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

Psalm 23 – going through the valley

Even though I walk through the darkest valley….

Psalm 23:4

The one message that seems to be coming out of Boris Johnston’s daily press conference is that we will come through all this.

Rishi Sunak

Even yesterday as the Chancellor announced another package of measures to help those who have lost their jobs or who are in danger of losing their jobs he said,

‘Now more than at any time in our history, we will be judged by our capacity for compassion. When this is over, and it will be over, we want to look back on this moment & remember the many small acts of kindness, done by us and to us’

There is a practical reality to what we are being told. This virus will run its course like any other virus, and we will come through it.

Of-course it is one thing to say that the virus will pass but what about everyone whose jobs have been affected, whose lives have been damaged and who mourn – people the world over. The Psalmist is being very clear, even though I walk through the darkest valley…

The government can only promise the virus will pass, they can make no predictions or promises about the future. The Psalmist is saying more to us. He is saying that all our troubles will pass, all our pains, all our sorrow all our mourning will pass.

This is not a promise to end our sorrow today, but tomorrow when Christ returns all of this, all the questions, all the uncertainty they will be swallowed up.

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Revelation 21: 1-4

We should remember the psalmist is saying this in the context that the Lord is my shepherd. The promise of walking through the valley is for those who are being shepherded by the Lord. The good news is that Jesus said there are many sheep which he is to bring into his sheepfold.

I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

John 10:16

The good news is that Jesus is calling, he stands at the door and knocks… how will we respond to Jesus call. Will we follow his voice and become part of his flock traveling through the valley or will we continue to flounder in the valley?

Prayer Father we thank you for the way you lead us through not only this crisis but every part of life into that new heaven and new earth. Forgive us for how we can sometimes doubt your leading. Help all of us to respond to your call by submitting to you and beginning to follow your voice. In Jesus name, amen.

Psalm 23 – He guides me along the right paths

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

Psalm 23 1-3

At our last Sunday evening service in Second Kilrea Presbyterian Church we started to learn one of Matt Redman’s songs.

Matt Redman “Blessed be your name”

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out, I’ll
Turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say…

This song is a reminder that life is never straightforward. It is filled with ups and downs, celebrations and mourning, joy and tears in almost equal measure. Yet the Psalmist is reminding us that throughout it all we can be sure that ‘He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.’

Society would have us believe that everything possible should be done to minimise our pain, our suffering or maybe even our inconvenience. Is it possible God is leading us through the inconvenience of school closures, the uncertainty of exams being cancelled and actually it is how we follow him and trust him that will mark us out as his people?

Prayer Father, thank you we can be certain of your leading. Thank you there is never a circumstance or occurrence outside of your control. Continue to lead us we pray, and may how we react, what we say and do demonstrate our complete trust in you: Even through these unprecedented days. Amen  

Psalm 23 He leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul

…he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.

Psalm 23:2-3

This is a picture of the river Agivey which flows beside the manse. Part of the manse garden forms the bank of the river and I can walk along the bank for quite some distance through the fields. This river is one of the things that makes this an incredible place to live. It really does refresh the soul.

I can only imagine what it must have been like for the Psalmist in a hot a dusty land to be led by the Lord, his shepherd, to a place of quiet waters, a place to rest, drink and be refreshed. I’m guessing when all the restrictions are finally eased and people across the Europe and the world get back to normal, we will experience something of the refreshment the Psalmist is talking about.

Yet even this won’t do justice to what Psalm 23 is describing. In many ways the things we are having to give up such as cinema, meals out, sporting occasions they are all fleeting. They come and go; we will get used to life without them and who knows maybe we won’t want to go back to the old way of life anyway.

The refreshment that comes from God is deep seated, it is that peace that allows us to lie down in green pastures. This refreshment is not something that comes after this crisis is past. It is a refreshment that allows us to face Covid-19 safe in the knowledge that God has and is refreshing us, equipping us not to protect us from all that must be faced, but enabling us to face it.

Be still my soul the Lord is on thy side
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain
Leave to thy God to order and provide
In every change He faithful will remain
Be still my soul thy best, thy heavenly friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end

Read again the words of Psalm 46 Be still and know that I am God… and meditate on what it is to be beside those still waters and to have our soul refreshed. Is this time when we are forced to slow down and do less an opportunity to reorder our lives and know God’s refreshing by still waters?

Prayer Father forgive us for how busy our lives have been. Forgive us for how we have found time for so many other things and not for you. Help us to use this time of enforced isolation, quietness and peace to reflect on you, to be still before you and so know the refreshment of your still waters. Amen

Psalm 23 – He makes me lie down in green pastures

He makes me lie down in green pastures

Psalm 23:2

Anyone in Moneydig will tell you that what I know about farming you could write on the back of a postage stamp. It stands to reason then what I know about sheep wouldn’t fill the back of a postage stamp. Yet what I do know about sheep is that they are incredibly skittish. When I go out for a walk and pass a field of sheep, they run from the sound of my footsteps.

To lie down brings contentment, it is a sign of safety at peace with the world.

The Psalmist is reminding us that because the Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures.  We can be at peace with the world, we can be at peace with the news so many more of us will have to self-isolate, because we know the Lord is our shepherd, we lack nothing in him and so we can be still before him.

When we must take so many precautions against this virus it is easy to think that it has the upper hand, that somehow, we, or worse God, are fighting a rear-guard action. This is not the case. We can lie down in peace knowing God is our shepherd.

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
    Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
    and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
    and spreads them out like a tent to live in.

Isaiah 40:21-22

The psalmist in Psalm 46 goes further, he not only reminds us that we can be still before God, but he commands that we be still before God.

Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Psalm 46:10 – 11

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures… Let us remember today the confidence we have in God.

Prayer Father, we thank you for who you are. That you are God and that you will be exalted among the nations. Thank you this means even amid this Corona Virus outbreak that we can have confidence that you will indeed lead us to green pastures where we can lie down in peace. We pray today for all who are worried, for all who fear the future, asking that you would lead them to that place of peace and security. Amen