By David Dombrowski, Lighthouse Trails Research
When David penned the words to Psalm 23, he attested in unquestioning words to the faithfulness of God. Verse 1 is one of the boldest statements found in Scripture because it testifies to the faithfulness of God from a man who had a unique relationship with the Lord. Here was a man after God’s own heart, a man who grew to believe that God is always faithful no matter what our position in life may be. God is glorious, and never can too much be said to the glory and majesty of God. Or as Jeremiah so aptly put it,
“This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23).
God’s mercies are enduring. So let us listen as David takes up his melodic harp. In verse 1, with song unwavering, David proclaims his trust and enduring assurance to the faithfulness of God.
David had been a meek and loving shepherd who watched his flocks day after day, caring for them. He knew that God is a shepherd too, looking after His own. What a wonderful God we have! And just as he cared for all of the needs of his flock, David looked to his Lord to be the provider for all of his needs.
Verse 1, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want,” is a summation statement of all that follows in this psalm; yet this verse comes at the beginning rather than the end, because each succeeding verse carries with it his resolute declaration to the faithfulness of God as the loving Shepherd. Psalm 23 takes us through the sojourn the shepherd takes with his sheep to the mountain pastures and then back home again. I hope to describe the tone and testament to God’s character presented in this psalm.
"He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters." (Psalm 23:2)
Verse 2 then carries the message of God’s faithfulness found in verse 1 and renders it like the softer cords of a melody, alluding to the quiet love of the shepherd as he leads his sheep to green pastures bathed in the beauty of gently warming sunlight and soft breezes like a hand brushing over the tops of these slender grasses. To such a place, the shepherd brings his sheep to lay down if but for a little while to be renewed in the quiet confidence that gives strength – not so much in the physical event itself as in knowing and believing that the shepherd is there to sustain them.
The shepherd then bids his sheep to come to the still waters; but more so than a bidding, he literally leads them to the still waters, which remind me so much of the living water Jesus offered to the woman He met at the well. The Word of God is life giving, like water to one who thirsts! It brings us to Jesus who is in the truest sense that living water springing up to eternal life. Notice again that the shepherd “leads.”
The great wonder of the Christian faith is that it brings us to the Shepherd of our souls whose purpose is to guide us every step along our life-long journey. There can be no greater and truer comfort than knowing that Jesus is guiding us. This quiet confidence is available to all who would be so bold as to yield their lives to Jesus by faith – trusting not in their ability to follow Him but in His ability to lead us.
As the Scriptures say both implicitly and literally throughout the Bible, “the just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17), so too it is by faith that the Lord leads us. This is one of the great proclamations of this psalm – the Lord leads me; and He does so as we put our confidence in Him (not in ourselves) to do so.
"He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake." (Psalm 23:3)
Like the strummings of a melodic harp, we can hear the chords of restoration. Yes, there is nothing like spending the day under the watchful eye of the Shepherd of our souls. When we come to Him, He renews us and strengthens us. Nothing can really be compared to the work of regeneration God performs in us when we come to Jesus the first time; we are truly born from above at that time. Yet, Jesus then abides in us to continually renew and strengthen us.
If you are a Christian who is feeling weary from the testings and trials of life, be assured that Jesus is knocking at your heart’s door to speak words of hope and comfort. Our journey may be difficult at times, but Jesus is there to renew us and bid us to go on. And on we go, from the pasture lands that feed us and the waters that restore our thirsty souls. On we go, up into the hills. As Christians, no matter what station of life we are in, God has a call on each of our lives, and simply put, that call is to follow Him. And it is on the paths of righteousness that He leads us.
Too often, we as Christians would want to get what we can out of life. There is the temptation to be selfish and self-centered. But God leads us on the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Our very lives should be a testament to the goodness and faithfulness of God. But there is much sin within God’s own flock.
Let us remember that even though we are justified by the shed blood of Jesus alone, by faith alone, the fruit of our salvation should reflect the nature of God in our own character. That is why Paul said that the sins of immorality and ungodliness should not be named among us (Ephesians 5:3). All of us are being refined and renewed by the Holy Spirit. As Jesus said, we must be holy for God is holy. Like beholding God in a mirror, we are being transformed from glory to glory.
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." (Psalm 23:4)
Verse 4 proclaims the secret for knowing God’s peace. One of the ironies of life is that those who have known suffering are oftentimes the very ones who have found the lasting peace that can only come from Christ alone. Here the psalmist declares his abiding faith, refined by God’s testings, by saying that he will not fear even under the shadow of death. David’s melodic harp continues on, and though the word “death” would ordinarily strike fear in the heart, somehow the music continues with beautiful cords beckoning our hearts to be still and witness the beauty of the Lord in the more trying moments of life.
Up through the shadowy crags, the shepherd leads his sheep where predators often hide awaiting the moment when they can spring upon their victims. Yet, we learn here the secret of perfect peace in knowing that though danger may be near, and only God knows the outcome, we have hope and assurance that God is with us. The sheep know no fear when they know the shepherd is near; their hope and trust is that explicit. Is there any reason why we should not trust our Lord that fully? And, if there is a reason, what would that reason be?
His rod and staff, which are symbols of both his authority and ownership of the sheep, are also weapons of warfare, and hence bring a deep sense of comfort especially in this place of danger. Isn’t it true that God, who is mighty to correct and reprove His children, can by that same attribute bring comfort and peace as we know that no real harm can ever come to God’s people who put their trust in Him?
Remember Jesus said: “Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him” (Luke 12:4-5).
Unfortunately, the fear of the Lord is being robbed from our present generation of young people. Emerging leaders have converged on them like wolves in sheep’s clothing encouraging them to break away from the moral restraints presented in Scripture as well as teachings on the atonement – namely the teaching that we are justified by faith through sacrificial death of Jesus on the Cross – which teaching they find repulsive. The negative result from all of this is that our young people are being scattered from the watchful care of the true Shepherd only to have these false teachers spring on them with all of their mortally toxic teachings.
One of the leaders being promoted today by those purporting to be officiating the way for our young people – to include Bill Hybels, Brian McLaren, Rick Warren, and Rob Bell – is “Christian” Rock star Bono of U2, whom many emergents view as their “prophet” and the main icon of their movement.
In Bono’s rendition of Psalm 23, he alters the entire thrust and message of this beautiful psalm to something that sounds nothing less than blasphemous. For example, in the verse we are currently looking at, he alters the wording to say “I have cursed thy rod and staff, They no longer comfort me.” [See note at the end]
I am so grateful that David, who was a good shepherd to his flock, became a shepherd to his people and pointed the way for us to see the true Shepherd of our souls. And here, there is great comfort in knowing God as He really is and trusting Him fully.
"Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over." (Psalm 23:5)
The melodic music continues from the harp, not halting or wavering from its beautiful tones, as the psalm continues in its stirring message. The shepherd has now brought his sheep up through the cliffs and crags of the mountainside to a “table” where the sheep can stop again and feed on the gentle grasses. Though the enemy yet lurks on the fringes of this plateau, the shepherd’s watchful eye keeps them safe. They proceed to graze again while the shepherd tends to the sheep individually, bearing his horn filled with healing oil. What a blessing it is to know the care of the shepherd, anointing his sheep with healing oil.
I also appreciate the fact that, while the last verse speaks of “the shadow of death,” this one speaks of renewal. We all face the prospect of something negative happening to us or those we care for, whether it be death itself or some kind of loss that makes our hopes and dreams seem unreachable and brings them to a grinding halt. But this verse demonstrates that we can go through the valley and come through on the other side.
The strings of the harp now plucked to their most vibrant sound speak of those moments in life where perhaps all seems lost but then renewed hope rings out with a new beginning or a way to go on. It is the most joyous sound that speaks of God’s ability to take a difficult situation and bring light out of darkness and joy out of sorrow.
"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." (Psalm 23:6)
Now we come to the sweet refrain upon the harp. We return to the familiar pastures that we call home. As if boasting before all who will hear, the sheep testify to the goodness and mercy of the Lord – whose mercies are new every morning; but also in their yearly transhumance, the sheep return to winter in their pastoral home on the valley below.
If we boast, let us boast in the Lord, and this psalm is a vibrant proclamation to the faithful care of our Good Shepherd throughout the days of our lives. Surely, the joy in life is in knowing that we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever, and we can know the joy of salvation even now.
The music has now ended as the tone of the vibrating harp-strings fades away. No doubt, this was a song of rare beauty as we have as our witness words unrivaled by songwriter or poet. Yet, there is something even more precious to behold than mere words and melody in that this psalm is a testament to the relationship David had with his Lord that would be difficult for a commentator or theologian to adequately describe. And that is the fact that David was a man after God’s own heart; yet in this psalm, David invites us to enter into that same relationship with our Lord. There is no formula or code here, no ten-step plan – but an abiding relationship that comes from having a heart after God.
God uses the difficulties that come our way in life to shape our character, but most importantly, He wants us to draw close to Him. Consider, for example, that when a shepherd finds that he has an unmanageable sheep, he will take desperate measures even so far as breaking a leg of his sheep. He then carries the sheep on his shoulders until it is healed. The result of such a seemingly unreasonable act is that an emotional bond occurs whereby the sheep may become the most devoted and loyal, never straying far from his master.
By modern standards, this may sound cruel, but at the same time, I find that much of the easy-going pop-Christianity we see today -- where anything goes -- is quite detestable and surely must be an abomination to God. On the opposite pole, nothing can truly compare with drawing near to God. None of the spiritual disciplines and contemplative prayer can do this, but God draws us unto Himself in His own way.
And the fruit of staying near to the Shepherd -- if we allow Him to do His work in us -- is that we have a heart after God. This is a place of staying close to Him, of being led by God on a daily basis.
Are you aware of God orchestrating your life? By faith, you can trust Him to lead you on a daily basis, for the Word of God says “the just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). That means we can and should be trusting Him to lead us by the power of the Holy Spirit on a daily basis.
It is a journey on the paths of righteousness, past the meadows and quiet streams of renewal through reading His Word, up through the valleys of difficulties, to the table of restoration for summer feeding, then back to winter pastures in the valley below. God should be involved in the details of our lives throughout the year.
For the Christian, there is no vacation from God, but at the same time, there is no better, no safer place, than to be near to God. Do you have a thirst for God? Seek after Him, with the Bible daily in your hands, and ask the Lord to lead you. The Holy Spirit is given to believers to be our Shepherd and guide through life with all its dangers and challenges. And as we come to trust Him more and more, drawing near to Him with every challenge we face, we will find that we too have a heart after God like David did.
COMPARISON: “New Spirituality” Leaders Reject and Ridicule the Second Coming of the Lord VERSUS Bible Prophecies Standing in Stark Contrast
Many people feared that the world would come to an end on December 21, 2012 because of Mayan calendar “prophecies.” Many New Agers believed that the 21st would be significant in seeing a global wide spiritual epiphany. In the midst of all this, there is the issue of the return of Jesus Christ. What do New Spirituality “ leaders have to say about the end-times and the return of Jesus Christ versus what does the Bible have to say?
There is a vast difference in the two. The Bible tells us that in the last days men will be scoff and scorn the idea of Jesus Christ returning. Former New Age follower, Warren B. Smith, had this to say:
Coming out of New Age teachings, I had learned in a very personal way that the details of Jesus’ return are definitely our business. Understanding the events surrounding His return was critical to understanding how badly I had been deceived by my New Age teachings. I had learned from reading the Bible that there is a false Christ on the horizon and that for a number of years I had unknowingly been one of his followers.
Because the Bible’s clear authoritative teachings about the real Jesus and His true return had been brought to my attention, I was able to see how deceived I was. By understanding that there is a false Christ trying to counterfeit the true Christ’s return, I was able to renounce the false Christ I had been following and commit my life to the true Jesus Christ. (from Deceived on Purpose, p. 147)
The Bible states: “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” (I Thessalonians 5:1-6)
Of that verse, research analyst, Ray Yungen, states:
Paul is saying the end of the age will come upon the world like a thief in the night. In other words, it will actually sneak up on people. Then interestingly, the apostle contrasts two groups: “But ye, brethren [followers of Christ] are not in darkness [people of ignorance], that that day should overtake you as a thief. [unaware]” (v.4). Here, Paul is saying believers in Christ will have the information (Scripture) available to them to prepare for “that day.”
Those who walk in the light can see both where they are going and what is coming up ahead. Paul then warns against spiritual slumber and drunkenness, which could lead to a person being overtaken by that day, unaware: “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober” (v. 6). The word sober means be alert or aware. If we are instructed to watch and be aware, there must be something to watch for—otherwise, Paul’s admonition would be useless. (from A Time of Departing, pp. 111-112)
And now, let’s look at the comparisons. First, the emergent progressives:
Mark Driscoll – The Rapture is Dumb: “One of the most astonishing things about Jesus is that as God he actually chose to come into our fallen, sick, twisted, unjust, evil, cruel, painful world and be with us to suffer like us and for us. Meanwhile, we spend most of our time trying to figure out how to avoid the pain and evil of this world while reading dumb books about the rapture just hoping to get out.” (Vintage Jesus, p. 44).
See The Submerging Church: How the emerging church is drawing multitudes away from biblical Christianity. This clip talks about Mark Driscoll’s position against end-time believing Christians.
Rick Warren – The details of Jesus’ return are none of our business – “When the disciples wanted to talk about prophecy, Jesus quickly switched the conversation to evangelism. He wanted them to concentrate on their mission in the world. He said in essence, “The details of my return are none of your business. What is your business is the mission I have given you. Focus on that!” (PDL, p. 285)
Rick Warren – Don’t think about Bible prophecy: “Rick Warren tells readers to think about something other than Bible prophecy: ‘If you want Jesus to come back sooner, focus on fulfilling your mission, not figuring out prophecy.’ . . . ”Warren ends this section of his book by stating that Satan would have you ‘sidetracked from your mission’ and by quoting Jesus out of context, saying, ‘Anyone who lets himself be distracted [by studying Bible prophecy] from the work I plan for him is not fit for the kingdom of God’ (Living Bible). But Jesus was not referring to His return when He made that statement, which in the King James Version says: ‘No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God’ (Luke 9:62). The Purpose Driven kingdom of God leaves no room for Bible prophecy, and in fact, condemns those who study it.” (Roger Oakland quoting Rick Warren in Faith Undone (pp. 154-157) from The Purpose Driven Life (pp. 285-286).
Tony Campolo – End-time Christians cause of world’s woes: “Tony Campolo says that Christians who ‘make a big thing of their claim that we are now living in the final stage of church history prior to the second coming of Christ’ have been the cause of ‘extremely detrimental’ consequences. They ‘discount the Sermon on the Mount,’ they don’t care about the needy, and they have had such a negative ‘impact on geopolitics,’ which Campolo says ‘can lead only to war.’ Basically, according to Campolo they are the reason the world is in such a mess, and they are holding back progress of a more emerging spirituality. (Faith Undone, p. 160, quoting Campolo, Speaking My Mind, pp. 209-217).
Brian McLaren – Don’t take the Book of Revelation serious: “Since Jewish apocalyptic was a popular genre in Jesus’ day, we would expect him to be influenced by it and use its language and metaphors.… against the backdrop of Jewish apocalyptic, we discover that phrases that sound like they’re about the destruction of the world—like “the moon will turn to blood” or “the stars will fall from the sky”—are actually rather typical stock phrases in Jewish apocalyptic. They are no more to be taken literally than phrases we might read in the paper today.” (McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus, pp. 177-178; for a more detailed account of McLaren’s views on end time Bible prophecies, read chapter 9 of Faith Undone by Roger Oakland.)
Occultist Alice Bailey -No interest in Heaven or Hell: ”It is time that the church woke up to its true mission, which is to materialize the kingdom of God on earth, today, here and now…. People are no longer interested in a possible heavenly state or a probable hell. They need to learn that the kingdom is here, and must express itself on earth … The way into that kingdom is the way that Christ trod. It involves the sacrifice of the personal self for the good of the world, and the service of humanity …(Occultist, Alice Bailey)
Robert Schuller and C.P. Wagner – Don’t let eschatology stifle you: Robert Schuller’s advice to young church leaders would seem to apply to new apostolic Christians: “Don’t let eschatology stifle your long-term thinking.” (C. P. Wagner, quoted in False Christ Coming: Does Anybody Care?
Barbara Marx Hubbard – Brink of destruction or humanity participating in evolution to godliness: “Here we are, now poised either on the brink of destruction greater than the world has ever seen —a destruction which will cripple planet Earth forever and release only the few to go on—or on the threshold of global co-creation wherein each person on Earth will be attracted to participate in his or her own evolution to godliness.” (Hubbard, The Revelation, p. 134, as quoted from Faith Undone.)
AND NOW, WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY:
“Prophecies of the second coming of Messiah.”
by Tony Pearce
(author of The Messiah Factor)
A time of unparalleled trouble to precede the Day of the Lord:
At that time Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that time. Daniel 12.1
New Testament parallel:
For then there will be great tribulation such as has never been since the beginning of the world until this time, no nor ever shall be. Matthew 24.21
Focal point of this time of trouble to be Jerusalem:
And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces though all nations of the earth are gathered against it. Zechariah 12.3
New Testament parallel:
But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies then know that its desolation is near. … Jerusalem will be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. Luke 21.20-24
All nations to be gathered for the final battle:
Assemble and come all you nations, and gather together all around. Cause your mighty ones to come down there, O Lord. Let the nations be wakened and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat (Hebrew word means ‘The Lord judges’). Joel 3.11-16
New Testament parallel:
For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to battle of that great day of God Almighty. … And they gathered them together in the place called in Hebrew Armageddon. Revelation 16.14-16
Messiah to come in the clouds of heaven:
I was watching in the night visions, and behold one like the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven! Daniel 7.13
New Testament parallel:
Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. Matthew 24.30
Messiah to be visible as one who has been pierced:
And I will pour on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on me whom they pierced and mourn for Him as one mourns for His only son and grieve for Him as one grieves for a first born. Zechariah 12.10
New Testament parallel:
Behold He is coming with the clouds and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Revelation 1.7
Messiah to come to the Mount of Olives:
Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations as He fights in the day of battle. And His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives which faces Jerusalem on the east. Zechariah 14.2-3
New Testament parallel:
“Men of Galilee why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” Then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount called Olivet. Acts 1.11-12
Messiah to come with the saints:
Thus the Lord my God will come and all the saints with you. Zechariah 14.5
New Testament parallel:
Behold the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints. Jude 14. (‘Saints’ in the Bible means all who truly believe in the Lord).
The wicked to flee from the coming of the Lord:
In that day a man will cast away his idols … to go into the clefts of the rocks and into the crags of the rugged rocks from the terror of the Lord and the glory of His majesty, when He arises to shake the earth mightily. Isaiah 2.20-21
New Testament parallel:
And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb.” Revelation 6.15-6
The Lord to establish righteousness and peace on the earth. Satan to be unable to deceive the nations:
‘Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people. They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore (Isaiah 2.2-4).’
New Testament parallel:
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years … so that he should deceive the nations no more …
Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Messiah and shall reign with Him a thousand years. Revelation 20.1-6 (extracts)
Following the Millennial reign of Messiah on earth, God to create new heavens and a new earth:
For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before me,’ says the Lord so shall your descendants and your name remain. Isaiah 66.22
New Testament parallel:
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. … And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.” Revelation 21.1-4 (extracts).
(Taken from the Appendix of The Messiah Factor by Tony Pearce, used with permission.)
From Lighthouse Trails Research
INDEX to previous articles by Lighthouse Trails
Note from David Dombrowski: For more information on Bono and what he stands for, I highly recommend Joseph Schimmel’s The Submerging Church, which is a DVD package that is an excellent summation of the emerging church movement on the first disc, while the second disc is entirely devoted to the subject of Bono’s message and teachings.