It’s good to be a sheep

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Psalm 23:1, 3  The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want……He restores my soul. 

What peace and grounding there is to be found in the first psalm I ever remember learning.  Thank you, Cousin Terry, for reminding me of the rest and assurance that is available to all believers!

We were catching up over the phone.  In response to my question of how she was doing financially (she lives on a fixed income), she confidently recited verse 1, that she lacked and desired nothing due to our shepherding Lord.

After we hung up, I savored recalling each truth and promise packed into those six verses of the 23rd psalm.

Here are my take-aways from just one and a half verses:

From verse 1 –

  • I’m a sheep.  As a simple beast, I don’t have the vision or the wisdom to know where to find green fields and clean, refreshing waters.  I need a GOOD shepherd.  Yet most of the time I operate as though I know what is best for me and where I should head.
  • The shepherd knows me well.  After all, He is MY shepherd.  That means I am HIS little sheep.  I belong to him.  And Jesus knows best how to take care of me.  I act like a foolish beast when I don’t trust Him and His provision.
  • If I don’t have the thing I think I need or want, then that something is not what I should have at the moment. In fact, I will NEVER not have what my maker knows I need.

From  verse 3 –

  • Restoration is a big deal.  The Hebrew word shuwb (#7725 Strongs) refers to life-giving actions that my Shepherd performs, namely….RETURNS, REFRESHES, STRENGTHENS, REPAIRS, CONVERTS.  So often I’m scattered, distracted, worried, headed off on an unhealthy tangent or plan.  I NEED a wise and good shepherd who knows best and doesn’t hesitate to perform holy restoration/restauration.

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  • What Jesus, my Shepherd, repairs and restores is what the Old Testament calls the soul, or nephesh (#5315 Strongs). For the Hebrews, nephesh represents the entire YOU.   Your immaterial feelings, thoughts, pleasures, desires and dreams as well as your material or physical self.

Does that include my disappointments?  what about my ‘yet-to-be-realized dreams’? And my shame?  YES!

Does that include my energy and desires, my ‘get-up-and-go’ as my Dad used to call it? In a word, YES!

This master shepherd CAN and DOES guide, provide, love, encourage, feed, console, motivate and protect me in just the right amounts and combinations at the most kairos or propitious of times.

So with just 1 verse and a fragment, the Psalmist answers my anxiety.  God is always communicating a message of rest, of peace, of provision.  My life is not as complicated as I make it out to be.  And I bet yours isn’t either.  After all, if we are Christians, we know we are just sheep, senseless and stubborn at times, but well taken care of.  Aren’t you glad our Shepherd is committed to us?

Seeing is not believing…… or the need to renovate your mind.

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Ps 63:2   I have contemplated you with pleasure in the sanctuary IN ORDER to see your power and glory.

If ‘seeing were believing’, then all those who witnessed Jesus’ miracles would have become followers.  And no one would have crucified Jesus, because they would have all believed Jesus.

Actually the above conclusion is false. Observing actions or hearing words does not necessarily cause new knowledge. Faith must be mixed in with raw data.  Some bystanders in 33 AD were powerless to arrive at truth even with eyes wide open. Then there is the category, one far worse, in which people are blinded by a motive hostile to truth.  Into this group fell some Romans, some Jews and most of the Jewish leadership.  These people could actually see and believe that Jesus was who he says he was.  Yet they were not believers.   This should not surprise us.  After all, even the demons believe that Jesus is the son of God.  When a person unequivocally acknowledges the truth of Christianity, he has gotten as far as Satan!  A crucial successive step requires a grateful reliance on this truth.

Yet, no one is off the hook for their lack of saving faith. Everyone SEES evidence for God, even if they don’t draw the right conclusions.   Paul, as well as the psalmists, tells us that.  Natural theology connects the many signs, the major clues all around us in nature, to the existence of God.  But what Christ has done for us, however, cannot be deduced from the natural world.  For that we need the spirit-empowered Gospel preached to us.  We need the ‘grammar’ or facts of this news but packaged in a way by the Holy Spirit that pierces our cold hearts to awaken us.  Once we are awakened and with new baby spiritual eyes we actually see Jesus’ rescue plan for us, the news becomes glorious.  The saving step of sinking into this truth, of grabbing hold of the rescue line thrown to us is a ‘no-brainer’ at this point.

But, this kind of seeing doesn’t end with the new birth.  Every day, we must follow Paul’s exhortation to renovate or renew our minds and thus strengthen our transformation from dead worldling to living child of God.   The verb ‘renew’ sounds like extending one’s subscription to a news magazine or paying for another year of a Barnes & Noble membership.  That’s why I like the translation ‘renovate’ for the Greek word – anakainōsis  ….be transformed by the renovating of your mind. # 342 (Romans 12:2)

It’s the same word in Titus 3:5“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal (making new, renovation of our whole self )of the Holy Spirit.

God has transplanted us OUT of the Kingdom of Darkness (Col 1:13) and into the Kingdom (or Garden) of Light and set us growing in new dirt. He is the master gardener and we need to feed on Holy Spirit Sap (no disrespect intended).  Here is how we can do this, daily. ‘ “Not by might, nor by (our own) power, but by my spirit” says  the Lord’ Zechariah 4:6

Think of a sunflower.  It lifts its yellow blooming head toward the power source and grows strong, exulting in the glorious rays.  So too we must look to Jesus, to gain (in)sight and thus power.   Then we can be like the psalmist who returns to God often to align his priorities with Truth and be infused with inner strength not his own.  This is the first and constant work of being a believer.

 

 

 

 

 

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