Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Psalm 23:2-3 – The leading of the LORD, my Shepherd

Ps 23:2-3 - 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

Psalm 23 is a psalm by King David. 

I have expounded on Ps 23:1 – The Lord is my shepherd,I shall NOT be in want.  In it we talked about if we truly are holding the Lord as our shepherd, we must mean what we declare; we must want to be led by the Shepherd, and NOT go about on our own, as if we got everything that we need to manoeuver through life, outright.

In today’s article, we look at how the Lord leads, as the shepherd of our life, when we follow Him wholeheartedly.

NOT we have arrived, but it is He is still leading, and we follow
This is the foremost thing we must all know and remember, that we are NOT arrived, but it is that we are to follow our Lord, our Shepherd, as he leads, and in the process we are to grow in holiness and godliness. 

All those teachings promoting we are arrived, perfect, not needing to seek righteousness, not needing be taught by another, having the full mind of Christ, cannot sin, having no need to be forgiven again and be cleansed of any unrighteousness from sins which we may commit from time to time, they are heretic.

Be led by the Spirit, the key to holiness and godliness
The metaphor of shepherd-sheep, found in both OT and NT, tells that we need to be led by the Shepherd.  Not only do we NOT be in want, in terms of sustenance, soul restoration, and righteousness guided (vv 2-3), we will find later (in subsequent verses, v4 & ….), that we need to be following after the Lord to be availing ourselves to protection, etc, etc. 

For the NT believer, be led by the Shepherd is the same as be led by the Spirit of God or the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of Christ, for all three, are referring to the same.  In the time of Jesus living on earth, it was as prophesized; Jesus was come, as the Emmanuel – God with us. The Jews then had Jesus living with them, and led them who were willing to follow after Him.  When Jesus went back to the Father God in Heaven on His death and resurrection, He was still with us, even for the present day, through His Spirit being with us; indwelling us, and leading us, if we let Him do so.

What does the Shepherd or the Spirit of Christ lead us to? Remember now, we are still living on earth, we are NOT dead, and so, Ps 23:2-3 is NOT about we have arrived or we had reached the endpoint, Heaven; green pastures, quiet waters, are NOT representing Heaven.  These verses are referring to here and now, as we live, following the Shepherd.  I repeat we have NOT got everything we need, outright, that we can go about, on our own; it is the Shepherd leads (leads by His Spirit), and we follow.

“He (the Lord) makes me lie down in green pastures, leads me besides quiet waters”, said the psalmist King David. Notice the plurals used, green pastures, and quiet waters.  In our life journey, as we continue to live, the Lord, by His Spirit, wants to lead us to green pastures and quiet waters; meaning, He wants to see us get to positions where our needs can be met.  It is NOT one position or place, but positions or places, just like the sheep would be led to different places of pasture and water.  Is it NOT true, for various reasons (weather change, invasion of beasts, etc), the man-shepherd would move the sheep to different pasturelands and waters, from time to time?  The shepherd knows when to direct the sheep to one piece of pasture, say, of young grass, to another, say of different grass specie; or from one place of quiet water that is going to freeze over, to another, that is NOT, for example. 

The point is that the shepherd wants the needs of the sheep met, and he would lead them to where such can be met.  The same too, is the Lord, as our Shepherd, doing, wanting our needs met.  That the Lord knows; it is the role of His, for you to be NOT in want (v1). What are our needs, in the eyes of the Lord?

Our needs, according to Ps 23:2-3
Green pastures and quiet waters.  What do these represent?  What the sheep needs; they are the diet of the sheep, what they need to take in to maintain mortality or physical life.  Putting us in, it means the Spirit leads us to positions of us having our sustenance.  In another psalm of David, Ps 37, he spoke of it this way (Ps 37:25) - I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.  It would a failure of the Lord, if you truly are righteous (if follow Him absolutely, how can you NOT be righteous), and you have to go hungry and thirsty, for no apparent reason!  (Righteous ones can be persecuted, and he can only be persecuted when God allows it, and God does NOT allow it for no reason; even when we are aware NOT of the reason, or could NOT appreciate it).  In Matt 6:31-32, we read this: 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

Now, the verses talked about green pastures and quiet waters; the connotation is that the sustenance provided by the Lord is good, NOT lacking, and NOT fearful to be consumed.  Sheep is fearful of rushing waters, and will NOT drink from it; they will drink from quiet waters.

Not to worry; but what if I seem NOT able to sense the leading of the Lord? Do this:  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition {supplication}, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Phil 4:6).

Ps 23:3 said He restores our soul.  In the KJ version, verse 3 is a new sentence, although in the NIV, it is NOT.  I do NOT read the satisfaction of our physical needs, of food and water, as all that is needed for restoration of our soul, although, it does NOT help an already devastated soul, if he is in dire hunger and thirst.  The soul, as the seat of emotion and passion (and is the life-participle), its well-being can be unperturbed by hunger and thirst, even impending physical death, but can be greatly troubled from disagreement with God or from being unrighteous. 

The KJ version puts restoration of soul with the paths of righteousness, and rightly it is to be so.  We read this, as continuation of Matt 6:31-32, which I have already quoted in the preceding paragraph, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things {what you need} will be given {added} to you as well.” (Matt 6:33)

What is restoration of soul?  To restore something, first of all, has the connotation that, that something was originally of a certain manner or state, and now no longer of the same (manner or state); and to restore is to bring it back to the original state.  What was the original state of the soul?  What had happened to it? 

The original state of the human soul was that it was in agreement with God, and that simply was that the soul was righteous – right on with God, as to what He desired done and when He wanted it done; in short, in tune with God.  From the Fall of Man, in the Garden of Eden, the soul of Man was corrupted; it now needs to be guided in the paths of righteousness. 

The fallen soul needs to be restored, and the primary restoration with Jesus’ coming (first coming), is through we entering into salvation or be converted.  Even so, the soul continues to have the need to be maintained and guided.

There are 2 sets of paths opened to the soul, paths of unrighteousness, even evil, and the paths of righteousness which are the ways of God or of His kingdom.  We are exhorted to seek the paths of righteousness, and the Lord, through His Spirit, leads in such paths; evil leads the other set of paths.

Why does it say that – “for His name sake”? The 2 sets of paths lead to 2 very different endings or places; one, to eternal life in Heaven, to live with God, and the other, to torment in the lake of everlasting burning fire of Hell.  God’s people obviously are to go to Heaven; God’s name is at stake, for we, believers, are called His people, His children.  We as children of His, are to make it back to His heavenly dwelling place, Heaven; He knows (His part) and He is faithful to guides us in those paths of righteousness, that we may reach the desired ending; our failure does NOT reflect good on God.

If we follow the Shepherd, we shall NOT be in want – NOT in want of our sustenance (what we will eat, drink and wear or shelter), NOT in want of restoration of our soul, and NOT in want of the righteousness Guide (for the NT believers, He is the indwelling Spirit of Christ).  There are more, to what we would NOT be in want of, when we next look further down the psalm, in another article to come, on the remaining verses of this psalm.

Know rightly, and have faith
For those who read the 1st article (The LORD is my shepherd; I shall NOT be in want) of this series, they will realize that I said that those who suggest the OT characters in the like of King David, could be saying and praying like any “half-baked” modern day believers who have NOT the correct understanding of how the ways of God are to work, they are so wrong to quickly jumped to the conclusion that such claims are of no validity.  We have to know what was said, rightly, and then, have faith; and note 3 very important things: one, perseverance is often needed (on our part), and two, God’s thoughts towards those who love Him are always good, and three, He is able. 

On perseverance, Rom 5:4 tells us that perseverance produces in us character, and well-developed character, is with hope in God, always.  On God's thoughts towards us, Jer 29:11 said this - For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.  And on God's ability, in Eph 3:20, we read it said of God this way: “Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think,…”, and in 2 Cor 9:8, we have this: And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Up to this point, remember this:
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

And, there is more ….

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

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