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Friday, March 11, 2011

Behold the face of your pursuer

 1-3 God, my shepherd! I don't need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction. 4 Even when the way goes through Death Valley, I'm not afraid when you walk at my side.  Your trusty shepherd's crook makes me feel secure.  5 You serve me a six-course dinner
      right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing. 6 Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I'm back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.
(Psalm 23)

Most of us are familiar with the words of this Psalm because we have heard them at a funeral or during some other time of distressing occurrence.  Yet, these words are significant in times of "life", not just in times of "death".  The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want...

We have an authority over our lives - the shepherd is the one "leading" the sheep, "directing" them, and "providing" for them.  A leader sets the way, a person in charge of directing gives wisdom and insight, and a provider makes every need his priority.  David reminds us that when God is in this place in our lives, we don't need anything else!  

You lead me beside still waters - bedding us down, providing us with rest for our weary souls.  All the world hurls at us daily serves to wear us down - it sucks energy from our souls, occupies precious space in our thoughts, and entangles us in its grasp.  Still waters run deep - there is a refreshing that comes when we partake of what God provides for our restoration.  

You restore my soul - true to his word, he gives us time to catch our breath.  I cannot count the times when life was throwing stuff at me so fast that I physically, mentally, and emotionally did not feel like I could ever come up for air.  The pressures mounted and the fears entered in - that is the natural outcome when pressures mount and we are left trying to lead ourselves through the many pressures we face.  David gives us some insight here - go to where God is leading you - there you find rest.  

The worst thing we can do is to believe that we are too busy to take time for God, to allow him to refresh our weary souls.  God delights in "giving us space" and "giving us time" to really refocus our lives.  It is there that God gives us the sense that he is "alongside" us in our struggles.  When we sense his presence, there is a renewed confidence that we shall come out on the opposite of the troubling circumstances with our head held high, our minds at peace, our energies renewed, and our faith built strong.

That last verse reminds us of God's unending love for us - his faithfulness to pursue us every step of the way.  He "chases after us" - we don't chase after him.  What a sad fact, but truth nonetheless.  He is the one pursuing us - so that his love may affect us deeply and his grace may embrace us closely.  We don't know the many times when God's pursuit was initiated in our lives by the "wrong turns" we took along the way, but a shepherd is ever-alert to the many wanderings of his sheep.

This is not a "death psalm" - it is the Psalm of Life.  It is about God's pursuing love, engaging us in his restorative provision, renewing us for the next challenge we face.  Life is found in his arms, in the nudges of his shepherd's rod, and in his quiet places.  Renewal is around the corner - you are being pursued - stop, listen, and behold the face of your pursuer.