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    Psalm 23: The Lord Is My Shepherd

    Part 14 August 26, 2020 Pastor Jeff Bell

    “For You Are With Me”

     

    Today is my final devotional blog dedicated to the 23rd psalm and I would like to think I have saved the best for last.  If you have been following these musings, you may be thinking, “Didn’t he cover the last line of the psalm (‘And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.’) last week?”  That is true, but through this journey, I intentionally left out one stanza, which is unquestionably the most important line in David’s entire psalm.

     

    As a simple recap, let me help point out the obvious:  David’s psalm begins by acknowledging Israel’s God as his “shepherd.”  David then ends his psalm by acknowledging the promise, “I well dwell in the house of the Lord (His shepherd) forever.”  This implies God is with us, both in the present and in our future; both on our earthly travels and in our eternal dwellings.  If you were to reduce down this psalm to just one idea, it would be, God is with us! We clearly see this at the beginning of the psalm and at the end, but we often miss where this assurance is most explicitly given to us, right at the very heart of the psalm.  In verse four we find this truth boldly stated for us: “For you are with me!”

     

    This is where I need to pause and point out something incredibly cool!  But sadly, something we easily miss as Westerners looking at an ancient Semitic text.  In our Western and English tradition, when we communicate through writing and speech, we generally put the most important information at the beginning and at the end or our communications.  We start with a stated premise, we then follow up with a number of points and paragraphs to help support our premise, and then we wrap-up and repackage our big idea with a succinct and hopefully powerful conclusion.  In ancient Hebrew, they also liked strong introductions and conclusions, but more importantly, and in contrast to what we expect, they regularly put their most important idea, right smack-dab in the middle of their literary structures.  This is often referred to as, “ring” composition (*for the more technical minded, it is also referred to as a “chiastic” structure), which is an ingenious and beautiful form of literary construction.  It works by matching themes and ideas throughout the poem in, hopefully, a perfect ring format, where the first point matches up nicely with the last point; the second point matches with the second last point, and so forth, until one gets to the centre of the poem. Then found at the poem’s centre is a single stand alone assertion that stands out and shines forth like a sparkling diamond on a golden engagement band.  The 23rd psalm has one of the purest of all ring compositions found in the Bible (*and lucky for us it still translates beautifully into English), and we dare not miss the truth that stands at the very heart of David’s psalm:

     

    A - The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want…

    B - He makes me lie down in green pastures,  He leads my beside the still waters…

    C - He restores my soul…

    D - He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake…

    E - Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…

    FI will fear no evil…

    G - FOR YOU ARE WITH ME!!!

    F - Your rod and staff, they comfort me…

    E - You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…

    D - You anoint my head with oil…

    C - My cup runs over…

    BSurely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…

    A - And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever…

     

    Another way of looking at it, is to rewrite it by connecting all the rings together.  When we rewrite it this way, now in good Western literary fashion, notice what  line shines as the newly placed conclusion:

     

    The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.

    And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

    He makes me lie down in green pastures,  

    He leads my beside the still waters.

    Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.

    He restores my soul.

    My cup runs over.

    He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

    You anoint my head with oil.

    Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

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

    I will fear no evil.

    Your rod and staff, they comfort me.

    FOR YOU ARE WITH ME!!!

     

    A final way to consider Psalm 23 is to see it as a treasure map that reveals for us the treasure we commonly celebrate at Christmas.  One of the names Jesus is given at birth is the name Immanuel: 

     

    (Matthew 1:23) “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”  Psalm 23 lays out for us the gospel truth of Immanuel, “God with us!”  

     

    This God of David, who David is calling on us to make our shepherd, to make our king, and to acknowledge as our Immanuel, is the one who is with us today, tomorrow and beyond…

     

    The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want… For you are with me… And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever!

    Comment

    On Wednesday, August 26, 2020, Brenda Mcilveen said:

    Thank you Pastor Jeff A better understanding Love the 23rd psalm

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