A Special Good Bye

365 days a year, numerous number of volunteers, travel to serve the countless numbers of persons classified as homeless. They do this no matter the weather conditions and sometimes putting themselves at risk themselves.  The reasons they do this varies from soul to soul but hopefully a small part of the reason is that it’s the right thing to do but more importantly God tells us to do this.

Unfortunately, no matter how many volunteers provide the necessities, there are always persons that for one reason or another must fight the elements alone. Whether the elements are weather or man-made, every year we lose some to these elements.  These are the ones that touch each one of us outreach workers personally.Today’s message comes from the book of Psalms. King David tells us in Psalm 23:

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”, Psalm 23

This biblical verse is one of the best known as well as most quoted passages in the bible. The passage is generally used mainly in the context of death and funerals but however may be suitable for Easter as well.

The simple translation of this biblical verse could be that King David grew up and worked as a shepherd, so he knew a lot about sheep and shepherding. He loved the metaphor of seeing God, or the Lord as a shepherd.  The shepherd’s job is to care for it’s flock, making sure they are safe, nourished, calm, and happy always.

However today we are going to delve a little further into this so popular biblical passage.

The Lord Is My Shepherd

David refers to a shepherd that is charged with caring for his flock. Therefore, David is calling the Lord his shepherd and we are the Lord’s flock. In John 10:11 & 10:14, Jesus clearly spoke of himself as the good shepherd, who gives His life for the sheep and who can say, “I know my sheep and am known by My own”.

I Shall Not Want

There are two versions to this declaration. The first saying “all my needs are supplied by my shepherd, the Lord”, while the second claims “That I will not desire more than what I truly need”.

He Makes Me Lie Down

As children we do not always know what it is that we need or want. It is the role of our parents to ensure we get what is needed.  As His flock, the Lord is our parent and leads me to rest just as a shepherd will allow his flock to rest because they don’t always know what it needs or best for themselves.

To Lie Down In Green Pastures

For sheep to rest they must be absent of fear, friction, flies, and hunger. Today most humans can’t get a good rest if they have something bothering them, they are worried, insects or they are hungry.  A good shepherd, the Lord, knows when the right time is as well where the right place was.

He Leads Me Besides the Still Waters

Stilled waters resembles comfort, care and rest. The shepherd provides these for their flock.

He Restores My Soul

This translates to the Lord returned my soul to its rarest form of purity. Another way of translating this would be to repent or be converted.

He Leads Me

The shepherd was a guide as the sheep would not know where to go otherwise. We need a guide and ours is the Lord.

In the Paths of Righteousness

As the shepherd leads the sheep to comfort and safety, he also led them down a path void of obstructions. The Lord guides us in the way of holy obedience.

For His Name’s Sake

The shepherd is leading the sheep for the view of credit and glory of the shepherd’s own name. Therefore, the Lord is our shepherd leading us to give the credit and the glory to the shepherd – The Lord.

Yea, Though I walk Through the Valley of The Shadow of Death

So far through this Psalm we have dealt with pleasant things like green pastures, stilled waters, and paths of righteousness. These are all things that brings us comfort.  However, we will come to encounter the dark shadow a few times in our life.

The author is using this phrase to remind us of a dark fearful experience. The fact that it’s a valley indicates that we are locked in or surrounded. However, walking through the valley of the shadow of death doesn’t refer to the destination or the end.

I Will Fear No Evil

We know that God wants us to trust Him with all our fears, but we are to fear Him. We live on the Lord’s schedule not ours. By no means does this phrase indicate the elimination of evil but the fear.

You Are with Me

As the shepherd emphasizes the elimination of the fear of evil for his sheep, the Lord will eliminate the fear of evil for his flock as well.

Your Rod and Your Staff, They Comfort Me

The rod and staff are tools of the trade used by the shepherd. The shepherd had a sturdy walking stick that could be using to guide the flock as well as ward off potential predators. No matter the usage, it appeared to be a comfort to the shepherd.

You Prepare a Table Before Me

This phrase signifies that a magnificent feast is provided by a great host. However, the host who does have the funds to capture me but also the power to protect me.  Although surrounded by enemies, I sit down to the table to eat knowing I am in perfect security.

In the Presence of My Enemies

There is no rush as you sit at this table to eat even though your enemies are surrounding you. The Lord has prepared a time for you in safety and comfort.

You Anoint MY Head with Oil, My Cup Runs Over

No matter what is going on around you, The Lord allows you to enjoy the richness of the host’s goodness. This allowed him to be refreshed with the head being anointed.  The cup overflows refer to how much trust do you put in the Lord.

Surely Goodness and Mercy Shall Follow Me All the Days of My Life

The host’s care brought the goodness and mercy of God to David, and he lived in the faithful expectation of it continuing all the days of his life. Mercy is the covenant-word rendered “Steadfast love” and put with goodness suggests the steady kindness and support one can count on in the family or between firm friends.

And I Will Dwell in the House of the Lord Forever

The Psalm ends with the greatest assurance that we would enjoy the presence of the Lord forever. This includes both in his days on earth and beyond.  Being God’s guest is more than an acquaintance it is forever.

Now over the past few months we have lost some of our dear friends. Some are them from the elements, some from criminal activity, and some because it was their time.  We may not know if they were right with the Lord we can only pray that they were.

So, in closing, a poem by Linda Ellis comes to mind:

The Dash

I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning…to the end

He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time that they spent alive on earth. And now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own, the cars…the house…the cash.  What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.

So, think about this long and hard. Are there you’d like to change? For you never know how much time is left that can still be rearranged

If we could just slow down enough to consider what’s true and real and always try to understand the way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.

And be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile, remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash…would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent YOUR dash?

So let me ask you this what are you doing between the dashes?

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s