Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“As your day, so shall your strength, your rest and security, be.”
Deuteronomy 33: 25
“I have strength for all things in Christ who empowers me, I am ready for anything through Him who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency.”
Philippians 4: 13
“(God) will not impose you one needless burden. He will not exact more than He knows your strength will bear. He will ask no Peter to come to Him on the water unless He imparts, at the same time, strength and support on the unstable waves. He will not ask you to draw water if the well is too deep, or to withdraw the stone if too heavy.”
John R. Macduff
Today’s Study Text:
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”
Psalm 23: 6
Psalm 23 Part 23
“A Little Word Like ‘Surely’”
“The Holy Scriptures are our letters from home.”
Augustine of Hippo
Have there been times in my life when even a small message from someone was enough to lift my heart to heaven and encourage me on my journey?
How has God’s word, the Bible, helped me live each day?
“I have found in the Bible words for my inmost thoughts, songs for my joy, utterance for my hidden grief and pleadings for my shame and feebleness.”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
“It is wonderful the effect of a single verse of Scripture when the Spirit of God applies it to the soul. What power would come upon the soul if we would grasp a single line of Scripture and suck the honey out of it till our soul is filled with sweetness.”
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
The climate in which Jim and I live is a terrific place to grow crawling vines. Whether it is the gorgeous trumpet vine or a sweet smelling honeysuckle, these lush plants wind themselves around many patio railings in our neighborhood, including our own. What delights me is the way the flowers on these vines attract a wide-variety of hummingbirds which choose to call our back porch their “home.” It is so fascinating to watch the long, pointed bill of a brightly feathered hummingbird probe the narrow floral walls of the honeysuckle flower. I’ve been transfixed by this activity for more than an hour on several occasions. What I find so captivating is the way one small bird will repeatedly stick its bill into a flower, examining every nook and cranny of its food source until it reaches the flowers’ deepest point, in order to get every bit of nectar.
This is the way I want to look at the phrase which begins Psalm 23: 6, the last verse in the Shepherd’s Psalm – Psalm 23. And there’s no better place to begin than with the very first word, “Surely.” We need to probe this word as deeply as possible for in it, we are going to find a wealth of truths.
At first, this may seem to be a strange word to choose to study, but with closer inspection, I’ve found the word “surely” holds the key to helping us understand, with complete assurance that the messages found in Psalm 23, as well as throughout God’s word, are ones we can rely on as our steadfast foundation. I like the way the great British evangelist, John Wesley, described his belief in God’s word, whether it was some grand theological point or a small detail others might refer to as insignificant. “My ground,” stated Wesley, “is in the Bible. Yea, I am a Bible-bigot. I follow it in all things, both great and small.” Just to clarify, the word “bigot” does not have to mean an unkind intolerance for another human being. It also means that one maintains great zeal for something, like having a deeply, God-inspired trust and belief in God’s word. Believing the Bible can be life-enhancing as John Wesley continued to describe, shows how God’s word made a critical impact on his life. And so he shared this grand thought, “I want to know one thing, the way to heaven: how to land safe on that happy shore. God Himself has condescended to teach the way; for this very end He came from heaven. He has written it down in a book! Oh, give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius libri: “A man of one book.” As I’ve studied the lives of some of the great women and men of God, without a doubt they were people of prayer but they were also people of the Word of God – the Bible. It is this simple fact which encouraged me, as we have undertaken in-depth study of Psalm 23, to make certain every word is being explored and every thought considered. Which leads us to uncover the deep meaning found in a word like “Surely.”
To begin with, in our English language, the word “surely” means: “with confidence, unhesitatingly, undoubtedly, certain, without fail.” In Psalm 23: 6, the Hebrew word “ak,” means “truly.” And in the New Testament, the Greek word “nai” is a strong affirmative particle, “Yes, it is verifiably truth.” As our study of Psalm 23: 6 continues, we will note that the Psalmist used the word “surely” to denote the fact that what follows is absolutely true. As author David Roper points out, “David declares…a fact (which) is as certain as it is comforting. Too good to be true? No, God is much too good not to be true.”
From David’s perspective, the way his Shepherd has lead him through perfectly chosen green pastures; beside clear, clean waters; in paths which restore the strength and life of the sheep; and even down into shadowy valleys which could cause fear but don’t because our Shepherd is close by our side, this to David was a sign of a Shepherd that not only could be trusted for His leadership, but His word. What the Shepherd said was to be believed. His promises were surely true. We have no cause to doubt Him.
How I wish that at the very beginning of the Bible, when in Genesis 2: 16,17, God came to Adam and Eve and said, “thou shalt not eat of it (the tree of knowledge of good and evil); for in the day that thou eatest there of thou shalt surely die,” that they would have trusted that their Creator knew what He was talking about. Sadly, they decided to believe a serpent who said God wasn’t telling the truth. And ever since, down to this very day, people on planet earth have been battling it out over the word, “Surely.” Surely, God speaks the truth or surely He doesn’t.
As I read through all the times in Scripture when this unique word appears, I came upon the very touching story of Jacob, who in a “human to heaven” interaction, recorded in Genesis 28: 16, which took place after Jacob had deceived his father in an effort to procure the birthright as his own, was forced to flee the wrath of his brother Esau. Ending up frightened and alone, with only stones for a pillow, Jacob lay on the cold earth and fell asleep. During the night God came to him in a vision which portrayed a ladder rising into heaven with angels “ascending and descending.” Upon awaking, Jacob said, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.” I love the way author George Matheson draws a personal lesson from this experience when he asks this question, “How often hast thou slept with very heaviness of heart, and desired not to wake again! And when thou didst wake again, lo, the darkness was all a dream for God had been with thee all the night.” And so it is that David writes that “surely” – it is truth you can verify – goodness and mercy are the gifts of God that our Shepherd has bestowed upon on. We don’t have to wonder if goodness and mercy will be abundantly poured out in our lives. Surely, we can count on it.
But there’s one last “surely” I want to leave with you today. For when your days are long and when your journey leaves you weary and worn, your Father encourages your heart with this promise found in the last verses of the last book in the Bible, “He which testifieth these things saith, ‘Surely I come quickly.’ AMEN. Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22: 20, K.J.V.). These aren’t empty words meant to lift us up when we are down – although they certainly will do that. These words are given to us by our Shepherd whose ultimate and over-riding goal is to take us safely on our journey back home – to our eternal home. Praise His name – surely He will keep His word to you and me, every step of the way.
“The Bible as a book stands alone. There never was, nor ever will be, another like it. As there is but one sun to enlighten the world naturally so there is but one Book to enlighten the world spiritually. May that Book become to each of us the “one” of our counsel, the guide of our journey, and our support and comfort in life and in death.”
“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”
Psalm 119: 105
“Lord, be Thy word my rule,
In it may I rejoice;
Thy glory be my aim,
Thy holy will my choice.
Thy promises my hope;
Thy providence my guard;
Thine arm my strong support;
Thyself my great reward.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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