Perfect Peace In Imperfect Circumstances
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
A few weeks ago, I studied Psalm 23 with my Wellness His Way community as part of our early morning bible study on zoom. It took us two weeks to unpack it because each verse had so much in it to meditate on!
Today I just want to highlight verse 5: "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies..."
This is a beautiful promise. It reveals to us how even in the worst circumstances--even in the presence of our enemies--we can come and feast at the table prepared for us by our God and our Shepherd in perfect peace.
Right before this we see David declaring God to be his Shepherd, which leads to the decision that because God is his Shepherd, he shall not want--he lacks nothing. He does not want because God is all he needs.
He reflects on the green pastures and still waters the Shepherd leads him to. He then acknowledges that only the Shepherd can restore and refresh the soul (not the green pastures and still waters themselves).
In the same way the Shepherd leads the sheep to green pastures, we see in verse 4 that there are times the Shepherd leads us through the darkest valleys--the valley of the shadow of death. This reminds me of the book of Job, Joseph's story in the O.T. and even Jesus being led in the wilderness by the Holy Spirit for 40 days to be tempted by Satan.
Sometimes we enter the dark valley by the Shepherds leading. Sometimes we get ourselves in there by our own decisions. In this case, it seems that David is expressing the first one. I have seen in my life how the dark valleys bring opportunity for deeper sanctification, deeper dependence on God, and the testing of my faith.
It reminds me of James 1:2-4-"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
While Satan uses the valley to tempt us, God uses it to test us and refine us. They are not wasted and they are not without purpose. The other good news is that the dark valleys are not our destination. We walk through...not arrive.
Lastly, in the valley, those who belong to the Lord need not fear evil. Why? Because of the presence of the Shepherd. He is there. His rod and staff (signifying both discipline and safety/security), bring comfort.
Then we get to this table. We see here how we don’t have to wait to partake in this joy and peace filled meal until we are out the valley. Instead, we can partake right in the middle of it.
We can rejoice in the midst of our troubles when our joy is in the LORD.
I also think of Isaiah 26:3-"You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you."
We can feast in perfect peace in the presence of our enemies when our mind is steadfast on the Lord because we trust in Him. Ultimately, we will depend on what we trust. If we trust ourselves more than God, we will depend on ourselves (which never results in perfect peace but the opposite, anxious pressure). But, when we put our trust in the Lord and depend on Him, perfect peace no longer becomes an occasional experience but a constant one. It simply comes down to our gaze and our trust.
Friends, we don’t need perfect circumstances to experience perfect peace because peace is ultimately Jesus Himself. He is the Prince of Peace. If you have surrendered and submitted your life to Him, He is in you and with you always.
Whatever you are facing today, He prepares a table before you. You are not alone.
How can I be praying for you today?