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Thursday: A Certain Promise for the Journey — 27 Comments

  1. It is interesting to consider Psalm 22 as a lead-up to and therefore along with Psalm 23. Notice how Psalm 22 begins with what it feels like for the psalmist. But then note also the contrasting reality that the psalmist affirms in Psalm 22:24. Thus, although it can feel we are alone, the reality is we are never alone. I suspect it was no mere coincidence that Jesus uttered the words of Psalm 22:1 when on the cross, perhaps directing hearers thoughts to the psalm and the journey from feelings to faith that it portrays.

    It is also interesting to consider Luke 15:3-7 in regard to the notion of goodness and mercy - core attributes of God's covenant-faithfulness - that follows or 'pursues'/seeks out. This passage amplifies how 'pursuing' or seeking after each and every single one of us (only ever in non-coercive ways) in the hope that we might be willing to be found, saved and restored is so important to God (John 3:16).

    Perhaps these considerations might bring hope to someone who is feeling discouraged amid their circumstances. God is with you... even though you may feel abandoned or separated.

  2. I know that this week's lesson has concentrated on Psalm 23 and I respect that, but there is another aspect to the sheep/shepherd analogy that is found in the Bible as well. Jesus is portrayed as the good shepherd but he also identifies with the sheep. They say that the mark of a good shepherd is that he can think like a sheep. That is not a demeaning statement. I can remember the times that Grandad would say something like, "Watch over there! That old biddy is going to lead the flock to make a break for it!" And sure enough when the dog was tending another part of the flock, the "old biddy" would stamp her hoof, and off she would go in a different direction. Grandad thought like a sheep. He would tell us where to stand to guide the sheep because he knew what they are thinking.

    Jesus identified not only as the shepherd but as the sheep.

    He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. Isa 53:7 KJV.

    I believe it is no coincidence that the sacrificial system was based on lambs. Jesus was the good shepherd and the sacrificial lamb. And while to many this seems so contradictory, it is a reminder that Jesus is with us in our experience and not just a shepherd in it for the money.

    My grandfather knew the ultimate fate of the sheep that he owned. He cared for them and knew them well, But ultimately they had to be shorn and when they reached the end of their productive lives they were sent to the slaughterhouse. Is it a bad ending for the analogy? What about the thousands of lambs slaughtered for the sacrificial system? The fact that Jesus identifies with the slaughtered indicates the strength of his relationship with us.

    When Jesus and Peter had a little conversation after the resurrection, Jesus asked Peter three times, "Do you love me?. Peter responded "You know I love you!" to the extent that he was frustrated with the question. Each time Jesus responded with, "Feed my sheep!, or "Feed my lambs!" It was a powerful statement of the responsibility of our identification and connection with the shepherd and the sheep, and especially the lambs.

  3. Question in study:
    What picture do you get in your mind if you imagine goodness and unfailing love “following/pursuing” you?
    What do you think David meant to tell us about God by describing His care for us this way?

    Something that follows *YOU* , is your reputation, charachter and godly motivation. This shows God's gifts and blessings is *Working in YOU/US as fruitfulness and not unfruitful.

    2 Peter 1:3-8 (CSB)
    3 His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
    4 By these he has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.
    5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge,
    6 knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness,
    7 godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
    8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    The barren fig tree:
    Mark 11:12-14 (CSB)
    12 The next day when they went out from Bethany, he was hungry.
    13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree with leaves, he went to find out if there was anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for it was not the season for figs.
    14 He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again! ” And his disciples heard it.

    Psalms 1:3 (CSB)
    He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams that bears its fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

    Shalom 🙏

  4. When we meditate about the sacrifice that Jesus did for us, it is impossible to say that God has left us alone amidst a bunch of problems. He cares for us, every day, and every hour... I'm tired of suffering, specially because suffering is the result of sin, because of my own sin or the others... But in Christ I find safety, peace, love, the safest place to be at any moment! He is The Real Sheperd, and knows every feeling I have! Because He became human just for that, out of His mercy and empathy for His creatures! Glory be to the King of Kings, to the One God has appointed as King of the Universe! May His name be worshiped forever, for He is the most vivid representation of God's love for humanity.

  5. The cross shows that the LORD is willing to give the greatest sacrifice, His sinless life, to save miserable wretches like us. He truly is a friend to sinners (John 3:16).

  6. In our physical, financial and emotional life the LORD often showers us with abundant blessings, however at times we go through trials for various reasons.

    However the most important lesson I have learned this week is that we maintain our relationship with the LORD, not to let the trials or the enemy cause us to loose focus or trust in the LORD. He has promised that no matter the situation He will be with us until the end.

  7. Interesting observation on another SDA YouTube site showed that the Metal Sheparding Rod and other extras pieces of metal (see graphics on first study here on this site, tools from molten metal in his crucible) were products/leadership qualities the Shepherd made/acquired in HIS crucible. (The Life of Christ in the flesh)

    Pointing to the incarnate Word made Flesh that led a life, as the second Adam, and overcame Satan, Sin and Death on our behalf and can now do that work/path in us sinners, if we let him. Spirit Led !

    Mathew 2:6, 1 Peter 2:25,n1 Peter 5:4

    Shalom 🙏

  8. I want to use the words ‘immersed or enveloped’ to picture the meaning of the words ‘follow' or 'pursuit’. God’s relationship encompasses the whole human – mind, body, and spirit and the life we live. He knows where we are, our thoughts, feelings, our intentions, the wellness of our body and soul – He never takes His eyes of us; there is no way to get away from Him - like when immersed in water - completely enveloped.

    David was persuaded that God was with him at all times; not just to help him win battles or keep him safe, but also to guide him in his decision making throughout his life. And the times he went against his better judgement and understanding, he was smitten by remorse – a sign that he cares to do things right; God’s Way!

    If we who believe come to the understanding that we are never separated from the presence of our Creator and heavenly Father, we will be able to say with the same conviction as David – 'Surely God's goodness and mercy shall follow/envelope/persue/immerse me all the days of my life; I will dwell - I do dwell - in the house of the LORD forever.'

  9. Does the shepherd lead or follow the sheep? Does he follow with goodness and mercy to pick us up when we fall?
    We have seen shepherds who use dogs to keep the sheep moving in the right direction as he directs from behind.
    The main thing is the shepherd cares for the sheep.

    • It seems to me that, in the biblical scenario, the Shepherd *leads* His sheep. That is indicated by "My sheep hear my voice." A shepherd wouldn't call his sheep from a following position.
      The dogs and directing from behind seem to be a modern, western tradition. That image severely distorts the lesson Jesus was teaching.

      • Yes, Jesus many times said "Follow Me"
        We don't need dogs nipping at our heals to go in the right direction.
        Even in Ps 23:3 it says He leads me in the paths of righteousness!

        • Watch a sheepdog trial. A dog that nips a sheep is disqualified! A good sheepdog is quite gentle.

  10. God has placed His estimate upon man in giving Jesus to a life of humiliation, poverty, and self-sacrifice, to contempt, rejection, and death, in order that man, His lost sheep, might be saved. Is it then a remarkable thing that all heaven is interested in the ransom of man? Is it a wonderful fact that ten thousand times ten thousand,and thousands of thousands of angels are employed in ascending
    and descending on the mystic ladder to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation? Angels do not come to the earth to denounce and to destroy, to rule and to exact homage, but are messengers of mercy to cooperate with the Captain of the Lord’s host, to cooperate with the human agents who shall go forth to seek and save the lost sheep. Angels are commanded to encamp round about those who fear and love God. The sympathy of all heaven is enlisted on behalf of the sheep that is wandering far from the fold......Oh, that we might comprehend the love of God, and even to a faint degree take in the compassion that has been manifested toward fallen man! How would we look and live! By beholding Christ man becomes changed and transformed in character from glory to glory.... He came to represent the Father in bringing the message of hope and salvation to our world. He lived not for Himself; He did not consult His own ease and pleasure; He did not yield to temptation; and He condescended to die in order that sinful men might be redeemed, and live eternally in the mansions He was to prepare for them. His mission was to teach souls who were dying in their sins. Christ Came to Seek the Lost Sheep, This work Christ has laid upon every one whom He has purchased. EGW in Lift Him Up, selected passages from pp. 412-415

    Are any of my brothers and sisters reading here also challenged by this, as I am? I find it very difficult to remain calm inside when with a precious "lamb" who is constantly complaining, finding the negative, anxious, focused on "bad weather". I love this person very much, and find myself wanting to run away. I try to change the subject, or pray out loud and silently, or quote Bible promises to calm the nerves of the other person, and by that point my nerves too. I want to join the angels of mercy and grace, but instead after several hours together I feel exhausted and even angry, with my stomach in knots. Do any of you have anything to share about how to stay focused on Christ's love and establishing emotional boundaries around this sort of "fearful sheep" personality?

    • I know how you feel Esther. We are dealing with a family situation with Carmel's aging parents. Personalities have become changed. Once gentle folk become demanding and yet at the same time we have to make decisions for them because they can no longer make them for themselves. It is heart-rending, gut-wrenching stuff. I don't have the answers to that one. We live a day at a time and take breaks when we can. but it is hard when they have a tight grip on your heart!

      • Beautifully said and analogous to my situation… “personalities have become changed”, so true, making it feel like a loss as well. Thank you for your sharing Christian empathy and understanding, brother Maurice! There must be challenges reaching those years that we’ll discover more fully if and when it’s our turn. I’ll pray for your family too.
        Last night we had worship together and there was a calm that came afterwards, praise God!

      • Same here. When taking care of
        verbally or physically abusive patients (loved ones) it has been the MOST character shaping of my entire life. It's been the hardest experience of my life, but I know that God never gives more than we can bear. And He wants me and my family to be ready for His soon coming, so I press on. One thing that has added sunshine to my day is doing whatever possible within my sphere to bring beauty to my life, home, family such as thinking and speaking kindness, cleaning and nicely decorating our home, being careful with my diet and exercise, etc. That has helped me to have a happy home.

        • Thank you, Rebecca! I love your thought about bringing in beauty, the beauty of holiness! I will pray for your family too.

    • Esther – thank you for sharing this marvelous, calming insight by Mrs. White; it touched my heart to the core. I see in her writing the relationship we have with fallen, unredeemed fellow men, not so much the ‘doubting Thomas’-believer or the compromised capacity to remember one's Faith due to a medical condition. Therefore, one would think that the reaction and conversation would be somewhat different depending on the circumstances.

      I do not read in the scripture anything about Jesus ‘arguing’, ‘making a point’ or ‘convincing’ His apostles. He taught them Truth and then left them to talk among themselves to find a more personalized, complete understanding should it still be needed. I think that everyone receives the Word of God in their own capacity to have faith and the understanding they have up to that point; spiritual growth and application through faith takes time.

      Carefully 'removing' oneself at times from the physical presence of the person one is trying to influence for the better is sometimes the best thing to do; after all, their true need is for learning to talk with their heavenly Father in order to receive true peace in heart and mind; we will undergird their efforts with encouragement and prayer.

      • So true what you’re saying, Brigitte, about being a gentle light with space around the glow, following Jesus example. Thank you!

  11. I find that daily prayer and meditation and then after reading the plethora of Bible promises and the illuminating and up lifting words of EGW and rest in Him with a good night's sleep helps greatly. In the morning I ask Him to go with me through the day helps. "Come unto Me all who are heavy burdened and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28.

    "Prayer Brings Us Into Connection With God—If we come to God, feeling helpless and dependent, as we really are, and in humble, trusting faith make known our wants to Him whose knowledge is infinite, who sees everything in creation, and who governs everything by His will and word, He can and will attend to our cry, and will let light shine into our hearts. Through sincere prayer we are brought into connection with the mind of the Infinite. We may have no remarkable evidence at the time that the face of our Redeemer is bending over us in compassion and love, but this is even so. We may not feel His visible touch, but His hand is upon us in love and pitying tenderness.—(Steps to Christ, 97.) Prayer 117.1.

    • I love that part about how the face of our Redeemer is bending over us with compassion and love, and His healing touch, even if we can’t feel or see that truth. Thank you John!

  12. In The Interlinear Hebrew/English Bible the 6th verse of the 23rd Psalm "Goodness" is mentioned first, the word "forever" is not there, "Mercy" is at the very end. Also, cup running over---oil on head is there---and table near enemies is also there. My question here would be: Why do the English ones place these items in verses before the 6th one as per the Hebrew original and why do they also insert the word "forever" as needing to be there?

    • My interleaved Bible has the following: Hebrew: "ak yamin leorek Yahwey babet wesabti"

      This translates into English literally as: surely - forever - unto perpetuity - of Yahweh - in the house - I will dwell.

      I find that not only is there a word for "forever" it is emphasized in typical Psalm style by repeating the idea, "in perpetuity".

      I am not a linguist but it seems to me that the english translators were quite justified in using "forever" in the translation.

      • I am not saying that the word "forever" is not used elsewhere by David or other Old Testament writers etc. regarding everlasting life for the saved etc. I am just saying that my Hebrew/English Interlinear Bible does not translate any Hebrew word of verse 6 of the 23rd Psalm as even being in that verse. Justification for those who chose to put it as needing to be there is not my problem it is their problem. If the Hebrew original did not have it there then it should not be there. That is all.

        • I'm beginning to think that those of us who have no or little knowledge of ancient Hebrew should refrain from making positive statements about the Hebrew text, lest we get ourselves tied up in knots. 😊 And if we quote an "interlinear" or "inter-leaved" text, it would be good to identify just *whose* "interlinear" text this is and who published it - just like we should identify quotations from other sources.
          Thus I hereby submit a strictly interlinear representation from the BlueLetterBible in the original word order [see source by clicking on link] - a resource I highly recommend:BLB Ps. 23:6
          The designation "H753" refers to an entry in Strong's Exhaustive Concordance which you can see by clicking on the link. As you can see the word used in Ps 23:6 and translated "forever" has been translated in many different ways. (And, by the way, Strong's concordance is by no means truly "exhaustive.") That's because ancient Hebrew has a very limited vocabulary and context determines meaning. In other words, context is literally everything. In this text, translators familiar with ancient Hebrew usage, have most often translated it as "forever" as being closest in meaning to what the ancient writer intended. For ancient Hebrew, it is simply impossible to say that a certain work means exactly this in English.
          Not only that, but I would be remiss in not stating that understanding of the Bible is not found in searching out the meaning of individual words, but in understanding the story. The Bible is, for the most part, a collection of stories - stories of how God relates to people and how people relate to God and each other. And in the context of these stories, the character of our loving God is found. So let's talk about story, not individual words!
          [Disclaimer: I don't know ancient Hebrew myself, but my husband has studied it just enough to know how much he doesn't know and how challenging it is to translate accurately, coming from a modern western perspective.]

    • As Maurice notes, Hebrew uses a linguistic form called the infinite absolute for strong emphasis. If this verse was written literally in English, "forever" would be bolded.


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