Thursday, June 28, 2012

Psalm 23, Do You Say It in Earnest?, Part 1

Ever since the age of five, my family has visited a particular stretch of beach located in North Carolina. Our very first week there my older sisters and I noticed and picked up everything: driftwood, broken shells, polished stones, and even dead crabs. I remember how loud I thought the ocean was and how looking straight down at the layers of waves—some coming, some going—made me dizzy. Decades later, my mom, dad, brother, sisters, and I, and our respective families travel out to that same beach every other year. We love it, but many of those details that once loudly called for our attention have been muffled. I realized this one summer as I was mindlessly throwing shells into the waves without caring if each one was a “keeper” or not. I believe that this is much the same way with familiar passages of the Bible. The first few times we encountered them we may have tried to scrutinize every word and connection, but after a while familiarity sets in and we find ourselves breezing through much treasured passages, losing out on new discoveries.  

Realizing this too common phenomenon, I tried to come up with a way to help my mind focus on the details of Psalm 23 (the well-known The Lord is my shepherd passage). John Calvin and Charles Spurgeon, in their commentaries on Psalm 23, note what an amazing and godly man David was to have written what he did. I asked myself, When I speak Psalm 23 aloud, in song or praise, do I speak it in earnest? Or, in other words, How truthful are the precious words of this Psalm when emanating from my mouth? I admit—sheepishly, may I say—that I was not all that pleased with my answer to that question. 

Nonetheless, this very question will serve as the backdrop for my next few meditations on Psalm 23, as we walk through the pastures and the valley with David and the Great Shepherd.

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