Category: psalm 23

enjoy the meal!

In Psalm 23 David has been exploring the image of God as a good shepherd, drawing upon his experiences of God in times of restoration and testing.  In verses 5 and 6 he turns to the image of God as a generous host and draws upon his experiences of God in times of blessing.

Now we know that we live with the incredible blessings of God every day.  We have already received every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Jesus.  We have grace and mercy and forgiveness of sins, we have the adoption as sons and the filling of His Spirit.  But there are still seasons of life in which God seems to bring special blessings.

And the table of blessings that God lays out before us in such times are there to be enjoyed.  If you have friends round for a meal and you go to a lot of trouble to prepare a fantastic meal, no expense spared and all the garnishing, you don’t really want to hear them say that they are on an onion diet and won’t eat anything but onions.  You want them to enjoy the meal you have prepared.

And God wants us to enjoy His blessings.  Enjoy them and accept the honour that He gives you in the process.

And in my view, it is in seasons of blessing that it is best to make decisions about the principles we will live by.  When things are good, decide how you will parent your children, use your money, serve your church and local community.  In a season of blessing, commit yourself to living whole-heartedly for God so that you can carry these things through when times are harder.

And in seasons of blessing, know that God is with you and will always be with you.  Goodness and love will follow you all the days of your life.  All the days of your eternal life.

a season of testing

Most followers of God know what it’s like to go through a season of testing.  If you don’t, you soon will.  I don’t say that because I have some morbid view of faith but because I know that God leads us through testing times in order to mature and strengthen us.  In my view, it’s pretty difficult to read the bible and not come to this conclusion.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4.

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:6-7.

David experienced testing times which he likened to the “valley of the shadow of death.”  Severe indeed.  And the greatest danger in such a time?  It’s not the enemy, but fear.  That’s what David learned.  “I shall not fear”.

And the reason that fear is so dangerous is that we make very different decisions if we’re frightened.

Let’s take money for example.  If you are frightened of a pay cut, reduced hours, losing your job or not receiving your benefits your decisions about what to do with your money will be very different from if you are trusting God to provide, knowing that in Him “you shall not want”.

Fear and faith tend to pull us in opposite directions.  Fear says I will suffer and must take care of myself.  Faith says God is here, caring and providing for me, protecting me, leading me.  Fear undermines faith.

So if you are walking through a season of testing, even the valley of the shadow of death, keep trusting God.  Remain faithful.  He is with you.  His rod and staff will comfort you.  And he will lead you through the valley and into the season of blessing beyond.

Life seems to go in seasons doesn’t it?  So what kind of season are you in?

It’s an experience that we all share – with each other, and with the people of God through the ages.  When David explores the images of God as a good shepherd and generous host in Psalm 23, he seems to be drawing on his experience of different seasons of life and reflecting on what he has learned.

He starts with a season of restoration (vv 1-3).  We can enter a season of restoration for a number of reasons.  Illness, the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, our own sin or the sin of someone else that impacts us, or family breakup to name a few.  The sense of loss, the hurt that we can experience, can change the shape of our world and it can take time to recover.  We may enter several such seasons during our lifetime.  Certainly David experienced a number of such events.

So what did he learn?  Well, he learned that when we have God, we don’t need anything else.  We may have lost something hugely important to us, but in God, “I shall not want.”  He learned that God makes us rest and gives us time to recover.  He learned that God doesn’t do a partial restoration job, “He restores my soul.”  This is the most intricate, detailed, loving and time consuming restoration there is.  And at the end of it, we are made complete.

And he learned that, even though we can become very self-absorbed at such times, this work of restoration is ultimately not about us, but about God’s glory.  “He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”

So if you are in a season of restoration, take your time.  God will restore you.  He will fully restore you.

Life takes us through different seasons doesn’t it?  Times of blessing and testing, times of great adventure and restoration.  When I read Psalm 23 again recently I sensed that David was exploring the images of God as a shepherd and generous host by drawing on his experience of God in three very different seasons of life.  You can hear my thoughts on the Jubilee website and I may also try to capture them in a short series of posts before too long.  But don’t hold your breath.

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