Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Psalm 23 - #8

Psalm 23:5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

He preparest a table before me. As I wander through this dark world, with evil all around and enemies thinking nasty of me, I can have a sweet fellowship with the Lord and put the thoughts of earth's dangers and darkness aside for a while and just be fed by God himself. We sit (my Lord and I) at the table with good things to eat, spiritual things that reach far above all earthly provisions.

In the presence of mine enemies. Though my enemies be close at hand, though they taunt me concerning my faith in the Lord, though they may hate the very Lord that I love, yet the Lord and I sit close by the enemies and, notwithstanding their jeers and hatred, we enjoy our fellowship together. The enemies may desire that I fall in my testimony; they may desire that I fail in my efforts to serve the Lord; they may wish that the Lord himself did not exist; but that makes no difference to my Lord and me. We simply sit together and enjoy the table that is spread with every kind of sweet and delicate serving of spiritual food.

When I finish eating at the table with the Lord, I am refreshed and charged with energy to again face my daily enemies, loving them for the cause of Christ, witnessing to them of God's amazing grace, and living among them and not entangling myself in the world with them. 2 Peter 2:20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.

Thou anointest my head with oil. We may notice that the Hebrew word for "preparest" is in the Qal tense, or the casual or simple present tense of action. However, the word for "anountest" is in the Piel tense, which is the "intensive" present tense. You might say "I broke the dish." That would be in the simple or Qal tense of the verb. But you may also say "I broke the dish into a million pieces," which is the intensive or Piel tense.

When the Lord anoints my head with oil, he does it in an intensive way. It is as if he wants the enemies to know in a physical way that God has not forsaken me. My enemies cannot understand why I am so happy with my quiet life, loving and serving the Lord. They do not understand why I cannot enjoy the loudness of the world, the abundance of extreme energy engaged by the world in order to try to be happy. My joy is with the Lord, not in worldly pleasures. Oh yes, I have my problems with worldly pleasures just as everyone does; but that is not my real joy.

The word "anointest" has to do with being prosperous or fat. The word fat in the Bible has a good connotation. It implies success and prosperity. So, the Psalmist is saying in this Psalm that God is benefiting us in a good way and giving us a supernatural unction from his Holy Spirit. We are, you might say, fat with blessings.

My cup runneth over. The word oil in the Hebrew can also be translated "fat things." So, the Lord fattens us with fat things. I hope you understand what that means: it means that we as his children are benefited above the world with his good things. Psalm 103:5 Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord will not fill my cup if I do not present it to him for additional servings of fat things. I must bring my cup to him and ask him for a refill. He will never refuse me that. James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

I am thankful to God that he will give me whatever I need to serve him, and he makes my cup run over, or he gives me more than I need so that I can enjoy of his abundance. He gives us abundant grace (2 Cor. 4:15); he gives us abundant rejoicing (Phil. 1:26); and he gives us abundant mercy (1 Peter 1:3). What else do we need when we have the abundance of God's cup running over with blessings?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Psalm 23 - #7

Psalm 23:4b -- . . . thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

The rod and the staff are the same instrument used by the shepherd. The rod is the straight part of the instrument with which the shepherd turns back the enemies of the sheep, such as the wolf and the lion. There are many enemies of God's people, and with the word of God they are pushed away by our dependence upon his holy word and the instruction that it gives us when we spend much time in it. Psalm 1:2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. In this meditation we find much rest and security as if God were with his Shepherd's rod turning us away from the enemies of truth.

I remember that, when I was a teenager, I listened so several radio preachers. One of them was Herbert W. Armstrong. He said to me from the radio one day that there is no such thing mentioned in the Bible as eternal damnation. As I listened, I continued to read God's word daily. Then one day I read this in my Bible, Matt 25:46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. After I read this, I turned off the radio and did not listen to Herbert W. Armstrong any more. The word of God settled it for me. The word of God was God's rod to turn back the enemy of God's word. Praise the Lord!

The rod is also used to count the sheep. To "pass under the rod" meant that the sheep was counted as the shepherd's own property. Ezekiel 20:37 And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant: It certainly is wonderful to know that God knows his own. 2 Tim. 2:19 . . . The Lord knoweth them that are his . . . . He marked us out in eternity past, chose us before the world's foundation, and brought us to himself through faith in his gospel. With his rod, he marked us out as his own property, and nothing can change that, because he is the one who has done it.

The staff is the crooked part of the instrument that the shepherd used. The shepherd mainly used the staff to pull sheep back to himself away from a dangerous situation or to guide a sheep by pulling him from side to side with the hook.

God leads his dear children along, the song says. "Some through the water, some through the flood, some through the fire, but all through the blood; some through great sorrow, but God gives a song; in the night seasons and all the day long." His staff, then, comforts us as he gently guides us through the valley of the shadow of death, beside the still waters, and in the paths of righteousness.

The rod and staff does two opposing things: it will turn us away from danger and from error, push us out into the world to be a witness, or it will tenderly bring us to the Savior for his leadership and comfort. I am thankful for God's rod and staff. They comfort me. Do they comfort you?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Psalm 23 - #6

Psalm 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me . . .

Though I Walk. The believer walks in the way of God, in the paths of righteousness. On the way to his Heavenly home, he encounters many troublesome obstacles that come in the way as he walks toward his goal. Some of these obstacles may bring the believer to the shadow of death, not death itself, but its shadow, giving the potential of fear on every hand. This idea is taken from the sheep that the shepherd watches as they travel over many sharp rocks and come at different times to the potential of death, as they may fall into a ditch, come to some water where the sheep may drown, or a cliff where the sheep may fall to his death.

Are you willing today to walk in the shadow of death for the Lord? Are you strong enough in your faith that you will face the enemies of the cross? Are you assured that God is with you and that he will lead you all the way to Heaven? That is what this Psalm is about.

Through The Valley of the Shadow of Death. But if the shepherd is doing his job, he will keep the sheep from danger; for, as the sheep approaches the potential of death, the shepherd will take hold of the sheep and lift him above the danger and bring him back onto the solid ground. This, then, becomes only a shadow and not death itself. Believers often fear death, at least the prospect of death's coming by way of some horrible calamity; but we also fear the shadow of death, those times when death seems to be so near as we walk our Christian walk.

Have there come some deep valleys in your life? Do you remember going through them as you walked along the Christian path? Do you know that the Lord is with you there just as he is when you are happy and enjoying the good things of life?

I will Fear No Evil. We are not to fear those times when death is near, whether it be at the end of a gun barrel, as the young lady gave her profession at the point of a gun at Columbine High School, after which the gunman killed her, or as the great martyrs who stood firm in the fires as they testified of their Savior, or those who faced the wild beasts which eventually tore them to shreds. We are to fear neither the Evil One, Satan himself, nor those evils which he can put in our way to try to make us stumble. Psalm 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Neither should we be afraid of death, because we know that it is only a channel-way to get to Heaven, a bridge to cross, a river to pass over. It is only a quick change from this life to the next life. 1 Cor. 15:55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

For Thou Art With Me. The Lord, as our Shepherd, is always with us. He promised us that he would never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). He is there to lift us up when we fall, to encourage our weakened and discouraged souls, to teach us of his good doctrines, and to rejoice with us as we receive his blessings with thanksgiving.

We do not need to fear, because the Lord is with us. Just as, when you were a child, your parents gave you great security by their very presence; even so the Lord will give us great security when we know that he is with us. Isaiah 41:10 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Psalm 23 - #5

Psalm 23:3 . . . he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

He Leadeth Me. This is a straightforward clause which declares a straightforward action on God's part. "He" is the subject of this clause, and it declares God as being the one who is the Actor in this event. If it were not for God, and we could exist without him, then we could not be led in the paths of righteousness; because God must do this leading, since he is a righteous God, and there is no righteousness without him.

The object of this clause is "me." The action that God takes in this clause is directed to me. This makes this action personal. God is interested individually in his sheep. He takes a personal and intimate interest in each one of his children. What would I be without God? I would be nothing--I could not exist apart from this Providence.

The action of this clause is "leadeth." This verb is in the present tense, so God's leading is an ongoing action. He does not lead us for a while and then leave us to ourselves. He leads us all the way to eternity and throughout eternity. If we had no leader and could exist aside from him, then we would be going every which way, and there would be chaos on the earth (if there could be an earth). Isn't that what is happening in the world today? People are neglecting God and his word, and the world is becoming more and more chaotic. Psalm 9:17 The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.

In The Paths Of Rightousness. When God leads us, he does not lead us into paths of wickedness: Matt 6:13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. God leads us in one direction only, and that direction is toward him. Part of the redemptive purpose of God is to bring us to God, and that is what he is doing in all of his Providence. His immanence is precious to every saved soul. He works directly in our individual lives by leading us in the paths of righteousness where there is light and life: Prov. 12:28 In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death.

But if we as God's children veer off the righteous pathway, there is death:

Rom. 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; . . .

1 John 5:16 . . . There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.
James 1:15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

Job 24:19 Drought and heat consume the snow waters: so doth the grave those which have sinned.
Outside the paths of righteousness is death. God will punish sin with death, yes, in his children. He will bring death upon those who refuse to walk in the paths of righteousness. I do not pretend to know when God does that, but his word says that he will do it.

Within the paths of righteousness is life, and we would all do well to cry out to God even as Job did in Job 23:3 Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! We should seek the presence of God whatever it takes in our lives to do so. Every Christian should desire to walk in the paths of righteousness and to bring glory to God.

But how can we be led in the paths of righteousness? Notice Psalm 119:9 Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed [thereto] according to thy word. We must spend much time in Bible reading and study and in prayer that we may find God and study his attributes, his graces and benefits, and his chastisements.

For His Name's Sake. God does not lead his children into dark places where sin dwells. He does not lead them where danger of temptation lurks. He leads his children in his own path, but not for their sakes but for his own name's sake. Remember we are but the dust of the earth; we are only his creatures. We deserve none of the goodness that God manifests to us. God is the one who deserves all the credit, all the reward, all the praise, all the service, etc.

His name is JESUS (Matt. 1:21). His name is holy (Luke 1:49). His name is to be preached among all nations (Luke 24:47). We have life through is name (John 20:31). We should be willing to suffer shame for his name (Acts 5:41). Our sins are remitted through his name (Acts 10:43). We should give thanks to his name (Heb. 13:15). His name is called The Word of God (Rev. 19:13).

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Psalm 23 #4

Psalm 23:3 He restoreth my soul: . . .

The Hebrew word for "restoreth" means "to return, to bring back." This happens in several ways as God works with his chosen ones. This restoration comes from God: "HE restoreth my soul." We cannot restore our own souls from sin and backsliding. God must be the author as well as the finisher of our faith.

He restores us from our sins in salvation. We all fell in Adam, turning away from God in disobedience. We all fell into sin: the practice of sin and the condemnation of sin. Notice the following scriptures.

Rom. 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

John 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

In our sinful condition, we need salvation by grace which comes only from God. It is by grace that we are saved: Eph. 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

He restores us from backsliding. Jer. 3:6 The LORD said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot. So many in our own day have turned from their Lord to the beggarly elements of the world: Ga 4:9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Either true believers or simply professed believers have turned their backs on the Lord for these beggarly elements and have turned to the world for their satisfaction. From this the true believer can be turned and shall be restored when the grace of God is effective in his life.

Jer. 3:22 Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the LORD our God. Jeremiah prophesied much concerning backsliding Israel. They are encouraged to "return." This is the same word that is used in Psalm 23:3 that is translated "restore." It is God who turns us, pricks our hearts, and carries us back to himself through his word even as he did Peter when he denied the Lord.

So, dear believer, keep yourself under the preaching of God's word, for it is God's word through which God will restore your soul, and it will be restored to the blessedness of the Savior and the sweetness of his communion. We dare not return back into the world once we have been restored. Once should be a sufficient number of times to teach us the difference between being backslidden and being in God's constant care and assurance.

He will restore us from weakness. When our bodies get weak and we cannot do what we once did (and many who read this have already experienced this), it is God alone who can restore the soul in these times, draw us above the strife of heart that is brought by the overwhelming calamity of disease and sorrows of life. As our hearts get weaker and weaker and our bodies diminish their usefulness, God is there to restore that body to that which his purpose claims.

It may not be God's will that you or I will return to our former youthful energies, but God will nonetheless restore our souls, not only in our confidence that God is working in us both in strength and weakness, but he will ultimately bring us to himself through his Son, Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: He will bring us to bodily death and quicken us through his Spirit so that we may experience the ultimate of God's blessings and entertain a wonderful reception in Heaven for all who believe. This is the greatest and most splendid restoration.

So brighten up your corner by believing in God, that he will restore your soul. He is our Shepherd, and this is one of his duties as our Great Shepherd.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Psalm 23 - #3

Psalm 23:2 . . . he leadeth me beside the still waters.

The fact that God leads us is a fascinating thing. This infers that we are not simply lying down in green pastures as God's sheep--we are on a journey and need for someone to lead us on this journey. We must get up and follow the Shepherd. Notice John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: This is the duty of a believer: to follow the Shepherd, not to constantly lie down in green pastures or expect the Lord to continually put us in a place of contentment and relaxation. We must fight the battle before us. The Shepherd will go before us and lead us on through the battle.

While he is leading us, he will supply us with spiritual necessity. Not only is it necessary for us to lie down in his pastures and enjoy God's graces, but it is also necessary for us to be refreshed along the way with the waters that he supplies. The plural of water (MAYIM in the Hebrew) speaks of cleansing. These waters are not only for refreshment and hydration for our bodies, but they are also for our cleansing. Psalm 119:9 Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. This cleansing is necessary, because our old natures surge up as we travel along this life. This cleansing comes from the word of God, which is like water being poured over a wound for healing. The word of God is refreshment and helps us in times of trouble.

In the cold of winter, the flesh on our bodies tends to become dry and cracked. For healing, this takes water and a protection so that the moisture will not leave our skin. We use hand lotion to keep the moisture from going out of our skin. As long as the moisture is in the skin, the skin will heal; but when the water dissipates from the skin, then the skin begins to crack again.

We are in a dry, weary land, and we need water. Remember that God gave the Israelites water when they were in the desert. Without this water, they would die. Can we realize that God is daily sustaining us with the water of his word and the oil of his Holy Spirit? Remember that we are sealed by the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30). This is the protection like a lotion that keeps the moisture in; and as we read God's word and are obedient to him, the moisture comes into our lives, and the Holy Spirit protects us by keeping the moisture in it.

But the moisture will not stay in our hands forever even with the lotion applied to the hands; so it is with our lives. We cannot study God's word once and expect the moisture from his word to stay with us forever. We must study it day by day even as we must apply the hand lotion every day. Our lives get dry from staying so long away from God's word. Therefore, we need to have a daily supply of God's word in reading, studying and meditation. Then the Holy Spirit will seal that in our lives, but he will not seal it there forever. We must go back for a refreshing new supply of water.

Water is a healing agent. One of the first things one uses in medicine is water. We bathe with water and clean wounds with water. God's word (like water) is a cleaning agent and will cleanse the sinner of the most horrible of sins. Eph. 5:26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.

As we journey this Christian life, we should expect God, our Shepherd, to give us water as needed along the way and to energize the churches of God with this same water. The Christian journey is a dusty one, and we accumulate this dust in our lives, which signifies sin. But the water of regeneration and the water of the word keep these sins at bay and keep us serving our Master, who supplies all the water we need.

Someone said a long time ago, "Still waters run deep." This is true with God's supply of water. There is no shortage, the well is deep, and who can go into the depths to draw out this water for us? Only our Shepherd, just as he did with the woman at the well in John Chapter Four.