A Declaration

When I first read Psalms 23, I thought that it was one of the most artistic chapter in all of the Bible. Just reading the whole thing gives a really vivid image of what the Psalmist (in this case, David) wants to convey. It’s a “show don’t tell” kind of thing. Also it rolls off the tongue. For example we have in verse 2 (KGV):

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters.

and in verse 4:

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.

In comparison to other verses, say Psalm 27:1:

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

or Deut. 31:8:

And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.

Psalms 23:4 comforts us using an image rather than outright telling us that “don’t worry, God is here”; that this is what God will do in case you find yourself in a valley of death. The whole of Psalms 23 is full of these, and that is why I really liked this chapter.

Quite shallow, amiright?

Well, that is at a first glance. That this chapter comforts us with images. However, at a second glance, the whole chapter becomes bizarre. Now bear with me as I try to explain why.

Verse 1 starts with “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Then verse 2, “He maketh me to lie down with green pastures; He leadeth me besides still waters”. Okay, that makes sense. I mean verse 1 states that the Lord is our shepherd, and verse 2 describes what shepherds do with their sheep. He makes them eat and drink, and ensures that they have enough to eat and drink to be healthy. But verse 3 and 4 state:

He restoreth my soul; He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

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.

Huh. There is no continuity. The chapter goes from green pastures and still waters to valley of shadow of death.

But win, you are just nitpicking!

Let me make my case here. This verse is written by David, probably written when David was at Manhaim, wondering how the battle of his forces and his son Absalom went [1]. Which means that this was probably written in one of the darkest times of David’s life, during a civil war of his kingdom. That is why the valley of the shadow of death is quite a real thing. It is war, and death is looming everywhere. But as a modern christian living in the modern times, what does this chapter mean for me? I wanted more out of this chapter. I wanted something and ask God to reveal it to me.

And yes He did.

A third glance on verse 1 “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” leaves me with the idea that this is not a simple statement of comfort. Not just a simple statement that “I am of the Lord’s and because of that, I shall have anything that I need”. This is a declaration.

A declaration of what?

Let’s go back a couple of books and read Exodus 20:2-3, the first commandment:

I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Here the Lord is declaring that “He is God, and that there should be no other gods apart from him”. That He “brought thee out of the land of Egypt”, just like a shepherd. I think that Psalms 23:1 is the best response to this verse.

“Yes Lord, you are my shepherd.” – I shall follow your direction as your sheep and let you lead the way as my Lord.

“I shall not want any other god” – You are enough.

This is quite the response! Have you ever tried to declare that you are a Christian? In your workplace or with friends? Have you declared this to the Lord in the first place?

Oftentimes, the “I shall not want” part is said to be a statement that God will always give us our needs. But I think that that is not quite the whole picture. By declaring that “I shall not want any other god”, one is declaring that “I shall leave any other vices that is not yours, God. I shall not want to do things that is not of Your will because You are enough, God”.

It’s a repentance.

Psalms 23:1 is the old testament response to Romans 10:9 “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

This is a faith declaration verse. And that is awesome.

I have been a Christian for a lot of years now. And sometimes, it has been very hard. Last year, 2017, has been full of disappointments that having to go to church has become a chore. I was discouraged. I didn’t want to do it, but I got to do it because not doing it would remove the last shred of self-respect I have left in me. If I remove the only connection I had with God, what would that leave me with?

Then came a Sunday service, the Sunday when my mom was with me in Quezon City. She was visiting after a week of traveling with her friends and decided to go to church with me. I remember the preaching to be very passionate from Pastor Erwin Balanay in Victory Katipunan, and he did an altar call. He asked us to raise our hands if we want to be saved and have a relationship with him.

The Holy Spirit, oddly enough, wanted me to raise my hands. I felt the urge out of nowhere, and I thought to myself, NO! My mom is here and how embarrassing would that be! The urge was still there, and I thought “I will pray this prayer later. Just not NOW!”. Then “Okay I’ll not raise my hand but just pray here silently”. But then Pastor Erwin said “This is the last call, if any of you wants to receive Jesus as your own personal saviour, raise your hand!”. I shredded all vestiges of my pride away and raised my own hand. It was a blur after all of that. I remember crying and my mom was crying and Karlo (the one who did one2one with me after) was there, and I clarified that I was already a Christian but never did one2one with Victory.

My mom told me later that I was shouting the sinner’s prayer.

Sometimes, affirming our faith is one of the best comforts that we can have. That event in my life jump started me as a Christian bent on pursuing Christ. I may fall here and there, but without that reassurance, I wouldn’t have met and be blessed by a lot of other Christians, especially my Victory Group.

Whatever discouragement you are going through right now, try telling God: “Lord, you are my shepherd, I shall not want!”


  1. http://www.fbbc.com/messages/hyles_psalms.htm

This site is a very good companion when reading Psalms. I just stumbled upon it and currently I’m on the 112th chapter. In the future, I’ll be reading Psalms again with this sort-of guide.

I’m trying to write this in a series. I don’t think putting all in one blog post is a great idea as it would grow tedious and stuff. So there. Comments are appreciated!

 

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