Thursday, February 16, 2017

"My Cup Overflows"

The 23rd Psalm
“My cup overflows” (Psalm 23:5c)
How was it possible for David to include the words “my cup overflows” in this Psalm? Is he thinking only about his experience as the shepherd of a flock of sheep, or was he reminiscing about his life?
   Wasn’t David the one who committed adultery with Bathsheba and then murdered her husband, Uriah? Wasn’t he guilty of a grand cover-up, but was exposed by a “whistle-blower” – God? Who would ever think that Israel’s mighty and powerful king with servants to do his bidding would suffer hard times! Two of his own sons, Absalom and Adonijah, turned against him and tried to steal his throne. One of David’s trusted advisors betrayed him, and his army chief deserted him. Yet in spite of all this turmoil, David sang, “My cup overflows.”
   Surely, David had in mind his job as shepherd of the sheep. Drawing water for the sheep was an ominous task. Wells were deep and the only way to get water was with a long rope with a leather bucket. It’d take a lot of water to quench the thirst of a “mob” of sheep. How many hours would it take? How many buckets of water would be needed?
   This reminds me of Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman by the well outside Sychar. In the course of their conversation about water, Jesus said,
“Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”(Jn 4:14)
   Just think of it! One drink of the life giving water that Jesus possessed provided eternal life – but that’s not all. Through daily faith that life-giving water keeps on coming and continuously overflows with eternal life. The shepherd boy, David, had placed his faith in the right source and as a result he could say without a doubt – “my cup overflows.”
   Is your “cup overflowing?”

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for your sacrifice that keeps my cup overflowing.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

"You anoint my head with oil"

The 23rd Psalm
“You anoint my head with oil…” (Psalm 23:5b)
The hot days of summer are a special challenge to the shepherd. Summer is the time when insects and parasites are the most active and the shepherd must keep a close watch on the sheep. When he sees the sheep rubbing and banging their heads on brush and other objects he knows that the nasal fly has made its appearance. These nasty insects attempt to lay their eggs on the damp nucous membranes of the sheep’s nose. In a few days, if successful, the eggs with hatch to form small, slender, worm-like larvae. Unless the shepherd takes immediate action these larvae will work their way up the sheep’s nasal passage into its head and burrow into the flesh. To free the sheep of this irritation and severe inflammation, the shepherds in the Middle East take a home remedy consisting of olive oil mixed with sulfur and spices and rub it on the sheep’s nose and head.
   In the Christian life, our thoughts, ideas, emotions, choices, impulses, and desires are all shaped and molded through the exposure of our minds to other people, mass media, and other schemes of the evil one. In order to counteract the influences of our worldly tormentors, we need to follow the urging of our Good Shepherd and ask the Heavenly Father for His anointing oil of the Holy Spirit. It is this daily anointing of the Holy Spirit upon my mind that produces the fruit of the Spirit in my life. (Gal. 5:22)
   The summer months are not only noted for the “fly time,” but it is also “scab” time. Once this tiny parasite infects one sheep, it is transmitted to the entire flock by their habit of rubbing heads together. Here again, the solution lies in applying the “linseed” home remedy to the sheep.
   The antidote for the believer against these worldly demonic originated infestations is found in Ph. 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, if there is any excellence, or worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

Prayer: Dear Lord, I pray for the continuous anointing of the Holy Spirit.   

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

You Prepare a Table before Me.

The 23rd Psalm
”You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (Ps. 23:5a)
In Western U.S. such as Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming sheep grazing ranges are referred to as “mesas” – the Spanish word for “tables.” It appears that David’s use of a table in Psalm 23:5 is actually a reference to the entire high summer range.
   Sheep are well suited for vegetation management. On the Paonia Ranger District range in Colorado, sheep are used to graze areas of tall larkspur a week or so ahead of the incoming cattle. This prevents the cattle from getting a lethal dose of the poisonous alkaloids that are found in the larkspur plants. It also allows different livestock producers to use the same area of land without the need for fencing.
   Raising sheep is a labor-intensive operation. Early in the season, even before all the snow is melted, the shepherd is surveying the summer range, and preparing the tableland for their arrival. Salt and other minerals are strategically placed around the range to benefit the sheep.
   Can you picture young David walking over the summer range leading his sheep? He keeps a sharp eye out for poisonous plants and pulls them up before the sheep can reach to them. No doubt he has armfuls to get rid of for the safety of his flock.
   In a similar fashion, our Good Shepherd goes ahead of us in every situation, anticipating the danger we may encounter, and praying for us that our faith might not fail. Jesus did this for Peter when Satan wanted to tempt him and sift him like wheat. (Luke 22:31-32)
   The shepherd must also keep a keen eye out for predators. On the Paonia Ranger District in 2001, 171 sheep were killed by coyotes, 110 by bears, and 27 by poisonous plants.
   And again, we take courage in the fact that our Good Shepherd prepares the table for us by protecting us against the wiles, snares, tricks, and treachery of the evil one. Always we are subject to his attacks. Jesus has provided us with the “amour of God” as our protection. Putting on the “amour” is our responsibility (Eph. 6:11-17)

Prayer: Dear Lord, prepare the table before me by keeping me close to you.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Your Rod and Staff Comfort Me

The 23rd Psalm
“Your Rod and your Staff, they Comfort Me” – Ps. 23:4b
When the shepherd moves his flock to the mountain pastures, it is customary to take a minimum of equipment. Of course there is his “caboose” or living quarters, but also two essential items in his arsenal are his “rod and staff.” Without these two pieces of equipment he could not adequately defend and protect his sheep.
   During the hours he is walking in the field he carries only a rifle slung over his shoulder, a rod, and a small knapsack with water, sandwich, and a few first-aid supplies. In the Middle East, the shepherd carries only a rod and a staff.
   The rod is the shepherd’s weapon of power, authority, and defense. He can use it as a club, or throw it with extreme accuracy. You may recall that God used Moses’ rod to demonstrate His power over Egypt and its gods. Therefore, the rod pictures the spoken word and implies the authority of divine power.
   Just as the sheep in David’s day were comforted and consoled in seeing the rod in the shepherds hand, so in our day there is great assurance in knowing that the word of God is invested with power, veracity, and authority.
   The other item in the shepherd’s arsenal was his staff. The staff had a curved crook on one end designed especially for use with the sheep. The staff revealed the concern and compassion the shepherd had for his charges.
   The staff played a significant role in the care of the sheep. First, it was used to bring a newborn lamb close to its mother when hundreds of ewes were lambing together simultaneously. Second, it was used by the shepherd to draw sheep to himself for examination. Third, the staff was used for guiding the sheep.
   In like manner, our Comforter, the Holy Spirit draws us together in closer relationship with the Father, guiding and teaching us the Truth, and aiding us in our prayers. (John 16:13)

   Prayer: Dear Lord, it is a great comfort to know that our Good Shepherd carries the rod and staff for our protection, discipline, and comfort.    

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Walking through the Valley

The 23rd Psalm
“…Even though I walk through the valley of deep darkness, I fear no harm, for You are with me…” (Ps. 23:4a)
Up to this point in the Psalm, the picture is of a sheep standing by a fence and talking to a neighboring sheep, and telling it of the tender care received from the shepherd. Now it turns to address the shepherd directly. Take notice of the inclusion of the personal pronouns I and You. The relationship between the shepherd and his sheep take on a more personal affectionate nature.
      During the times the sheep are pasturing on mountain ranges they are entirely alone with the shepherd. They are in intimate contact with each other and under his personal attention day and night.
   Both in Palestine and on our western sheep ranches dividing pasture lands between summer and winter is a common practice. Shepherds lead the flock up to the mountains in the spring, and bring them back down to the lowlands in the fall.
    A few years ago I was sitting on my porch on Fruitland Mesa in Colorado when a “mob” of sheep (over 500) were being moved down the road from the mountains to their fall/winter grazing.  The shepherds or owners were on horses guiding them along, making sure they stayed on the road. After they had passed, the gravel road was littered with little black pellets causing breath to be held and noses pinched.
   In the Christian life, we speak of mountain top experiences, and sing “Higher Ground.” Like sheep, the only way to get there is by climbing up through the valleys. Notice how the passage is worded: “We walk through the valley of  death” – it doesn’t say I die there or stop there – but rather “I walk through.”
   When adversity comes to the sheep, as it often does, the shepherd’s presence is there to console and protect. Jesus, the Good Shepherd said, “Surely I will be with you always” – yes, even in the valley of darkness. What a comfort and what a delight!

Prayer: Dear Lord, you know the valleys I walk through. Thank you for your presence, comfort, and grace.    

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

"He Guides me..."

The 23rd Psalm
“He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3)
Different kinds of pastures are needed to graze horses, sheep, goats, and cattle. Horses graze by nipping grass with their upper and lower front teeth and chewing. Sheep and goats graze in a similar way. But cattle only have teeth on their lower jaw and use their tongue and teeth in combination. As a result, they need pastures with taller grass so they can wrap their tongue around it and rip it up.
   If left alone without proper supervision by a shepherd, sheep can nip grass in a pasture down to the very roots. The pasture would eventually become a barren field and the grass unable to revive. It is the shepherd’s responsibility to move his flock from one pasture to another so as to avoid overgrazing.  
   Sheep are not only are timid, restless, and stupid, but they are cantankerous and stubborn. Sheep cannot be driven, they must be led and guided by someone they know and trust.
   Is it a mere whim that God refers to us as sheep? Scripture points out that Israel was a stiff-necked, stubborn people. The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold they are a stiff-necked people.” (Ex. 32:9)  We tend to follow our own fancies and turn to our own ways. “All we like sheep have gone astray, each one has turned to his own way…” (Is. 53:6a)
   What changes do I need to make in 2017 to show that I am being guided by the Good Shepherd into paths of righteousness?
1. Instead of insisting on my rights, I will forego them in favor of others.                2. Instead of being “top ram,” I’m willing to be at the bottom of the heap.              3. Instead of finding fault and always asking “Why?” I am willing to accept every    circumstance of life with an attitude of gratitude.                                                  4. Instead of choosing my own way, I’m willing to follow in Christ’s way.           
   What this boils down to is straight forward obedience. It means doing what Christ asks me to do. Jesus said it in the garden, “Not my will, but Yours be done.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me in 2017 to follow Your will and not my own.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

He Restores My Soul

The 23rd Psalm
“He Restores my Soul” (Ps. 23:3a)
As we continue to meditate on the 23rd Psalm, we need to remember that David is writing from the viewpoint of a sheep, who is in the care of the Good Shepherd. This being the case, one might well ask, “What could possibly happen that would warrant the need of “restoration?” In like manner, believers who are secure in the arms of Jesus might ask, “Why the need to “restore my soul?” David himself asked this question in Psalm 42:11, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why have you become disturbed within me…”
   Sheep who are in the care of the shepherd can be in danger of becoming a “cast sheep.” What do we mean by that? A heavy, fat, or long-fleeced sheep will lie down in a little hollow or depression to rest. It might roll over slightly to stretch out its legs. Suddenly the center of gravity shifts and its legs go up in the air. The sheep panics when its feet no longer touch the ground and begins to flail around making matters even worse. It now becomes a “cast sheep” and in grave danger of death unless the shepherd can find it in time.
   Like David, we as believers, though secure in Jesus, find that circumstances, poor decisions, and broken relationships cause us to become “cast sheep.” When that takes place the Good Shepherd comes alongside offering restoration, comfort, assurance, and compassion. Jesus’ restoration of Peter after his terrible tragedy of temptation and denial is a perfect picture of the care and concern of the Good Shepherd.
   In Psalm 56:13, we are given an accurate picture of the Christian’s life, “For you have rescued me from death; you have kept my feet from slipping. So now I can walk in your presence, O God, in your life-giving light.” (NLT)
   Do you feel as if you are “cast down,” forgotten, one of God’s lost sheep? Fear not, for the Good Shepherd is searching for you. He has left the ninety and nine and will not rest until you are “restored” and brought back in to the fold.

Prayer: Dear Lord, be with those today who feel as if they are abandoned of God.

Monday, February 6, 2017

He Leads Me Beside Still Waters

The 23rd Psalm
“He leads me beside still waters” (Ps. 23:2b)
Sheep do well in semi-arid country such as we find around Palestine, but water is a necessity. If there is heavy dew on the grass each morning, the sheep arise before dawn to get enough water to satisfy their thirst. When it’s too hot the shepherd has to lead them to wells, springs, or pure streams to drink. David, who wrote the 23rd Psalm, knew this. That’s why he wrote, “He (the Good Shepherd) leads me beside still waters.” The shepherd knows where the still, quiet, deep, clean, pure water is to be found that can satisfy His sheep and keep them, fit.
   Just as sheep need pure water, so also the human body can survive for three weeks without food, but only three days without water. The Scriptures clearly point out that the human personality, the soul, has a capacity and need for the water of the Spirit of God.
   When sheep are thirsty they become restless and wander away in search of water. If not led by the shepherd to good, pure, clean water, they will end up drinking out of a muddy, polluted pot hole where they pick up parasites as nematodes, liver flukes, or other diseases.
   Christ, our Good Shepherd, makes it perfectly clear in the Bible that thirsty souls can only be satisfied by drawing on Himself. In Matthew 5:6 Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (satisfied).”
   In Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman, he said, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”(John 4:14)
   David knew the secret of spending time with God; “In the morning O Lord, You will hear my voice; in the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.” (Psalm 5:3)

Prayer: Dear Lord, every morning I can feed on your word and get refreshed.

Friday, February 3, 2017

He Makes me Lie Down -- Pt. 2

The 23rd Psalm
“He makes me lie down in green pastures” (Ps. 23:2a) Part 2
   A second source of fear that a shepherd has to deal with is tension, rivalry, and cruel competition within the flock.
   There exists within the animal kingdom an order of dominance or status. In a flock of chickens, we call it the “pecking order.” With cattle it is called the “horning order.” Among sheep we speak of the “butting order.”
   In a pen full of chickens, I have witnessed roosters pecking away at hens until they were half dead. I’ve watched the pecking order of turkeys going to roost at night. The older birds get the first choice tree limbs while the younger birds wait on the ground for their turn. With big horn sheep, elk and moose the male butts against rival heads to gain dominance. Stallions will fight other stallions to gain control over the herd of mares. I’m sure other animal groups follow the same practices.
   This is a graphic picture of the struggle for status in human society. In any business workplace whether large or small, the desire for self-assertion and self-recognition takes place. Individuals battle to be “top sheep.” We butt and quarrel and compete to “get ahead.” It even took place among the disciples at the “last supper.” “And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest.” (Lk. 22:24)
   Because of this rivalry, tension, jealousy, and competition for status and self-assertion, there is friction among the flock. The sheep cannot lie down and rest in contentment. They must stand up and defend their “rights.”
   It was the shepherd’s presence that put an end to all rivalry. I have learned that keeping my eyes on my Master, the Shepherd, they are not on those around me. This is the place of peace and contentment.  
Prayer: Dear Lord, as the Good Shepherd, you dispel all my fears.


Thursday, February 2, 2017

The 23rd Psalm -- "He Makes Me Lie Down"

The 23rd Psalm
“He makes me lie down in green pastures” (Ps. 23:2) Part 1
Sheep are fickle, timid, fearful, restless and stupid. It is almost impossible to make them lie down in restful posture unless they are free from fear, tension, aggravations, and hunger. Are we as humans any different?
   The Christian life is full of hazards and troubles. We live in an uncertain troublesome world. Every day brings new problems and challenges. Many of us live either with a sense of anxiety, fear, and foreboding, or in a sense of quiet rest. Which is it for you? What is our tendency when panic sets in, or the unexpected happens? Or when cruel circumstances arise? Or when fear overcomes us? Often our first impulse is simply to get up and run from them. If you have ever experienced these issues, you know the only solution is the presence of the Shepherd.
   When the sheep are fearful and running for their lives the Shepherd comes into their midst and quiets them down. His presence makes all the difference. Suddenly, things aren’t half as bad as they seemed. A calmness of spirit takes over. Fear subsides as we submit to the will of the shepherd. Instead of fear there is hope.
   As I grow older and more mature, the knowledge that my Master, my Friend, my Shepherd has everything under His control, even in the midst of the calamities, brings calm and quietness to my timid heart by pointing me to His word.
   The Apostle Paul’s protégé, Timothy, was a very timid young man. Paul encouraged him by saying, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” (2 Tim. 1:7)
   The Psalmist wrote, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8)
   Jesus is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for the sheep. Put your trust in Him and “He will make you lie down in green pastures.”

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for giving me hope and peace.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The LORD is my shepherd

The entire message of this poem is based upon the first six words – “The Lord is my shepherd.” These words formed the foundation of David’s faith as well as our own. To whom was David referring when he mentions the name LORD?
   When David used the name LORD he was referring to Yahweh. The name Yahweh was so much in awe that the Hebrew people rarely spoke the name, but rather used a lesser name out of respect. Yahweh who inhabits eternity is the God that David calls “my shepherd.”
   David’s use of the name LORD – Yahweh speaks of an unchanging God, an uncaused God, and an ungoverned God. He is creator and master of the universe. He formed mankind out of a piece of clay and breathed into him the breath of life and man became a living soul.
   Yahweh is an uncaused shepherd. No one breathed life into Him. He always was, always is, and always shall be. He is the self-existent one. No act brought him forth. Moses said of him; “Before the mountains were born or you gave birth of the earth and the world, even from everlasting, You are God.” (Ps. 90:2)
   We might also take note of the fact that David used the verb “is” in his description of the LORD. David’s relationship with God as his shepherd was not a past happening or something to look forward to in the future, but a present reality. Each and every day God was a shepherd leading him down the path of life.
   We also see David claiming the LORD as a present possession. The LORD is MY shepherd. This means that David saw himself as one of the sheep dependent upon the leadership of the shepherd.
   As sheep, we are totally dependent upon the shepherd for our daily needs. Our faith is wholly in Jesus Christ as Savior. He is not only the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep (Ps.22), but the Great Shepherd who was resurrected for the sheep (Ps.23), and the Chief Shepherd who rewards his sheep.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I am completely dependent upon you as my shepherd.