27 July – Additional Notes

PSALM 23: THE WORLD’S GREATEST SHEPHERD

The series through the Psalms (spiritual songs and poems about the Creator God) continues this week as King David of Israel (who had once been a shepherd boy) now puts into poetic song his personal experience of the Lord being his shepherd. This Psalm is perhaps the most well-known of all the Psalms. It’s been adapted and used in modern worship songs for centuries. Due to its peaceful ideas of rest most especially in Father God’s presence forever, it is often used at funerals today. But I noticed something in the Book of Exodus a couple of years back and it changed my perspective in a permanent way when it comes to my Maker leading me through this often wilderness journey and rocky terrain of Life on Planet Earth.

After having been ‘redeemed’ out of slavery and saved from their life that almost certainly led to early death, about two million people in the newly formed Israel nation fled ancient Egypt in what is almost certainly the world’s greatest mass exodus. This traveling people group of refugees became a nation under the Creator God. It was the beginnings of a People Group who were to be set apart from the world to follow the Creator God wherever He led them. After telling them to celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the first fruits and the Festival of Ingathering, the Creator God immediately goes on to say this:

“See, I am sending My angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place that I have prepared. Pay attention to him, listen to what he says and obey his voice. Do not rebel against him; for he will not forgive your rebellion (transgression/sin), since My Name is in Him. If you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will…” [Exodus 23:20-22a]

This is a hugely important statement that the Creator God is making here. For a God whose first commandment states that there is no other gods except Him, this moment in the Book of Exodus holds a significant and timeless gemstone woven into the storyline from the past: the Creator God is not working alone. There is someone else out there who has His name INSIDE Him[a] – it’s in Him or part of His DNA. There’s someone out there and we’re to listen to and truly obey His voice[b], which at the same time means doing all what the Creator God says – i.e. His words are synonymous with this other person’s voice. So in an unbelievable way, this sentence shows that the Creator is using this person’s voice and God’s own instructions interchangeably – his voice is equal to God’s Word.[c]  In addition, this Someone has been given authority to judge whether or not to forgive us[d], if we rebel against His lead. In every way, this person is a SHEPHERD[e] who is now assigned to lead Father God’s “sheep” on a journey that will ultimately finish at “the place that Father God has prepared in advance for us to go”.[f]

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep…I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.” [John 10:11,14-16]

This song is short and comes in two parts. The first part v1-3 is about what the Creator God does for His own Name’s sake. In other words, we may experience these things when we haven’t believed in Him. Because of this, we may be tempted to say that Life dealt us a great hand. Perhaps we’ve made good choices, we think. We’re one of the lucky ones who managed to find ourselves not ‘in want’ [v1] and we put it down to our hard work. Compared to others whose lives are in disarray, our life is like being in green pastures and living beside still waters [v2] because we’re lucky enough to have good kids who have lived by life’s rules and a spouse that loves us. Or else, we say, we’ve avoided marriage and ties and stayed clear of relationships in order to have a peaceful soul and a path through a non-turbulent life! [v3]

But whether we believe in Him and His Word or not, it is from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come.[g] And there’s pretty much only one reason for good coming in this song today: it’s for His Name’s sake. He wants us to acknowledge His existence and know Him by Name. Many of us who do know Him, can tell you how He was good to us BEFORE we came to know Him. Through His goodness and mercy all the days of my life – even in those pre-knowledge years – I have come to know Him by His many names.

If the first half of this song relates to what we experience when connected to Him, the second half of the song relates to the Creator God’s Plans for us… the ultimate goal: to dwell with Him in His House forever. [v6] That journey through this life on Planet Earth can certainly be like traveling through the Valley of the Shadow of Death – death will come to every single one of us and no-one is immune, whether that is real death or a metaphoric shadow of death hanging over our life path. Father God like all Good Father’s will lead His children using a rod (for discipline) at times, and a staff (for wisdom and guiding comfort) at times. [v4] Just as you wouldn’t discipline the neighbours kids – you are responsible for them flushing their lives down the toilet – our Father God only disciplines the one’s a loves.[h]

And why go through the ‘school of knocks’ here on earth? Because He’s planning a banqueting table[i] and He’s planning on anointing your head with oil – a thing that is only done to kings so that your cup (symbolic of the kings cup of wine that overflows to prosperity and peace – the likes of which was only ever fully experienced by King Solomon of Israel) and all this in full display front of those who had once been your mockers, your abusers, and your enemies. [v5] As the World Greatest Shepherd, His plan for His sheep is goodness and lovingkindness all our lives[j] – if only we would follow Him. And if that isn’t enough, He’s also got everlasting LIFE planned ahead for ever and ever and ever. Amen! Let it be so! The Spirit and the Bride both say “Come!”[k] May there be no more delays![l]

CLICK to return to today’s “Daily Breadcrumbs”

[a] Isaiah 9:6

[b] John 10:3-4

[c] John 1:1,2&14

[d] Matthew 9:1-8

[e] John 10:11

[f] John 14:2-3

[g] Lamentations 3:38

[h] Proverbs 3:11-12 & Hebrews 12:5-7 (Referencing v6)

[i] Matthew 8:11

[j] Jeremiah 29:11

[k] Revelation 22:17

[l] Ezekiel 12:28 & Revelation 10:6

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