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

Psalm 104

Psalm 104

Praise the Lord, my soul.

Lord my God, you are very great;
    you are clothed with splendor and majesty.

The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment;
    he stretches out the heavens like a tent
    and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
    and rides on the wings of the wind.
He makes winds his messengers,
    flames of fire his servants.

He set the earth on its foundations;
    it can never be moved.
You covered it with the watery depths as with a garment;
    the waters stood above the mountains.
But at your rebuke the waters fled,
    at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;
they flowed over the mountains,
    they went down into the valleys,
    to the place you assigned for them.
You set a boundary they cannot cross;
    never again will they cover the earth.

10 He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
    it flows between the mountains.
11 They give water to all the beasts of the field;
    the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 The birds of the sky nest by the waters;
    they sing among the branches.
13 He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
    the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work.
14 He makes grass grow for the cattle,
    and plants for people to cultivate—
    bringing forth food from the earth:
15 wine that gladdens human hearts,
    oil to make their faces shine,
    and bread that sustains their hearts.
16 The trees of the Lord are well watered,
    the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
17 There the birds make their nests;
    the stork has its home in the junipers.
18 The high mountains belong to the wild goats;
    the crags are a refuge for the hyrax.

19 He made the moon to mark the seasons,
    and the sun knows when to go down.
20 You bring darkness, it becomes night,
    and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
21 The lions roar for their prey
    and seek their food from God.
22 The sun rises, and they steal away;
    they return and lie down in their dens.
23 Then people go out to their work,
    to their labor until evening.

24 How many are your works, Lord!
    In wisdom you made them all;
    the earth is full of your creatures.
25 There is the sea, vast and spacious,
    teeming with creatures beyond number—
    living things both large and small.
26 There the ships go to and fro,
    and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.

27 All creatures look to you
    to give them their food at the proper time.
28 When you give it to them,
    they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
    they are satisfied with good things.
29 When you hide your face,
    they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
    they die and return to the dust.
30 When you send your Spirit,
    they are created,
    and you renew the face of the ground.

31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
    may the Lord rejoice in his works—
32 he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
    who touches the mountains, and they smoke.

33 I will sing to the Lord all my life;
    I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
    as I rejoice in the Lord.
35 But may sinners vanish from the earth
    and the wicked be no more.

Praise the Lord, my soul.

Praise the Lord.
(Psalm 104:1-35 NIV)

Similar to Psalm 103, today’s psalm begins and ends with worship – “Praise the Lord”.

This psalm is focused on God as the creator and sustainer of all life.  This psalm carries the same theme (God’s glory) as Psalm 8 and the introduction of verse 1 in Psalm 19:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
(Psalm 19:1 NIV)

Notice how the psalmist switches pronouns when referring to the Lord – sometimes in the second person (“You”), while other times in the third person (“He”).  As I close my eyes and think about this for a moment, I imagine the psalmist sitting quietly with his best friend at the fading of the day, talking to the Lord and to his friend at the same time.  The psalmist effortlessly shifts between praising the Lord directly and sharing God’s wonder with his friend as they worship together.

The psalmist covers a wide array of God’s handiwork in this psalm, sandwiched in between a beginning praise (vv. 1-4) and an ending praise (vv. 31-35).  As you re-read the psalm, notice the following topics:

  • God’s Creation and the Flood (vv. 5-9)
  • God providing water for the earth and its creatures (vv. 10-13)
  • God providing plants as food for the animals and humans (vv. 14-17)
  • God providing food for animals and humans (vv. 18-23)
  • The psalmist admiring the incredible diversity of all God’s creatures (vv. 24-26)
  • The Lord’s care and provision for all His creation, and the contentment and peace that comes from willing and humble dependence on Him (vv. 27-30)

 

As you read and meditate on this psalm, what stirs inside you?

Thankfulness?

Worship?

Contentment?

Awe and wonder?

Here’s an old hymn, written by Robert Grant in 1833, that is based on Psalm 104:1-7 and captures the essence of the psalmist’s worship (with a newer musical arrangement):

O Worship the King, All Glorious Above

Enjoy worshipping in His Presence today…

Blessings,

~kevin