Monthly Archives: May 2008

35 DIVINE EXTRAVAGANCE “My cup runneth over…”

 For quite a while I’ve been pondering the last few phrases of  “The Shepherd Song.”  As always, I ask you to consider Scripture first, before you think about what I’m thinking. 

      I believe we’ll agree that the analogy with which the Psalm began sort of “shifts gears” or changes toward the end. Instead of the Lord being our “Shepherd” and our being His “sheep,” it sounds a little different now, doesn’t it?  Sheep don’t eat at tables.  Or get their heads “annointed with oil.”  Or drink from cups that are “running over.”  At least, no sheep I’ve ever known outside Gary Larsen’s comic strip.

     “My Cup Runs over.”  I’m not sure exactly what that means. 

      What do YOU think?

     This is a phrase with which I’ve wrestled for quite some time.  I know the Scriptures speak about the lavish love God displays for His children.  But I’m honestly not able to just glibly say something on this phrase.  I’m not certain we really understand what it means when we say our “cup runs over.” 

     When I see people living in more house than they need or can afford, and hear them say: “It’s a blessing from God,” I just kinda scratch my head and wonder.  Or when I see people driving obscenely luxurious automobiles, yachts, planes, etc., and say “God provided it,” I scratch my head again and it isn’t because I have dandruff.  Gold plumbing, air-conditioned and heated dog houses?  God provided that?  Really?  Is that a reliable sign that your “cup runneth over?”  Or could it be a sign of obscene, self-indulgent extravagance? 

     One of the most vulgar scenes I believe I’ve ever seen on television was one night a while back when a famous “televangelist” had his musical entourage perform.  The members of the group were beautifully coiffed, handsomely attired in formal evening wear, and their harmony was flawless.  They performed very smoothly, gracefully strolling under colored lights in and out among luxurious autos (a Cadillac convertible, a Rolls, and one or two other beautiful, expensive machines).  They were singing: “The Old Rugged Cross!!” 

     How does that make someone feel who has no paycheck and may not know where their next meal is coming from?  Or how they’ll pay medical bills?  Or where they’ll live?

       When we’re “rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing”  (in the way of material things). . . does that mean our “cup runs over?”

       My immediate reaction is that I don’t think the phrase means unlimited material prosperity.  In fact, I’m quite certain that is NOT what it means.  I’ve never placed any stock in any superficial ministerial mentality that would reduce Christianity to a prosperity cult.  Not when I see a Man brutally, publicly executed like He was a common criminal and then had to be buried in a borrowed tomb.  Not after I’ve heard Him say: “The foxes have holes.  The birds of the air have nests.  But the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Or, “If any one would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

       I’m certain you’re aware of the statement that the difference between a pessimist and an optimist is that the pessimist sees the glass “half empty.”  The optimist sees the glass “half full.”  Some things do depend upon your point of view.  But you cannot wonder whether something is “overflowing” or not.  It would be apparent.  The question is: “With WHAT is the cup overflowing?” 

      OF COURSE the house is a blessing.  Of course, so is the auto and your other possessions. ALL your possessions.  And your wife and your life. As well as every breath you draw and every heartbeat.  “Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father above,” and it is a right and good thing that we “praise God from whom all blessings flow.”  But it might improve our perspective if we realize the Eternal God is probably not as preoccupied with temporary “trinkets” as we are.  When He really, truly fills our lives so that our “cups run over,” you may rest assured it is not going to be simply more “stuff.” 

       In this case, the Psalmist is speaking of abundance.  What I call: DIVINE  EXTRAVAGANCE.  The cup is “running over.”

Running over with what?  Would you take that to mean he has more “stuff” than he needs or ever can use or give away.  And one day he’ll leave it all behind, unable to drag it with him “through the valley of the shadow of death?”  We can allow ourselves to become intoxicated with the idea of bigger and better homes.  Faster, more expensive cars.  Finer clothes.  And NONE OF IT will fill the God-shaped vacuum at the center of the soul, much less causes our “cup” to “run over.”

      Do you know anyone who’s “rich” in possessions and miserable in almost every other way?   Their “cup” has been “running over” with accomplishments and  acquisitions, but nothing ever seems to be enough.  And their souls are like a “troubled sea when it cannot rest.”  Churning, and always yearning for more and bigger and better “stuff,” yet always  lamenting (even if perhaps privately) that they “can’t get no satisfaction.”           

       David had to be thinking about something else.  He HAD TO BE THINKING OF SOMETHING ELSE.

How about your “cup?”  Ever give serious thought to that?  Empty?  Half full?  What’s in it?  I’m convinced something can be done about that, and for my part I intend to lift my “cup” toward the Lord and ask Him to fill it to overflowing with the “right stuff.”

                                                HIs servant, your friend and fellow student, donkimrey

(F.Y.I.   If you’d like to participate and post a comment, just scroll down maybe another half inch or so.  IF THE TYPE IS TOO SMALL, YOU CAN PRESS THE “COMMAND” OR “CONTROL” BUTTON AND THE + SIGN AT THE SAME TIME, IT WILL ENLARGE THE TYPE.)  

34 SHHHHHH!

 

(Writer’s preface: We’ve had several busy, eventful days around our place, and cause for great, proud rejoicing.  My wife, Linda, has become a “Nana” once again.  Her daughter in Atlanta, Amanda, gave birth Monday morning to a bouncing baby boy!  Amanda and her husband, Jeff, named their little pride and joy Jeffrey David Stratton (that’s their last name.).  You would think the new “Nana” had something to do with the event, as deliriously joyful as she’s been.

In addition, my daugher-in-law, Ashley, finished work and was awarded an M.D. from Virginia Commonwealth in Richmond last week-end.  She’s accepted an internship in Newark, just across the river from “The Big Apple,” and she and Tim are  in N.Y. now looking for living quarters and making the transition.  She has the heart of a servant and the skill of a talented young surgeon and is a credit to her profession and her family.  I’ve told her (and God) that I’m grateful they found and love each other.

Now . . . I ask myself . . .  “What on earth does that have to do with this blog?”  Nothing much, honestly, except it may explain my absence.  I’ve been thinking a lot, but have not sat down much of anywhere to compose thoughts and post them.

For a brief departure in another direction, I’d planned today’s post to go up right after we completed our study of Psalm twenty three.  As it happens, I have a feeling that I’m not quite “through” with Psalm Twenty-three.  Perhaps a better way to say it is: “I don’t think it’s through with me.”

So, feeling it may be premature to write if I’ve not completed careful thinking, it seemed appropriate to tell you something else I’d been considering.  –donkimrey)

~~~~~~

          You already know there are several ways you can study the Bible.  You can study it paying attention to the broad message of each “book” or letter (“epistle.”  That’s a letter like Paul wrote to the young churches.  Epistles are not the wives of apostles!). You can follow the lives of great leaders in Scripture.  You can study different topics and see how different writers dealt with large concepts like faith, or justification, or sin.  There’s an almost endless variety of approaches you can take.  With just a bit of effort and imagination, you can get great rewards for the time you invest. 

          Not long ago I noticed that Hugh Downs was helping market a book entitled THE WORLD’S GREATEST TREASURY OF HEALTH SECRETS.  It supposedly contains 2,618 “breakthroughs” in medicine.  I don’t need to know all of them.  That’s a lot of general information, some of which I may never have occasion to use.  But when I have a specific problem, question, or concern, I’d like to hear what The Book says about that.

          Sometimes while I’m studying I come across things which I KNOW are going to serve me well.  Sometime, if not immediately.  Somewhere down the road, and I’ll tuck it away in my mental file cabinet for future use.  There are other times when I may be dealing with a specific situation and what I need is a specific answer.  Now.  General information won’t “cut it.”

 

          Lately, for instance and for some reason, I was asking myself: What should I say when I simply don’t know what to say?  When I just don’t have a clue as to what I should say?

 

          The Bible does have a lot to say about what we say.  Or don’t say. In the book of Proverbs, for example, it’s often suggested that a “wise” person would know sometimes it’s best not to say anything.  We don’t have to be doing something, or saying something, all the time.  When I think about it, I realize I’ve hardly ever learned anything while I was talking.  Most of what I know has come while I’ve been simply quietly listening, or just thinking (remember the prayer in Psalms about the “meditations of my heart?”).

          We won’t spend a lot of time or space here listing scriptural references where an idea is considered.  That seems to be a subject you might want to pursue at your own leisure and for your further thought. But you can be sure the Bible pays special attention to what we say and how we say it.  I can’t bring myself to believe God would say “Shut up!” But there are times when He states His desire very plainly.  He doesn’t stutter and He does speak often and clearly on the wisdom of quietness, restraint, and self control. Especially is this true in social circumstances when we might “fly off the handle” and say something we’d regret almost immediately.  And once words are said, they can not be “un-said.” 

          There are other times when God probably says:  “Shhhhhh. Listen.”   He doesn’t shout or compete for our attention.  If you aren’t listening, He probably won’t say anything.  Here, though, are a couple of thoughts embedded in Scripture and they’ll be worth careful examination. He has said: “Be still, and know that I am God.”  “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.”  Or this:  “The Lord is in His holy temple.  Let all the earth keep silence before Him.”  Or consider this:  After John baptized Jesus, we’re told that a voice from Heaven said: “This is my beloved Son.  Hear ye Him.”  Listen.  

       How can we hear, if we aren’t listening.  There are times when we simply need to be quiet. Maybe sometimes we need to hear God say:  “SHHHHHHHH.”

 ~~~~~~~~~

It’s hard for me to believe I’m still considering Psalm Twenty Three.  I have a feeling there is much, more rich material here.  Actually, I’ve been mulling over the last three phrases for a couple weeks now and still want more time. I told you this is something I’m taking seriously, and I don’t want to say anything until I have something worthwhile to say. 

What do YOU make of those last three phrases in the Twenty-third Psalm?

 

His Servant, your friend and fellow student, donkimrey

33 SOME “HOUSEKEEPING CHORES”

(I’ll continue (and perhaps conclude) my current study of Psalm 23 when I re-appear.  My daughter-in-law (Ashley.  Tim’s bride) has completed med school and will be graduating this week-end from Virginia Commonwealth University.  I’ll attend that proudly and be back in touch soon.  May God Himself encourage you in your study own of His Word. . . and may He use you for His own special purpose as you grow. -dk) 

     If some of the things I write sound a bit ‘personal,’ it is because they are.  Before I ever attempt to say anything or write a line for this blog, I try to examine the Scripture as diligently, honestly, and intelligently as I’m capable of doing . . . and I then try to apply the truth to my self.   First.  If I don’t do that and the message means little or nothing to me, it’s a foregone conclusion that it won’t mean anything to you or anyone else. 

     The “stuff” about which I write has been hammered out on the anvil of my own experience.  My wife and I know what it means to be “sifted.”  As late as the morning when I put that item up about being “sifted,” we reminded ourselves who was the author of the “sifting.”  And what a powerful defensive tool was placed in our possession when we came to feel that Jesus was praying for us. . .just as He did for Peter. . .Just as He continues to pray today for you.

      Once I heard of an old minister who said every time he spoke he did so in the belief and hope that “everyone who heard would give themselves thoroughly to God.  And, whether or not anyone else does that,” he continued, “I shall.”   These “studies” may resemble a record of my own personal spiritual quest, but it is enriching to my life.  Whether anyone else ever lands on the scripturestudent.wordpress.com site or pays it any attention I feel almost compelled to continue. 

      At the risk of sounding simplistic, I am deliberately seeking God’s words which will offer hope.  Encouragement.  Strength.  Peace and assurance forgiveness.  A reason to begin again if you feel you’ve failed or perhaps been left forgotten by the way.  If you’ve lost your way and feel you simply need to “be still and know that God is God.”  And you are not.  If you are looking for the way “home,” perhaps you’ll hear the voice of the Father coming out to meet and greet you saying: “This is the way.  Walk in it.”   That is not a groundless hope or bravely “whistling in the dark as you pass a graveyard.”  In personal experience, I’ve come to feel that even when I was running away, trying to hide, living at the edge of an abyss, I wasn’t searching for Him.  He was looking for me.  Or patiently waiting for me to come to my sense and come home to Him.

    

     You mustn’t forget the picture of the “Good Shepherd” searching tirelessly, continuously, everywhere for His sheep.  As we’ve studied this together, some very valuable thoughts occurred to me:  One is the value of solitude, quiet contemplation, prayerful meditation.  Could you even imagine David developing such a profoundly significant idea without having time…no, TAKING time to simply “Be still and know that God is God?”  Can you imagine what He might do with your life (and mine) if we unhurriedly and thoughtfully listened to His heart and then did as we were instructed??!

    Another thought that has been driven deep into my consciousness is this:  The “Shepherd” loves you (and me) much, much more than the shepherd tending sheep on isolated, desolate hillsides anywhere ever cared for his sheep.  God loves you more than you can imagine.  He loves you more than you do.  More than you love your wife, or parents, or children!  More than all your family or friends love you. 

    And another:  Even when we do not understand…and perhaps can not understand…what He’s doing, or where He’s leading, HE KNOWS. “Through many dangers, toils and snares, I’ve already come.”  I can, therefore, conclude the same “Shepherd” will lead me safely through the dark, sinister shadows until at last we arrive safely home.  Once, when he was under great, great pressure and being questioned about the wisdom (and even the sanity) of the decisions he made, said: “I do not know where He is leading.  But well do I know my guide.

    

      You can find a lot of important information in a lot of other places.  I found online, for example, some sites that I could recommend if your interest lies in Bible doctrine, church history, theology, apologetics, and some areas that I’m not even certain I remember how to spell~much less define.  While I was doing my own “surfing of the net,” I stumbled on such a site which impressed me.  I jotted a note to the gentleman, commending him, and he has since then been a constant source of encouragement and good advice.  Neil is his name, and if you click on the icon where some people have taken time to write, you can go to his home page.  He has such an incredible variety of helpful, interesting information that I won’t attempt to list all he does.  Also, just recently I’ve struck up a conversation with “Brother Dave” who’s an Episcopal minister and has an online presence.  I believe they deserve your consideration and prayers.  There is also Mary Ellen Bowman who posts responses frequently.  With very little material help, she heads up the Wilmington Christian Women’s Job Corps.  When you pray for worthy causes, please add her work to your list.  You may also enjoy reading her comments as she shares in our study of Psalm 23.   It seems sufficient to say there is a lot of good information about a lot of important subjects.  

    

     On purpose, my focus will remain deliberately limited.  It seems critically important to me that you become “persuaded” and “committed” before you will realize your potential as a Christian.   We need to understand, regardless of our past, we are loved and can be useful.  You need and deserve to know that you are “accepted in the beloved.”  And if you’ve suffered as you’ve tried to serve, perhaps the words of James Stewart of Edinburgh will strike a familiar note.  In one of his books, the great Scottish minister said: “You must have felt the foundations tremble beneath your feet before you can sing ‘Rock of Ages’ the way it should be sung.”

 

     Several who’ve visited this site have written to my email address with suggestions, and I’ll listen carefully always.  While I appreciate your encouragement, please don’t think of this as “sermons,” and don’t think I’m in any way even pretending to be in any  “superior” position.  This is intended to be a Bible Study.  I’m a fellow student.  Hopefully, we’ll be learning and growing together. 

 

     On technical matters having to do with the computer, I’m fortunate that two of my sons, Paul Timothy and Mark Jonathan, have kept me “up and running.”  They are my mentors in many respects.  If you have difficulties getting the site to come up properly, or “navigating” it, just let me know.  Then, I’ll let them know.  And they can then let you know how to fix it.  I’ll always be open to your suggestions about improving the site and will welcome your insights on what we’re studying currently as well as your requests for studies within the scope of our goal.  You may enter a response at the end of this read, or address your thoughts to me at the address top, right, on the masthead.

      

     Here’s something I’d sort of like to get down on paper, and make sure it remains clear in my own mind.  Your encouragement means a lot to me.  I’d be lying if I said otherwise and without having to hook me up to a lie detector apparatus you’d see that immediately.  But I keep reminding myself this little project isn’t about “me.”  It never has been, and never should be.  If you see my ego getting over-inflated, please do me a favor.  Prick the balloon. Quick!  And it’s o.k. If you get a bit of wicked glee for your mischief!  When I’ve gotten sidetracked or felt “under-appreciated,” or “undiscovered” (never over worked)…I’ve reminded myself the MESSAGE is the important thing.  Not the messenger.  The messenger’s responsibility is to deliver the MESSAGE intact.  After that, the responsibility for proper disposition of the truth rests on the recipient.

 

     If you feel the study is helpful and worth sharing, I’d really appreciate your referring friends to the site.     

A servant, your friend and fellow student, donkimrey

32 “YOU ANOINT MY HEAD WITH OIL”

 This strikes me as a strange thing to say.  I’ve been tied up for several days away from here and unable to do much with the blog.  But I have been able to do some meditating and praying.  If you share my conclusions, it will probably cause you to look at your self in a new light.   -dk

 

As I indicated earlier, the analogy changes a phrase or two back.  Instead of a “Shepherd” tending his flock, it appears now the scene has shifted.  I believe that’s pretty clear, even if you’re reading casually.   For example the idea of a shepherd  “anointing the sheep’s head with oil” strikes me as strange.  Or spreading a table cloth, having the sheep sit there in a dining room with silverware, china, crystal, candle lights and a five course meal strikes me as strange.  I’m not sure who’d be in a more awkward position. . . The sheep attempting to adjust to dining elegantly. . . or the Shepherd, appalled, trying to teach the sheep table manners or cleaning up the mess afterwards!

 

    David has been using one analogy, and now he’s obviously using another.

 

     I must confess, though, since I promised to be honest:  I did find the thought of a sheep being “anointed” to be amusing.  I remembered a cartoonist (My son helped me relocate Gary Larson) who drew pictures of sheep acting like people.  I “googled” his goofy sight, just for fun, giggled a lot and found the ideas were hilarious. (“A little nonsense now and then is relished by the best of men,” or so I’ve been told.) 

      For our purposes studying the Psalm, though, it sounds more like a nobleman is having guests at a dinner.  An important and welcome guest is being honored, recognized.  The “anointing my head with oil” is the clue.  In our culture, when we welcome guests, we may shake their hands or kiss them lightly on the cheek.  Other cultures have other customs.  If someone “annointed” me, I’d figure something unusual was about to happen. 

 

     The “anointing…with oil” goes beyond a mere “hello.”   

THOU ANOINTEST MY HEAD WITH OIL….What does that mean?  There are lots of things we do which have ceremonial significance.   I’ve never been “knighted,” but I’ve seen and heard of such.  The knight kneels, and the official in charge (a King, or some important figure) takes a sword and touches the crown of the candidate’s head, and he is “knighted.”   Someone of importance recognizes that the person being “knighted” is a person of worth and potential.  

      There came a time later when a Prophet “anointed” David to be king.   In doing so, the prophet was saying: “You have been chosen.  You’re someone very special, and God has picked you to lead His people.”  In my mind, there also seems to be a kinship with our word “ointment.”  I don’t speak dogmatically here,but I do wonder if the words don’t have a common origin.   It has a soothing, healing effect.  It would certainly seem in some instances that an “annointed,” “ordained” leader could and should have a healing and unifying effect upon the people whom he or she leads.  I certainly cannot conceive of a truly “chosen” or “annointed” leader causing destructive division and wrecking the peace of His people.

     The gifts the Magi brought were gold, frankincense and myrrh.  Sweet smelling spices, oils…myrrh, specifically, was used to prepare dead body for burial.  Once again, I’m not sure where this might take us, but fragrant oils were used in various ways and always with some symbolic significance.

 

     Think about the time when there was such a display of extravagant affection by Mary Magdalene.  She’d been so forgiven that she felt driven to express her gratitude.  She displayed her love lavishly.  She “annointed” Jesus with expensive fragrances.  Judas got all “cranked up” about it, (As well he should have, because it was discovered later he was dipping into the collective treasury.)  He scolded Mary and scoffed:  “What is the reason for such waste?  Think of all the starving children in China.  Or Africa.” 

      Jesus saw the act of adoration as a good thing. As I recall, he viewed such action as an “anointing” for His burial.

     It  (“anointing”) usually has ceremonial significance and that idea (or something similar) appears frequently throughout Scripture.  When God selected a new king for the nation of Israel, one of His spokesmen (a Prophet) would go find the candidate.  Then he’d state his purpose, and pour some oil on the newly-designated king.  It simultaneously symbolized the recognition by some important person of the work and worth of someone else who now has a new, important endorsement and assignment.

      For some reason, the shift in the shepherd analogy turned my attention to the chapter in Luke where Jesus spoke of the three lost “items:”  A coin, a sheep, and a “prodigal son.”   When the boy took his inheritance prematurely and left home, he broke his father’s heart.  After almost destroying himself, “P.S” (the Prodigal son) finally came to his senses and came home.  The father said: “This is reason to celebrate.  I’ve been fattening up a nice calf for a special occasion.  This IS the “Special Occasion.”  And he lovingly embraced the prodigal, had a “welcome home Son” feast in his honor.  Gave him back his status as “son.” The son was Guest of honor, and evidently was given his “keys” to the homeplace (“I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.).

       One time Jesus told some of His friends and close followers:  “You have not chosen me.  But I have chosen you.  And ordained you.”  That was in order that  you might fulfill His mission.  You MUST fulfill His mission.  For that you’ve been chosen.  Ordained.  Annointed.  Selected.  Appointed.  He doesn’t have anyone else to do the work for which YOU have been brought to this hour and to this place. 

              How could anyone so “special” ever doubt their self-worth? 

      If you are loved, valued by Him, chosen, ordained and sent  forth to serve, rest assured that you have inestimable worth

      If you haven’t thought about it before, this could be a good time to consider it.   If you feel like the “prodigal,” this might be a good time for you to hear the “Welcome Back Home, Child.”  Or, perhaps the Shepherd (now in the role as Lord) has decided that you should occupy a position of service.  And, in His Name, by His authority, you are hereby welcomed home again, ‘ANNOINTED”  and now commissioned to live and serve with honor.

 ~A servant, your friend and fellow student, donkimrey~

 A parting word.  I realize we’ve been considering Psalm 23 for quite some time.   It seems to me to be warranted and worthwhile.  Far too often, I believe, we skim lightly and superficially  over the “surface” of Scripture, barely at times causing even a ripple.  When I see something like “Discovery Channel” and hear stories of people who devote their entire lives to research. . . medicine, archaeology, deep sea diving to locate lost, sunken treasure loaded ships. . . it makes me feel my efforts are hardly even a worthy beginning.  Incidentally, with regard to the above analogy (and the unusual “twist” it takes once the “table is spread,”)  I’m sure I’m searching.  Not “reaching.”  I’m trying to listen and think.  Hope you’ll adopt the same approach.  Thank you for your time and interest.  I also appreciate any comments you have from your own preparation.  dk 

31 “THY ROD AND THY STAFF COMFORT ME”

(We’re still studying “The Shepherd Song,”  PSALM TWENTY THREE.   Sometimes we get in such a hurry that we don’t have time or interest in close examination of any subject.  It’s much easier NOT to do that.  However, anyone who has ever diligently searched for treasure and discovered it, will tell you the rich rewards more than justify the search.  If you get tired, or have other pursuits, take whatever time you need.  Think of some of these thoughts as “diamonds”  Hold them to the light, and watch how each facet sparkles brilliantly!  When that happens, you are certainly going to know you are “on to something!”  -dk)

 

     When I study Scripture, I’m often aware that the writers are trying very hard to put eternal truth into a language the human mind can begin to understand.  Analogies, “Figures of speech,” parables, metaphors and such are all a part of that admirable effort.  But how can you compress such large truth into any language?!  

      The picture of the Lord as a “Shepherd” comes about as close to describing His relationship with His people as anything I can imagine. It’s a “word picture” which the most brilliant mind can understand, and which the simplest, least educated person who ever lived can grasp. God tries to make His truth so plain and simple that it is not only easy to understand.  It is virtually impossible to misunderstand what He’s saying.  The artists’ conceptions of the Shepherd holding a little lamb close to his chest, or reaching out over a precipice to rescue one from danger or certain death, conveys a tenderness that the hardest of hearts and dullest of minds can identify.  This Psalm accurately portrays the devotion and  commitment the Shepherd has to his flock, as well as the absolute dependence the sheep have upon the Shepherd.

        What David realized and wrote  so beautifully is that your Shepherd loves you.  Really loves you.  HE will guide you through life safely and productively…No matter what the perils may be or at what risk and expense to Himself.  Even when you may stray away, He will be searching for you.  YOUR SHEPHERD REALLY LOVES YOU.

        The picture says: “He loves you and me at least as much as the Shepherd loves His sheep.  And much, much more.” The shepherd provides what his sheep need in terms of their safety, usefulness, survival, even their very existence. He provides everything they need as sheep and leads them where they need to go.  In that same manner, the Good Shepherd cares for you.  But oh, so much, much more.

 

       The Psalmist says: “Thy Rod and thy staff they comfort me…”  What do you suppose that means?

       A rod is obviously a club of some sort.  Moses carried one.  That was the ordinary “rod” which God told him to throw down and it turned into a slithering, writhing, belly-crawling snake.  I can’t think of any reason to carry one unless it’s to knock living daylights out of someone, or something.  It is both a defensive and an offensive weapon.  Stout. Heavy.  A club.   Police officers know the value of a “billy” or a nightstick.  Loaded with lead, it can be lethal. A baton. Some truckers keep them under the driver’s seat in the cab of their truck and anyone with sense would wisely avoid provoking him to using it.

        The staff is pretty long, a straight, strong, thin limb with a crook at the end.  The Shepherd can use it to gently prod and guide the sheep. It’s something the shepherd can lean on.  It’s also something he can use if a sheep is beyond his reach, hook it, and pull it to safety.  Or to fend off predators.  Don’t kid yourself about the value of such an instrument.  If you’ve seen masters of oriental martial arts, you know great damage can be done with moon chucks, all kinds of sticks boomerangs, slings, and other “primitive” weapons. In olden days, it was about as effective a weapon as you could have in some circumstances. As a little boy and an avid reader, I reveled in and marveled at the exploits of LittleJohn in the Adventures of Robin Hood and His Merry Men. He was an expert with his cudgel, as many whom he soundly thrashed would attest. In the hands of a skilled warrior, the rod and/or the staff were indispensable, effective tools.

        In what way could these instruments “comfort” the sheep?  Beyond knowing the Shepherd possessed whatever was needed to fend off  predators, a staff to guide when it was about to stray away from the herd and into danger …a staff to retrieve a sheep who’d perhaps strayed off, fallen into brambles just beyond the reach of the Shepherd.  I guess that would be a comforting thought to the sheep. . . however discomforting it might be to the threat at hand.

       If I’ve learned anything at all in considering this Shepherd’s Song for quite some time now, it is this:  The Shepherd is wise, knows what is best for the sheep and always acts in their best interests. While sheep probably don’t know or really care, the shepherd knows what is best for them.  They probably don’t ever even think about it or queston that fact.  But we can and do. And we can choose to follow His wisdom and trust His heart. . . or rebel and strike out on our own.

 

(PARTING WORDS:  Let’s think about the remaining thoughts in the “Song” as we wind down our study of the beautiful Twenty Third Psalm. Several comments have appeared on the site from some friends who’ve joined the study.  I want to ponder further what they’ve said, what you think, and the wealth which remains in these final phrases of David’s “Shepherd Song.” 

                           His servant, a friend and fellow student, donkimrey

 

 

30 “HE LEADETH ME, OH BLESSED THOUGHT…”

 (WRITER’S NOTE: We’re continuing to examine the Twenty-Third Psalm. I encourage you to do your own thinking before considering what anyone else says.  Try to look at it as though you were reading it for the first time.  Better still, try to imagine yourself in David’s shoes (or sandals or bare-footed).  Try to picture this teenage boy caring for his family’s sheep, strumming his harp, and composing a song so beautiful and meaningful that it will endure through all ages.  No theological or musical or literary training, you understand.  Not even a complete “Old Testament” and no New Testament from which he could gain inspiration or direction. -dk)

 IN THE PATHS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS….

Now, David seems to be talking about humans, not sheep.  Righteousness is probably a concept with which sheep aren’t familiar.  The word means what it sounds like it means. Doing the RIGHT thing in all circumstances is God’s requirement. I believe logic would lead you to this conclusion:  If you are walking in the “path of righteousness,” you are being led by the “Good Shepherd.”  If you aren’t walking in the path of righteousness, then you are not following the leadership of the Good Shepherd.  It is as simple as that.

FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE

Please, don’t take this lightly.  More is at stake in what we do than our personal interests.  Think about that carefully.  I’m not the only one involved in what I do or where I do.  There are consequences for my conduct, and my actions relect not merely on me, but on my family, my Church, my Lord.  I read somewhere that the great Gandhi once said he would have become a Christian, if it hadn’t been for the Christians he observed.  I never know who’s watching or listening, or how my words and deedsmight affect others.  It would certainly be wise if we lived our lives in  such a manner that “others may see our good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.”

Look closely at this:  The Psalmist says:  though I walk THROUGH the valley.  Not just down to it.  THROUGH  IT.  Don’t miss that important thought!

THE SHADOW OF DEATH.  Do look closely at this.  The Bible never acknowledges “death” as anything other than a spectre.  It has no substance.  It is a mere “shadow.”  I’ve been frightened by shadows before, but they don’t have any power to harm anyone.  Except, perhaps, in your imagination. 

In the New Testament Paul compared death to an insect and asked: “O, death,where is thy sting?”  In that analogy, it was like a bee who’s stung something and anyone with a small knowledge of science knows once the bee’s stinger is lost, it cannot sting again.  It will, in fact, die.  Using that analogy, the  Bible says Jesus has plucked the “stinger” out of death and someday death, itself, shall die.

                                         It is a shadow. It is a defeated foe.

“I WILL FEAR NO EVIL. . .”  If you were unaware of the great victory Christ  won and shares with His followers, could you really, confidently say such a thing?  How?  For my part, if I run into something scary I get scared.   If it’s dark, seems sinister and some spooky music is being played and I’m watching a scary movie, I close my eyes and shut my ears.  I’m a wimp, I guess.

We’re talking about courage in the face of death and danger.  In the face of life’s greatest challenge, its ultimate enemy, how could  anyone say: “I will fear no evil?”  I would guess they’re bluffing, or they don’t realize the enormity and finality of such an event.  Or how suddenly and quickly the light of life can be extinguished and how weak and helpless all life is when death invades.  

 

However, suppose I realize that the “Shepherd,” The “Saviour,” The Great Victor over Death is right here with me Right now.  No matter what the circumstances may be.  No matter how dark and deep the valley may be, here’s hope you can cling to: “The Lord your God is with you, wherever you go.”  “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Those are quotes taken straight from the Bible, a couple of them right from the mouth of Jesus.

I reckon, if I know the Lord is with me, I can just stick my chest out, hold my head high, and march  calmly, confidently right on through the “shadow” into the eternal sunlight and “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Incidentally, it is not just at the time of death that God promises His presence.  He’s made the same commitment to be with you in life, as well as death. If you ever pay attention to anything I write, please grasp and cherish that fact.  It is so important that the Lord Himself reminds us often in other places of His constant presence in our lives.  In YOUR life.  It’s a sacred, solemn promise He’s made which you can claim.  It is reality you can experience.    He’s on record as saying He’d be with you always, everywhere!  Amen!

A servant and fellow student, donkimrey