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Posts Tagged ‘psalm’

Many years ago, one of our daughters who was only very little at the time was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her answer was a doctor or – wait for it – a shepherd! She had heard various bible stories about shepherds and must have decided they were a kind lot who helped and cared for others. The interesting thing is that while she did not take up either of these occupations, she nevertheless clearly conveys these traits in the way she has related to others throughout her life. Next year she is heading out with a volunteer organisation to spend some time working with orphans in Rumania – still the doctor and the shepherd at heart.

I think of her almost every time I read or speak on Psalm 23. This psalm is so well-known that the temptation is to gloss over the richness of its words and to read it only at funerals or memorial services. Yet I think it gives such encouragement to us as we seek to live our lives well right now, and deep comfort whenever we find ourselves in a hard place.

Right off the bat, the psalm begins with the strong assertion that ‘The LORD is my Shepherd’. What a statement! David, its author, is declaring that Yahweh, the most high God, the ‘I AM’, the one whose name was too holy and too awesome even to be spoken aloud by the ancient Hebrews, is prepared to take on the lowly role of a shepherd and, furthermore, lead and guide him personally through his life. That blows my mind and immediately takes me back to my teenage years when I realised for the first time that the mighty God of the whole universe knew me and cared about me personally – enough to send Jesus to die for me, in fact.

As the psalm continues to unfold, we read wonderful statements about the Lord that I have found so true since then:

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the present of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

The key factor in it all is that presence of the Shepherd walking closely with me, strengthening me, showing me the way forward, defending me, healing me. My task is to ensure I keep my eyes on my Shepherd, listening for his voice, trusting him when he takes me in a particular direction. In John 10:27, Jesus himself says:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

What a privilege to have Jesus, the good shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep (John 10:14-15), intimately involved in my life journey, with all its twists and turns! In fact, he has told us this relationship will never end, that no one can snatch us out of his hand (John 10:28). So it is with a grateful heart that I agree with David as he concludes his psalm:

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Can you hear the voice of this faithful Shepherd too? Are you listening?

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This past week, we celebrated a birthday in our family – my husband turned seventy.  Now that, as we all told him earnestly, is really old. It even sounds old – much older than sixty-something does! Now he definitely qualifies to be called an ‘oldie’ by his children and their generation – not to mention his grandchildren! Recently he joked that, having now reached his ‘three score years and ten’, his time could well be up any day. He is well aware of what Psalm 90:10 says:

The length of our days is seventy years – or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

Sounds quite pessimistic, doesn’t it? Yet it’s true we will all face trouble and sorrow in some shape or form during our lives. We are all human – and we chose long ago to go our own way and forget about God. But it’s also important to look at the context of those words. In my bible, this psalm is called ‘A prayer of Moses the man of God’ and begins:

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.

Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You turn men back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men,”

For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.

To God, seventy or eighty years are nothing – God was and is and always will be. From God’s perspective, we don’t have long on this earth to make a difference here, to do what we were created to do, to live as God would have us live. So I think it’s important we all pray the words of verse 12 from this same psalm before we get any closer to our own ‘three score years and ten’:

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

It’s so easy for the weeks, months, years to slip away and for us not to take stock of where we’re heading in life, isn’t it? I don’t know about you, but I want to ‘number my days aright’, to live wisely, walking hand in hand with God, listening to that still, small voice within, doing what God calls me to do. Recently, someone commented that I should have started writing my novels years ago. For a moment that caused me to feel a little chilled inside and to wonder if perhaps I’d taken a wrong turn somewhere along the line. Would I have been able to touch more people and been used more of God, had I begun writing earlier? I suspect I needed to be the age I was, however, when I started. I don’t think I would have had the confidence to embark on such a journey any earlier, not to mention the life experience and understanding of people required. And I suspect I needed time to know God better and also acquire more of that ‘heart of wisdom’ mentioned in the psalm. I still do.

My husband has used his ‘three score years and ten’ very well, I believe – over forty of them in some form of ministry – and I hope I do too. But how about you – how are you travelling? Are you gaining that ‘heart of wisdom’?

Are you ‘numbering your days aright’?

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