By Erin Bird

Today we have the joy of completing our series in Psalm 23. We already looked at the first part of the final verse, so this week we finish things up with the last half of verse 6, which says…

“…and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

As I studied this week’s section of Psalm 23, I learned that the Hebrew word traditionally translated “dwell” could also be translated “return.”

When I learned this, it got me wondering: Was David creating a bookend to his poem? He began the psalm with “sheep” imagery, then in verse 5 switched to “house” language. I had always just assumed David was continuing with the “house” language as he completed his poem (“dwell in the house of the Lord forever”), but now I wonder if he is combining the two images as he concludes his work of art.

Because if  the “sheep” language is actually being recalled here in verse 6 (and this is a big IF), it brings the image of God the Shepherd guiding David back to the sheep pen, which would have been at the “house of the Lord.” And by returning back to the Lord’s house, the sheep would know he is safe at home, where he will dwell for the rest of his days.

Dwelling in Peace
Arms resting on railingIn these difficult days of dealing with a pandemic, we could really use the reminder that if our life is in Christ, we can “return” to the house of the Lord and truly dwell. Too often our minds dwell on the negative, worry about the “what if,” yet God is inviting our hearts to dwell in His presence like a content sheep with its shepherd.

So if…

  • …your mind is worrying about the COVID-19 virus…

  • …you are mentally preoccupied with stress about work…

  • …you are constantly checking your stock portfolio or bank account…

  • …you are fidgeting from being confined to your home…

return to the house of the Lord and dwell in peace, because your Shepherd is still in control, even when the world around you seems to be confused or in chaos.

So rest. Breathe. And dwell in the house of the Lord forever and ever.

Pursued by Love

Pursued by Love (Sheep running)

by Erin Bird

Let’s continue with our series in Psalm 23. This week we are going to look at the first part of verse 6:

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,”

Chased by Nice Enemies?

Remember back in verse 5 that David was sitting at a table in the presence of his enemies? According to the NET Bible study note on verse 6, the word “follow” in Hebrew should actually be translated “pursue” or “chase,” and usually the word is used in Hebrew literature to reflect the actions of an enemy.

But it isn’t David’s evil table-mates that are chasing him, it is “goodness and mercy.” Interestingly, the word translated “mercy” can also be translated as “loyalty” or even “devotion.” In other words, David is saying that God loves him so much that God’s goodness and loyal-devoted love pursue him no matter what.

running sheepThis is good news! No matter what is happening around you (COVID-19, lost job, health crisis, etc.) or in you (anger, sadness, confusion, worry, etc.), God is right there pursuing you with His love. And we see that pursuit perfectly in Jesus.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

At Riverwood, we talk about being a “Jesus-follower.” But maybe to follow Jesus is to realize He is following you. What a comforting thought to think that no matter where we go and no matter what is happening to us, God’s goodness and loyal love shown through the gospel is pursuing us each and every day we experience.

May you rest today in the knowledge that God is with you, and His goodness and mercy are chasing you all the days of your life.

No Fear in God’s Presence

No Fear

By Erin Bird

Let’s continue on with our series on Psalm 23. This week, we come to verse 4, which says:

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

Let’s look at the first half of this verse this week. (We’ll cover the last part next week.)

Far From Green Pastures
Two weeks ago, we looked at verse 2, which talked about green pastures and quiet waters. If I were a lamb, I’m sure green pastures and quiet waters would seem like heaven. For many of us, “heaven” is a hike in the mountains, or sitting in a boat out on calm waters, or soaking in a sunset with a loved one, or reading a book at the beach, or watching a favorite movie cuddled on the couch. Heaven is peaceful, joy-filled, and restorative.

But hikes end, storms come, and sunsets fade to black. This is what I think David is getting at when he says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” He realizes life isn’t just green pastures. He is acknowledging the truth that sometimes life is hard – so hard it feels like you are on the verge of death, walking in its shadow.

And yet, did you notice in verse 4, David has the same sense of peace that he had back in verse 2? He seems content even when walking through “death valley.” How can he have no fear when his “heaven” has been snatched away and his life is threatened?

No Fear in God’s Presence
The middle part of verse 4 tells us: “for you are with me.” King David knew theologically that His Good Shepherd is an omnipresent God, everywhere at all times, which means even in his scariest moments, God was with David.

But it wasn’t just God’s presence that gave David no fear. It was the knowledge of Who God is and what God could do that gave him peace.

You have to remember that David spent time as a shepherd himself before ascending to the throne of Israel. Part of his job as a shepherd had been to keep the flock safe. In 1 Samuel 17, David tells King Saul that as a teenager, he had already fought lions and bears who tried to take a sheep from him. So David knew that no matter what “lions” came into his life, God could protect him. And that knowledge gave him peace.

May you know God as David did, that when life’s lions try to attack you, whether a lost job, or a health crisis, or a relational struggle, or even spiritual doubts, try to drag you into the valley of the shadow of death, your Shepherd is with you and able to protect you, provide for you, and rescue you. May the presence and power of God help you to lead a life without fear, knowing the peace that surpasses understanding.

Content with the Shepherd

By Erin Bird

After spending the first three weeks in verse 1 of our series on Psalm 23, we are going to spend this week on verse 2, which says,

“He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.”

How to be a Content Lamb

I don’t know about you, but when someone offers me ice cream, it’s difficult to turn the offer down. Sure, I may have already had some ice cream that day, and my expanding waistline indicates I should pass, but one can always go for more, right?

Perhaps your weakness isn’t ice cream, but you most likely have something in your life you desire to consume all day. It could be your phone, YouTube, Pinterest, Diet Coke, chocolate, or just about anything. Well, the “weakness” of a sheep is grass and water. Just as I wish I could eat ice cream every day, sheep graze all day on grass, and when given the opportunity, they’ll drink their fill of water.

But notice David the Lamb in Psalm 23. David says his Shepherd makes him lie down in green pastures. (The Hebrew actually says “lush” pastures.) Normally, a sheep would eat the grass in a lush pasture. But not David.

Sheep walking on a grassy hill near a mountain lakeLikewise, David said his Shepherd leads him beside still waters. Normally, a lamb would pause to drink from the cool pond waters. But not David.

Why isn’t David “the Sheep” eating and drinking when given the opportunity? Because his contentment isn’t found in the grass and water. His contentment is found in his Shepherd.

Remember last week in verse 1, David said, “I shall not want.” We saw the reason he didn’t “want” was because his Shepherd was enough. That’s why, as a “lamb,” David doesn’t need to eat the grass and drink the water. He is so content in his Shepherd, knowing that his Good Shepherd will continue to take care of him, that he can rest in the grass and enjoy the view of the water.

Too often, I act like a needy lamb, constantly looking for more grass and water. But what would it look like if you and I actually looked to Jesus the Good Shepherd, finding our joy and serenity in Him rather the things of this earth? We might look more like a lamb happily resting in the pasture than a fearful lamb scrambling to eat as much as possible before we head back to the pen.

Can you trust Jesus? I encourage you to daily (and even “momently”) express your trust in God in prayer, declaring that He is enough. Remind yourself that true rest is found in Jesus, and not in your movies, or the games on your iPhone, or a higher income, or more ice cream. After all, if a hungry needy sheep can be that content in his shepherd, I want to be that content in Jesus.

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