The post you're reading today?
Wasn't the post you were supposed to be reading today.
As someone who plans and writes blogs weeks in advance, I shocked myself when I ditched my originally scheduled post and opened up a completely different tab to write what you're about to read today.
Usually, when I receive a life-changing revelation, I sit on it for about 2-3 months before making it public on the blog. This revelation, however, just can't wait.
So, while I hope you don't mind waiting another month for our regularly scheduled blog program to recalibrate, I'm excited to let you in on a deep-dive study of a significant passage of Scripture I talked through with a friend just yesterday. (When I say this post wasn't supposed to go up...it wasn't supposed to go up.) In the middle of yesterday morning's breakfast, a handful of ol' faithful verses came up in our conversation. It's found in a psalm that's embedded into most worship songs and printed on a plethora of Christian coffee mugs and journals.
I'm talking about Psalm 23.
An Old Testament classic.
If you don't know it, you're about to, because this blog is dedicated to breaking down the psalm in the way my friend was gracious enough to break it down to me yesterday. What they didn't know was that a review into this particular piece of writing was exactly what I needed to read during this season of my life. And, while it is unlike me to write a post off of a revelation I received only 24 hours ago, something tells me that those of you who are heartbroken, hurting, and concerned for the future need to hear my conversation yesterday too.
Hence why this post just can't wait.
So, brace yourselves. My prayer over this spontaneous post of mine is that my words would cause you to read Psalm 23 in a way you might not've read it before. As the psalm seems to have a focus on safety with God, I want today's blog to challenge your reasons why many of you may not feel safe with Him. I'm not sure of each of your individual stories, backgrounds, or current realities, but I do know that someone reading this may have a hard time putting "safe" and "God" in the same sentence. Some of you view Him as abusive and controlling—short-tempered and harsh. "Safe" isn't necessarily a word you'd use to describe what life is like with Him around.
Can I be honest?
Much of my faith journey has felt like that. Like, I knew He was good and I knew I was supposed to trust Him, but if God really knew how I felt, how angry I was, how badly I wanted to explode out of that anger (without the consequences, of course), He would kick me out of His presence in a heartbeat. There wouldn't be a chance He would let me stick around with all of my mess. The only times I would feel safe with God is when I was playing the part of a really good Christian girl. I mean, how couldn't I? I was doing everything I knew I was supposed to do. I was speaking the way He wanted me to speak, behaving the way He wanted me to behave. Surely, my "goodness" ensures safety with God. But, heavens forbid, if I crack and reveal that I'm deteriorating underneath such an excellent performance, He wouldn't be able to handle it. He would prefer I come to Him with the right words and the perfectly-curated prayers, not the truth of what I was going through. He wants me to come in with Scripture verses on my lips, not the swear words I want to say (and ones I've certainly already said...oops). If I came to Him in complete honesty, I can't trust that I'd be safe with Him.
Wrong. Even when I think that, I know that thought isn't true. But, what Scripture verse can I rely on to ensure that this isn't true? That I really, truly am safe with Him?
Safe enough to pray wild prayers like David prayed.
Safe enough to tell God I really don't feel like doing the right thing in the moment.
Safe enough to admit that for this situation? In this particular moment? My way sounds a lot more logical than God's way.
Safe enough to tell God the truth—the whole truth—nothing but the truth.
How do I know that He really is as safe as I'm supposed to believe He is?
It says this:
"1 The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
2 He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3 He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
4 Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
5 You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
If you're a church kid and you've seen & read this verse multiple times before, I get it. You're probably rolling your eyes, crossing your arms, thinking, "Tell me something I don't know." But, in the case that this is indeed your reaction, perhaps you are well overdue of a deeper study of this text—as was I.
That's why we're here diving into this together.
Let's begin at verse one.
The fact that this whole passage starts off by describing God as a shepherd automatically means that it is also describing us as sheep. And, as my friend reminded me yesterday, sheep aren't necessarily the sharpest tools in the shed.
For example, I learned yesterday that sheep don't stop walking unless 1) they grow exhausted and can't take another step or 2) they are directed otherwise by their shepherd. Meaning, sheep are dumb enough to follow a whole herd off of a cliff if they didn't have any other assistance. It's happened many times before. They'll walk right into danger without even batting an eye, fall into a ditch and fall right back into it again after they've been rescued.
To avoid being accused of insulting you, my friend, I'll just speak for myself:
I am that sheep.
I make fifteen thousand mistakes before the clock strikes nine...in the morning. Even when I try to clean up those mistakes, I make an even bigger mess. I'm the kind of sheep that can beep-bop my way right into trouble without even realizing it—the sheep that has left the other ninety-nine more times than I'd like to admit.
So, yeah. I am that sheep.
But, I am not a sheep without a shepherd.
Psalms 23:1 reminds me of that—not just that I have a shepherd, but one that happens to be the Creator of the World. My Shepherd's humble and gentle heart qualifies Him to teach and lead my clueless, twenty-two-year-old self in the first place. Because of this, verse one assures me that I lack nothing. I have absolutely everything that I need. Knowing this brings me peace, and I want it to bring you peace as well.
You have everything you need when Jesus is Lord of your life. If you feel you are lacking anything today, let this truth override everything else.
Moving on to verse two—
The lack of intelligence sheep have isn't the only thing my friend revealed to me. There's another trait about sheep I can relate to:
Sheep only rest when it's too late.
A phone conversation I had just yesterday evening revealed that.
It started off as my friend and I catching up, chilling out, keeping it very casual via FaceTime, but it wasn't very long until I ended my Sabbath early and we were both collaborating some killer ideas for one of my upcoming projects.
Again, I am the sheep.
I tend to get my rest in when I have no choice to. If I had it my way, I'd work through the night and call it productivity. So, when verse two says that the Lord—my Shepherd—lets me (or, as other translations say, makes me) lie down to rest, it's comforting to know that this requirement is part of the Lord's leadership. He refuses to let me work all day, or in the case of a sheep, walk all day, that I become so burnt out, I'm forced to collapse at any ol' place, where there's rocks and thorns and sticks to maneuver through before I can get comfortable. (That is what sheep do, by the way. They walk until they can't anymore and collapse just about anywhere to catch some Zzz's, when they could've down that miles back in a safer, greener, more comfortable pasture—back when they still had some energy left.) No, instead, the Lord lets me lie down where it's safe. He makes me lie down where I can be secure—in green pastures. Not passed out on my keyboard at 3 am, my fingertips sprinkled with Cheeto dust, because I worked through dinner and my body gave out on me. No. He lets me rest in the safest place I could rest. In green pastures. Where it's comfortable.
Not to mention the drink of water at the peaceful stream.
Not just any stream.
A peaceful one.
Because if the Lord were to lead His sheep to a stream that's wild, raging, and fast-paced, the dumb sheep might fall in and float away with the stream, leading to God knows where. No, drinking from a peaceful stream highlights the importance of the sheep's safety to The Shepherd too.
Why is all of this in verse two so significant?
Because, if all verse two said was, "He makes me rest and leads me along the stream", it would suggest that God doesn't necessarily care where we rest and where we drink from. Be it, He could make us rest in a dark alleyway or at our desk at work or at the bus station downtown. And, He could lead us to drink from some dangerous, sewage, muddied waters. No, God cares so much about our safety that even the little details of His provision are spelled out in Psalms 23—details we wouldn't even think are important. God takes all of it into account. He's not just going to lead us to any stream, but one where we can drink safely—get our needs met safely, get a good rest safely.
That's a Good Shepherd right there.
Let's jump down to verse four—the verse that does indeed (and maybe, unfortunately) promises us that we're going to walk through a dark valley. Whether we're walking through it right now or we're bracing for it to come in the future, verse four reminds us that it's coming. It's going to happen.
But, we don't have to be afraid.
Why? Because He's right beside us. Even if it really is bad, even if it really is our fault that we found ourselves in a dark valley in the first place, even then, we still don't have to fear.
He's right beside us.
Again, maybe that doesn't mean much to you. Maybe, to you, His presence means you're doomed. You fear that while He's with you now, He may not be with you in the future. You might do something to scare Him away. You're not even sure if He wants to be by your side. Whatever your concern is, my bible tells me that there's nothing that draws Him near more than a humble heart—that anyone who wants to call on His Name for salvation will be saved. So, as long as you are humble, as long as you confess in your heart that you want Love, Peace, Protection to be by your side at all times, He'll come to your aid. And, when He does, you don't have to fear anything that comes your way. Not the things of the past, the present, or the future. Especially that thing you're worried about now. You don't have to fear that either. If He's by your side, your victory is secured.
Which leads me to the final portion of our study found in verse five—
The significance of the oil mentioned is a revelation I've had for some time. However, studying it yesterday morning over breakfast reminded me of just how powerful verse five truly is.
The oil being poured on the sheep's head is to protect the sheep from any ticks or bugs that could get caught in the sheep's fur, causing them harm. Having foreknowledge that part of the shepherd's role is to protect the sheep from any big, bad wolves roaming around at night, very rarely do I consider the little wolves—like insects and ticks—that could cause the sheep harm too. The oil is what protects the sheep not just from obvious harm, but trouble the sheep might not even be able to identify.
Similarly, that's how God protects us too. There are things that I know could hurt me and things I don't have a clue could put me in harm's way without the guidance and direction of my Shepherd. But, God is faithful enough to shield me from even that—pouring oil on my head to cover me from even potential harm. He pours it to cover me, and He pours it to cover you too. All of it—no matter what it is—God would go out of His way to protect us from it all.
This is the significance of Psalm 23.
Everything we could ever fear, anything that could ever bring us harm—things that we know of and things we do not know of—God has got it covered. You are safest with Him. It doesn't matter what the fight is, He's intentional enough to make sure all of your bases are covered. There's not a detail of your provision that He hasn't thought about.
I must admit that I have spent the last few weeks chasing my tail, it seems, trying to figure out things I thought I already had figured out. And, my dizziness slowly, but surely got me wondering if I'm genuinely going to be okay, if God will actually carry me through the pain of it all. And, His answer to me was spelled out perfectly in Psalm 23:
A loud, sure, and confident yes.
And, it's the same answer for you too. God is going to take care of you. God, as your Shepherd, is going to ensure you have everything you need. From the kind of stream you drink from to the sort of place He's making you rest in, from the kind of conflict you're dealing with to the cycle you can't seem to get out of, from the new job you just got hired for to the other job you just lost—you name it. His provision is perfect for it.
So, don't worry, okay? You're safe with Him. If Psalm 23 tells us anything, it's that the Lord will make sure of it.