Reading Time: 8 Minutes
Baptists can trace our heritage to the influence of Martin Luther (1483-1546). Like multitudes of people over the centuries, Luther used the Psalms on a daily basis to connect with God.
Every time he approached the Psalms, he would first pray the Psalm. He also made an effort to meditate on the Psalm he was reading, as the first Psalm recommends.
But their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night. (Psalm 1.2)
Luther sought to be absorbed in the Psalm that he read for the day. He encouraged people to make one Psalm or just one verse from a Psalm to “breathe in your heart” and to “relate the Psalm to your own personal experiences.”
Luther wrote, “Scripture is not in our power, nor in the ability of our mind. Therefore, in its study we must in no way rely on our understanding, but we must become humble and pray that God may bring that understanding to us, since it is not given except to those who are bowed down and humble.”
Let’s approach this famous Psalm with Luther’s thoughts in mind. Let’s pray it, meditate on it, and absorb it into our lives.
Lord and Shepherd
The speaker said it all, when he declared, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23.1).
Saint Jerome (lived 389) said this about the first words of Psalm 23, “He is Lord, since he gave me being by creating me; he is Shepherd and Ruler, since by shepherding and ruling he gives me being in a blessed way.”
Let’s follow Luther’s model today, as we approach this Psalm.
— Pray – Dear God, thank you that you are my Lord. I am your servant. You are also my Shepherd. Please direct my steps today.
— Meditate – Think about your life. You are alive because God, your Creator, desired your existence. Remember how God has directed your life in the past and is willing to guide you each day of your life. Commit to him as the Shepherd and Ruler of your life.
— Absorb – Relate this verse to what is currently transpiring in your life.
Provision, Guidance and Protection
We have no wants when the Lord is our Shepherd. He provides for us, directs our lives, and protects us from harm.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me. (Psalm 23.2-4)
These three verses provide a snapshot of how for generations shepherds have cared for their sheep in Israel. In the morning the shepherd leads the sheep to pasture. At noon, the sheep are taken to a place of rest. The sheep are not protected by a fence, but by their shepherd’s rod and staff.
As we turn to these verses, let’s use Luther’s approach.
— Pray – Dear God, you know what my needs are today. I place all of my worries and concerns for the day in your hands. You know how I need both activity and rest. Please keep my life in balance. Please protect me from my own defective thinking and from any other harm.
— Meditate – Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10.1-18). It would profitable for you to turn in your Bible to John’s Gospel and meditate on the entire eighteen verses. Here are a few key verses from that passage.
Jesus said, “[The Shepherd] goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice” (John 10.4). Meditate on how you know the voice of Jesus. Think of the different ways that Jesus leads you.
Meditate on how Jesus protects us. He said, “The thief comes only in order to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come in order that you might have life — life in all its fullness” (John 10.10).
Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd, who is willing to die for the sheep” (John 10.11). Think of the picture of the cross that is in Psalm 22. Praise Jesus, our Good Shepherd, who was willing to die for you.
— Absorb – Think of specific instances in your life where you need God’s provision, direction and protection. Express your gratitude to him for his care. Place your trust in him for the events of your day.
God, Our Host
The image in the Psalm shifts from shepherd and sheep to God who is our host.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows. (Psalm 23.5)
This verse is full of inviting images for the person who is a guest at God’s table. God’s protection is so complete that we can settle down to enjoy fellowship with God and not worry about the influence of our enemies. Our host anoints our head with soothing oil and fills our life to overflowing.
Following Luther’s pattern we can do the following:
— Pray – Dear God, I know that my own faulty thinking, the world’s system and demonic forces are my enemies. But I also am your friends. May I enjoy friendship with you to such an extent that it overflows my life into all that I do.
— Meditate – Think of how great is God. He is our Creator, Lord, and Shepherd. He is also our Host. We live in his world. He desires that we experience his overflowing life to the max.
— Absorb – Bring your day before the Lord. What kind of challenges do you face today? Ask for the Lord to enable you to feel his gracious presence, provision and protection for the day.
God’s Abundant Love
Psalm 23 ends with a rich declaration of God’s goodness.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long. (Psalm 23.6)
Why is the Lord a Shepherd that gives so fully that we have no wants? He provides, protects, and lavishes his abundance on us. His goodness and mercy endures all the way to eternity.
Please close your study of Psalm 23 with Luther’s method of studying all of the Psalms.
— Pray – Dear God, how great you are! You are my protector and provider. Your Son came to earth, so I could experience a life of overflowing meaningfulness and joy. You give me rest and provide what I need for health. This comes from your heart of goodness and mercy. When my time on earth has ended, I have all eternity to enjoy your blessings. Praise your name!
— Meditation – Take one of the verses in this Psalm to think about all day today. Let it run through your mind throughout the day in worship of and prayer to our great God.
— Absorb – What do you need from God today? Is it protection, provision, rest, a sense of God’s closeness, or the knowledge of his overflowing grace? Bring that need into your consciousness and then give it to your loving Lord and Shepherd.
May We Pray for You?
Maywood Baptist Church has a prayer team that will be honored to pray for any concern you may have. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. I will pray for you and will ask the prayer team to do the same.