Provocative Devotion: Psalm 24

I cannot read this Psalm without thinking of Jesus as he entered Jerusalem on what would eventually become known as Palm Sunday. It was the beginning of the final week of his life before being crucified for us. As he made his way towards Jerusalem it seemed as if the entire city came out to meet him and escort him into the city as a triumphant hero. People worshipped him. They cried out for salvation, rescue, from Jesus whom they would make king. That is all but the religious leaders. They wanted people to be quiet and implored Jesus to rebuke the crowd. But Jesus made it clear that if the crowd did not shout praise, then the very rocks and trees would do so. In this Psalm the King of Glory is entering the gates of Jerusalem and sure enough the very rocks and trees are crying out. The gates of Jerusalem are praising the king. They open wide to welcome him.

The earth is the Lord‘s and the fullness thereof,
    the world and those who dwell therein,
for he has founded it upon the seas
    and established it upon the rivers.

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
    And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
    who does not lift up his soul to what is false
    and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord
    and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
    who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah

Lift up your heads, O gates!
    And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
    The Lord, strong and mighty,
    the Lord, mighty in battle!
Lift up your heads, O gates!
    And lift them up, O ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is this King of glory?
    The Lord of hosts,
    he is the King of glory! Selah

If inanimate objects like city gates, rocks, and trees are somehow crying out in praise to the King fo Glory, how can I keep silent? How can I not shape my whole life towards the worship of the King? Jesus did not lay down His life because the rocks and trees had sinned and needed forgiveness. No! He laid down His life because I have sinned and I need forgiveness and salvation. The King of Glory has conquered sin and death for me and I must praise Him. I must greet Him outside the city gate and escort Him in as a conquering hero, worthy of all my praise and all my devotion and all my life.

Provocative Devotion: One More Thought on Psalm 23

Shortly after becoming a follower of Jesus I read a book titled, “In the Presence of Mine Enemies”. It was written by an American soldier, Captain Howard Rutledge, who was help captive as a POW during the war in Vietnam. The title obviously comes from verse 5 of the Psalm,

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

Captain Rutledge wrote about how he and a few other POW’s were able to piece together the words of this Psalm from memory and how it gave them the strength to endure their brutal captivity. I remember thinking how amazing it was that these men were living this Psalm in ways most people could never even begin to imagine. They were able to believe that God was actually caring for them in the very presence of an enemy that was torturing them on a regular basis. In reading that I was struck by the notion that the Word of God is indeed powerful. It corrects, rebukes, comforts, and strengthens. Even in the face of anguish and suffering at the hands of evil incarnate, God is able to bless HIs own to overflowing.

Captain Rutledge and his fellow prisoners allowed the Word fo God to minister to them. They received the power and comfort that can only come from that Word and did not let the circumstances of their surroundings negate the Word. If those men could do that in a prison cell in Vietnam, if Jesus could do that in the Garden and on the Cross, why can’t I do that in the relative comfort and safety of my life?

Provocative Devotion: Further Thoughts on Psalm 23

So often our prayers are for God to deliver us from harm by removing us from the situation in which harm is a possibility. David never asks that of the Lord in this Psalm. Rather what David does is declare his confidence that God is with him in the midst of those times of extreme danger.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,[c]
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

David assumes that there will be times when he must walk through the valley. He does not pray for God to give him an easier road around the valley. He declares that he is confident in the midst of the valley, knowing the Lord is with him. That is what a Good Shepherd does. He realizes that at times He must take the sheep through, not around, the danger. There is such a confidence that comes in knowing you are not alone. Just knowing that God is by your side is enough to give you the strength to walk through the valley of the shadow of death without fear. You know that the Lord is with you.

This is true on a purely human level. When others are with us we gain strength in the numbers and in the common bond we share. How much more so should it be true that we gain strength from Jesus presence and from the bond we share with Him, being in Christ. The strength that is gained, the confidence that is experienced, the relationship that is built by going through the valley with Jesus are far greater than what we would experience if He always led us around the valley.

Fear not for He is with you. Whatever you are walking through today, do not be afraid. The Lord is with you. Do not be anxious that He has not led you around the valley but rather rejoice that He is in the valley with you.

Provocative Devotion: Psalm 23

There i certainly no more beloved and quoted Psalm than the 23rd Psalm. It is nearly a standard reading in almost every funeral or memorial service I have conducted, most often at the request of the family. The comfort derived from the description of the Good Shepherd has been a hallmark of this Psalm for 3,000 years.

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.[a]
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness[b]
    for his name’s sake.

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

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely[d] goodness and mercy[e] shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell[f] in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Jesus was and is the ultimate fulfillment of this Psalm. He claimed the title of Good Shepherd for Himself in John 10:11 when he says, “I am the Good Shepherd. The Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”. He also demonstrated that He is the Good Shepherd in Mark chapter 6 when He directed the 5,000 to sit down on the green grass, reminiscent of the green pastures of Psalm 23. After feeding the 5,000 there was a huge overflow of food, reminiscent of our cup overflowing. Jesus is out Good Shepherd. He is the one who promised to be with us always and never leave nor forsake us. The Lord Jesus is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. All my need are met in Christ. Hallelujah and Amen.