Probably one of the most familiar psalms in scripture is Psalm 23. You know, the one that begins with the words, "The Lord is my shepherd." I've asked myself often why this particular psalm has such an amazing following. I confess that I too have found much comfort in the words of this psalm, but beyond that as I look at each phrase within this passage it occurs to me that there must be quite a bit of identification with the poet that penned these words. Perhaps the poet that penned these words knew something about suffering. Perhaps the poet, like each of us, looks for comfort because in our everyday lives we experience things we can't explain and we need something to hold on to that will accompany us through the pains life often brings across our path. Walk with me as we look yet again at the message penned by the psalmist.
"The Lord is my shepherd." In this one phrase we find acceptance and inclusion. Have you ever been in a place where you didn't feel included? The idea that the Lord is "MY" shepherd gives those hearing the message that they have a place to be, a place to exist. It speaks of being a part of something much greater than ourselves. It portrays the idea of connectedness. When Jesus told his disciples that He had other sheep that were not of this fold that he needed to include as well certainly spoke of a fold much larger than the one his disciples imagined that included Jews and Gentiles alike.
As the psalm continues, "... I shall not want," may indicate that because the Lord is my shepherd he supplies just what I need. This idea of having our needs supplied may just be what people hold on to when they struggle with their surrounding circumstances. The Apostle Paul indicated that God will supply all our needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
"He makes me lie down in green pastures." If you have ever had the privilege of watching a shepherd tend his or her flock of sheep it does not take long before you begin to understand that the shepherd's ability to lead their sheep to the best grazing land becomes quite a benefit for their flock. The healthier the sheep continue to be the more they will produce and reproduce. It has been said that only when a sheep feels safe will it lie down. The shepherd leads his or her flock to the safest places. The scriptures indicate Jesus saying, "My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me." For those hearing the words of the poet we quickly insert ourselves into that green pasture where we experience the trust and love of the shepherd and the magnificence of our surroundings.
"He leads me besides the still waters." As I pondered this particular phrase I recalled reading something that assisted me in the following thought. Still waters unlike rushing waters will allow us to see our reflection. Is it possible that it is beside the waters of reflection that we remember who we are, that perhaps much like the prodigal son, we need to experience that moment of coming to ourselves in order to remember who we are and whose we are? It occurs to me that the Good Shepherd would lead us by such a place so we can see ourselves as the Shepherd has always seen us.
"He restores my soul." As I have pondered this particular phrase it is beginning to make sense to me that the restoration of soul is what naturally occurs when we discover ourselves in the Good Shepherd's flock, grazing in green pastures and awakening to our true reflection and seeing ourselves as Jesus sees us. As we experience His warm embrace and know that our inclusion within this sheep fold was of God's doing and not ours we begin to see ourselves as the restored people that God in Christ through His resurrection has re-created us to be.
"He leads me in paths of righteousness." I believe our God is a righteous God and because He is I believe his desire for each of us is that we follow him in righteousness. Unfortunately, there are times when perhaps due to circumstances one may choose to go astray. However, the hope in this sheep going astray is that the Good Shepherd will leave the rest of His sheep safe within the fold and will embark upon a journey to continue looking for this one who has gone astray until he finds it. The amazing thing about this picture of being lost is that this sheep cannot be lost unless it belongs. And the shepherd does all of this for his name sake because we all bear His Name. We belong to the Shepherd!
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil." I suppose we all have a working definition of "evil." As I have pondered my own definition of evil I am becoming aware that evil is what occurs when I lose sight of my identity in Christ and I forget who I am and whose I am. When I do this then I no longer see myself as the Good Shepherd sees me. Unbeknownst to me I begin reflecting an attitude of death. As long as I retain my focus of my inclusion within the fold of the Good Shepherd being aware that I'm there because He placed me there then walking through the valley of the shadow of death becomes much easier because I know that I am not alone for the Shepherd is with me. His rod and His staff bring much comfort to me. As a matter of fact His comfort is emphasized within me when I experience His anointing presence which overflows my life.
"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." What a fitting end to this marvelous psalm. The promise that the fold of the Good Shepherd will continue beyond this life is perhaps the most dramatic and comforting words we can hear. These words take us beyond the unknown. It occurs to me that every blessing that is offered within this psalm will also continue beyond this life. The Lord is MY Shepherd and WE are the sheep of his pasture. So enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise. Be thankful unto him and bless his Name for the Lord is Good and His mercy is everlasting and His truth endures to all generations.
Have you ever watched and listened to someone tuning a stringed musical instrument? Perhaps you have performed this exercise yourself. As each string is plucked it gives a tone based upon the number of vibrations per second. I was taught that four hundred forty vibrations per second is the agreed upon universal pitch for A. Now with all of the electronic devices at our disposal finding the correct pitch to begin the process of tuning stringed instruments is much easier.
Of course if the vibrations either increase or decrease the human ear will hear higher or lower sound pitches. In Charles Haanel's book entitled "A Book About You" he offers the following, "When the frequency is more that 38,000 vibrations per second, the ear cannot recognize sound; when 400,000,000 (million) vibrations have been reached, we perceive the sensation of light, and as the vibrations gradually increase, the eye perceives one color after another until violet is reached with its 75,000,000,000 (billion) vibrations per second."
Wow! As I attempt to get my mind around the idea of vibrations per second and what is manifest as vibrations increase, I can't help but consider how the concept of light, spoken of in John's gospel, is somehow inter-connected with Spiritual vibrations. John describes Jesus as the Light Source and His life is the light that defines our lives. He says that the darkness was pierced and could not comprehend or diminish the Light. Usually "darkness" spoken of in John chapter one is an indicator of mankind's ignorance of their redeemed identity and innocence. In other words, to be in the dark would mean that a person couldn't see or perceive even with their eyes wide open.
In Matthew 5:16 Young's Literal Translation says, "so let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and may glorify your Father who is in the heavens." I believe that the Light Source is already within us because we wouldn't exist apart from it. Some people cover their light over with a bushel basket and seem to retreat from the Light of our lives. Some choose darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil the scriptures says. The good news about human lives is contained in the reality that His Light shines in our darkest darkness and our darkest darkness cannot overpower His Light. And His Light is within each of us.
I believe this is true and when you hear this truth, perhaps for the first time, it will begin to vibrate within you causing an awakening to the Light that too has always been within you.
Some time ago Bob Dylan wrote a song entitled Make You Feel My Love. Adele recorded the song and as far as I know it has become very popular. My guess is Bob was probably referring to a special woman in his life and the best way he could express his feelings for her was to do it in a song. The lyrics are particularly inspirational when you think of just how far one would go just so their love would be felt by the other. Here are the lyrics:
When the rain is blowing in your face, And the whole world is on your case, I could offer you a warm embrace, To make you feel my love.
When the evening shadows and the stars appear, And there is no one to dry your tears, I could hold you for a million years, To make you feel my love.
I know you haven't made your mind up yet, But I would never do you wrong, I've known it from the moment that we met, No doubt in my mind where you belong.
I'd go hungry, I'd go black and blue, I'd go crawling down the avenue, No, there's nothing that I wouldn't do, To make you feel my love.
The storms are raging on the rolling sea, And on the highway of regret, The winds of change are blowing wild and free, You ain't seen nothing like me yet.
I could make you happy, make your dreams come true, Nothing that I wouldn't do, Go to the ends of the earth for you, To make you feel my love, To make you feel my love.
I used this song in a devotional not long ago. As I listened to the words being sung over and over again all of a sudden I began to hear The Father, Son and Holy Spirit minister to me through them. The big question is, just how far would God go to make you feel his love? In the song the offer of a warm embrace and being held for a million years while feeling as though the whole world is on my case and there's no one to dry my tears certainly speaks to me of someone who cares.
Throughout the song there are spiritual hints as to what God has done to make you feel His love. Here are two or three of them. "I'd go hungry," speaks to me of the forty days of fasting Jesus went through before he began his public ministry. "I'd go black and blue" speaks to me of the scourging Jesus received at the hands of Pilate just before his crucifixion. "I'd go crawling down the avenue" speaks to me of the Via Delarosa where Jesus carried his cross to Golgotha. There are several more. I challenge you to find them.
The point for me is that the Voice of God can be heard anywhere. I recommend you find Adele's recording of this song and listen to it over and over. You just might experience that warm embrace and blessed assurance of where you belong!