September 23, 2017
Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or, ‘What shall we drink?’ or, ‘wherewithall shall we be clothed?’…for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
O For a Faith That Will Not Shrink
“O for a faith that will not shrink,
Tho press by every foe,
That will not tremble on the brink
Of any earthly woe!
A faith that shines more bright and clear
When tempests rage without;
That when in danger knows no fear,
In darkness feels no doubt;
That hears, unmoved, the world’s dread frown,
Nor heeds its scornful smile;
That seas of trouble cannot drown,
Nor Satan’s arts beguile;
Lord, give us such a faith as this,
And then, whatever may come,
We’ll taste, even here, the hallowed bliss
Of an eternal home.”
William H. Bothurst
Today’s Study Text:
“I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me.”
Psalm 23 Part 15
“'Thou’ – Makes All the Difference”
“Our great matters are little to God’s infinite power, and our little matters are great to His Father love.”
Donald Grey Barnhouse
What does it mean to me to know that my heavenly Father is “with me?”
How does it change the way I live, knowing that God’s presence surrounds me?
“Our Father; our Preserver; who day by day, sustains the life He has given; of whose continuing love we now and every moment receive life and breath and all things.”
John Wesley (18th Century)
“And the Lord said, ‘My Presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”
Long ago, I read a story about a terrible fire that threatened to consume a block of old apartments. The firemen did all they could to try and put out the blaze. But as was easily visible, it was a losing battle. All of a sudden, in the midst of the chaos, a young boy’s face appeared in the window of an apartment that was several stories above the street below. The firefighters knew it would be impossible to rescue the child, so they attempted to save him using their long ladders and a protective net. But to their utter dismay, after several minutes pleading with the child to jump to safety, their requests appeared in vain. All of a sudden a man dressed in working clothes, pushed his way through the crowd which had gathered. He looked up at the boy and with a loud scream, called out, “Jimmy, jump.”
Immediately, the child leaped to safety. The man who called out rushed over to the young boy and embraced him. Those closest to the scene could hear the young child, through his tears cry out, “Daddy, I knew you would come. I knew you would save me.”
Our passage today in Psalm 23: 4, mirrors the message of this old-time tale. As the psalmist trudged through the long valley, with cryptic shadows and devastating darkness surrounding him, all of a sudden, it was as if a glimmer of light pierced the bleakness and the fear that had covered over him lifted. There was a recognition that the valley journey was not a “one man trip.”
As David penned, “I will fear no evil, for ‘Thou’ art with me.” I can’t remember how many times I’ve repeated these words and yet, while I’ve said them, the deeper meaning in them has never really pierced my heart. Lost in this valley was the fact that there is a ‘Thou’ who is walking along beside me, matching each of my own footsteps. In Psalm 23: 4, we find that rather than talking about the Shepherd who feeds, restores and guides, David talks to his Father – “for ‘Thou’ art with me.”
The importance of this simple change in grammar is highlighted by author Robert J. Morgan: “This verse is powerful in its imagery, but also in its grammar. Here in the valley, in the middle of the psalm and at the most difficult moments in a sheep’s life, we’re awestruck by the dramatic change of the pronouns. The Twenty-third Psalm starts out in the third person: ‘The Lord is my Shepherd…He makes me lie down…He leads me…He restores me…’ Now in verse 4, David shifts to the second person: ‘You are with me.’ The whole poem becomes much more personal. It becomes a prayer, and the psalmist is thrilled with the very close, personal, and constant contact he has with his Shepherd, with whom he can speak face to face, friend to friend.”
When each of us has those times in our lives that darkness envelopes us, how grateful we can be to know, with assurance, we are not alone. As F. B. Meyer underscores in his book, The Shepherd Psalm, “In the green pastures, it (is) enough to speak of ‘He’; but now (in the valley) there is the need for the closer, tender address. When things are going well with us we may content ourselves with talking about the Lord; but when the sky darkens we hasten to deal with Him and talk to Him directly.”
I know that in my own world, when the dew of prosperity has bountifully watered the soil of my life it has been easier to put my spiritual life on “cruise control” as I simply sail through each day. I’m not saying that I ignore my heavenly Father during what I call the “good times.” Rather, the deep need to have Him carry me in His arms, doesn’t seem as necessary. I find myself feeling more self-sufficient. More in control. More independent.
But when illness strikes; when unsuspecting calamity enters my world; I have found that the need for my Shepherd becomes necessary for both my physical and spiritual survival. As Richard Foster notes, “God becomes a reality, when He becomes a necessity.” Author David Roper, shares this pertinent perspective when he writes about the need for God’s presence in our “valley experiences,” “The dark days cause us to enter into a very special relationship with our Lord. As Job said, ‘My ears have heard of you; but now my eyes have seen you’ (Job 42: 5). There are glimpses of God that can only be revealed when earthly joy has ceased.”
Recently, I came upon a tremendous prayer poem, penned by Brenda Hargreaves. Here is how she inspiringly shares the message of our Shepherd and our Lord who is always there for us in the deep shadows of our lives – “I will fear no evil, for ‘Thou’ art with me:
Help Us, Lord, To See You in the Dark Places
“Help us, Lord, to see you in the dark places,
Help us to see you where you are not easily seen.
We cannot walk forever with the sun on our faces,
We cannot walk forever where the fields are green.
Help us Lord, to find you in the deep shadows,
Help us to find you where you are not easily found.
We cannot walk forever in the sweet scented meadows,
We cannot walk forever on even ground.
It’s easy, Lord, to find you in your Bethlehem stable,
Easy, Lord, to find you at your Nativity
Give us strength and courage, Lord, and so makes us able
Still to be beside you in Gethsemane.
Help us, Lord, to find you where the path steepens,
Help us, Lord, to find you where we would not readily seek.
Help us to find you where the gloom deepens,
Let us know your presence where the landscape’s bleak.
It’s easy, Lord, to find you with our friends all around us,
Easy to find you where we are most happy to be,
Help us to find you where you’ve already found us,
Help us to find you, Lord, on Calvary.”
Brenda Hargreaves, England
“In Thee, O Lord, do I put my trust; let me never be ashamed: deliver me in righteousness…For Thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for Thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me.”
God Is Here
“When life’s crippled, flawed or faulted
Filled with fear, with folly strewn;
God is here, yet never thwarted,
Loving in dark sorrow’s womb;
God is in each widow’s anguish,
God is queuing unemployed,
God will in the prison languish,
God will love, not be destroyed
When life’s hopelessness and chaos
Brings the stress that drags us down;
God is here identifying.
Praying with us as we groan
When our love and life are battered,
When our strength is all but sapped,
When the way ahead is shattered,
Still within God’s love we’re wrapped.”
Andrew E. Pratt
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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