Psalm 23: To it, or Through it?

November 1, 2016

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”  (Psalm 23:4)

The great Shepherd psalm of David is the most familiar chapter in the Bible.  It is loved by Jews, Catholics and all shades and grades of Protestants.  Psalm 23 is the greatest description ever written of what the relationship between God and humankind can be.

After declaring that his God makes him lie down in green pastures and leads him beside still waters, David also declares there to be times when he finds himself in a valley that is so dark it is like the shadow of death.  However, he is comforted by the staff of his Shepherd.  He is referencing the confidence he has in the ability of his Shepherd to lead him through that valley, not just to that valley.

He is also comforted by the rod of his Shepherd.  A shepherd uses a rod as a defensive weapon to keep predators away from the sheep.  David is saying here that he has great confidence in the ability of his Shepherd to protect him from anything he might encounter in that valley.

The bottom line: David knows his Shepherd God can not only lead him to a valley, but through that valley.

Are you in a valley right now?  If you are, realize your Shepherd God wants to lead you through your valley.  Trust God’s perfect ability to lead and protect you all the way through your valley.

Faith nearly always involves choices.  The choice is yours. So, which is it going to be?

Is it going to be “To it, or through it?”

Dick Woodward, 16 March 2013


Praying in the Valleys

July 22, 2016

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.”   (Psalm 23:4-5)

In your dark valleys, learn to pray in this manner:  “As I enter this valley, Lord, I will not be paralyzed by fear, because I believe You are with me.  Your ability to protect me and lead me through this valley is a comfort to me.  I know that in the darkest and scariest part of this valley, in the middle of all the life threatening danger, You will spread a table of provision for me.

I am trusting You completely to anoint me with the oil of Your individualized, personalized and attentive care.  I believe you will give me mercy for my failures and the grace I need to help me in my time of need.  You will also pursue me like a ‘Hound of Heaven’ with Your goodness, unconditional love and acceptance, when I wander away from Your loving care.”

Finally, thank your Good Shepherd-God that you can trust God to lead you through this life to unbroken fellowship forever in Heaven; to the green pastures that never turn brown, the still waters that never become disturbed, and the cup that never empties.

Offer this prayer to “the God of peace, Who brought up from the dead that great Shepherd of sheep, Who through the blood of the everlasting covenant, can make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”  (Hebrews 13:20-21)

Dick Woodward, from Psalm 23 Sheep Talk


A Prescription: Blessing God’s Name

September 29, 2015

“Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.  For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” (Psalm 100: 4, 5)

In the ancient Hebrew culture names had great significance.  When parents named their child, the name they chose often expressed their desire for the life of their child.  Sometimes the name was given to a child because certain events occurred surrounding the birth of the child.  The significance of names is especially important when we consider the names of God in the Bible – they tell us much about God.

In Psalm 100 we are instructed to praise the name of God.  We are to praise God because He is good.  Rick Warren told us life is like railroad tracks.  The left rail represents this reality: there is always something negative in our life because God is more interested in our character than He is in our comfort.  The right rail represents this reality: there is always something good in our life because God is good and He loves us.

In this very short psalm we are instructed to bless the name of God by focusing His goodness, His everlasting mercy, and His enduring truth.  Mercy is His unconditional love and forgiveness.  That word is found 366 times in the Bible because God knew we would need it every day and He even included leap year.

If we read the Bible looking for truth we will discover truth that endures to all generations.  In the last verse of his shepherd psalm David informed us that the mercy of God pursued him like a hound of heaven.  Will you fill and take this prescription for blessing the name of God?

Dick Woodward, 14 March 2012


Psalm 23: Sheep Talking

February 3, 2015

“The Lord is my Shepherd…”   (Psalm 23:1)

God created you and me to be men and women who make choices.  God very much wants to be our Shepherd, but we must choose to make God our Shepherd.  We must deliberately choose to say, “baa!” and become one of the sheep of His pasture.

Can you declare the first five words of this great Shepherd Psalm as a personal confession of faith? Can you, yourself, personally confess with authentic faith, “the Lord is my Shepherd?”

People touch  me as they describe the way the Lord came into their lives, made them lie down and say, “baa!”  I am frequently concerned, however, when I fail to hear how that relationship is working in their lives today.  One of David’s most remarkable declarations in this psalm is that the blessings provided by his Shepherd-God are in place ‘all the days of my life.’

Be sure to make the observation that David’s great profession of faith is not, “The Lord was my Shepherd,” but that “The Lord is my Shepherd.”

When the Lord makes you to lie down and confess, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” you are also confessing that you are a sheep.  It’s  not very flattering when God tells us we are like sheep.  Sheep are not very smart… they are so ignorant they are completely helpless and hopeless without their shepherd. Yet, the Word of God clearly tells us that God wants to hear us agree with His appraisal of ourselves and confess, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.”  (Isaiah 53:6)

Years ago, I was out of bed at an early hour.  When my wife woke up, she asked why I was getting up at 4:30a.m.  I told her what I had read during my devotions: “When you wake up, get up, and when  you get up, do something for God and for His lambs!”  She responded, “baa!”  She was reminding me of something busy pastors often forget – that she and our five children are also His lambs.

Psalm 23 is filled with sheep talk that shows us that God wants to hear every one of us say, “baa!”

Dick Woodward, from Psalm 23 Sheep Talk

 

 


A Prayer for the Dark Valleys

October 21, 2014

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.”   (Psalm 23:4-5)

In your dark valleys, learn to pray in this manner:  “As I enter this valley, Lord, I will not be paralyzed by fear, because I believe You are with me.  Your ability to protect me and lead me through this valley is a comfort to me.  I know that in the darkest and scariest part of this valley, in the middle of all the life threatening danger, You will spread a table of provision for me.

I am trusting You completely to anoint me with the oil of Your individualized, personalized and attentive care.  I believe you will give me mercy for my failures and the grace I need to help me in my time of need.  You will also pursue me like a ‘Hound of Heaven’ with Your goodness, unconditional love and acceptance, when I wander away from Your loving care.”

Finally, thank your Good Shepherd-God that you can trust Him to lead you through this life to unbroken fellowship with Him forever in Heaven; to the green pastures that never turn brown, the still waters that never become disturbed, and the cup that never empties.

Offer this prayer to “the God of peace, Who brought up from the dead that great Shepherd of sheep, Who through the blood of the everlasting covenant, can make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”  (Hebrews 13:20-21)

Dick Woodward, from Psalm 23 Sheep Talk


God’s Mercy vs. our Failures

July 29, 2014

…& mercy shall follow me all the days of my life...”  (Psalm 23:6)

Mercy is the unconditional love of God. This word is found 366 times in the Bible. (Perhaps God wants us to know we need His mercy & unconditional love every day of the year – & He covers Leap Year!)  Many people think we don’t hear about God’s mercy until the Sermon on the Mount; however, we find 280 mercy references in the Old Testament.

King David concludes Psalm 100 with the observation that God’s mercy is everlasting.  But my favorite Old Testament reference to God’s mercy is found at the end of Psalm 23.  David’s greatest Psalm ends with the declaration that he is positively certain the mercy of God will follow him always.

The Hebrew word he uses for ‘follow’ can also be translated as ‘pursue.’  David brings the most profound description of the relationship between God & man to a conclusion by declaring the unconditional love of God will pursue him all the days of his life. By application this is true for all who confess, “the Lord is my Shepherd.”

There are many ways to fail. However, when we understand the meaning of God’s mercy we should realize that we cannot possibly out-fail His mercy.  No matter what your failures have been God has sent you a message wrapped in this five letter word “mercy.”  The amazing message is that you did not win His love by a positive performance and you do not lose His love by a negative performance.  God’s love and acceptance of you is unconditional.  According to David, the mercy of God is not only there like a rock for you, but like a hound of Heaven God is pursuing you with His unconditional love and forgiveness.

Dick Woodward, Happiness that Doesn’t Make Good Sense

 


Beside Still Waters

July 22, 2014

The Lord is my Shepherd … He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the still waters.”  (Psalm 23:1-2)

David tells us when we have thrown our hands up and offered an unconditional surrender, the Good Shepherd will then lead us “beside still waters.”  Most people think of peace when they read of still waters; however, the realities of sheep management tell us this relates to the fact that sheep can only drink from waters that are still as glass…

When we confess that the Lord is our Shepherd and we are His sheep, He leads us to a cluster of blessings that are tailor made just for us.

In 1979, after serving as the pastor of a large congregation in a big city for over two decades, I accepted a call of a church with 22 members in a small college town.  I have never been more certain of divine guidance than when I made that decision. At the time I was experiencing weird physical symptoms that my doctors thought were caused by the stress of a large church.

After my first year in the small church in the small town, I went to Mayo clinic for a complete work-up.  The doctors there diagnosed multiple sclerosis.  Because the doctor misread my record, he thought I was still the pastor of a big church in a big city.  He counseled me to move to a small church in a small town and learn to find my fulfillment in writing.  I was able to say to him, “Doctor, I’ve already been there for a year!”

I refer to my experience as ‘still waters’ because the small church gave me the time, and my disability gave me the discipline, to write… which led to an international ministry, now in 31 languages all over the world…

There is a stained glass window at the entrance to my home with a dove hovering over blue water and green pastures. Underneath there is a brass plate with two engraved words: Still Waters.  Those two words are not just the name of my home, but the label I write across more than 30 years in this location…

Can you look back over your life and see divine interventions that led to green pastures and still waters?

Dick Woodward,  Psalm 23 Sheep Talk

 Editor’s Note:  When Papa struggled through his last bout of suffering in the hospital on March 8th, his breathing became very agitated. We began reciting Psalm 23.  As we got to, “He leads me beside still waters,”  his face suddenly lit up with peace & his breathing immediately slowed as he passed on to the Still Waters of Heaven.  When we arrived home, I noticed the stain glass – “Still Waters”- and thought, wow.  God made Daddy lie down (literally) in green pastures, providing still waters in his life & even in his death.