WOL Newsletter 182: Jus Chillin Wit My Shep
April 3, 2016
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Edited by Stacie Thomas

My favorite imagery of Psalm 23: "Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me". I've always thought of the rod as the reprimand and the staff as the security. I find this comforting; I need Someone strong enough to reprimand me and point me in the right direction, yet loving enough to protect me through it. And Who better than Jesus? I think that's what our real problem is- we don't understand how He can be a Disciplinarian and Protector in One. But He's everything we need; and all we could ever want. We're just too dumb, dirty, defenseless and distracted to get Him.

Jus Chillin' Wit My Shep

Psalm 23:1-6: This Psalm is so familiar, that most of us miss the depth of its meaning. This Psalm is placed perfectly after Psalm 22, the Messianic Psalm describing the crucifixion. Jesus states in John 10: 11-16 that He is the Shepherd.
The Lord is my shepherd (Jehovah Rohi): God uses this term for Himself frequently; but in Biblical times a shepherd was looked down upon (dirty, untrustworthy, unable to be a legal witness). They were usually the youngest, least important son (as with David). God uses the description of ‘sheep’ for His people over 200 times. There are four important facts about sheep: 1) they are dumb (no training), mindless followers (don’t we follow [the media, the crowd…]; we often don’t think on our own). 2) they are prone to wander, regardless of how protected they are, and provided for. 3) they are dirty (and can’t do anything to clean themselves); their wool grows continually until the shepherd shaves them; the wool gets dirty and thick—forming parasites, which will eventually kill them—only anointing them with oil will removed this dirt. Without the Shepherd, the sheep would simply die in its own filth. 4) they are defenseless; most animals have a fight, flight, camouflage or posture ‘defense’. They have no fangs, claws or aggression; they can’t run quickly; they are white ‘fluff-balls’ on an open landscape; they don’t look mean, or make a ferocious sound. Think: sheep will die if left unshaved (due to filth, and the weight of their coats); they will die by falling over and not being able to right themselves: we are like this! We have no idea our helpless we are before Satan and sin; Jesus sees our helplessness and arrogance and has such love and compassion because He is the Good Shepherd.
I shall not want: not about living a life of prosperity and peace; it is about peace, strength, fellowship with God in the midst of strife—receiving what you need to make it through. You will never lack for anything that is necessary and good for you. (If there’s something that you don’t have, but ‘need’, in God’s wisdom, you don’t truly need it) God gives us exactly what He knows we need. We must stop living life with our mind set on all that we want and don’t have, missing the blessings we have by our Great Shepherd.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters: God wants us to lie down and take our rest in His Peace- in spite of danger and anxiety. (Sheep are worriers by nature and will refuse to lie down if they sense danger, social friction within the flock, have parasites, worried about food/water). He promises to provide all we need, and tells us to lie down in His Peace and take rest. Our worries steal the joy and rest we c/should have, and sometimes He has to put something in our lives to make us stop, rest and find peace. ‘Leads’: sheep by nature fear loud, rushing water; shepherds would find quiet pools of water or divert water from streams to create fresh pools to drink from.
He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake: ‘He restores my soul’ is a direct effect of allowing Him to lead you to still waters and be refreshed in Him. (Psalm 46:10) ‘He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake’ refers to following the shepherd to stay safe.
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: (so far David used pronouns ‘He, His’, now he addresses God directly). ‘valley of death’: tsalmaveth (deepest, thickest darkness): it is in the darkest time of life that you will not be swallowed in fear, because God is with you. ‘the rod’ was shorter club kept in the shepherd’s belt (used to strike or throw at predators). ‘the staff’ was a long, hooked stick used to guide and pull sheep to safety. He will be with you through the valleys, protecting and redirecting you, until you get to the next pasture.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over: God stresses that we will have enemies and difficult times, but He promises to set out a table for us. (Hosting someone at your table was an acceptance and special fellowship in Hebrew culture) He is waiting and wanting your fellowship, even in the middle of strife with your enemies, to show your trust that He is sovereign and they can’t touch you without permission. He wants your focus to be on His love and fellowship in the midst of strife—not on the strife itself; He doesn’t want you to wait until all is well to sit and fellowship with Him intimately—hard times are the most important of all for fellowship. (When Jesus was invited by the Pharisee Simon to a dinner at his home, supposedly as an honored guest, the Pharisee purposefully shamed and disrespected Jesus by not washing His feet or anointing His head as the honored guest (Luke 7:44-46) (Hebrew culture traveling men would have to stop for food and refreshing along the way at a stranger's house, because there were few innkeepers then;  an especially honored guest had his head anointed with oil, as a symbol of that honor and worth placed upon him by the host; and at the end of the meal prepared for a sojourner, the host would pour him a symbolic cup of wine—if he filled it half-full, it meant the host’s obligatory kindness was fulfilled and the traveler must move on; but if the cup was filled to overflowing, he was accepted by the family and the offer to stay on with them was given (up to traveler now). God is showing us the utmost of acceptance and love in the middle of our trials; He’s saying to come and sit at the table He prepared so you can have an intimate fellowship in the time you need it most.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever: God promises His goodness (given in His wisdom) and mercy (unmerited acceptance) will be with us for all our days on earth, and that we will be with Him in the New Jerusalem for all eternity when it all ends.

Upcoming Events:

April 8: FLOCK in 6pm SHARP
April 17: Fellowship Luncheon
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