Thursday, December 04, 2014

A Reflection on Psalm 23

Psalm 23 is the only chapter in the Bible I know by heart.  It has been for many years.  Throughout my life, I got to memorize several chapters in the Bible, but I eventually forgot parts of it or its entirety completely.  Only Psalm 23 stuck.  Probably because it’s just six verses long.  But also because it has likely appealed to me a lot. 

Psalm 23 is a very notable passage in the Bible.  It used the metaphor of the LORD as a Shepherd, and it’s full of encouragement and comfort for His flock since it gives a comprehensive glimpse of the benefits that a sheep belonging to the Good Shepherd will enjoy.  

This reflection is my short analysis of the blessings depicted in Psalm 23.  I will be discussing them by verse.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

The LORD is our Good Shepherd (note: from this point on, when I use the third person pronouns like “we”, “us”, or “our”, I am referring to us Christians – the sheep belonging to the Good Shepherd).  The Good Shepherd who gives his life for his sheep (John 10:11).  The Good Shepherd who willingly sought us in the wilderness when we were lost (Luke 15:4-6).  It’s a great blessing and honor to have Him as our Shepherd! 

Belonging to Him, there is the guarantee that we will never lack of anything we need.  Emphasis on “anything we need.”  God will always give us the things He knows we actually need, not the things we want or think we need. 

So if we don’t have something, it’s because we don’t need it.  If God didn’t provide the thing we are asking for right now, then it’s because we don’t really need it yet.  Or at all.

Indeed, what we need to get the most out of our lives and accomplishing a task for the glory of God is always present or provided in the perfect time.              

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,         

The imagery from this verse inspires tranquility.

God gives us rest and peace.  And they are not dependent on the circumstances around us.  Regardless of the weather we are in – pleasant or turbulent – there is an inner calmness, for the Good Shepherd is always in control.  

he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

When God saved us, He also guaranteed that He will preserve us and sanctify us till we are ready to stand in front of Him.  By our own strength, we can never remain faithful.  It is God who enables us to be faithful.  There may be times that we falter and fall, but God will keep on sustaining and restoring us till the end.  

Through the power of His Word and Holy Spirit, His instructions and wisdom to discern what is righteous are revealed to us whenever we seek them sincerely.  But even if we fail, His forgiveness is readily given when we repent, replenishing the vigor in our souls in continuing our pressing on forward.  All of this is for His glory; so what He started in us, He will surely see it brought to completion (Philippians 1:6).    

This is basically the doctrine from the 5th-point of Five-Point Calvinism, “Perseverance of the Saints.” Such great source of reassurance.      

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.

God promised that He will never leave us, nor forsake us.  He promised to be with us till the end of age (Matthew 28:20).  So no matter how terrifying, impossible, dire, or threatening a certain circumstance we are in, His presence gives us courage, cheer, and calm.  For if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31) 

In short, God got our backs. 

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

Simply, we are overwhelmingly blessed! 

Unfortunately, there is a popular misconception that being overwhelmingly blessed always translates to material gain – good health, fixed relationships, promotion, excelling in academics, improved standard of living, ownership of more properties, etc.  God never really promised these things.  God never promised that we will have problem-free, wealthy, comfortable lives in this world.  Quite the opposite actually. 

However, what God did promise us are the honor and joy prepared for us in Heaven that are incomparably, incomprehensibly greater than any material gain from this world.   And even in the presence of whatever form of antagonism and menace, these great blessing and glory from God is made apparent. 

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

Due to God’s grace, we have been gifted eternal life.  Hence, we will be able to enjoy His presence for all eternity in Heaven.  But even while we are still remaining in this world, undergoing our life journey towards Eternity, the glorious presence of God is already felt to an extent – His love and grace evidently working to push us forward until we get there.  The Good Shepherd will get His flock there.     

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