Psalm 23 – Dwelling in the house of the Lord

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Psalm 23:6

So, we have come to the end of our reflection of Psalm 23. Normally when a story ends, we reach the end. There is no more to discover. The bad guy is defeated and the good guy lives happily ever after. The sheriff defeats the evil gunslinger and the old western town goes back to normal, life gets back to how it always was.

As we come to the end of Psalm 23 life hasn’t even begun to get back to normal and in truth it is more likely to become a lot more abnormal before it gets better. In many ways this is how Psalm 23 also ends.

Remember the Psalmist has been talking about walking through the dark valley he has talked of the table prepared in the presence of his enemies. There is no sense in how he ends this Psalm that those enemies or that dark tunnel has ended. We know from David’s life (the author of the Psalm) that his life continued to be one battle after another. One hardship, betrayal or sorrow followed one after the other, some his doing some because of family jealously.

Covid-19 is still with us and will continue to be with us. We continue to live separated from the ones we love, we continue to live with the fear of catching the virus or loved ones catching the virus.

Yet the Psalm doesn’t want us to focus on what is, but what will be.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord of ever.

Psalm 23 has constantly reminded us of God’s care, his provision in the face of our enemy. The Psalm has asked us trust in God, to rest in God to believe God will lead us through. The Psalm now ends with a plea to focus not on our enemy, COvid-19 or anything else, to not even focus on the table he has set before us, or the green pastures and still waters. Focus on the Lord as our shepherd himself. His promise that his goodness and love will always follow us, surround us and that we will dwell in his house for ever.

God’s promise in Jesus Christ, that all who believe shall not perish but have eternal life, that they will have the God’s goodness and love forever, that they will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever is not affected by any circumstance.

So our reflection on this Psalm ends with the plea to hope by focusing on God and his promise of Jesus Christ. Why not use this version of Psalm 23 to reflect on all that God has promised to each and every one of us.

Prayer Heavenly Father forgive us for focusing on what is happening to us. Forgive us for being preoccupied by the here and now. Lift our eyes upward and forward. Lift our eyes onto Jesus, the cross and the heavenly promises you have made to each one of us. Lord, we trust in you, we hope in you. Amen

Psalm 23 -You anoint my head with oil

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Psalm 23:5

Yesterday we thought about how even in the middle of all the chaos that is going on around us, God prepares a table for us. We can trust God; we can rest at his table in the confidence that the Lord is my shepherd and so he will lead us to those good pastures and quite waters.

It was common at grand banquets for the well to do for the guests to have their heads anointed with oil. In Mark 14:3-9 we read the story of Jesus head being anointed with very expensive perfume. In Luke’s gospel Jesus points out this woman honoured him in a way his host did not.

It is not just that God provides for us in the face of our enemies, it is that he honours us with incredible abundance. The compassion and care of God is not just equal to our enemies it is greater than our enemies. So much so my cup overflows. God is more than can be contained.

Yesterday we took time to think about how we trust in God, if we trust God enough to entrust family and friends into his care. Today we are being challenged to trust in God’s abundant care, to know that when we leave our family with him, he is more than able.

To be clear this is not a promise that the current crisis will somehow miraculously vanish, whether that crisis is Covid-19, family hardships, grief, illness or persecution. It is a promise that through the crisis of life God’s care is more than enough.

Why not use this video to reflect on our trust and faith in an abundant God.

Prayer Heavenly Father we thank you for your incredible, abundant care for your people. We thank you that for you to be our shepherd means that you watch over us, always. Father teach us to trust in your care, to rest in how you are always watching over us. Amen

Psalm 23 – The table

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

Psalm 23:5

There is a Christian film called God’s not dead. It is the story of how a university lecturer who is an atheist and a Christian student interact with one another. In the film a pastor receives a visit from an African colleague who reminds him of this saying.

God is good all the time, all the time God is good.  

This is what the Psalmist is reminding us of as he declares you prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. During the battle, when war is raging all around us, when we are distancing ourselves from one another to stop the spread of infection, when we worry about loved ones who cannot get home. God is good all the time, all the time God is good.
The question we are faced with when confronted with this part of Psalm 23, is will we trust God enough to sit down and eat at the table he has prepared, will we commit loved ones, worrying situations and fear of infection into God’s hands believing he will prepare a table for them just as much as he does for us?
This is a much shorter reflection, because it really does require time and space for us to think. Will we trust God and so eat of the table or will we miss out on the table because we won’t trust God?
God is good all the time, all the time God is good.

Prayer Father forgive our arrogance when we believe we have a better understanding of what needs to be done than you. Teach us through the worry and anxiety of these days to trust you not just with our salvation, but with our loved ones. Elderly relatives we can no longer visit, son’s and daughters who can’t come to us. Lord, into your hands we commit their well-being, at your table we take rest from worry. In Jesus name, amen.

Psalm 23 – Comfort me

Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

Psalm 23: 4

What does it mean to fear no evil? Some would say evil cannot touch us. But when we take time to consider this it makes no sense. If evil cannot touch us then how was it the apostle Paul faced so many beatings, shipwrecks and prison terms. Job was certainly deeply affected by evil when his family and all he had were taken from him. Jesus suffered the evil of the cross.

Coronavirus has certainly been no respecter of religious conviction or belief. Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist… all have been affected alike. Another reason why it is important to heed the advice of social separation and washing hands.

The palmist is not advocating evil will not touch us, he is stating he has no fear of evil, which is a very different thing. Next Sunday at our online church service at 12 noon we will be thinking about the man born blind in John 9. When Jesus was asked why he was born blind, if it was his sin or his parents, he answered by saying neither. The man’s blindness was to demonstrate God’s glory – which was shown in how he was healed.

The psalmist fears no evil because he knows he can depend upon a demonstration of God’s glory. What is that glory. Surely God’s glory is in the promised return of Jesus Christ. Revelation 22:20 tells us, ‘He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ God’s glory is in Jesus promise to the thief on the cross, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.’ (Luke 2:42)

Psalm 23 is all about the shepherd, the Lord, who leads his sheep and the protection he affords to them. The psalmist fears no evil because of his utter confidence in the one who leads him through the dark valley and so no matter what evil befalls him he knows that final destination of still waters and green pastures where he can lie down in peace will be his.

This is his comfort and protection.

Can we say that we fear no evil? We might well be worried about catching Covid-19, who wouldn’t, but do we fear it or is our confidence in the one who leads us through, who will return and when he does it is to take us to be with him in paradise.

Prayer Father, we thank you for the complete confidence we can have in you. A confidence that goes beyond what any illness, circumstance or happenstance can force upon us. Thank you for the promised inheritance of 1 Peter 1:4 and so Lord we ask that today you would enable our faith in