Psalm 23 Part 3

What follows is Part 3 of the four part study on Psalm 23:

Psalm 23:3-4: He renews my life; He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake. Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff-they comfort me.

Verse 3 gives us insight into what God's motivation is. The psalmist tells us WHY God restores his soul and lead him in paths of righteousness. God does everything for his own glory. This is pointed out numerous times in the Bible. A good location is: Philippians 2:11:

and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Even when celebrating Christ's deity and his saving power, it is to God we give the glory. This will be important as we go through this part of the passage.

There may be some of you here today who are not born again, meaning that you haven’t accepted Christ as your savior. One of the reasons you might be holding off on that decision is because you think Christians are by and large hypocrites. We say one thing and then you catch us doing another.

Don't let my failure be a hindrance for you. What you can't see is that in my apparent hypocrisy, I am being restored to God after I fail. Once you become a believer, you'll learn that you also need this restoration. You'll find yourself wishing you hadn't said something or done something, and you’ll go to God and the relationship that had been fine, and damaged, becomes good again. Your soul will, in effect, be restored.

Now, you may be a Christian, and instead of being the person who doubts God because of hypocrisy, you might know someone who does. And you might find yourself unable to reach them because you can’t figure it out yourself. Notice it states why he leads…for his name's sake. As I mentioned earlier, it all comes full circle back to the Glory of God. I think the logical reason for God to lead us for his name's sake is so that, through our example others might see him. So you see that we can all, no matter how much we know, or how long we've been saved, make a difference for others. Please keep in mind that your example might be the only difference they see. And it's ok that you need the restoration. It's ok to be less than perfect. Your struggles are probably their struggles. Seeing how you react and live is going to be a huge testimony to your fellow-humans. If you find yourself dealing with the accusation that you are a hypocrite, try not to get into an argument over it. Simply allow them to see God restore you. And don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s still their decision to follow Christ, not yours.

The darkest valley is a play on Hebrew that the King James version of this verse calls, the valley of the shadow of death. It is a Hebrew idiom representing the blackest darkness imaginable. Immediately, we conjure up images of death when we read this passage. That's probably what makes this Psalm one of the most common funeral passages in history, according to Wikipedia. It offers comfort where comfort cannot often be found, and therefore makes a good lesson in God's grace at a time of deep sorrow.

I've been through this darkness. Sometimes I still go through this darkness. You can ask me and we'll talk about this darkness together, but suffice to say, I have seen it first hand. Many of you have lost a loved one and so you have seen this darkness. Some of you, because of health concerns or other reasons, have felt yourself going through this darkness on your own behalf. Even when I walk through this valley of the blackest darkness imaginable, I can know that God is still in charge. It's just fact, and me not believing it doesn't make it less fact.

We so often wonder Why God has allowed something to happen, and my response is that I just don't know.  As a minister I shouldn't be admitting that, but if other ministers are wise and honest, they will too. But what I want you to ask God, especially if you're not a believer, is “God, do you care?” Because you're about to find out what God really thinks about pain. In Matthew 10: 29-31, Christ is talking about his disciples who are teetering on the fear of death. He says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Those verses got me through my sister's death several years ago. No matter what you think about God, I can tell you the answer to the question, “Do you care” is a resounding yes!

“Your rod…” Again, look at the historical context. When a shepherd counts his sheep, as David undoubtedly did many times, he would count them as they passed under his rod. There is further evidence of this mentioned in Leviticus 27:32.

The entire tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd's rod—will be holy to the LORD.

God counts us as his own by using the rod of his Son's blood. In other words, those of us today who are believers are counted by God as individuals and as a group of believers. We, being his, are carefully counted and taken care of. If we can't be found, and have strayed from our shepherd, he will go after the lost sheep as we are told in Matt. 18:11-14, again describing his intense desire to restore humanity to himself. To be under the care of God once again is not to be subjected to a dictatorship, but rather to be counted worthy to pass under the loving rod of our Lord.

Check back soon for the final part of the series!

No comments: