I Will Dwell in the House of the Lord Forever

Psalm 23:6 – and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. 

Today’s article is inspired by the last chapter of A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller.

Going home. With the Lord forever.

The sheep started out at the house, and he was guided to the still waters and green pastures. Then he was taken up to the summer grazing pasture in the high tablelands, and as he went he was led by the shepherd through the dark valleys. Now they are coming back home to spend the winter. They made the journey, they came through disease, friction, fear, threats from predators and dark valleys, etc., and now they are coming home to be at peaceful rest with the Good Shepherd.

The shepherd was always there. Always attentive. Always looking over the sheep and caring for their needs. Always looking out to see where they need to go next and keeping a vigilant eye for predators.

As a Christian, you journey with God as he leads you to green pastures and still waters. When you are diseased or pestered by the things of this world, He treats you and brings you to healing. As you are faced with fear and the threat of predators, God protects you with His rod and His staff. You travel with him through the valleys of the shadow of death. You don’t stay there, you travel through it. As you are surrounded by enemies, God feeds you and prepares a feast for you. He even anoints you to heal you and show you that you belong to Him.

One day, He will bring you home. His home. You will be at peace forever with Him. No one will take you from that home. There will be no more fear, friction or flies. Not another dark valley to tread. No more enemies lurking in dark places. Safety, rest, healing and contentment with the Shepherd in His house forever. That’s awesome.

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
(John 10:9-10)

Your Rod and Your Staff, They Comfort Me.

Psalm 23:4 – 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.

Today’s article is inspired by chapter 8 of A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller.

Two essential pieces of equipment for the shepherd were the rod and the staff. We also know that David and many other shepherds carried a sling as well. Shepherds in the field traveled light, but the rod and the staff were always with the shepherd. And in this Psalm by David, those two pieces of wood were somehow a comfort to the sheep. But why?

Why is the sheep comforted by the rod and staff of his shepherd?

Rod

The rod was a shorter, club like device that the shepherd used for multiple purposes. Protection – A shepherd became deadly accurate in throwing this rod and used it effectively to protect the sheep from wolves and other predators. Discipline – sometimes a wayward sheep would wander away into danger and the shepherd whizzed this by the sheep to scare her back to the fold. Counting/Inspection – The Old Testament spoke of those who “passed under the rod,” and that referred to when a shepherd would have each sheep pass under his eye to inspect it and count it. He was not only making sure all sheep were present, but he was checking for any problems or diseases with His sheep.

Under the shepherd’s rod, you were his. You belonged to him. He looked over you and made sure you were healthy. Your loving shepherd uses the rod not only to keep you in line, but to keep you safe. It is no wonder that the rod is a comfort to the sheep.

Staff

A shepherd’s staff is a long, slender piece of wood, usually with a crook or hook in one end. There are many images, both today and in the Scripture of a shepherd leaning on his staff (Hebrews 11:21). Keller points out three ways he would use the shepherd’s staff. Drawing the sheep close to him – This is a picture of intimacy. The shepherd is pulling that lamb or ewe close to his side for inspection or to get a baby lamb by its mama. Guiding sheep – Not by beating it, but by pressing the staff against the side of the sheep. Rescue – Sometimes a sheep is caught and needs rescued and pulled from danger. The loving shepherd would use his staff with the crook on one end and help pull the sheep to safety.

It is no doubt why David looked at those two pieces of shepherd’s equipment as a huge comfort to the sheep. But of course, he was talking about himself as a sheep with God. God’s rod and God’s staff were a comfort to David. It is a comfort to know that God knows we are His. We are comforted by God’s inspection and discipline, even though for a season it might be uncomfortable. It is a peace of mind to us to know that our Shepherd is protecting us from predators sent by Satan himself. And I love that the Shepherd draws me close to Him with His staff, just as the Holy Spirit draws us to the Father’s side.

Intimacy. Protection. Relationship. Training. Rescue. Jesus’ rod and staff are truly comforting.

Even though I walk through the valley…

Psalms 23:4 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.

Today’s article is inspired by chapter 7 of A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller.

In order to get to the mountain meadows, which might include the “table” or plateau above where the summer pasture is for the flock, the shepherd has to lead his sheep up the mountains. This includes going through ravines and dark valleys. Dangers can abound in such places, but the shepherd is there by their side.

In his book, Keller, talks about his reasons for taking sheep up through the winding valleys. One is that as mentioned, his goal is to take them up to the summer meadows to graze. A second is that those valleys were generally the gentlest grades up the mountain. Thirdly, he pointed out that valley is usually well watered. And a fourth reason is that there is usually good grazing along the way in those valleys.

To parallel this to our lives under the Gentle Shepherd, Jesus, we know that on the way to that higher ground with God, we have to walk through dark valleys. Death and danger are there. But in the valley as we face those trials, God is with us all the way. We are well fed and watered through those valleys. It is in some of the darkest valleys of our lives that we find the greatest refreshment from our loving Shepherd.

Keller also pointed out the phrase, “I walk through” this valley. We don’t stop there. That is not the end. The shepherd walks the sheep through this valley. And the sheep are secure, because of the presence of the loving shepherd. The dark valleys are temporary and even necessary to reach that higher meadow in the mountains. But they are just that, temporary. We walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

Remember that Jesus as our Shepherd walked this valley for Himself, and He knows the terrain. He was a sheep, the lamb who was slain, and now He is risen to be our Good Shepherd. As you can see in our final verse below, Jesus was not alone in those valleys, because His Shepherd was always with Him.

John 16:32-33 – “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world”

He Makes Me Lie Down in Green Pastures

According to W. Phillip Keller, a sheep cannot lie down unless 4 requirements are met.

Psalm 23:2 – He makes me lie down in green pastures.

Today’s article is based on chapter 3 of W. Phillip Keller’s book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23.

Keller observed that sheep will not lie down unless 4 requirements are met. In order for sheep to lie down they must be:

  • Free from fear
  • Free from friction within the flock
  • Free from flies (parasites, irritating critters)
  • Free from finding food

Much of this is dependent upon the Shepherd. His presence and protection can calm their fears. His watchful eye can see a ewe that is overly aggressive and bullying the other sheep (take a look at Ezekiel 34:21 for how the Scripture uses this analogy). The shepherd also has to be vigilant for flies, parasites and other pests that will either drive the sheep crazy or make them sick. Also, it is the shepherd’s responsibility to look ahead and provide the proper nutrition for the sheep. It is because of the loving Shepherd’s care that the sheep can lie down in comfort.

I encourage you to read this book by Keller if you haven’t already. It is a short book and well-worth the read.

The Lord Did Not Answer Him

1 Samuel 28:4-6
The Philistines assembled and came and encamped at Shunem. And Saul gathered all Israel, and they encamped at Gilboa. When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets.

Saul had spent at least a decade, maybe more, chasing David around Israel (see 1 Samuel 18-27). The enemy to Saul had been David, not the Philistines. If he was a politician, what would he say his greatest achievement had been in the last decade? “Hey, look at all of the times I almost killed David!” King Saul had spent so much effort, resources and time on finding and killing David that he didn’t even see that the Philistines had surrounded him and were now moving in from the north.

But now the cold, hard reality sets in. He’s surrounded and he’s afraid. He “trembled greatly.” He finally decided to call upon God. God didn’t answer the door, however, when Saul knocked. That’s harsh, but that’s the piercing reality of the life of a person who rejects God. The Lord is going to let King Saul face the music.

This isn’t to say that King Saul could not receive forgiveness. If Saul at the last minute wanted to make things right with God, God is merciful and would forgive. But God also said that if a person keeps living a sinful life and continues in rejection of the correction God sends, then God won’t listen when he prays. If God wasn’t listening to Saul, it is apparent that Saul’s heart was not repentant. He was just scared and wanted to avoid pain and punishment.

Here is a final passage to consider. Look at Proverbs 1 and think of how wisdom is calling for us. What happens when we keep refusing to listen to wisdom? Solomon tells us.

Proverbs 1:20-33
Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”

Let’s take a lesson from King Saul. God is merciful, patient and ready to forgive, but if we continue to live a life in rejection of His word, then we can’t expect God to rescue us from our problems. If we don’t listen when He calls, eventually He won’t listen when we call.

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23

I’m reading a great book right now by W. Phillip Keller called A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. It was recommended to me by a man who has served as a shepherd in the church. The author lived the life as a shepherd, a real shepherd, and he knows all about sheep. His brings his real-life experience as a shepherd to write about the 23rd Psalm. It is a powerful read.

I believe it is good for us as men to read this book for two reasons:

  1. We can draw closer to Jesus Christ as our Shepherd when we read the perspectives on shepherds and sheep.
  2. We can learn more about what it means to be a shepherd of people. God used this “shepherding” concept throughout the Bible to illustrate what God is looking for in those who would lead His children.

Here is the link to Amazon where you can buy this book. I have the paperback copy, but I really like the audio version!

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller

Psalms 23:1-6
(1) A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
(2) He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
(3) He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
(4) 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.
(5) You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
(6) Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

The Master and Us

Whatever your role as a man, you have responsibilities.

Today we are considering our role(s) as it pertains to the women in our lives…husbands, fathers, sons, brothers…and this is whether we are single, married, widowers, divorced…there are women in our lives and we have responsibility to them because of our responsibility to Jesus.

How well we fulfill our responsibilities depends upon our view of the Master of the House.

As we start with the Master…let’s define the word “master”.  The Greek word is “kurios” and means “he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he as the power of deciding; master, lord.  This is used universally, of the possessor and disposer of a thing, the owner.  Kurios is a title of honor, expressive of respect and reverence, with which servants salute their master.  (Thayers)

Just to be clear.  When we talk Master we are talking about Jesus Christ.  The Savior.  The Messiah.

Because of Who He is…The Lord of Lords!  Because of What He did…Sacrifice!  Because of What He is Doing…Intercession!  Because of What He is Going to Do…Glory!

He is our Master and therefore we are to “…be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”  (Ephesians 5:21; NASB).

“Subject” is to arrange under, to subordinate; to subject, put in subjection.  “Fear” is reverence, respect.  “Christ” is the anointed of God, the Lord of Lords, the Master of the House!

So when we live our lives and find ourselves saying “I can’t do this or that for a particular woman in my life”; let’s change the question and ask “Can I do this or that for the Lord?”

Because, the truth is, what we do we do for Jesus whether we mean to or not.  If we are looking to Him and endeavoring to follow (be subject to) Him, then He will lead us and we will be the man we need to be and He will be glorified.  If we live like that, then the women in our lives will notice and it will make a difference.

The reward in living like this is a reward for all.  If we lead by example and live our lives subject to Jesus then it is likely those women in our lives who we care about, seek to influence, or work along side will be impacted for good.  If we live this way, then together with the women in our lives we can seek out and expect the reward God is offering.

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.  (Colossians 3:23-24; NASB)

Strive for the crown of life promised by God for you in Heaven…and hold tight to the women in your life and don’t let them go…serve them because Jesus is worthy of our service no matter what or who we might be dealing with.

What is your life?

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”–yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
(James 4:13-17)

Today’s passage is a reminder for us that life is short, we are but a mist that will soon vanish away. God is eternal, so as we look to the temporary work here under the sun, we need to look to Him who is beyond the sun. We must look to things eternal for our perspective as we deal with things temporal.

My business pursuits may seem so important and pressing, but my integrity and character and my eternal soul will last far longer than whatever business I am engaged in today. God wants us to work, have jobs, make business plans, and go out and try to make a living. He’s not against that at all, just read Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. What He is warning us against constantly in Scripture is to keep our head in heaven while we are taking care of matters here on earth.

My choices and plans are constantly to be run through the filter of the Lord’s will and His purposes. As we plan and look to the future of our business and our jobs, we need to line up our business plans with God’s plans. “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will do this or that.'”

The Lord is able to give you much more than this

Then Amaziah assembled the men of Judah and set them by fathers’ houses under commanders of thousands and of hundreds for all Judah and Benjamin. He mustered those twenty years old and upward, and found that they were 300,000 choice men, fit for war, able to handle spear and shield. He hired also 100,000 mighty men of valor from Israel for 100 talents of silver. But a man of God came to him and said, “O king, do not let the army of Israel go with you, for the LORD is not with Israel, with all these Ephraimites. But go, act, be strong for the battle. Why should you suppose that God will cast you down before the enemy? For God has power to help or to cast down.” And Amaziah said to the man of God, “But what shall we do about the hundred talents that I have given to the army of Israel?” The man of God answered, “The LORD is able to give you much more than this.” Then Amaziah discharged the army that had come to him from Ephraim to go home again. And they became very angry with Judah and returned home in fierce anger.
(2 Chronicles 25:5-10)

King Amaziah is said by the Scripture to have done “what was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a loyal heart” (2 Chronicles 25:2).

As we see in the above passage, Amaziah tried to hire 100,000 soldiers from their evil neighbors to the north, the nation of Israel. God sent a prophet (a man of God) to tell him, “Don’t do that!”

An interesting exchange happened between King Amaziah and the man of God. The King asked, “But what about the money I’ve just invested?” What is the response of God through the prophet?

“The Lord is able to give you much more than this!”

What a powerful statement. Amaziah was concerned about money and what he would lose. God is concerned with obedience and trust in His provision.

King Amaziah had invested cash in soldiers from a wicked nation. Clearly he had not asked God’s advice on this prior to taking this action. So, now he has a choice, doesn’t he?

Do I follow my current course because I do not want to lose out on my investment? What will happen when I tell those Israelite soldiers to go back home? Will they get angry?

Or do I trust that if I follow God, He will more than provide for anything I have lost in investing in the ways of sin?

This is not to say that if we walk away from our sinful path that God is going to send piles of cash and prosperity our way as a reward. But He has certainly promised to provide for us abundantly if we forsake the ways of the world to follow Him. That provision most likely will have little to do with material wealth, but God’s provision (in whatever form that takes) is of infinitely better value than any temporary payoff here on earth (Hebrews 11:24-26).

So, what happens if:

  • We as a congregation have invested lots of time, money and energy into a program, course of action, or “ministry” that we later find out through study has no Biblical authority? Walk away from it, “The Lord is able to give you much more than this!”
  • We as individuals have devoted our lives and resources into a pathway that has taken us away from God? What about the things we will lose when we walk away? “The Lord is able to give you much more than this!”

Then Peter said, “See, we have left all and followed You.” So He said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come eternal life.”
(Luke 18:28-30)

I waited patiently for the Lord

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth–praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the LORD (Psalms 40:1-3).

How long am I willing to “wait”? It seems that with the speed of technology and life we are not willing to wait very long for anything.

God promised the Israelites they would receive the Promised Land, but it would take 400 years (Genesis 15). Abraham was promised at 75 years old that he would have a son through whom God would extend His blessings and promises. He had to wait 25 years for the promised son, Isaac, to be born.

Jacob thought he lost his son Joseph to wild animals when Joseph was only 17 years old. It was 22 years later, when Joseph was 39, that Jacob finally learned that his son was safe and sound.

I waited patiently for the Lord

Again, how long am I willing to wait? When I pray for an answer from God, do I demand immediate results? What if you have to wait decades for the real answer? Or, what if you never receive that specific answer you wanted from God? Will you still wait patiently for Him?

I will leave you with two more passages for today.

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:29-31).

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:8-9).