Psalm 23:4 Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
July 5th, 2020

When shepherds were out in the field, they typically carried a rod and staff

Your rod

Protection

One of the primary purposes of the shepherd’s rod was for protection.  The rod was a branch with a knob on one end which was used like a club or to throw at a predator. 

Considering how the shepherd used the rod, it seems that the rod may be symbolizing the Word of God in this psalm.

The Word has the ability to correctly judge and divide our thoughts and intentions of the heart, if we will bring them to it, and let it do its job. 

The shepherd could also hurl the rod at a sheep at a much slower pace, to get the attention of the sheep that just wouldn’t listen and stay with the flock.

Rod as a symbol of authority

The rod was also the symbol of the Shepherd’s authority.  It was also a symbol of Kingly authority.  The rod meant that he was in control of the sheep and don’t you mess with them. 

The rod as a tool

John 10:7-10 7 So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. 

When the sheep were being kept in the fields, a temporary sheepfold was often constructed using large rocks stacked one upon another in a large circle, forming an enclosure.    The shepherd himself would often serve as the gate for this type of sheepfold.

There is only one way into the sheepfold.  Jesus said in John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

And again in Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Accountability

Passing under the rod was part of a sheep’s daily life.  As the sheep would enter the sheepfold, the shepherd would count them and make sure that all were present and accounted for.  If he found any missing, he could block up the entrance to the sheepfold, and go and search for the missing sheep (Mathew 18:12-14).   Jesus cares about each of us, and most especially when we are straying

Inspection

The shepherd would use that pointy end of the rod to push back the wool of the sheep to inspect the sheep for wounds, infections, and insect infestations.

This process of passing under the rod meant that the sheep was cared for because the shepherd was looking after it.

David is comforted, because the Lord is looking after him personally.  Psalm 139 v. 1-6 expresses David’s delight in the fact that the Lord knows who he really is, inside and loves him anyway. 

We are valuable to God, and He will take care of us.  He knows us intimately, and he loves us and values us anyway. 

Shepherd’s Staff

A shepherd’s staff is perhaps the thing that identifies a shepherd more than anything else. 

Draw close to our shepherd

First, notice that the thing that distinguishes a shepherd’s staff from other staffs is the crook of the staff.  That kind of question-mark-shaped part at the top of the staff.  This is used to draw the sheep closer to the shepherd. 

And what a blessing it is, when the Lord draws us close.  Psalm 65:4says How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You To dwell in Your courts. We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Your holy temple. 

Draw close to one another

In this I think we see a picture of how the Holy Spirit draws us together as a Body of Christ

For gentle correction

The shepherd will frequently use the blunt end to jab the sheep and nudge it back in the direction of the flock.

Sometimes we get nudges or checks from the Holy Spirit if we start to wander off, or are headed in the wrong direction.  

God uses these tools of His Word and the Holy Spirit to protect us, guide us, correct and draw us close to Him.





Psalm 23:4—We Can Trust Him in the Valley
June 28th, 2020

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me;

Between the two hilltops is usually a valley.  This verse about the dark valley between two hills is the center verse of the Psalm. 

Even though I walk

Just like veterans that have been through the battle, Christians who have been through these times with God have learned to lean on Him, learned not to be afraid and to trust their shepherd.  They have learned not to run through the valley, and risk hurting themselves or others, but to calmly walk through it in faith.  They have learned to trust in the promises of God (Isaiah 43:2)

Through the valley

Valleys do not continue on forever.  we are walking through it.  

of the shadow of death

If it’s the valley of darkest shadow, is it so dark that the light of God cannot penetrate it and bring us through?  No.

And if these words literally mean the valley of the shadow of death or death-shadow, then as Christians, we are supposed to be consider ourselves to 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.   

For the Christian, death is robbed of it’s victory.  There is no sting in death, because death’s power is because of sin, and all of our sin has been paid for by Jesus on the cross.  So, as Christians, we face only the shadow of death, a thing robbed of its power to really harm us.

I will fear no evil,

If you truly fear God, then you need not fear anything else.  This means that if you really understand even a bit of the awesome power and provision that is found in God, you have nothing to fear.

Faith and fear cannot exist together. 1st John: 4:18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.

God sometimes allows trials in order to strengthen and develop our faith.   When David volunteered to fight against Goliath, he said, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37). Without the trials of the bear and the lion, there is no success against the giant Goliath.

So how can we learn to increase in faith and decrease in fear?  Romans 10:17 says So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.  You’re not going to trust someone you don’t know, and you’re not going to know God without carefully studying His Word for yourself. 

For You are with me.

In verse 4 David begins speaking to God directly, saying Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death You are with me” (Psalms 23:4). Here in the valley is when our Shepherd Jesus is the closest to us. 

In those words, “for You are with me” rest the faith of the Christian.  Words are only worth what the character of the person speaking them makes them worth.  It was because the LORD who cannot lie said to Joshua in chapter 1 verse 5 5 No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you that Joshua was made strong and courageous.

It because of the character of Jesus, that we can believe Him, as the author of Hebrews reminds us in Hebrews 13:5b for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”





Jerimiah 35–The Lasting Legacy of Obedience
June 21st, 2020

35 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD during the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah:

God is going to use this family as an example to ________, and as an example to ________.

2 “Go to the Rekabite family and invite them to come to one of the side rooms of the house of the LORD and give them wine to drink.”

The Rekabite family

They were descendants of _________, the father-in-law of Moses.

So, it was this __________ to the Israelites, Jethro who blessed the Lord for his deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, who recognized that God was using this __________ of them to ____________ to all of those peoples around that He is greater than all other gods.

A second time that this family is mentioned is in 2 Kings 10:15-16 15.

Jehonadab must have been renowned for his own zeal as a ________ of God, and known among the people as a servant of God. Jehu wants this man Jehonadab as a witness.

3 So I [Jeremiah] went to get Jaazaniah son of Jeremiah, the son of Habazziniah, and his brothers and all his sons—the whole family of the Rekabites. 4 I brought them into the house of the LORD, into the room of the sons of Hanan son of Igdaliah the man of God. It was next to the room of the officials, which was over that of Maaseiah son of Shallum the doorkeeper.

Jeremiah is making sure that everyone ________ what he is doing by bringing the Rekabites to a very prominent place in the temple.

5 Then I set bowls full of wine and some cups before the Rekabites and said to them, “Drink some wine.”

God is not trying to ________ the Rekabites here. He knows that they’re going to __________ it,

6 But they replied, “We do not drink wine, because our forefather Jehonadab son of Rekab gave us this command: ‘Neither you nor your descendants must ever drink wine. 7 Also you must never build houses, sow seed or plant vineyards; you must never have any of these things, but must always live in tents. Then you will live a long time in the land where you are nomads.’

But why did Jehonadab tell them to do this in the first place? Because he was a man of God, and he was living in a time period when Israel was still pretty rich, but was on the ___________, and he saw all of the Israelites ____________ the Law of God.

God would have to ___________ the Israelites someday, and he wanted his children that their children to be ______________ and away from those cities when it happened.

We must be careful not to __________ successful as the world defines it—strictly in terms of material assets. The most ____________ thing in life is a good ___________ with our God, then good relationships with our ________________, then good relationships with our brothers and sisters in _________, then good relationships with all of those ___________us.

Believing in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior will not only ____________ you from eternal punishment, but give you the best life that you can possibly live here and now as you __________ with God’s plan for your life. And not only that, it will allow you to ______________as a man of God. And there’s no life more worthy of _____________ than living your life as a man of God. When we do this, our children watch us, and this leaves an ________ on them.

There’s a reason why Proverbs 22:6 says to Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

8 We have obeyed everything our forefather Jehonadab son of Rekab commanded us. Neither we nor our wives nor our sons and daughters have ever drunk wine 9 or built houses to live in or had vineyards, fields or crops. 10 We have lived in tents and have fully obeyed everything our forefather Jehonadab commanded us. 11 But when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded this land, we said, ‘Come, we must go to Jerusalem to escape the Babylonian and Aramean armies.’ So we have remained in Jerusalem.”

They remained in Jerusalem—in a city, but God did not count it as breaking their father’s command because they were there to escape the ___________ and ______ armies, not to live.

12 Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying: 13 “This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go and tell the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘Will you not learn a lesson and obey my words?’ declares the LORD.14 ‘Jehonadab son of Rekab ordered his descendants not to drink wine and this command has been kept. To this day they do not drink wine, because they obey their forefather’s command. But I have spoken to you again and again, yet you have not obeyed me.15 Again and again I sent all my servants the prophets to you. They said, “Each of you must turn from your wicked ways and reform your actions; do not follow other gods to serve them. Then you will live in the land I have given to you and your ancestors.” But you have not paid attention or listened to me.16 The descendants of Jehonadab son of Rekab have carried out the command their forefather gave them, but these people have not obeyed me.’

God is giving the Israelites an example of outsiders to make the Jews ____________________, because they had received so much from God, and yet so completely rejected the Law of God and the Word of God through the Prophets.

If the authority of Jehonadab, a mortal man was respected, how much more should the Israelites to simply turn from their wicked ways and obey.

These commands from God were not ________.

A man dead for 300 years commanded the respect of his children’s children, and yet the living God, who continually reminded Israel to obey, was not obeyed.

17 “Therefore this is what the LORD God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Listen! I am going to bring on Judah and on everyone living in Jerusalem every disaster I pronounced against them. I spoke to them, but they did not listen; I called to them, but they did not answer.’”

God is patient and long-suffering, but because He is a righteous God, because He must at some point _______________ sin.

18 Then Jeremiah said to the family of the Rekabites, “This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘You have obeyed the command of your forefather Jehonadab and have followed all his instructions and have done everything he ordered.’ 19 Therefore this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Jehonadab son of Rekab will never fail to have a descendant to serve me.’”

What was that promise that Jehonadab had made to the Rekabites?.

Then you will live a long time in the land where you are nomads.’

Now what is that fifth commandment in the tenth commandments again? And what’s the promise that goes with it? It’s found in Exodus 20 verse12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you. In fact, Paul in Ephesians 6:2 points out that this was the first commandment with a promise.

And what does God promise to the Rekabites? Because they _______their father, Jehonadab as a family, their whole family would be ______________ in that their family will always have somebody _________ God. In a sense, that’s long life on the earth for their __________ as a whole.