Last Sunday in Sunday School, our teacher asked us to all come in close, sit toward the front and middle because, not if, but when he would get choked up, we may not hear him clearly.
Let's just say he knows himself pretty well.
Clearly the Lord of heaven and earth moved in his life in one of those humbling, teachable, yet worshipful moments. I hope you've experienced one of those with our God, because if you haven't, you should position yourself so into His Word that He answers with one of these moments.
But the moments aren't meant to last forever. They offer a glimpse, as our Sunday School teacher reminded us, a glimpse at the valley from which we just came, and a glimpse into the future valley that is sure to come.
During his preparation time over last week, our teacher briefly described his study time over Psalm 23. He said his first reaction to having to prepare a lesson on possibly the most famous Psalm was a complete blank. I mean, seriously, what do you do? How do you shed a new light on something so familiar?
So he did what any student of God's Word should do...he asked the Author Himself for divine revelation. He believed that God was leading him to take the six verses of Psalm 23 and look up in a Strong's Concordance every singe word except the articles. I wanted to share with you what came from that prayer:
Psalm 23:1 – 6 (Paraphrased)
1) My Master is the Lord God. He is my tireless Defender, my active Provider and my ever alert and attentive Companion, a true Shepherd. Knowing this I must be content, because He proves faithful in providing my every need.
2) He makes provisions for me to rest at ease with a clean conscience. His forgiving grace allows me to experience complete relaxation, and as I lay down to sleep, the inner peace that is available, if choose to follow Him, can transform a bed of hard ground into a soft mat of fresh green grass.
As I live each day, my Master…my Shepherd, is there with me, leading me to press on in spite of my fears…in spite of the storms that may rage against me. Knowing what’s best for me, my Shepherd will lead me into the midst of my deepest fears. In the middle of it all, as the flood waters rise and relentlessly ravage the landscape, threatening my own life and sweeping away all other living things caught in its rushing torrent, I hear something…yes…it’s my Shepherd’s voice… calling out to me, reminding me that He is my tireless Defender, my active Provider and my ever alert and attentive Companion.
What will I do? Will I believe Him…or doubt…and let the storms’ fury swallow me alive. I believe my Shepherd…and suddenly the noise…the chaos…the anxiety…and the fears lose their grip on me. Though the storm may still rage, I am at peace in the watchful care of my Shepherd…and the floods…the raging river that threatened only moments before is now, but a peaceful, quiet stream.
3) My Shepherd has rescued me…my weak faith and wavering trust in Him has been strengthened. My heart and soul are completely refreshed. He has once again proven that I can and must trust Him. My Shepherd is teaching me the path I must follow if I am to live a life that will honor and glorify His name.
4) There are other times in life…when all is right and in perfect balance…that I am suddenly forced off the mountain top…down the steep slope of the back side of the mountain. I fight to regain balance, but lose my footing, causing me to tumble downward into a deep…dark…valley.
In this pit there is no visible sign of hope. All that seems to be present is the oppressive darkness of the enemy…a heavy…hovering…shadow of eternal calamity. As helplessness and hopelessness begin to stake their claim in my mind and soul…I hear something…it’s a voice…a familiar voice…whispering familiar words…I am your tireless Defender…your active Provider…your ever alert and attentive Companion.
It’s my Shepherd! He has found me! I am saved! I will refuse to live in fear and defeat…my Shepherd is right here beside me. I feel His rod lifting me up and correcting my path…the same rod He used in my defense against the enemy…the same rod He has used to draw me back to Him in times past. How is it…why is it…that I would ever lean on my own understanding…trust in my own judgment? Oh…what comfort my Shepherd’s staff brings!
5) Again, I have been rescued by Him. He has physically restored and sustained me as the enemy watches in defeat…unable to approach me. Now my Shepherd tends to my wounded heart and soul. He anoints me with the oil of restoration. I am overwhelmed with joy…this oil has removed my guilt and shame…the guilt and shame that came when I turned my back on my Shepherd…chose my own path…and fell into the snare of the enemy.
6) Hear me well, because this I know to be true. If…even in rebellion…I turn from my Shepherd and choose to stray…He will engage in relentless pursuit, with the hostile intention of taking the enemy down…if only I will turn my face and my heart toward my Him. His healing favor runs after me. He chases me so He can be there when I surrender in humility. When I do so, He will stoop down in loving kindness and restore my wayward heart. He has proven Himself faithful…over and over…and has promised that He will do this as long as I live. Because He is Faithful and True…I will commit to return to and remain in the presence of my Shepherd…willing to follow Him forever.