lives. Suffering, as we learn, is part of his design for our lives, so we should not feel he is not being good to us if he allows us to go through suffering. Even that has its place in our lives in growing us in our faith, maturing us, training us in perseverance, purifying us, and teaching us to rely on God and not on ourselves, as well as to conform us to the likeness of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Thomas O. Chisholm / W. J. Kirkpatrick
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.