Lesson 2 -- second quarter 2010
March 14, 2010
© Copyright 2010
Just how obvious is it that the Lord is shepherding me?
How do I try to overcome my fears?
What is my cup doing right now?
Can people around me benefit from the goodness and mercy following me?
A whining complainer or a joyful noisemaker -- which will I be today?
Do I act like service is enough (and the gladness is optional)?
Does God miss my praise?
The Psalmist knew about depression and discouragement. In Psalm 42:5 he wrote, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me?" Depression and discouragement go beyond feelings, which are often fleeting. These Dreadful D's are a state of being, a condition of the soul.
When I think of my soul, I think of my mind; that is, my ability to think as well as the values that guide my life. I think of my will, which to me is my capability to exercise conscious control over myself. I also think of my emotions (and we all know what those are!).
Discouragement and depression exercise a downward, negative effect on our mind, will, and emotions. They warp our thoughts and values. They deprive us of our self-control. And they work ruin with our emotions. Left to run unrestrained, discouragement and depression will pull us in an ever downward spiral. With mind, will, and emotions so diminished, the victim is left with no apparent way out. He is doomed to worsen because his own self-help mechanisms are working against him.
Even so, he can have hope! Listen to David's assurance as expressed in the completeness of Psalm 42:5. "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance" (Psalm 42:5). With David we can acknowledge the troubled, cast down state of our soul. With David we can affirm that our hope lies only with God and the help of His countenance.
I am deeply challenged at this time with the reminder that I can see God in His Word. Therefore, I should turn to the Bible in my low times.
"Yes," you might protest, "but I can't even exercise the self-discipline to do that. And I for sure don't feel like it." I understand. So here's a promise for us to claim: "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). In other words, when I have neither the power nor the will to do what I ought, God will work them in me if I turn to Him. Isn't that great!
Here's one more promise from our generous, understanding, compassionate heavenly Father: "For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul" (Jeremiah 31:25). When our mind, will, and emotions are completely shot, run down, and depleted, He replenishes them! As David wrote, "He restoreth my soul" (Psalm 23:3).
Pity the sheep I see almost every day. They have no shepherd, at least not in the Middle Eastern sense and practice. The sheep I see generally fend for themselves; they have no idea of what it's like to have a real shepherd.
"He maketh me to lie down in green pastures." The sheep have walked a long way to reach the green pastures. They are so tired, but also so hungry. They want to get busy with the business of eating. But the shepherd knows it is better for them to rest first. Our Shepherd knows when we must slow down, lie down, and rest. If we don't do so on our own, He brings those circumstances which force us to rest.
"He leadeth me beside the still waters." The rushing mountain streams have such cool, refreshing water. But those streams are a threat to sheep for their wool acts like a sponge. So the shepherd dams the streams to create still waters which the sheep may safely and fearlessly enter. How many times our Shepherd "dams the rushing streams" so that we might drink without danger or fear!
"He restoreth my soul." When a sheep has been frightened or injured, the shepherd speaks to it quietly, calmly, reassuringly. He might even sing to it or play on his harp. Eventually the sheep, thus restored, is ready to return to its rest, grazing, or playing. Our Shepherd loves to meet us in our time of fear, need, and disquiet to restore our souls.
"He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." Traversing the canyons, valleys, and ridges are many paths, often with danger yawning on one side or the other. The sheep are uncertain and fearful, but not the shepherd. He knows the right way. Following him they are both safe and at peace. I don't know my own way through life, but my Shepherd both knows the way and is the Way.
"Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me." No matter what wild animals may lurk and prowl through this region, the sheep know they are safe if they stay in the presence of the shepherd. Our Shepherd is with us also . . . if we don't wander from Him!
"Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." The sheep have seen the shepherd use his rod to beat off marauding beasts and pry loose big stones that have trapped sheep legs. They have seen (and felt) the staff gently lift a fallen sheep back to safety. Our Shepherd is well-equipped and well-able to protect and rescue us in our moments of need, hopelessness, and desperation.
"Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies." The high grazing lands have plenty of natural enemies of sheep: sharp stones, poisonous plants, beasts of prey, and other dangers. Before taking his sheep there, the shepherd scouts the place. He removes as many dangers as possible and prepares himself to deal with the others. Then he brings his sheep to eat. Even in the presence of danger and opposition, our Shepherd feeds us in safety.
"Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over" As they enter the sheepfold at night, the sheep are individually inspected by the shepherd. He pours medicinal oil in the cuts, scratches, and abrasions received during the day. Then he dips a bowl in a spring of fresh water, offering it to each sheep before it lies down to sleep. Does your Shepherd want to do that for you at day's end?
Pity many of the sheep I see every day. They have no Shepherd. They fend for themselves. So I say, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever."
This concludes my comments based on the alternate lesson developed by Christian Light Publications. To read my comments on the passage for the International Bible Study, click here: The Judge's Grace.
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