Psalm 23: Unquenchable Faith, Love Everlasting

April 4, 2017

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  (Psalm 23:6)

What is the basis of the unquenchable faith of David? What gives him the assurance that all the blessings he has described (in Psalm 23) will be experienced all the days of his life and forever?

The word Selah, found frequently in the Psalms of David, can be interpreted: “Pause and calmly think about that.” If we pause and calmly think about it, we realize that all through Psalm 23, David presents his Shepherd as the great Initiator of their relationship.

It is the Shepherd Who gets David’s attention, then makes him lie down and say, “baa,” confessing that he is a sheep and the Lord is his Shepherd. It is his Shepherd Who makes David lie down where the green pastures are and then leads him beside still waters. It is David’s Shepherd Who uses His staff when David strays from Him, and drives him into the paths of righteousness that restore his soul. It is God, the Good Shepherd Who initiates these interventions in David’s life.

As David walks through the valley of the shadow of death, his confidence is not in his own extraordinary ability as a warrior to see himself through that valley. His confidence is clearly in his Shepherd. As David walks through this dark and scary valley, he is looking to God for protection and provision. He knows his Shepherd will personally anoint him with oil and keep that cup running over within him.

The source of David’s confident faith is clearly seen in the way the New Jerusalem Bible translates this verse: “Kindness and faithful love pursue me every day of my life.” It is also expressed in these words from the hymn, “I Sought the Lord,” written by George McDonald.

            “I find, I walk, I love, but Oh the whole of love

            Is but my answer, Lord to Thee.

            For You were long beforehand with my soul.

            Always, you have loved me.”

Dick Woodward, from Psalm 23 Sheep Talk


New Year’s Eve Question

December 31, 2015

“Where have you come from, and where are you going?” (Genesis 16:8)

The last days of the year are a good time for reflection and resolution.  Have you ever had a year that was so bad you could not live with the idea of another year of the same?  Are you there now? If you are, you could be ready to hear the question quoted above that God likes to ask people from time to time.

This is the consummate question of direction.  It implies that if we do not have a crisis that changes things, we are going where we have come from.

Sometimes we are the thing that needs to change. Jeremiah actually mocks us for trying to change ourselves: “Why do you gad about so much to change your ways? …  Can the Ethiopian change the color of his skin or the leopard its spots?  Then may you also do good, who are accustomed to doing evil.” (Jeremiah 2:36; 13:23)

There is a big difference between trying to change ourselves and being changed by God.  Unless we are changed by God, or God changes what only He can change, we’re trapped in a cycle of going where we have come from.

With great spiritual discernment David asked God to create in him a new heart and God answered that prayer for him (Psalm 51:10).  God can do that today.  We’re not doomed to that cycle of going where we have come from.  We can be changed and God can change the things that must change so we will not go where we have come from next year.

Confess that you can’t change yourself or your circumstances, but believe God can as you enter the New Year… then watch at God work.

Dick Woodward, 30 December 2011


Do Right (& sleep @ night!)

October 9, 2015

“Offer the sacrifices of righteousness and put your trust in the Lord. There are many who say, ‘Who will show us any good?’”  (Psalm 4:5)

David cannot sleep.  He is uptight and anxious.  From the context of the psalm we know he cannot sleep because he is under great stress.  He decides to meditate within his own heart and be still.  (He has a little “board meeting” with himself in the middle of the night).  If he does the right thing, he believes he cannot survive.  He is therefore thinking about doing the expedient thing.  But since he is a man of great spiritual integrity he finds himself awake and uptight.

As a result of his meditation he resolves his dilemma.  He makes the decision that he is going to make whatever sacrifices he has to make to do what is right and then trust the Lord for his survival.  He knows there are many people who are looking for someone who will do what is right even though it costs them everything to do right.

Have you ever found yourself awake, uptight and stressed out in the middle of the night because you are in a crisis?  If you do what you believe God wants you to do, you don’t see how you can survive.  But your spiritual integrity won’t let you sleep if you don’t do what you believe God wants you to do.  David models here a prescription for resolving that kind of dilemma.

His prescription is simply to do right.  Whatever it costs you, do right and trust God for the consequences.  Many people will be blessed, God will be glorified, you will have great peace, and get some sleep.

Dick Woodward, 02 March 2012


Distress-driven Balm from the Psalms

August 28, 2015

“Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.”  (Psalm 4:1 KJV)

One of my favorite Scripture verses is the first verse of Psalm 4 in the old King James translation. David is in a wringer and he is talking to God about it. Almost parenthetically he drops this thought, “You have enlarged me when I was in distress.”  As I reflect upon my wringer years of disability, and I think of the growth I have experienced while in the wringer, that little phrase says it for me. Truly God has grown me in my time of distress.  In His providence, I believe God always has that agenda when He is growing His children…

As I mentioned on the phone, Psalm 46 is a great psalm that applies to servants of the Lord when they are living on the edge and the whole world seems to be coming unraveled like a cheap sweater. An NASB footnote says the opening verse could be interpreted this way, “God is my refuge and strength.  He is abundantly available for help in tight places.” This psalm inspired Martin Luther’s great hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” It can be applied devotionally to believers who live in contexts like where you are.  The Living Bible paraphrases the Psalm, “Even if the earth blows up and the mountains are thrown into the sea, the believer can say, “the Lord of hosts is with me, the God of Jacob is my fortress.”  The punchline comes when the Psalmist instructs the believer in the midst of chaos to, “Be still and know that I am… and that I will be.”

I hope you have a chance to check out Psalm 143.  As I meditate on this one, having memorized it, the Lord brings you to mind.  David cries to God, “Answer me speedily because my spirit fails. Cause me to hear Your loving kindness in the morning.  Cause me to know the way in which I should walk.” I like the last part when he prays, “Revive me.”  The old King James reads “quicken me.”  That word, quicken, means something like, “touch me to life – give me a touch from You that will spring to life the work of the Spirit in my heart and life.”

… Well, as your ‘ole daddy and pastor I just wanted to unload some of these Scriptures that mean so much to me.  You may be down in the well, but we are holding the ropes. Recently I heard somebody say, “When saying goodbye to a fellow soldier of Christ, we should never say, ‘take it easy.’ We should say, ‘Hang tough, and fight the good fight.'”

Gobs and gobs of agape….

Dick Woodward, 01 April 1997 (fax to his overseas daughter)

Editor’s Note: Found this fax while sorting dusty boxes this week. Although much longer (many more Psalms, all typed out!) thought it might bless someone out there like it did Papa’s kid, again, after 18 years.  Kinda long, but since The Editor has averaged only 1 post per week the last 2 months, this can make up for two.   Bi-weekly posting grooves will hopefully be back on track soon.


Shouting “That Means Me!”

February 20, 2015

I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins.  Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done it! Shout, you lower parts of the earth; break forth into singing, you mountains…”  (Isaiah 44: 22, 23)

When one of the greatest men of God who ever lived committed the sins of adultery and murder, filled with remorse and contrition (which means being exceedingly sorry for sin), he prayed a great model prayer for forgiveness.  If you have sinned and you don’t know how to confess your sin read Psalm 51.  Make it your own prayer and you will do a great job of confessing your sin.

In the original Hebrew David actually asked God to un-sin his sin.  Any devout believer who has really sinned will resonate with this prayer petition of David.  The spirit of the prayer petition is: “Oh God! If You could only make it as if it had never happened!”

That introduces us to one of the most beautiful words in the Bible: “justified.” This word means “just as if I’d never sinned” and it means “to be declared righteous.” David uses this word in his prayer of repentance.

Sunday school children are taught a song that summarizes these Scripture verses:  “God has blotted them out, I’m happy as I can be. God has blotted them out, I’ll turn to Isaiah and see. Chapter forty-four, twenty-two and three.  He’s blotted them out and I can just shout! For that means me!”

They may be merely singing words when they’re children but when they grow up and become people who sin they may shout with tears when they read these verses and remember that song.

When you sin can you shout, “That means me?

Dick Woodward, 01 May 2013


Prescription for a Panic Attack

October 7, 2014

“Lord, how they have increased who trouble me!  Many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say of me, ‘There is no help for him in God.’”  (Psalm 3: 1, 2)

As David writes this psalm he is facing the greatest crisis of his life.  His son has turned the entire nation against him and driven him out of Jerusalem into the wilderness where he once hid from King Saul when he was a young fugitive.  His situation is so desperate that many people said even God could not help him.  But in this psalm David explains how he knows God will be there for him – he is not having a panic attack so he gives us a prescription for one.

Observe the way David uses three tenses as he lays out his prescription that keeps him from panicking.  He recalls that in the past there were many times when he cried out to God and the Lord heard him.  When he laid down to sleep not knowing if the enemy would slit his throat while he was sleeping, he awoke alive because the Lord sustained him.  He then declared that he will not be afraid of the thousands of people who wanted to see him dead.  He then declares in the present tense that God is with him and His present blessing is upon him.

When you are in crisis think back to times in the past when God met you and brought you through a crisis.  Then let those past answered prayers inspire you to trust God for the present and the future crises in your life.

Look back.  With faith, look forward.  Then look around at your present circumstances, not with panic but with faith and peace.

Dick Woodward, 18 March 2012


Examining our Hearts

September 2, 2014

Search me, Oh God, and know my heart.  Try me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.”  (Psalm 139:23-24)

David showed great spiritual wisdom when he prayed this prayer.  He asked God to take the lid off his mind and show him the thoughts that should not be there.  He then asked God to take the lid off his heart because he wanted to see the motives that should not be in his heart.  He prayed this prayer of self-examination because he wanted to walk in the everlasting way.  Another way of saying the same thing is that David wanted God to purify his thoughts and  motives because he wanted to be the man God created and re-created him to be…

Paul closes his second letter to the Corinthians with a verse that has a cluster of challenges regarding how they are to think of themselves. If you compare several translations of this verse (2 Corinthians 13:5), you will realize that these challenges can be summarized and paraphrased into just three:  “EXAMINE yourself, whether you are in the faith; PROVE yourself that you are an authentic disciple of Christ.  And KNOW yourself, how that Jesus Christ is in you.” …

Paul wrote to the Colossians that God called him to share a spiritual secret with the Church: Christ in our hearts is our only hope of bringing glory to God.  (Colossians 1:24-29)  In this great passage he writes that sharing this secret is his life’s work and is worthy of all his life’s energies.   “Christ in you the hope of glory.”  He exhorts us to know by experience that Christ is in us and we are in Christ.

Dick Woodward, from A Prescription for Your Self