A Meditation on Psalm 23, Part II

I have been meaning to write a meditation on the 23rd psalm for a while now.  I am continuing to study the bible with Dr. Bill Creasy (see http://www.logosbiblestudy.org/), and right now I am studying the psalms.  This is the second part in a two part posting

Dr. Creasy examines the psalms, as he does the rest of the bible, from a literary perspective.  As discussed before, in Psalm 23, as in many of the other psalms, Dr. Creasy focuses on what it tells us about David.  It is my intent to focus on what the psalm means to the reader, to me.  Like Dr. Creasy, I take the psalm apart and proceed verse by verse. The 23rd psalm, as I like to remember it:

1. The LORD is my shepherd:
        I shall not be in want.
2. He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
        he leads me beside still waters.
3. He restores my soul.
        He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4. Yay though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil;
        your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5. You set a table before me in the midst of mine enemies; you anoint my head with oil;
        my cup overflows.
6. Surely goodness and love (or mercy) with follow me all the days of my life,
        and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Continuing with verse 4, “… though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”, walking into darkness and places where death lurks, is an inevitable consequence of following God as our Lord, Shepherd, and Savior.  If we follow him on the “paths of righteousness”, we will be led into the midst of enemies.  We will have to stand in places we do not want to stand, do things we do not want to do, and face what terrifies us.

God will be there.  “His rod and his staff, they comfort me.”  “I will fear no evil.”  When I pray the psalm, I pray that I will fear no evil.  That I will follow the LORD with courage.  That God will grant me the courage to do his will.  I also remember that he has a rod and a staff.  He will use these to smite my enemies and protect me.  He will also use these to keep me on the path.

My wife herds sheep with her dog.  She has a rod or a staff.  When the sheep is straying in the wrong direction, she will use herd staff to whack the sheep and encourage it to move in the right direction.  She sometimes has to use the staff or a rod on the dog, to encourage it to follow her will.

Like the sheep and dogs, we will get whacked.  But we may take comfort in this, because this keeps us on the right path.  If we do not follow God, we will follow sin to our death.  But when we are in relationship with God, he keeps us on the path for his name’s sake, and he uses his rod and his staff to make sure we do not stray.  And I take comfort in this.

“He sets a table before me in the midst of mine enemies.”  Again, an amplification.  Not only will God protect us from evil, from our enemies, he will exalt us in front of them.  He rubs their noses in it.  We are honored and fed in the midst of darkness, and there is nothing the foes of God can do about it.

“He anoints my head with oil.”  We are given even greater honors, authority, and power.  Still in the midst of our enemies, God makes us Children of God and Kings.

“My cup overflows”.  He gives more than we could want or need.  He is generous beyond measure.  When Jesus turned water into wine in Cana, he turned more water into wine than could possibly be needed or drunk.  And not just any wine, but the very best wine.  God gives us more than we can ever need.

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life”.  Another amplification.  A prayer.  But more than a prayer. “Surely”: we can be sure.  We are not just asking.  We know.  This is hope.  This is faith.  Goodness and love will follow us all the days of our lives.  We trust in the LORD, and goodness will follow.

“And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”  This is the THE blessed hope that Paul discusses in Romans.  We know goodness and love will follow us as long as we live, but we will be with God forever.  “Dwell” is more than lie down.  And to be with God, to live with God, is the antithesis of sin.  If sin is alienation from God, to live with God is to be without sin.  “Forever” not all the days of my life.  We will be with God, without sin, without death, forever.  For a servant and follower of God, there is no greater hope.

Amen.

A Meditation, Verse by Verse, Word by Word, on Psalm 23

I have been meaning to write a meditation on the 23rd psalm for a while now.  I am continuing to study the bible with Dr. Bill Creasy (see http://www.logosbiblestudy.org/), and right now I am studying the psalms.

Dr. Creasy examines the psalms, as he does the rest of the bible, from a literary perspective.  His training is in literature, so that is what he teaches.  He examines the bible as a single literary work, inspired by God.  The characters are God and his people.  The conflict is sin.

When looking at the psalms from this perspective, he examines the structure and symbolism, and he focuses on what they tell us about the characters and the biblical story.  David, son of Jesse, wrote about half the psalms, so more than any other character, the psalms tell us about David.  Dr. Creasy focuses on this to some extent.

I want to focus on what the psalm means to the reader, to me.  When we pray the psalm, what are we asking for?  And why is it so popular, being one of the most familiar, and most memorized psalms of the bible?  Or, more accurately, why is Psalm 23 such an important psalm and prayer for me?

Like Dr. Creasy, I will take the psalm apart and proceed verse by verse.  For the 23rd psalm, that is easy.  It is only 6 verses.  For reference, the psalm is available, here: NIV, KJV.  I have memorized an amalgam of those translations, so please bear with me:

1. The LORD is my shepherd:
        I shall not be in want.
2. He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
        he leads me beside still waters.
3. He restores my soul.
        He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4. Yay though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil;
        your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5. You set a table before me in the midst of mine enemies; you anoint my head with oil;
        my cup overflows.
6. Surely goodness and love (or mercy) with follow me all the days of my life,
        and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

“The LORD is my shepherd”: notice the “LORD”, originally “YHWH” or Yahweh.  This is the personal, covenant name of God: the name God gave Moses to give to his people.  This name is so holy that God’s people would not pronounce it out loud, and instead would say LORD.

“shepherd”: conjures a ideal pastoral image, a life with more time, less stress, and less noise.  More time to be with the God.  Time to be in nature, with animals, leading a taking care of animals.

“The LORD is my shepherd”: notice that is is the LORD who is the shepherd, not us.  He takes care of us the way we take care of sheep.  He feeds us.  He guides us.  He keeps us from danger, and when we find trouble and danger anyway, he saves us.  When we take care of animals, and we must “be the human”.  That is we must lead, make decisions, control them, and care for them.  God does this for us.

“I shall not be in want.”: this sums up and emphasizes what has been said.  If the LORD is our shepherd, if he takes care of us, protects us, and leads us, then we shall have all we need and all we want.  We must follow the LORD as a sheep follows its shepherd, so we shall not be in want.

“He makes me to lie down in green pastures;”  “makes me”: we do not have a choice.  “lie down”: more that just brings us there, he makes us stay.  “green pastures”: good places, good situations.  Also, food.  He brings us to our food, he brings us to what we need, and he makes us stay there.

“he leads me beside still waters.”  Watering holes are very important for life.  But they are full of danager.  Lions, predators, and bandits lie in wait at watering holes. Competing flocks and animals are also at watering holes.  The LORD leads us to the water, and we drink.  But we do not stay.

“still water”: raging water is a common symbol of distress.  Flood water can cover our heads.  Deep water can overwhelm us.  But still water is good.  Still water is like a still soul: it is good.

“He restores my soul.”  Now let a simple shepherd try that!  God is no shepherd; he is the Lord Almighty.  He is God our creator, and only he can restore our souls.  As we wrestle and fight with God, our souls become roiled.  As we separate from God, we lose contact with our soul.  God restores us.  He makes us whole.  He is our creator.  He is our father.

“He leads us in the paths of rightness”: again amplifying the previous verse.  Not only does he restore us, bring us back to him, and make us whole, he then leads us where we need to go, along the “paths of rightness”.  Life is not a destination, but a journey.  If God is our guide, shepherd, and leader, if he is our lord, our life will be righteous.

“for his name’s sake”  not for us.  Not for love of us.  He does all this, he leads in righteousness, “for his name’s sake.”  His most holy name, that name that is so holy that his people would not even pronounce it out loud.  It is a great comfort that God has such a strong motive to take care of us, and to bring us to righteousness.

“The paths of righteousness”, like the watering hole, are not safe.  They are filled with danger, adventure, and death.  So they both foreshadow verse 4.  If we follow God in the paths of righteousness, we with surely end up walking through the “Valley of the Shadow of Death”.

But this meditation has gotten long.  It is time for a break.  Please look forward to the second half of Psalm 23 in my next post, part II.

Links about Woodworking

This post provides some links to help me (and perhaps others) find useful information about furniture building and woodworking.

Case and Cabinet Construction:

Do an About-Face on Cabinets.  For better case pieces, start with the face frame, not the box.  BY STEVE LATTA

Build in the right order: How expert furniture makers get flawless results and avoid headaches.  BY PHILIP C. LOWE

Large-Case Construction Strategies: Simplified joinery and a solid plan keep big jobs under control. by Bruce Cohen

Mortise and Tenon Techniques:

All About Mortise-and-Tenon Joints, by Mario Rodriguez

The Mortise and Tenon Joint: Best results come directly from chisel and saw.  by Ian J. Kirby

The Haunched Mortise and Tenon: How to strengthen the corner joint.  by Ian J. Kirby

Tenoning Strategies: Finding your way to a well-fitting joint. BY GARY ROGOWSKI

In Search ofthe Right Mortising Technique: Five strategies from hand tools to expensive machines for cutting fast, easy and accurate mortises. BY STROTHER PURDY