Sunday, February 17, 2008

My Shepherd Will Supply My Need

Words by Isaac Watts

My Shepherd will supply my need:
Jehovah is His Name;
In pastures fresh He makes me feed,
Beside the living stream.
He brings my wandering spirit back
When I forsake His ways,
And leads me, for His mercy’s sake,
In paths of truth and grace.

When I walk through the shades of death
Thy presence is my stay;
One word of Thy supporting breath
Drives all my fears away.
Thy hand, in sight of all my foes,
Doth still my table spread;
My cup with blessings overflows,
Thine oil anoints my head.

The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all my days;
O may Thy house be my abode,
And all my work be praise.
There would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come;
No more a stranger, nor a guest,
But like a child at home.

This beautiful rendering of Psalm 23 helps us think about this well-known Psalm in a new way. Many of us could recite this Psalm easily, but do we really understand what it means? Most of us are not acquainted with the work of shepherds or what it means to herd sheep as that is not a common employment opportunity in our time, certainly not to the extent it was in Biblical times.

A good shepherd will provide for all the needs of his sheep, including food, water, safety and health. Psalm 23 and this hymn tell us that the Lord, as our shepherd, provides all these things for us.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. Psalm 23:1

He brings us to fresh pastures (food and rest) and living streams (water). Sheep need a fresh pasture for two things: food and rest. Sheep are creatures of habit, and if left to themselves, will graze the same land over and over again. They need a shepherd to lead them to fresh grazing areas. Also, if sheep are in an area with many hollow spots, they can easily fall down, end up on their backs, and not be able to get up again. Without a shepherd to help them get up, they panic and often die. They need to be led to fresh pastures.

He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. Psalm 23:2

Sheep need guidance. Without it, they will go the wrong way, unaware of danger. The shepherd must show the sheep the right path.

He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Psalm 23:3

The shepherd protects the sheep and ensures their safety. Sheep are fearful creatures and are easily frightened. When they are frightened, they run, often into danger. The shepherd knows his sheep, and can sense when they are fearful. He prevents them from running by quiely moving among the sheep, reassuring them of his presence. When sheep know their shepherd is with them, their fear is replaced by trust.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

The shepherd goes before his sheep and prepares a place for them that is, among other things, healthy. Sheep are oblivious animals, and can eat or drink things that are distastrous to them. The shepherd goes before them, and prepares a table, or mesa, for their grazing. The shepherd must be sure that the table has no poisonous plants, that there is plentiful food and that there is adequate water.

Thou dost prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies; Thou has anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows. Psalm 23:5

Finally, if we are the sheep of the Father’s hand, and He is our shepherd, we have His promise that we will live forever with Him.

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23:6

This is my favorite phrase of this hymn– no more a stranger, nor a guest, but like a child at home. We belong to the Great Shepherd, and we will dwell with Him forever. We will not be strangers or guests, we will be like children at home!

How do children act when they’re at home? Totally comfortable and secure. Quite different than being a guest at someone else’s house. As a child, you probably understood that there was a bit of different requirement when you were to be a guest at someone else’s house. Your parents may have even told you to be on your best behavior. They probably didn’t admonish you with that nearly as much as when you were at home. There’s a difference.

And when we dwell in the house of the Lord forever, we’ll be at home. Like a child at home, totally secure in our Father’s love and care for us.

So we Your people and the sheep of Your pasture will give thanks to You forever; to all generations we will tell of Your praise.
Psalm 79:13

*facts about sheep from A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I Am Not Skilled to Understand

As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother's womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. Ecclesiastes 11:5

I am not Skilled to Understand
Words by Dorothy Greenwell

I am not skilled to understand
What God hath willed, what God hath planned;
I only know that at His right hand
Is One Who is my Savior!

I take Him at His word indeed;
“Christ died for sinners”—this I read;
For in my heart I find a need
Of Him to be my Savior!

That He should leave His place on high
And come for sinful man to die,
You count it strange? So once did I,
Before I knew my Savior!

And oh, that He fulfilled may see
The travail of His soul in me,
And with His work contented be,
As I with my dear Savior!

Yea, living, dying, let me bring
My strength, my solace from this Spring;
That He Who lives to be my King
Once died to be my Savior!

There are many things in this life that I will never understand. I am sure you can look at your life and say the same thing: God moves in a mysterious way. He is God, and He has the plan for my life, even though I may not understand it at this time.

This hymn acknowledges that I don’t have the skill to understand, and then reminds me of the one thing I need to know: at God’s right hand is One who is My Savior!

And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. Hebrews 1:3-4

And I, like the writer of this hymn, know that I need a Savior. Paul tells us that all of us are sinners and that Christ died for us, even while we were in our sinful state.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23

The Love of God was demonstrated through Christ’s death on our behalf. We were the ones who deserved to die, yet Jesus, who lived a sinless life, took our place.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

And now, that Christ who died for you and me has been exalted to God’s right hand.

The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him. Acts 5:30-32

Like the writer of this hymn, I want my strength and solace to come from this very fact: that He who lives to be my King once died to be my Savior.

Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation. Isaiah 12:2

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Draw Me Nearer

Since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:21-22

Tomorrow marks the first day of Lent, the traditional season of fasting and prayer before Easter. I’ve spent time thinking and reading about what the season has meant in history, and what I hope it will mean for me this year. Lent is the season of forty days before Easter (not counting Sundays) representing the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, immediately after His baptism, where He endured temptation by Satan.

Immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him; and a voice came out of the heavens: "You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased." Immediately the Spirit impelled Him to go out into the wilderness. And He was in the wilderness forty days being tempted by Satan; and He was with the wild beasts, and the angels were ministering to Him. Mark 1:10-13

The purpose of Lent is to prepare us, through prayer, self denial and penitence, for the commemoration of Jesus’ death and His triumphant resurrection. He sacrified everything for us – whatever little we can do in these forty days seems so inconsequential in comparison.

I am committed to drawing nearer to God, especially during the next forty days. Through Bible study, meditation, prayer and worship, I want to rise in the arms of faith and be closer drawn to Him.

Draw Me Nearer

Words by Fanny J. Crosby

I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice,
And it told Thy love to me;
But I long to rise in the arms of faith
And be closer drawn to Thee.

Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord,
To the cross where Thou hast died.
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer bless├Ęd Lord,
To Thy precious, bleeding side.

Consecrate me now to Thy service, Lord,
By the power of grace divine;
Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope,
And my will be lost in Thine.

O the pure delight of a single hour
That before Thy throne I spend,
When I kneel in prayer, and with Thee, my God
I commune as friend with friend!

There are depths of love that I cannot know
Till I cross the narrow sea;
There are heights of joy that I may not reach
Till I rest in peace with Thee.