Wednesday, August 18, 2010
"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want . . ." Psalm 23 must have been one of the first scriptures I ever learned because I cannot remember not knowing it. And as long as I've known it, I have loved it. To embrace the impassioned, ocean-deep words of David's soul is comforting. His heart's voice is like a balm, still giving life after 3000 years with God-breathed language.
I have lately been pondering Psalm 23. Something about a valley walk makes their message even more life-giving. Something about living around shadows, of the need to feast in the presence of trials, of the desperate, exhaustive search for peaceful rest and restoration, lifts Psalm 23 from comforting to miraculous.
Dwelling in the pastures of the 23rd Psalm is drinking from an endless well of calming waters. Who does not need that today? I cannot imagine a 21st century Christian who is exempt from the harshness and desert-like terrain of our society. Most of us live on the fringes of a spiritual heat stroke or wilderness dehydration, and sometimes we are so busy caring for others we don't even hear our own soul's pleas for help.
But, if we stop, simply pause, and listen, if we pull aside and face our exhaustion and fears, if we grasp courage and let the Holy Spirit whisper in our ears, we will let go of our busyness for a time and know our need. We will see, with godly vision, our real selves, not just the smoke screen that is created with the environments of life. And seeing with godly vision creates a desire to find the still waters of which David wrote.
In my own seeking, I've been thinking about Elijah. The prolific Old Testament prophet surely walked close to death and lived in the presence of his enemies. He expended himself in gut-wrenching ministry. Elijah prophesied drought for Israel for their embracing of other gods; he ran from the wicked, murderous schemes of Ahab and Jezebel; in obedience to God, he proved to Israel the folly of their idol worship by building a water-drenched altar where Yahweh showed up with His fire and was once again proclaimed the One, true God; Elijah ordered the killing of 450 priests of Baal; he then ran for his life from Jezebel's vow to kill him. No wonder Elijah became so exhausted that all he could do was sit under a Juniper tree and be nourished by angels. Empty, exhausted, and depressed, the Prophet needed divine intervention. Regaining strength, Elijah travelled forty days and nights and finally hid in a cave, and perhaps we might think of that lonely, dark, empty place as the cleft of a rock. Yes, a cave carved by our Creator for Elijah's need.
We all know the story well. God showed up again. This time He was there to prove Himself to Elijah. Yahweh spoke. Not in the wind, an earthquake, or a fire, but in a "still, small voice." The original Hebrew words that describe God's "still, small voice" tell us much about our loving Shepherd. Their meanings are calm, whispering, very thin, light, peaceful. A heroic, but fragile Elijah needed a tender Shepherd's voice to speak to his wounded, broken, fearful soul.
Sweet friends, aren't you glad that your God knows you through and through and calls you by name? Not only does He call you by name, but God also knows how to call you and from where to call you. He knows the very tone to use and the providential echo that will capture your focus.
The same Shepherd to David and Elijah is your Shepherd this moment. He is where you are. He is what you need. He your NOW God!
Working mom, Jesus is your path to a quiet place. Stay at home mom, His green pastures will feed your soul and give you strength and resources to care for your family. Empty-nester, your lonely spaces will overflow with His joy. Grandmother, pray in confidence for your children and grandchildren, for you do not have to fear evil. Weary servant, listen for your Lover's voice, as He whispers truth.
In my quiet time this morning, God led me to one of my favorite scriptures: Lamentations 3:22-23. "Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." What a great beginning for this day and everyday of my life and your life!!! To grasp the reality of God's love, compassion, mercy, and faithfulness is everything we need for every circumstance.
Hang onto His truth. Praise Him for all the good He's shows you. Cling to His word and love with all you have, and keep these verses from Lamentations before you, for through their reality in your own world, you will not lack. You will not be in want.
God is good. I am overwhelmed with thankfulness for His merciful nature. Our Yahweh is a giving God. He is our personal Shepherd, who guides us lovingly through our lives.
Trust in His staff and rod now. Yield to His boundaries. Yield to His complete knowledge. Yield to His hand. Yield to His tender voice.
I love you, friends.
*NIV scripture references