The Shepherd's Voice
Psalm 23 from the NIV
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his names sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Sometimes I wonder if when writing this beautiful psalm if King David knew or even guessed what a favorite it would become for all time. Many of us who grew up in a church memorized this in Sunday school. How many of you reading this (Christian or otherwise) have ever known the kind of peace of mind described by David in the 23rd psalm? You might as well be honest with your answer because you are the only one there to hear the answer.
Answer this question. Outside of church on Sunday and looking at my page when is the last time that you read your Bible? When is the last time you said a prayer? When is the last time you ate a meal? You probably found my last question out of place, but consider this.
Matthew 4:4 Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"
Have you ever heard the story of the Donner party or seen that movie about the people who crashed their plane in the mountains? Have you ever seen a commercial about starving children in Ethiopia? These are some of the most depraved examples that I can think of when considering what happens to a person who has no food. Malnutrition, and sickness are obvious examples, but what about the person who resorts to cannibalism as in the Donner Party and the plane crash. Now I ask you what depths an individual might sink to who has been deprived of the word of God?
Desperation can do strange things to peoples priorities. Imagine yourself in the shoes of the Donner party. You are snowed into a mountain pass for months. All your friends and loved ones dying of starvation all around you. What do you do? That last piece of bacon you stole and hid from everyone else is gone now. Funny you never stole anything before, and you weren't prone to lying, but now you are desperate. Now there is a person lying dead in the snow in front of you. Perhaps it is your brother, your sister, your mother, your child. Imagine being so hungry that you end up eating your own relatives and friends to survive.
Look around you. Watch the news on your television set. Maybe you have heard your grandparents say that they remember a time when things were better. I'm only 31 and I can remember a time when things were better. I can remember growing up in a neighborhood where it was alright for me to ride my bike up and down the street and two children getting in a fist fight at school was a big deal. What has changed?
I've seen statistics saying that 42% of people who call themselves Christians and regularly attend church do not know that Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount. That tells me that the folks who are supposed to know the word are not reading it. A lot has changed in our century, but the saddest thing to hear is that many of us are losing our saltiness. Jesus called his followers the salt of the earth. Well what good is salt if it doesn't taste salty? Why are Christians losing that all important traight? Well it is simple. Christian's are not reading the Word of God enough.
I got a friend who just started a new relationship. We tease them a bit because every time you see them they are together. If one of them sits on the couch the other one cuddles up next to him. If they walk down the side walk they are holding hands. It is kind of cute watching two people fall in love don't you think? Well if you truly love God then you should want a loving relationship with him plain and simple. OK so you can't hold hands with God and cuddle up next to him on the couch, but you can talk to him and get to know him by reading his Word.
Listen to the language that David uses when describing his relationship with God. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. A shepherd guides, protects his flock, and provides for their needs. He is confident in God's ability to fulfill these roles. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters. Have you ever just lay down on a hill side and stared at the clouds? Have you ever walked beside a gurgling stream and simply felt at peace with yourself and nature? Did it occur to you that God made those clouds and it was God that set the stream upon its path? He restores my soul. God can handle our spiritual and emotional needs just as he can our physical needs. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. How many of us even know what it means to be righteous much less attempt to live a righteous life? For some people being a Christian means "OK I believe now I can just go on living the way I always have." Well your wrong. If you truly believe then you must want a relationship with God. If you truly have a relationship with God then he will lead you in the paths of righteousness. I don't think that means that you become perfect over night. Every one learned to crawl before they learn to walk. However, it does mean that you have to make a constant, sincere, concerted effort to maintain your relationship with God. Ye though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for though art with me; Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. I have heard of people doing strange things in the face of fear. Some people freeze, some flee, and any number of other possibilities. The most common thing I have noticed is that when people panic they can often make stupid choices they otherwise would not have made. David speaks of the comfort of knowing that when he is afraid that God is with him, and that comfort is enough to keep him from panicing even in the face of death. A shepherds rod and staff can be used in many ways both in the guidance and in defense of his flock. David takes comfort in knowing that he serves a loving God that guides and protects him. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou annointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. David describes a God that supplies his needs even though his enemies may try to intervine. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Not only is David saying that he feels this is a long term relationship that will last his whole life here on earth, but he feels that his relationship with God will continue forever in the next life as well.
Does that describe your relationship with God? If it does not I want you to know that it is not beyond your reach. The first step you can take is to actually take the time to open that family Bible and read it.