Formations lesson for April 25- A Song of Trust
April 14 2010 by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville

Focal Passage: Psalm 23; Hebrews 13:20-21

Psalm 23 is often called “the Shepherd’s Psalm.” If the order of the verses were reversed, it might be known as “the Party Psalm.”

The opening metaphor is plain and familiar. “The Lord is my shepherd” is a statement of faith: in God I trust, on God I depend, to God I belong. Think of Jesus: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).

“I shall not want” might be less about what I have than about my attitude. Consider Paul: “Not that I complain of want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content” (Phil. 4:11).

I “lie down in green pastures” and drink from “still waters;” “he restoreth my soul.”

On the wall of a soup kitchen in our town is a sign: “O God, we ask you for what we want, and in your divine extravagance, you give us what we need.”           

Rested and restored, I’m ready to follow where the shepherd leads: in “the paths of righteousness,” by the right road, to the right place.

In the final two verses the image changes. “Thou preparest a table before me” means a feast:  caviar and steak tartar (maybe barbecue and hush puppies in the South).

“In the presence of mine enemies” is an ironic reversal; one formerly persecuted is lifted up.   

Remember Jesus: It’s better to sit at the back and be invited to the head table, than to have to be asked to step down (Luke 14:7-11).

Psalm 45:7 mentions the “oil of gladness,” a gesture of joy and approval. “My cup runneth over” evokes a waitress at a crowded table, reaching over, generously filling the glass till the wine (or iced tea) spills over.

And this is no one-time party. It lasts “all the days of my life,” even “forever,” in a sumptuous palace, “the house of the Lord.” Jesus used the same concept in parable after parable.

The bridge from the first image to the second, from trusting the shepherd to partying in the palace, runs through the “valley of the shadow” (v. 4). Notice the change in pronoun from “he,” talking about God (vv. 1-3), to “thou” (“you”), talking to God (vv. 4-6).  Now it’s personal.

In the dark places of life, even facing death, God is truly with us, guarding (“thy rod”), guiding (“thy staff”), comforting. So “fear no evil.” Our trust is well-founded. Welcome to the party!
4/14/2010 5:38:00 AM by Ed Beddingfield, pastor, First Baptist Church, Fayetteville | with 0 comments

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