Walking Our Faith: A conversation with God through the Psalms (column)
November 19, 2016
Snow has arrived! It's Thanksgiving week. And we have reached the ninth and final week of reading the Psalms together. I hope you have been encouraged to view the Psalms as a conversation between you and God, covering every range of experience from joy to sorrow, from grief to gratitude.
Most of all, I hope you will see the Psalms as God's invitation to pursue a lifelong relationship.
For our ninth week, I've saved the best for last.
The 23rd Psalm
As we begin, please watch for an amazing transformation: what starts as a conversation about God, becomes a conversation with God.
In the first half, the psalmist refers to God as 'Lord', reflecting God's authority, but also keeping him at a distance.
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Then, beginning in the fourth verse, the psalmist refers to God as 'You.' This remarkable change signals a new intimacy between us and God. There is trust even in our darkest hour, because that is exactly where the change occurs.
A psalm of David.
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
God is the Shepherd that runs into the snowy night to find us. No matter how lost we become, he rushes to us with open arms so precious are we, to him.
We lack nothing because he offers the most important thing: limitless love. A love that heals us, repairs our relationships, and remembers our name.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
God understands that in the beginning our faith is fragile. So he provides opportunities for us to rest as we grow, to walk a gentle path beside quiet waters. He never pushes us, we proceed at our own pace.
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name's sake.
When we are weary, God meets us in prayer and the peace of the Holy Spirit refreshes us. Then, as we seek his guidance he opens the way before us.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
Unexpectedly, the worst happens. A loved one is lost, we face a devastating illness, a much needed job is gone, a dream we worked for crumbles to ashes. In our journey, we experience one or all of these soul-shattering moments. We feel as if we have been abandoned.
At this moment of greatest despair, we finally see God as "You." As darkness encroaches, we discover you are near. You offer protection and the steadfast assurance that you are with us always, we no longer have to face our trial alone, you comforts us.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Thanksgiving! We have much to be grateful for. We have traveled through the valley of the shadow of death, and now you have prepared a feast for us. We experience joy and reward and delight and relief. You anoint us with oil, a blessing, and a balm to heal our wounds. Even if we are surrounded by people who might wish to harm us, you are with us.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Finally, we accept your presence in our daily walk and acknowledge you are our refuge, our home. The house of our Lord is a place of friendship with you, a bond between Father and child, a deep intimacy that comes because we have walked together through the darkest valley and experienced your unwavering love.
Our trust in you is full now, and through trust, we understand your love for us. We can dwell in your house forever. We know that no matter what we face from here, you will be with us.
Although this is our last week of reading the Psalms together, I hope you continue them on your own.
I have discovered that if I focus on one Psalm each week, and read it aloud each day, putting my name into the Psalm as I read, I understand how God is speaking to me through the Psalm. I hope you will try this and let me know how it works for you.
This Thanksgiving, please know how grateful I am for each of you. Over the past year, you have allowed me to open my heart and share my joys and my tears. You have encouraged me, and told me when I missed the mark. Most of all, you have helped me to grow closer to God and to find home in Summit County. Thank you. God bless you.
Suzanne Anderson is the author of "Love in a Time of War" and other books. You can reach her at Suzanne@suzanneelizabeths.com or facebook.com/suzanneelizabeths
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