Experiencing God’s Love – Psalm 23:6

Preface:  This past week, we have been experiencing God’s love through His Word.  We have been using Psalm 23 as our text, taking one verse each day and spending a little time considering what it means to be loved by God.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
(Psalm 23:6 NIV – New International Version)

Your goodness and unfailing kindness shall be with me all of my life, and afterwards I will live with you forever in your home.
(Psalm 23:6 TLB – The Living Bible)

So why would I fear the future? For your goodness and love pursue me all the days of my life. Then afterward, when my life is through, I’ll return to your glorious presence to be forever with you!
(Psalm 23:6 TPT – The Passion Translation)

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.(Psalm 23:6 KJV – King James Version)

As we consider today’s verse, we see the continuation of God’s love from the previous verses:

  • The care of God’s love as He provides rest for body and soul (v. 2)
  • The calling of God’s love, as He gives purpose to our lives through work (v. 3)
  • The comfort of God’s love, as He provides for us and protects us, even in fearful circumstances (v. 4)
  • The celebration of God’s love, powerfully manifested in the very presence of our enemies (v. 5)

As the author (King David) wraps up this psalm, his confidence in God has grown as he has seen God walk with him through good days and bad, providing for him and protecting him in both perceived and real threats.

So what is the psalmist’s conclusion?

As he has experienced God working on his behalf, he trusts God to continue walking with him through the rest of his life journey, and into eternity.

This statement is a step of faith, as the psalmist does not put his faith in his own ability to provide for himself and protect himself.  The psalmist does not say, “Lord, thanks for getting me through that rough patch of life; I’ve got this now.”  Neither does the psalmist demand that God take care of him because he has somehow earned or merited God’s favor.  Instead, the psalmist surrenders his life to God’s immense love, both in this life and the next.

Additionally, this statement is an act of worship.  The psalmist glorifies God by acknowledging God’s continued protection and provision over the remainder of his days on earth, and God’s ability to carry him from this life to the next.

The psalmist is not saying that life will be easy and problem-free.  In fact, he expects troubles and enemies to persist.

The psalmist is trusting God to be consistent in His character, His promise, and His love toward him.  As God has cared for, called, comforted, and celebrated the psalmist in the past, God will continue to do so in the future.

So what is the psalmist’s responsibility in all this?

Does he get to do whatever he wants, wherever he wants, whenever he wants?  No.

Does this mean that God is some sort of cosmic kill-joy, sucking all the joy out of life, leaving only duty and drudgery?  No.

The psalmist’s responsibility, in the analogy of the sheep, is to stay with the Shepherd.

May we stay connected to the Shepherd of our souls, walking with Him along life’s journey.

As Jesus said in John Chapter 15, may we abide with Him, as branches depend on the vine for their very life.  This “with-ness” is both God’s command and His invitation.

What’s holding you back from surrendering to God’s love and abiding with Him?

Blessings,
~kevin

Experiencing God’s Love – Psalm 23:5

Preface:  This week, join me as we experience God’s love through His Word.  We’ll use Psalm 23 as our text, taking one verse each day and spending a little time considering what it means to be loved by God.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
(Psalm 23:5 NIV – New International Version)

You treat me to a feast, while my enemies watch. You honor me as your guest, and you fill my cup until it overflows.
(Psalm 23:5 CEV – Contemporary English Version)

You provide delicious food for me in the presence of my enemies. You have welcomed me as your guest; blessings overflow!
(Psalm 23:5 TLB – The Living Bible)

You prepare a banquet for me, where all my enemies can see me; you welcome me as an honored guest and fill my cup to the brim.
(Psalm 23:5 GNT – Good News Translation)

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
(Psalm 23:5 KJV – King James Version)

As we consider today’s verse, we see the continuation of God’s love from the previous verses:

  • The care of God’s love as He provides rest for body and soul (v. 2)
  • The calling of God’s love, as He gives purpose to our lives through work (v. 3)
  • The comfort of God’s love, as He provides for us and protects us, even in fearful circumstances (v. 4)

Today we see the celebration of God’s love, powerfully manifested in the very presence of our enemies.

The psalmist noted the fearful circumstances in verse 4, but those fears were mere shadows, not actual dangers.  In verse 5, the enemy is not just imagined, but it is real and present at the scene of this verse.

Notice that the psalmist did not say that God was hiding him while the enemy passed by.  Instead, the psalmist was careful to note that God set out a banquet to honor him in full view of the enemy, and the enemy was powerless to do anything about it.

This was not a quick morsel to be eaten on the run – this was a full-on sit-down banquet, with abundant supply of food and drink, and the psalmist is the honored guest!

What was the psalmist’s response?

Was it gloating in front of the enemy?   No.

Was it resistance, where the psalmist rejected the attention because he didn’t feel worthy or didn’t feel like he had earned this favor?  No.

The psalmist humbly accepted God’s love and honor and felt God’s favor and blessing.

How often do we feel we must earn God’s favor, rather than receive His love?

And what is our mindset of God’s love toward us?

Do we see God’s love as scarce, and to be hoarded as if it’s a rare jewel?

Or do we see God’s love as abundant and extravagant, more than overflowing our needs, so much that we can freely share it with others?

May we see God’s love toward us as the psalmist did – blessing us when we haven’t earned it, incredibly generous, more than meeting our needs and wants and desires, so much so that we can’t do anything other than joyfully give the excess to others, even in the very presence of our toughest enemies and life situations.

Blessings,
~kevin

Experiencing God’s Love – Psalm 23:4

Preface:  This week, join me as we experience God’s love through His Word.  We’ll use Psalm 23 as our text, taking one verse each day and spending a little time considering what it means to be loved by God.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
(Psalm 23:4 NIV – New International Version)

Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, Lord, for you are with me. Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.
(Psalm 23:4 GNT – Good News Translation)

Even though I walk through the [sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort and console me.
(Psalm 23:4 AMP – Amplified Bible)

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
(Psalm 23:4 KJV – King James Version)

As we continue with Psalm 23, we see the progression of verse 4 building upon verses 2 and 3.  First comes rest (verse 2), then the work of the journey (verse 3).

Wouldn’t it be great if life were all sunny days with plenty to eat and drink, no concerns about safety or problems to be overcome?  The psalmist is realistic and knows that times of trial and tribulation are as much a part of life as the good times.

In verse 4, the psalmist points out that the Lord is with us even in the dark times of our lives.  God is not a fair-weather friend – he is the faithful friend who stays with us through everything.  If we sense we are far from God, it is us who have strayed, not God.

Notice how the psalmist portrays the impending doom – as a sunless valley, as darkness, as if death itself owns this spot we must journey through.  And yet, God loves us so much that he goes before us and shows us that while it looks foreboding and scary, we are safe in His care.  Shadows can be scary looking, but they are not a real threat.

Notice the tools the Shepherd carries to provide for us and protect us – His rod and His shepherd’s staff (also known as the shepherd’s crook).  And these tools are in the experienced hands of the Shepherd, powered by His mighty right hand and strong arms.

Knowing God loves us and provides for us and protects us and is right there with us brings great comfort through these hard times.

May you sense God’s presence when you go through trials and tribulations in life.

May you walk in faith, knowing that your Shepherd is with you, guiding you through hard times when the way forward is not clear.

May you find comfort in His Word, reminding you that He loves you and will never leave you or forsake you.

May you abide (live each day, moment by moment) in His care.

Blessings,
~kevin

Experiencing God’s Love – Psalm 23:3

Preface:  This week, join me as we experience God’s love through His Word.  We’ll use Psalm 23 as our text, taking one verse each day and spending a little time considering what it means to be loved by God.

he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
(Psalm 23:3 NIV – New International Version)

He refreshes and restores my life (my self); He leads me in the paths of righteousness [uprightness and right standing with Him—not for my earning it, but] for His name’s sake.
(Psalm 23:3 AMPC – Amplified Bible, Classic Edition)

That’s where he restores and revives my life. He opens before me pathways to God’s pleasure and leads me along in his footsteps of righteousness so that I can bring honor to his name.
(Psalm 23:3 TPT – The Passion Translation)

He gives me new strength. He helps me do what honors him the most.
(Psalm 23:3 TLB – The Living Bible)

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
(Psalm 23:3 KJV – King James Version)

As we meditate on verse 3 today, we must loop back and look at verse 2, for they are clearly bound together.

Verse 2 gives us the picture of rest and revitalization.  Verse 3 gives us the picture of the benefits of that rest – new strength of body and character to do the next right thing which honors God and blesses us.

In our modern culture, we often think that the day begins with work and ends with rest.

In ancient culture, the day began with rest and ended with work.

In fact, God designed it this way from the beginning:

God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
(Genesis 1:5 NIV)

Notice the order – evening (rest) first, then morning (work).

What difference would it make in our everyday lives if we adjusted our thinking to God’s design for each day?

First, we start work from a place of strength, not of weakness.

Second, we start from a place of wholeness – not only is our outward body refreshed, but our inward “heart” or “soul” (our emotions, our attitudes, our mind, our ability to focus, our outlook on life) is refreshed as well.  We can approach the day from a fresh perspective and full of joy.  The weariness, mental exhaustion, sadness, anxiety, and cares from the previous day are left with the previous day – we get a fresh start with rest.

Starting from a place of rest, God also provides purpose and meaning to each day.  The psalmist lets us know that there is a “path” that God guides us on.  We don’t have to “bushwhack” across the landscape of life – God leads us on the best way forward.  If we follow His leading, we don’t have to worry about going astray or getting lost.

And what is the meaning of our lives?  When we walk with Him, we bring honor and glory to His name.  Our lives have meaning when they are about Him, not about us.

May we experience God’s rest and strength and purpose and joy today, as we learn to live according to His design and calling.

He is holding out His hand, ready to lead us in His path, to walk with us along the way.

Blessings,
~kevin

Experiencing God’s Love – Psalm 23:2

Preface:  This week, join me as we experience God’s love through His Word.  We’ll use Psalm 23 as our text, taking one verse each day and spending a little time considering what it means to be loved by God.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
(Psalm 23:2 NIV – New International Version)

He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.
(Psalm 23:2 NLT – New Living Translation)

He offers a resting place for me in his luxurious love. His tracks take me to an oasis of peace, the quiet brook of bliss.
(Psalm 23:2 TPT – The Passion Translation)

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
(Psalm 23:2 KJV – King James Version)

The psalmist continues his analogy of God as a loving shepherd and we being under his care.

In verse 1, we heard the psalmist testify that God was meeting all his needs.

In verse 2, we have the first specific example of God meeting all his needs – nourishment for both body and soul.

Green pastures signify abundant food supply; still waters signify drinkable water.  In a sheep’s view, this is meeting the physical needs for food and water.

But God’s provisions are not just for the body – this verse lets us know that God provides for our soul as well.

Laying down indicates rest.  If the sheep are being pursued, by a predator or driven by the shepherd, there would be no opportunity to rest – the sheep would be under constant stress.

Still waters imply a peaceful environment.  If the waters were flooding or the stream was running at a rapid rate, the sheep would not drink for fear of getting swept away in the water.

Likewise, if the water source were a pool of stagnant water, the sheep would not drink.  Instead, the Shepherd finds a fresh water source that gently flows as a stream, allowing the sheep to drink in peace and without fear.

While this is not a permanent place to live, it is an oasis of rest and revitalization that the sheep need for a long and productive life.  The shepherd knows this and makes sure to provide this place of refreshment for both the body and soul of those in his care.

What does your place of refreshment look like?  A quiet, sandy beach?  Or a high mountain meadow?

Maybe your place of refreshment is not a “destination” far away as much as it might be a state of mind – a favorite chair by the window with a book and a blanket and a warm cup of tea on a rainy day, or a quiet park bench among the trees on a sunny day with a glass of lemonade.

May you be intentional about finding times of rest and refreshment with the Lord – times to quiet your soul and enjoy His provision of rest.

There will be pressures and foes and hard times – but for now, may you find a few moments of rest for your body and soul.

Blessings,
~kevin

Experiencing God’s Love – Psalm 23:1

Preface:  This week, I invite you to join with me as we experience God’s love through His Word.  We’ll use Psalm 23 as our text, taking one verse each day and spending a little time considering what it means to be loved by God.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
(Psalm 23:1 NIV – New International Version)

The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
(Psalm 23:1 NLT – New Living Translation)

Because the Lord is my Shepherd, I have everything I need!
(Psalm 23:1 TLB – The Living Bible)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
(Psalm 23:1 KJV – King James Version)

Before we begin today’s journey, let’s take a moment to consider a question:

Imagine God having thoughts about you.  What do you assume about God’s thoughts  when He thinks about you?

If you’re not a follower of Jesus, you might think that God has no thoughts about you, or that He is angry toward you.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you might think God is simply disappointed with you, or that you don’t measure up in some way to His standards.

All these above scenarios are flawed and wrong.

In fact, God is deeply and unconditionally in love with us.

Because God loves us, he does not force us to love Him in return – he allows us to choose whether we love Him or not.  It’s a big risk that God took – and not everyone takes God up on His offer of love.  Regardless of whether we accept God’s gracious gift of love or not, He still offers it to us at great cost to Him and no cost to us.

The psalmist tells us that because God loves us, we lack nothing.  He supplies everything we need.  The psalmist says we will not be destitute (in dire want or need).  In fact, the psalmist uses the image of a shepherd caring for his sheep as the image of God loving us in all ways.

I was a small child when I first read this psalm.  Like most children my age, we read the King James version of the Bible because that was what was available at the time.  As I read this first verse, I didn’t understand the phrase “I shall not want”.  I thought it meant that I had to forfeit any desire for good in my life.  Later on in life, thankfully, I discovered that this phrase was saying that God would supply my needs and that I can trust Him to provide what I need for a joyful and meaningful life.

So what do you imagine God thinks about you?

How has this first verse of Psalm 23 changed your thinking about God’s thoughts of you?

May you spend some time allowing God’s Word and His truth to wash over your heart and mind, to the very most inward part of your soul.

And may the reality of God’s love toward you form the very core of your identity, of who you are – beloved of God.

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 50:1-26

50 Joseph threw himself on his father and wept over him and kissed him. Then Joseph directed the physicians in his service to embalm his father Israel. So the physicians embalmed him, taking a full forty days, for that was the time required for embalming. And the Egyptians mourned for him seventy days.

When the days of mourning had passed, Joseph said to Pharaoh’s court, “If I have found favor in your eyes, speak to Pharaoh for me. Tell him, ‘My father made me swear an oath and said, “I am about to die; bury me in the tomb I dug for myself in the land of Canaan.” Now let me go up and bury my father; then I will return.’”

Pharaoh said, “Go up and bury your father, as he made you swear to do.”

So Joseph went up to bury his father. All Pharaoh’s officials accompanied him—the dignitaries of his court and all the dignitaries of Egypt— besides all the members of Joseph’s household and his brothers and those belonging to his father’s household. Only their children and their flocks and herds were left in Goshen. Chariots and horsemen also went up with him. It was a very large company.

10 When they reached the threshing floor of Atad, near the Jordan, they lamented loudly and bitterly; and there Joseph observed a seven-day period of mourning for his father. 11 When the Canaanites who lived there saw the mourning at the threshing floor of Atad, they said, “The Egyptians are holding a solemn ceremony of mourning.” That is why that place near the Jordan is called Abel Mizraim.

12 So Jacob’s sons did as he had commanded them: 13 They carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre, which Abraham had bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. 14 After burying his father, Joseph returned to Egypt, together with his brothers and all the others who had gone with him to bury his father.

15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.

18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said.

19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God?20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

22 Joseph stayed in Egypt, along with all his father’s family. He lived a hundred and ten years 23 and saw the third generation of Ephraim’s children. Also the children of Makir son of Manasseh were placed at birth on Joseph’s knees.

24 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” 25 And Joseph made the Israelites swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.”

26 So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.
(Genesis 50:1-26 NIV)

At the end of Chapter 49, we saw Jacob prophesy about each of his twelve sons’ future, the last thing he did before he died.

As we begin Chapter 50, we see Joseph’s response to his father’s death.  Verse 1 in the NIV says Joseph threw himself on his father; other versions more accurately and specifically translate that Joseph fell upon his father’s face during his grief.

There are two significant details in verse 1 that link back to Genesis chapter 46.  The first is that God had promised Jacob that he would see Joseph before he died, and that Joseph would be with him when he died (46:4).  The phrase “Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes” in 46:4 refers to the ancient tradition that the family member closest to the deceased would be the one to close the eyes of the departed.  God indeed kept His promise to Jacob.

The second significant detail is that when Joseph met his father when they arrived in Egypt, Joseph had fallen on his father’s neck, weeping and hugging him for a long time (Genesis 46:29).  Now, at Jacob’s death, Joseph weeps on his father’s face.  There is no more reciprocal response of Jacob hugging his son Joseph; Jacob shows his love for his father by focusing on his face, the last remembrance of his father he will carry with him the rest of his days.

Joseph then ordered the physicians under him to embalm his father, as was the practice in Egypt.  The mourning period for Jacob was seventy days; of those seventy days, the embalming process took forty days.  Interestingly, historians tell us that the mourning period for the death of an Egyptian king was 72 days.  For Pharaoh to have set the mourning period for Jacob to nearly that of a king must have have been Pharaoh’s great respect for both Jacob and for Joseph.  Jacob’s one and only meeting with Pharaoh back in Genesis 47:7-10 must have been extremely impactful to Pharaoh.

After the days of mourning had passed, Joseph sent word to Pharaoh and asked permission to take his father’s remains back to Canaan and bury him there at the family grave site.  Joseph was careful not to offend Pharaoh or Egypt by demanding that Jacob be buried in Canaan rather than in Egypt.  Rather, Joseph appealed to Pharaoh’s sense of honor and integrity by letting Pharaoh know that he had promised to honor his father’s wish of being buried in his homeland.  Joseph also made a promise of his own – to return to Egypt after he had buried his father.  Pharaoh knew well of Joseph’s integrity and keeping of his word, so he granted his request.

Pharaoh not only granted Joseph’s request to return to Canaan to bury his father, he also sent many dignitaries and servants to accompany them (v. 7).  Pharaoh also sent a military escort (v. 9) to accompany Joseph and the men of Jacob’s family (v. 8).   The text does not say how many people were in the processional, only that it was a very great company of people.

When the processional party arrived somewhere in the trans-Jordan region, they stopped and had seven days of mourning for Jacob.  The processional then proceeded to the designated family burial plot and placed Jacob’s remains in the designated tomb.  Then all the members of the burial party returned to Egypt as promised.

In verses 15-21, fear arose in Joseph’s brothers when they took time to realize their vulnerability after their father’s death.  Joseph was number two in all of Egypt; they were at the bottom of the Egyptian societal rankings, as both shepherds and foreigners.  With their fears overpowering their reality, they crafted a message to be delivered to Joseph that supposedly came from their father, asking Joseph to forgive his brothers and to treat them kindly after his death.  This note sent ahead of them, and the brothers prostrating themselves on the ground upon meeting with Joseph (v. 18) was their way of begging for mercy.

Joseph made it clear that he was not out for revenge; instead, Joseph used the opportunity to teach his brothers an important point about God’s character of love.  Joseph first of all tells his brothers that he is not God.  Second of all, he informs his brothers that God is all-powerful, and in fact had redeemed what they intended for evil into good – both for Joseph’s good, as well as their own good – to preserve their families, literally, to save their lives and the lives of their families.

In verses 19-21, notice Joseph’s tone and demeanor toward his brothers.  Using your biblically informed imagination, can you see Joseph’s face being soft and kind toward his brothers, his voice tone being gentle and reassuring?  This was not the face and voice of vengeance and justice – this was the essence and embodiment of the forgiveness and love of God reflected in Joseph’s words and body.

At the end of Joseph’s life, he reassured his brothers that God would come to their aid and lead them back to the promised land, the land that God had promised to their ancestors and their father.  Jacob had reassured his sons of God’s promise to return them to the Promised Land; now Joseph carried forth that same belief in God’s goodness and ability to span multiple generations and carry out His promise.

As part of that reassurance, Joseph made his brothers promise that when they left Egypt, that they would carry his bones out of Egypt and bring him back to Canaan as well.  As a spoiler alert, roughly four hundred years later, Moses did in fact bring Joseph’s bones with them when they left Egypt (Exodus 13:19).

As we look over Joseph’s life, may we always remember that we serve a powerful God, who is able to redeem evil and transform it into good.  The process will often be painful, and will never be as fast as we would wish, but God is faithful and sovereign and will bring it to pass.

May we remember that our role is not that of God.  We are not to redeem ourselves or to hand out justice, or to transform the situation by our own power.  Rather, we are to focus on God, cry out to Him in our distress, and focus on being obedient and faithful to Him and trust Him to redeem and transform the evil into good, for His glory and our benefit.

Blessings,
~kevin