Psalm 23: “baa! baa! baa!”

November 13, 2018

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

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

People often 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 don’t 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 “The Lord is my Shepherd.”

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

Many years ago I was out of bed at an early hour. When my wife Ginny 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! baa! baa!” She was reminding me of something busy pastors often forget – that she and our five children are also God’s lambs.

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

Dick Woodward, from Psalm 23 Sheep Talk


Three Living Perspectives

October 21, 2012

When Job prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes. In fact, the LORD gave him twice as much as before!”   (Job 42:10)

What may be the oldest book in the Bible answers the question: “Why do God’s people suffer?” Many people are familiar with the book of Job but have a shallow understanding of its message.  They think it is just the story of a wealthy, godly man who lost everything and still worshiped God.

This is actually the story of a suffering, godly man who learned three perspectives we must ‘get together’  if we are going to be the kind of person God wants us all to be.  Job looks in with his friends to find the answer to the why of his suffering.  This led him and them nowhere.  He is told to look up.  He does and dialogs with God in a whirlwind. This profoundly changes him forever.

When God rebukes his friends because everything they told Job about himself and God was wrong, Job prays for his friends.  When he looks  around and prays for his friends,  God richly blessed him and doubles all he lost.

This old saga of suffering tells us that if we want to be a together person we must first look up and get our vertical perspective and relationship with God together.  Then we must look in and confess what God wants us to know about those internal issues that make us tick right.

Only those who have looked up and looked in as directed by God are qualified to look around and be part of God’s solution in the horizontal dimension of relationships.

Is God using the circumstances of your life to teach you to look up, in, and around as you should?


A Beautiful Word

August 28, 2012

“Surely Your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life…” (Psalm 23:6 NLT)

Mercy is the unconditional love of God.  This beautiful word is found three hundred and sixty-six times in the Bible.  (Perhaps God wants us to know we need His unconditional love, every day of the year – and He even covers Leap Year!)  Many people think we don’t hear about the mercy of God in the Bible until we get to the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew.  However, two hundred and eighty of these references to the mercy of God are found in the Old Testament.

My favorite Old Testament reference to the mercy of God is found in the last verse of the Twenty-third Psalm.  David ends his greatest Psalm with the declaration that he is positively certain the mercy of God will follow him all the days of his life. The Hebrew word he uses here for “follow” is a word that can also be translated “pursue.”  David brings the most profound and eloquent description of the relationship between God and man ever written to a conclusion by making the declaration that the unconditional love of God will pursue him all the days of his life.  By application, this is true for any of us who will confess our sins.

There are so many ways to fail.  When we understand the meaning of the mercy of God, however, we should realize that we cannot possibly out-fail His mercy.  As I place my failures on a scale, I like to place all those times the Bible uses the word “mercy” on the scale opposite my failures.  I invite you to do the same thing no matter how horrible you think your sins are.


A Right Question When We’re Hurting

August 3, 2012

“… what does He receive from your hand?”      (Job 35:7)

Not many devout people are disillusioned when they see wicked people suffer; however, the people of God are often faith-challenged when the godly suffer.  For thousands of years devout souls have been asking God, “Why do the righteous suffer?”

The book of Job is the longest, most profound and comprehensive answer to that question in the Bible.  If this is the oldest book in the Bible, then the very first truth God wanted to teach us is His answer to this primary ‘why question’ of His hurting people.

The way this ancient “Saga of Suffering” answers that question turns on a question Job asked his wife.  God had given Satan permission to take every possession he had, including his ten children (Job 2:3).  Then God permitted Satan to take Job’s health.  When he lost his health and was suffering from a dreadful disease, his wife told him he should curse God and die.  He responded to her cheerful counsel by asking, “Shall we accept good from the hand of God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10 NIV)

The essence of Job’s question was, “What should a righteous man expect God to put in his hand because he is living a righteous life?”  The answer to Job’s question is found in a discourse of a young man named, Elihu.  He told Job he was asking the wrong question.  He should be asking, “What is He receiving from your hand?” (Job 35: 7 NIV)

If you are hurting, or when you do, ask God the right question.  What have you done for Him lately?  What are you putting in His hand?


A Prescription for Learning the Word of God

July 20, 2012

“… that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”   (Deuteronomy 8:3)

These words are taken from one of the great sermons Moses preached after the children of Israel were delivered from Egypt just before they invaded the land of Canaan.  They had wandered in a terrible wilderness for 40 years in which they suffered every imaginable hardship.  In this sermon God tells them through Moses that He was using all that suffering to make them know every word that He has ever spoken.

By devotional and personal application we can realize that this is one of the ways we learn the Word of God today.  God is our Mentor and He does His most effective mentoring when we are in difficult places.  While facing crises and challenges that overwhelm us God makes us know His Word.  Every adversity God permits or directs into our lives is redemptive and is an opportunity for us to let God make us know His Word.

God is fiercely committed to the proposition that we are going to grow spiritually into perfection or completeness and maturity.  The first chapter of the letter of James informs us that God’s trials should not be treated like intruders but welcomed as friends because they are sent from God.  He does this because He wants us to be perfect or complete and lacking nothing.  Jesus told us to be perfect even as our Heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).

So when those tough times come sit up and pay attention.  God has come to the front of the classroom and He is about to teach us His Word.