A Table Prepared

“The LORD is my shepherd… You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” [Ps 23:1,5 NKJV] “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” [Psalm 34:8]

Psalm 23, a familiar and beautiful psalm, was written by David. David, a shepherd himself, saw the Lord his God as his shepherd in the midst of his. The Lord provided everything he needed in his life.

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” [Psalm 23:1 NKJV]

A good shepherd was diligent to lavish tender care upon his sheep. He was careful especially to find a pasture where the sheep might graze securely, freely and sumptuously. So as a good shepherd, David searched for the pastures, prepared them, and then led the sheep to enjoy the bounty of the pasture. He set the pasture as a table before them as an act of care and love.

David sees the Lord as his shepherd preparing the events in his life as a pasture the Lord has set before him. His enemies are around him, seeking to destroy him. Yet he beholds the bounty of his God as a table prepared, a banquet lavished with good blessings. The enemy could not destroy him; they could only watch him partake of the bounty of His Lord, his shepherd.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” [Psalm 23:5a]

You might even see this preparation as a celebration of victory! The Lord is my Shepherd. The enemy must come through my Shepherd to bring me harm. The enemy may only watch the sheep partake of the bounty upon the table of feasting for those whose Shepherd is the Lord. Behold, the Lord has prepared a feast of many good things:

“the bread of life” [John 6:35]

“living water” [John 4:10]

“wine of gladness” [Psalm 104:15]

“oil of joy” [Isaiah 61:3]

“honey from the rock” [Psalm 81:16]

“the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” [Galatians 5:22-23]

“every word of God” [Luke 4:4]

Let us pick up His words and eat them as the sustenance of our life. Let them sink into the depths of our souls where they may nourish us in the goodness of our Lord. Let them be our hope of life and peace of soul.

“Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts.” [Jeremiah 15:16]

As we walk in the pastures prepared by the Lord, our Shepherd, are we partaking of His feast for us?

“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” [Psalm 34:8]

“The LORD is my shepherd… You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” [Ps 23:1,5 NKJV] “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” [Psalm 34:8]

The Lord Will Perfect

“The LORD will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.” [Psalm 138:8 NKJV] For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” [Philippians 1:6 NASB]

In Psalm 138, David praises the Lord with his whole heart in worship for the Lord’s lovingkindness and mercy. David remembers the saving help of his Lord. In David’s time of trial, the Lord answered with strength and boldness needful to walk through the midst of trouble. The Lord did not forsake David for he humbled himself before his God. David boasts that his confidence is wholly and completely in the Lord. The Lord went before him with His right hand to save.

“I will praise You with my whole heart. …
 I will worship … And praise Your name
 For Your lovingkindness and Your truth;
 In the day when I cried out, You answered me,
 And made me bold with strength in my soul. …
 For great
is the glory of the LORD.
 Though the LORD
is on high,
 Yet He regards the lowly….
 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
 You will revive me;
 You will stretch out Your hand
 Against the wrath of my enemies,
 And Your right hand will save me.”
[Psalm 138:1-7 NKJV]

David basks in the glory of his Lord to save him through the battles with his enemies. David also glories in the goodness of his Lord for he knows He will also save in that final eternal rest promised in God’s everlasting covenant of life.

“He has made with me an everlasting covenant, Ordered in all things and secure. For this is all my salvation.” [2 Samuel 23:5 NKJV]

Then in climatic summation, David embraces the marvelous truth that the LORD will perfect, complete, mature all that concerns his readiness, his salvation, for that final day! His prayer rings out to the Lord, “Do not forsake the works of Your hands!” David is in effect crying out to the Lord, “Do not to stop the shaping, chiseling, and molding of my life in the midst of the trials and troubles of my life.” David’s desire is that the hands of God will work His goodness through every circumstance of life to make him a holy vessel that will forever rest in the glory of his Lord.

“The LORD will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.” [Psalm 138:8 NKJV]

The same is true for all believers today. The Lord our God comes to us in His lovingkindness and mercy to save our souls from the enemy of death.

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” [Ephesians 2:4-5 NKJV]

This same God transforms us into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ’s likeness.

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” [2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJV]

He shapes us, molds us, and tests us through the trials and troubles of our life.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” [James 1:2-4 NKJV]

So we too, as David, may have the confidence that our Lord and God will work the salvation He has begun in us until we are completely transformed into the glory of Christ’s likeness. Our Lord God will not forsake the work of His hands. In His enduring mercy He will bring us into eternal life in the glorious image of our Savior!

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” [Philippians 1:6 NASB]

Has the Lord done a good work of salvation in you? Then He will not forsake you. He will complete, He will perfect, the work of salvation in you: conforming you in holiness into the image of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“The LORD will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.” [Psalm 138:8 NKJV] For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” [Philippians 1:6 NASB]

Lord, Teach Us To Pray (Part 2)

“Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him. ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.’ ” [Luke 11:1 NKJV]

“In this manner, therefore pray:” [Matthew 6:9a]. 

The Lord Jesus in “The Lord’s Prayer” is setting before us a manner in which to pray. He presents a beautiful structure that teaches us how to pray. Each sentence is elegantly constructed with a truth about prayer. These truths form a “table of contents” or an “index”* for the content of our prayers: a pattern of prayer. Let’s look at it.

“Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” [Luke 11:2a KJV]

The opening sentence directs our attention to Whom we offer prayer and the manner in which we are to address Him.  We pray to our Father, hallowing (esteeming holy) His Name. This sentence sets forth the principle that prayer is worship of the Father. We are to approach Him in adoration, awe, and wonder for Who He is.  His praises should sound forth from our lips and heart. We are His creatures created to give Him glory. Thus prayer must begin with worship of the Father, giving Him the glory due His Name.

“Thy kingdom come.” [Luke 11:2b KJV]

 As the King of His kingdom, He is Lord and Master of all its citizens. Now we pledge allegiance to Him and His kingdom. We vow our undying loyalty, love, and allegiance to the cause of His kingdom. We pledge allegiance to the cause of His kingdom, righteousness, and to seek to bring that kingdom into reality through our faith and manner of living.

 “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” [Romans 14:17 NKJV]

Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.” [Luke 11:2c]  

Our allegiance then demands that our will be humbled to His will in submission to His commands. As He rules in heaven, so we desire He will rule in our hearts, that His will on earth will be done. We walk in obedience (submission) to do His will. We put aside the ways of our former lusts to be conformed to the image of His Son that we may do His will on earth as it is done in heaven.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” [Romans 12:2 NKJV]

Give us this day our daily bread.” [Luke 11:3]

When our hearts are bowed before our Sovereign God, we are then bidden by our heavenly Father to bring our petitions and intercessions. The requests and supplications are not for self only for the pattern is inclusive using “us” and “our” instead of “me” and “my”. Now we present the cries of our heart in the worship of Who He is and in our allegiance and submission to His Kingdom. We as loyal subjects know He hears for we ask according to His will.

And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive those who trespass against us.” [Luke 11:4a]

Our petitions and intercessions cannot be complete without our trespasses, sins and iniquities being dealt with in confession. The confession of sin includes both our inward life as well as our public life. It is only because our sins are forgiven in Christ – we have been justified by faith – that we have access to our heavenly Father.

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” [Romans 5:1-2 NKJV]

And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil.” [Luke 11:4b]

The pattern continues keeping ourselves and others in view with respect to temptation and evil. We pray for watchfulness that we be not led into paths of sin. We pray that we may understand any deception and “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. And in midst of temptation ask for deliverance for we cannot deliver ourselves, our help is in the Lord; He alone is our refuge, our strength, our shield and Defender.

“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.” [Psalm 46:1 NKJV]

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever.  Amen.” 

His alone is the kingdom everlasting. To Him are all Majesty, Glory, and Honor due. In humble adoration we again turn our prayer to worship. We were made to worship. Let us worship the only Lord and God, Who alone has provided for our salvation in the death and resurrection of His Son. 

Lord, may we have ears to hear how you teach us to pray. 

“Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever.  Amen.

*The concepts of this post are taken from Kay Arthur’s book, “Lord, Teach Me To Pray in 28 Days” (Harvest House Publishers; Eugene, Oregon; 1982, 1955).

Next time: Bible Nugget

Lord, Teach Us to Pray (Part 1)

“Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him. ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.’ ” [Luke 11:1 NKJV]

Through the example of John, the Baptizer, and Jesus, the disciples are engaged to take a deeper look at prayer. They were acquainted with the motions of prayer; the Pharisees made a great show in the temple with their long prayers (Matthew 23:14). 

“Woe … Pharisees … For you … for a pretense make long prayers.” [Matthew 23:14 NKJV]

Prayers to God are recorded throughout the Old Testament. Here are a few examples:

  • Samson prays for a last vengeance on the Philistines.

“Then Samson called to the LORD, saying, ‘O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!” [Judges 16:28 NKJV]

  • Hannah prays for a son.

Then she made a vow and said, ‘O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.’”   [1 Samuel 1:11 NKJV]

  • Daniel prays for Israel while in they are in exile.

“Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer … And I prayed to the LORD my God, and made confession, and said, ‘O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity… by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. … O Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face … because of the unfaithfulness … committed against You. … Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant … O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see … O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake …Your people are called by Your name.” [Daniel 9:3-5, 7, 17-19 NKJV]

Even many of the Psalms themselves are prayers to God for salvation, mercy, deliverance. So though the disciples are very much acquainted with prayer, they are now stirred to desire the truth of prayer that is beyond the visible eye. They want to know the heart of prayer. So we hear their cry:

“Lord, teach us to pray.” [Luke 11:1]

Jesus responds to their heart cry:

“In this manner, therefore pray:” [Matthew 6:9a]. 

What follows is commonly known as “The Lord’s Prayer”. It is a brief prayer that Jesus sets before His disciples so that it may be remembered and recalled as a manner for prayer. We might also call it a pattern by which we may pray. It is not intended to be repeated blindly only by rote. Jesus rebuked this a couple of verses before:   

“And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.” [Matthew 6:7]

So, how are we to pray this prayer again and again without it being a vain repetition?  How is the Lord teaching us to pray with it? He is giving a pattern, a manner in which to pray. He is giving us a beautiful structure to teach us how to pray. Each sentence is elegantly constructed with a truth about prayer. These truths form a “table of contents” or an “index” for the content of our prayers: a pattern of prayer.

When we pray let not these words of “The Lord’s Prayer” be in vain repetition. Let our hearts savor the beauty and truth of each of its words.

“Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever.  Amen.”

Next time: Lord, Teach us to Pray (Part 2)

God Has Spoken By His Son

“Surely the LORD our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire. We have seen this day that God speaks with man; yet he still lives.” [Deuteronomy 5:24 NKJV] God “has in these last days spoken to us by His Son,” [Hebrews 1:2] and “whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” (forgiveness of sins) [Acts 10:43] and “should not perish but have eternal life.” [John 3:15]

The book of Deuteronomy contains the last words of Moses to the children of Israel. He reminds them of the deliverance of God from slavery in Egypt. They came out of Egypt to be free to worship the Lord their God and learn to serve their holy God. They came to Mount Sinai for the Lord to speak to them His holy words.

“So it was, when you heard the voice from the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, that you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes and your elders. And you said: ‘Surely the LORD our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire. We have seen this day that God speaks with man; yet he still lives. Now therefore, why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the LORD our God anymore, then we shall die. … You go near and hear all that the LORD our God may say, and tell us all that the LORD our God says to you, and we will hear and do it.’ ” [Deuteronomy 5:23-25, 27 NKJV]

The Lord God’s presence was so holy the people feared death knowing their uncleanness in sin. For God had told them that no man should see His face and live. [Exodus 33:20]. This same fear now falls upon them as they hear the Lord’s voice and know the closeness of His presence. They understood that man could hear and not die at the voice of the Lord.

However, the holiness of God was so bright and frightful, they feared for their very life. In response to this holy fear in the presence of a holy God, they asked Moses to go before God and bring God’s word back to them. Moses would now be God’s prophet, speaking God’s word to the people. The people promised to obey the word Moses brought from the mouth of God. And so God’s word would come to God’s people through prophets.

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things.” [Hebrews 1:1-2]

Then the time came when God would once again speak to His people face to face. He did so in His Son, Jesus Christ.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” [John 1:1, 14]

This Word of God in Jesus Christ came to speak face to face with God’s people so they might know Him. As they know Him, believe upon Him so that they might no longer fear their uncleanness of sin, but receive forgiveness (remission) of their sins through Jesus.

“To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” [Acts 10:43]

For as God, Jesus, had eternal life to give to whoever believes in Him.

“whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” [John 3:15]

We no longer hear God’s word through His prophets; God has spoken His Word in His Son. In believing the words of the Son of God, fear of death is removed for God forgives the sin of all those who believe in His Son. Hear Him today.

“Surely the LORD our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire. We have seen this day that God speaks with man; yet he still lives.” [Deuteronomy 5:24 NKJV] God “has in these last days spoken to us by His Son,” [Hebrews 1:2] and “whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” (forgiveness of sins) [Acts 10:43] and “should not perish but have eternal life.” [John 3:15]

Stand Still and Consider

“Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God.” [Job 37:14 NKJV] “Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things … He has not dealt with us according to our sins.” [Psalm 103:3-5, 10] Let us “Sing to Him … Talk of all His wondrous works!” [105:2]

Job was a man “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.” [Job 1:1] Yet God let Satan bring devastating loss and debilitating illness upon Job because he feared God. In the closing chapters of the book, God reveals Himself as God, all-powerful, Creator, and holy. God, the LORD, is to be feared and worshiped.

Just before God reveals Himself, Job is given an exhortation:

“Listen to this, O Job; Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God.” [Job 37:14 NKJV]

This same call –stand still and consider the wondrous works of our God– comes also to us each day. It comes to those who believe in God and His Son, Jesus Christ, and who fear and worship Him above all else. We are called to consider the wondrous works of God given to believers in the work of Christ. His greatest work for us was to pay the penalty of eternal death that our sin brought upon us. With Christ’s work God grants us forgiveness of our sin, iniquity, and transgressions.

David, the psalmist, gave this God praise for His great works of mercies and benefits. Be still and consider this wondrous work of which David sings.

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good
things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.  …

The LORD is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
He will not always strive
with us,
Nor will He keep
His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.”
[Psalm 103:2-5, 8-10 NKJV]

After David extols multitudes of God’s mercies, grace, and wondrous works, he calls us in Psalm 105 to make them known through our lips: in thanks, talk and song!

“Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples!
Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him;
Talk of all His wondrous works!”
[Psalm 105:1-2 NKJV]

God’s wondrous works are glorious to behold! Let us stand still and consider them. Let us instill them in our soul. Let us make them known with our lips.

“Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God.” [Job 37:14 NKJV] “Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things … He has not dealt with us according to our sins.” [Psalm 103:3-5, 10] Let us “Sing to Him … Talk of all His wondrous works!” [105:2]

Next time: Bible Nugget

Why Do I Write? (Part 4)

Firstly, I write to crystallize my thoughts to understand the convictions of my heart.

Secondly, I write to express the faith and hope that abides within me as an anchor for my soul.

Thirdly, I write to encourage others in the faith and hope that abides within me.

To bring us to the final, fourth, point,  I write to glorify God!

“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”  [Colossians 3:17 NKJV]

In Colossians 3:17 as a Christ follower, I am exhorted to “do all in the name of the Lord Jesus”. If Jesus has died for my sins that I might have eternal life with Him and the Father, then all my thanks and focus in life is to be to the honor of His name, His glory. I am nothing and have done nothing in the strength, wisdom, or power of my flesh and feeble mind. No gift that I could give is worthy of Him. In thanksgiving I give Him the duty of obedience done from a heart driven by love because of His great sacrifice for me. I am dead to self to seek only His highest honor in all that I do.

So whatever I write, speak, do, or even think is to be examined in light of God’s Holy Scripture. For the word of His Scripture is profitable to provide and empower me to live rightly and do what pleases Him. His Word is my delight and the rule of life for me.

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” [2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV]

Because of all that the Lord Jesus has done for me, I owe Him my life, my breath, my all. And because of His goodness in what He has done, I rest in the sure hope that He only seeks my highest good. I understand that my highest good is to be transformed into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ in word, deed, and thought! In this work of His love for my highest good, I find the greatest joy to be found!

All glory be to Thee, my God;
Great things You’ve done for me.
I bow my head; my feet unshod;
I drop to bended knee.

I praise You, Sovereign, Holy One;
New life You’ve given me.
I’ll follow footsteps of Your Son
To ever with You be.

To Thee, my God, I’ll ever raise
The glories of Your name.
I’ll take no claim for any praise
To You goes all the fame.

I am not my own. I write to the glory of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. He alone is my joy, my hope, and my life.

Next time: Bible Nugget