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Psalm 23 part one

By Pastor Philip Howle
web posted November 1, 2012

RELIGION – We are done with money and we are moving on to something else that is very familiar to most of you, Psalm 23.  Almost all of you can quote some part of the23rd Psalm. Every time I read the Psalm I think about one of my favorite rap jams of all time “Gangster’s Paradise” by the ever popular Coolio as he rapped back in 1995 “As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I take a look at my life and realize there's notin left, Cause I've been blastin' and laughin so long that, Even my ma'ma thinks that my mind is gone.” As a young man trying to survive in the rough middle class sub-divisions of Greenwood, these words resonated with me. 

Now we probably each have a certain verse that stands out to us. The Psalm is beautiful. It is considered by all to be a literary masterpiece. The words of the Psalm however are meant to be much more than just sweet poetry; they're words to live by. It is an easy psalm to memorize with a little effort, which I will encourage you to do. The Hebrew version contains only 55 words, go ahead and memorize the Hebrew if you would like. Most English translations contain around 120 words. It is only six verses of scripture, simple, yet profound and powerful.

As we look at the Psalm in detail, we first want to know the author, which was King David. The man was impressive; he grew up as the runt of his family raising sheep. He grew to be a musician who played before the king of Israel. He was an amazing warrior as he slew the enemies of God’s people. He was anointed king as a young man by Samuel, but was on the run from King Saul who wanted to kill him for years. As he became King, he was described as a man after God’s own heart.

But if you know David’s life you also know that he was a man who sinned, and at times sinned greatly.  David’s strong desire for God was real, but so were his faults and failures. I think that every Christian can identify with King David. We want to be men and women after God's own heart, but we also know what it means to sin and struggle. And like King David, we also can know God's grace and mercy and strength in our lives each day.

David wrote many Psalms which were the soundtrack of the religious communities in David’s day. The Psalms are gritty, emotional, painful, and very true to life. I encourage you to read one daily. Psalm 23 is taken from the open field.  One writer said that “Of all the great things David accomplished throughout his successful career, it was the job he held as a teenage boy as a shepherd that most influenced his outlook.”

Many Bible scholars believe that this Psalm might have actually been a personal creed for himself, a statement of faith and purpose. There are many speculations as to when it could have been composed. Some think maybe while living in exile, hiding from King Saul, others while he was on the battlefield, or when his son, Absalom, defied his authority. It could have been during a time of victory or maybe during a time of defeat. It is impossible to know, but the message of it is appropriate in all of those situations, it is appropriate in the situations of your life as well.

Take some time right now to read the passage.  Read it over and over. Stop at each verse, write down questions you have about, images you don’t understand, and make a commitment to get to know the Good Shepherd.

Psalms 23:1-6  A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  (2)  He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.  (3)  He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.  (4)  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.  (5)  Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  (6)  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever

I used this a while back but I want to mention it again. I want you to also read this Anti-Psalm 23, it comes from writer David Powlison .

    I’m on my own.
    No one looks out for me or protects me.
    I experience a continual sense of need. Nothing’s quite right.
    I’m always restless. I’m easily frustrated and often disappointed.
    It’s a jungle — I feel overwhelmed. It’s a desert — I’m thirsty.
    My soul feels broken, twisted, and stuck. I can’t fix myself.
    I stumble down some dark paths.
    Still, I insist: I want to do what I want, when I want, how I want.
    But life’s confusing. Why don’t things ever really work out?
    I’m haunted by emptiness and futility — shadows of death.
    I fear the big hurt and final loss.
    Death is waiting for me at the end of every road,
    but I’d rather not think about that.
    I spend my life protecting myself. Bad things can happen.
    I find no lasting comfort.
    I’m alone … facing everything that could hurt me.
    Are my friends really friends?
    Other people use me for their own ends.
    I can’t really trust anyone. No one has my back.
    No one is really for me — except me.
    And I’m so much all about ME, sometimes it’s sickening.
    I belong to no one except myself.
    My cup is never quite full enough. I’m left empty.
    Disappointment follows me all the days of my life.
    Will I just be obliterated into nothingness?
    Will I be alone forever, homeless, free-falling into void?
    It’s a living death, and then I die.

Are you living life in the value of the Good Shepherd or are you going at in on your own? Which Psalm describes your life? Ill be praying you all come under the care of the Good Shepherd

Pastor Phillip

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