The home-call of Philip L Powell

An email received Sunday 26th April 2015 at 12:13pm from Brother Jeff Pitman.
Good Morning Brothers and Sisters
Greetings in the blessed name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
It is with blessed Hope I write this morning, to let you know that your friend and fellow pastor, Philip Lewis Powell has escaped his tent and has met with His Saviour over on the other Shore.At 3:42am Brisbane Australia, this Lord’s Day, Sunday the 26th of April 2015, the call was given and Philip answered.
I know each of you held a place in Philip’s heart, as you worked with him as fellow Bond Slaves and errand boys, to bring Glory to God in the name of Jesus.
On Behalf of Kathleen and the Family (Powell and Pitman), Thank you for your continued prayer, friendship and labour in the Gospel.
The CWM family here and abroad, by God’s Grace, will continue to keep our hand on the plough, and not look back, until we all can be in the presence of our Saviour.
I look forward to hearing from you, as you are able, and will keep you updated on the Funeral arrangements here in Brisbane.

Please feel free to publicise this news as you see fit.

Every Blessing in Christ!

Jeff Pitman
(pastor)

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THE PSALM OF THE CROSS IN THE TREASURY OF DAVID

02-PSALM 22 – THE PSALM OF THE CROSS
In his introductory comments to Psalm 22 in what is generally known as THE PSALM OF THE CROSS in The Treasury of David, CH Spurgeon is quoted as follows:

Title – “To the chief Musician upon Aijeleth Shahar. A Psalm of David.”

This ode of singular excellence was committed to the most excellent of the temple songsters: the chief among ten thousand is worthy to be extolled by the chief Musician; no meaner singer must have charge of such a strain; we must see to it that we call up our best abilities when Jesus is the theme of praise.

The words “Aijeleth Shahar” are enigmatical , and their meaning is uncertain; some refer them to a musical instrument used upon mournful occasions, but the majority adhere to the translation of our margin, “Concerning the hind of the morning.” This last interpretation is the subject of much inquiry and conjecture. Calmet believes that the Psalm was addressed to the music master who presided over the band called the “Morning Hind,” and Adam Clarke thinks this to be the most likely of all the conjectural interpretations, although he himself inclines to the belief that no interpretation should be attempted, and believes that it is a merely arbitrary and unmeaning title, such as Orientals have always been in the habit of appending to their songs.

Our Lord Jesus is so often compared to a hind, and his cruel huntings are so pathetically described in this most affecting psalm, that we cannot but believe that the title indicates the Lord Jesus under a well-known poetical metaphor; at any rate, Jesus is that Hind of the morning concerning whom David here sings.

Subject – This is beyond all others The Psalm of the Cross. It may have been actually repeated word by word by our Lord when hanging on the tree; it would be too bold to say that it was so, but even a casual reader may see that it might have been. It begins with, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” and ends, according to some, in the original with “It is finished.”
For plaintive expressions uprising, from unutterable depths of woe we may say of this Psalm, “there is none like it.” It is the photograph of our Lord’s saddest hours, the record of his dying words, the lachrymatory of his last tears, the memorial of his expiring joys. David and his afflictions may be here in a very modified sense, but, as the star is concealed by the light of the sun, he who sees Jesus will probably neither see nor care to see David.
Before us we have a description both of the darkness and of the glory of the cross, the sufferings of Christ and the glory which shall follow. Oh for grace to draw near and see this great sight! We should read reverently, pulling off our shoes from off our feet, as Moses did at the burning bush, for if there be holy ground anywhere in Scripture it is in this Psalm.
Division – From the commencement to the Psa_22:21is a most pitiful cry for help, and from Psa_22:21-31 is a most precious foretaste of deliverance. The first division may be sub-divided at the Psa_22:10, from Psa_22:1-10 being an appeal based upon covenant relationship; and from Psa_22:10-21 being an equally earnest plea derived from the imminence of his peril.
With the proviso already stated I fully endorse these memorable word by CHS, my only point of difference is that I see it as viewed prophetically before time began. Christ sees the trial of the Cross in all its gory detail and it’s triumph and glory long before He made His commitment to the ordeal and long before King David viewed it through the lens of prophecy some 1000 years BC.

With these thoughts in mind we draw near to view this most holy sight – Our Lord stretched upon the Roman Gibbet, fully extended in body, soul, mind and spirit for the eternal salvation of all who put their trust in Him.

FROM – PhilipLPowell
Philiplpowell – The Truth shall set you free – Word Press

NEXT – In all directions Christ Sees God at work

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PSALM 22 – 01 – When Christ Surveyed the Cruel Cross

01-PSALM 22 – THE PSALM OF THE CROSS

Most of us will be familiar at least with the title of the famous hymn written by Isaac Watts (17 July 1674 – 25 November 1748) – When I survey the Wondrous Cross. Charles Wesley (18 December 1707 – 29 March 1788) reportedly said he would give up all his other hymns to have written this one. However what is significantly missed is that it was written from the divine and not from the human perspective. In Psalm 22 – The Psalm of the Cross – we principally see Christ Himself, not some human being, be it king David or someone else surveying the cross and it’s surrounds. The Lord Jesus Christ actually surveyed it prophetically, through David the King some 1000 or so years before the event. In fact seeing it in its fullest prophetical significance this is a view of the Cross by Christ from before the dawn of creation –

Father, I will that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which you have given me: for you loved me before the foundation of the world John 17:24;

According as He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love Ephesians 1:4;

Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, 1 Peter 1:20.

Sometime in 1979/80 shortly after Kathleen and I and our family moved to Katoomba, NSW to take up ministry under my lifelong friend the late Aeron Morgan who was then principal of the Commonwealth Bible College (AOG), Aeron asked me to give a series of lectures on the Messianic Psalms. I was musing on this Psalm 22 as I drove down the main highway to Sydney, suddenly it was as if I was transported to the scene of the Cross. I began to see Christ looking in five directions as He surveyed the Cruel Cross;

  • HE LOOKED UP and saw GOD – verse 1 – “My God … My God …”;
  • HE LOOKED DOWN and saw self – v1 – “Why have you forsaken me”?
  • HE LOOKED BACK and saw history – v4 – you delivered them…”;
  • HE LOOKED OUT and saw His enemies – “bulls … dogs …lions …”;
  • HE LOOKED FORWARD and saw victory – vs. 22-31 – IT IS FINISHED.

That outline has remained with me and new truth has dawned as I have continued to meditate in the Word of the Lord. The latest came to me on Saturday March 7, 2015 and is intimated by my opening comments, in which have given rise to a new slant on Dr. Watts’ great hymn. I trust I am not being presumptuous if I dare change the title to make my point: I know that I can’t hold a candle to the great hymnists – Watts and Wesley.

When Christ surveyed the Cruel Cross:

When Christ surveyed the Cruel Cross, On which He the Prince of Glory must die,

He turned His back on all His gain, To submit to excruciating suffering and pain.

“My mighty One, why have you forsaken me”? Would be His cry, upon that Cross;

Why are you so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?

I cry in the daytime, but you do not hear. In the night season, I am not silent.

But you are Holy, You who inhabits the praises of Israel.

I see from My Head, My Hands, My Feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

The whole realm of nature is mine; and I willingly surrender it all to death;
To share my Love so amazing, so divine, and redeem man’s soul his life his all.

Our response is the only one that is possible, in the immortal words of Watts and Wesley:

Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine, DEMANDS my soul, my life, my all.

To Christ, who won for sinners grace, By bitter grief and anguish sore,
Be praise from all the ransomed race, Forever and forevermore.

I am reminded of the great CT Studd (1860-1931), who played cricket for England in the first “ashes” match in 1882 which was won by Australia. He was part of the Cambridge Seven and later responsible for setting up The Heart of Africa Mission, which became The World Evangelisation Crusade (WEC International). He gave away an inherited fortune to help missions and needy people. According to http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1801-1900/c-t-studd-gave-huge-inheritance-away-11630616.html

On January 13, 1887, before he even knew the amount he was to inherit, he wrote several large cheques for George Muller’s orphan work and for missions. It turned out there was still some money left. Studd gave it away. He gave the final £3,400 to the woman he was about to marry as a wedding gift. But Priscilla Livingstone Stewart was as sure of God as her husband. She determined to “start clear” at her wedding and gave that sum away, too.

Naturally, they ran short of money often after that. Yet they found God faithfully supplied them. “Funds are low again, hallelujah! That means God trusts us and is willing to leave His reputation in our hands,” said C. T. Studd on one such occasion.

Although he believed that God sometimes healed physical illnesses through prayer and the anointing of oil, he also accepted that some ailments are chronic, and in his last years he regularly took morphine, causing some controversy.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Studd

CT Studd is noted for his quotes about his indebtedness to Christ and His great sacrifice. I grew up on his famous:

“Only One Life, ‘Twill Soon Be Past, Only what’s done for Christ will last”, – famous to many who are unaware that its author was CT Studd. It’s a quote I and my family employed on the occasion of the tragic death of my 14 year old brother and I have used it many times to challenge people around the grave side. I have concluded this blog with an extended version of the poem taken from http://hockleys.org/2009/05/quote-only-one-life-twill-soon-be-past-poem/

Other well known statements by CT STUDD include:

“Some wish to live within, the sound of Church or Chapel bell;
I want to run a Rescue Shop within a yard of hell;” and

“If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”

Another marvellous tribute from history comes from the Moravian Mission whose early young missionaries sold themselves into slavery in order to witness to the ostracised lepers in a leper colony. This famous quote has survived – “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering!”

This is the major thrust of this blog built around the famous hymn to as much as possible refocus away from the fame of men and onto Christ who Himself viewed that WONDROUS CROSS before any other.

Here’s a poem built on CT Studd’s confession:

“Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgement seat;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years,
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill,
living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

When this bright world would tempt me sore,
When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way,
Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Give me Father, a purpose deep,
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Oh let my love with fervor burn,
And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone,
Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, “twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,
Now let me say,”Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call,
I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last. ”

— extra stanza —

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”
C.T Studd

FROM – PhilipLPowell

Philiplpowell – The Truth shall set you free – Word Press

NEXT – Looking up Christ Sees God

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PSALM 23 – #06 – The CONCLUSION the Journey TEACHES

PSALM 23 – # 06 – The CONCLUSION the Journey TEACHES

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the House of the Lord forever Psalm 23:6.

In the CRISIS “the sheep of His pasture” is protected by the presence of the Chief Shepherd and by HIS “rod and staff”. These things bring great comfort to the sheep. NOW we have reached the CONCLUSION of the Journey, where once more the ruminant reflects over the past and, based on the COMMENCEMENT that the JOURNEY Makes, the COURSE that the JOURNEY Takes, the CRISIS that the Journey Produces, and the CLIMAX that the Journey Reaches, the sheep makes his CONCLUSION. It matters not if you view it, as we have, being, “A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A SHEEP” or the Journey of a Life-Time. The same principle applies and the same lessons are learned. The Journey is so comforting and rewarding that tomorrow will be as good as today, or eternity will result in the same destination – “I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.”

We need to recap, which is precisely what the human Sheep following the Chief Shepherd does:

  • While THE COMMENCEMENT of the JOURNEY is NOT everything it will NOT proceed correctly unless it STARTS PROPERLY. It starts when we are adopted into the family of God, which may be, as in my case, early in life or in the case of others later in life – even towards the end, which is one of the reasons why this 23rd Psalm may be correctly viewed as a Psalm to live by and to die on;
  • The COURSE that the Journey TAKES may not be the best or most comfortable at all times, but nonetheless, in the overall scheme of things, it is RIGHT and RIGHTEOUS – “He knows the way that I take: when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” Job 23:10. So long as we are led by the Shepherd we have the confidence that His way is RIGHT – “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Genesis 18:25. “As for God, His way is perfect; the Word of the LORD is tried: He is a buckler to all who trust in Him 2nd Samuel 22:31 Palm 18:30. –“He makes me to lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul: He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake Psalm 23 2-3.
  • The CRISIS that the Journey PRODUCES is painful but will come to an end. It does not necessarily reflect on either the COMMENCEMENT or the COURSE of the journey, though it may do so. We must not hold God responsible for our mistakes, failures or sins. However as the all sovereign Shepherd He is well able to bring good out of evil – “We know that all things work together for good to them who love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose Romans 8:28.
  • The CLIMAX that the Journey REACHES is elevated and invigorating. It comes after the CRISIS. This is why the Lord Shepherd paints a double picture of meditation where the ruminants lie down in “green pastures” (verse3) and before a “prepared table” (verse 5) to reflect on and meditate in the way that the Shepherd has led within the context of scripture verse 3 with verse 5 – “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies: You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over Psalm 23:5.
  • So now we come to: The CONCLUSION that the Journey Teaches. In looking back we see all of the above in respect of the Way the Lord Shepherd has led us. It provides a light that shines back on the JOURNEY and forward to the WAY AHEAD – the eternal future:

This is one of the distinct and definite advantages in meditating in the Scriptures. I have found frequently that regular meditation stimulates the mind in respect of the Truth of God regarding the trials of the soul and body at a given point in time. Take for example my present Health Crisis during which I have been deeply musing on this Psalm 23 – A Day in the Life of a Sheep.

Last Thursday (Feb. 26, 2015) Kathleen and I had a meeting with my Radiologist on the recommendation of my Oncologist due to my prostate having become enlarged and my PSA having jumped from 24 to 43 since switching from chemotherapy to the new drug. The assessment was comforting in part and challenging in other ways. Our advice was not to put too much store on the rising PSA as this is known to happen when chemotherapy treatment is replaced with hormone drugs. The enlarged prostate will be attempted to be shrunk with directed radio beams for a six week treatment period of low dosage from this coming Wednesday – March 4, 2015.

Any CRISIS has spiritual and natural impact and so it has been in my case, which I do not propose to recount right now. Suffice it to luxuriate in the truth of that marvellous late 18th century hymn written by William Cowper (26 November 1731 – 25 April 1800):

SOMETIMES A LIGHT SURPRISES – 1779.

Sometimes a light surprises the Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord, who rises with healing in His wings:
When comforts are declining, He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining, to cheer it after rain.

In holy contemplation we sweetly then pursue,
The theme of God’s salvation, and find it ever new.
Set free from present sorrow, we cheerfully can say,
Let the unknown tomorrow bring with it what it may.

It can bring with it nothing but He will bear us through;
Who gives the lilies clothing will clothe His people, too;
Beneath the spreading heavens, no creature but is fed;
And He Who feeds the ravens will give His children bread.

Though vine nor fig tree neither their wonted fruit should bear,
Though all the field should wither, nor flocks nor herds be there;
Yet God the same abiding, His praise shall tune my voice,
For while in Him confiding, I cannot but rejoice.

This concludes Philip’s musings on PSALM 23.

 

All of Philip’s Blogs can be read at http:/philiplpowell.wordpress.com/

Please pass the word along.

Philip’s plan, as the Lord grants strength of body and mind is to do a series of DEVOTIONAL blogs on Psalm 22, The Psalm of the Cross; and on The Song of Songs and another of a DOCTRINAL NATURE on MIDRASH & MIDRASHIM viewed biblically and extra-biblically, which, in Philip’s view, borders on Gnosticism.

God bless you and may His Hand guide us continually.

Philip L. Powell – March 1, 2015.

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PSALM 23 – # 05 – THE CLIMAX THE JOURNEY REACHES

PSALM 23 – # 05 – The CLIMAX the Journey REACHES

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies: You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over Psalm 23:5.

 For the Christian the crisis – see previous blog – no matter how serious, even if it is physically terminal in so far as natural life is concerned, is never the end. The Chief Shepherd has arranged a GRAND CLIMAX involving two things for the sheep of His pasture:

A PREPARED Table; and

AN ANOINTED Head.

In terms of the sheep the PREPARED TABLE represents grazing and chewing the cud, with the main emphasis on the latter, where there is an echo of verse 2 – “He makes me to lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters.” As we saw in a previous blog on Psalm 23 a healthy sheep never lies down to graze but will lie down to chew the cud i.e. in human terms to meditate and reflect. We often use the term – “to ruminate”, which is a term coined from this imagery.

The following is a pertinent comment from the website – sheep101.info:

“Sheep belong to the ruminant classification of animals. Ruminants are characterized by their four-chambered stomach and “cud-chewing” behaviour. Cud is a food bolus that is regurgitated, re-chewed, and re-swallowed.”

Sheep lie down to do this. To ruminate in human terms means to “meditate” or to “ponder”. The Concise Oxford Dictionary Ninth Edition on page 1206 adds this comment after the definition of “ruminate” – “of ruminants ‘chew the cud’”. As we have pointed out in a previous blog Psalm 23 reveals the Hand of the Shepherd as an expression of God’s Grace revealed in the number five – four fingers and the thumb. I have explained this in a number of my sermons throughout my ministerial life from age 17 to the present (now 76 years old). To lie down in green pastures, which clearly represent the scriptures, we must do five things in regard to the Bible, which is God’s Word:

  • Read the Scriptures;
  • Obey the Scriptures;
  • Study the Scriptures;
  • Memorise the Scriptures; and
  • Meditate in the Scriptures.

Doing all of these things faithfully through life we gain a firm grip on the Bible – the Word of God. I have discovered that the least practiced is “meditating”, which I have portrayed as the thumb of the hand. It is the one thing that results in a firm grasp of the scriptures. Of course the fingers are important but failing to meditate is like trying to grasp the Bible without a thumb. It is possible, but extremely difficult and never fully effective.

The word “meditation” appears six times in the KJV of the Bible, all of them in the Psalms. While it is the English rendition of different Greek words brought over from the Hebrew they all have the same idea, being that of musing, reflecting, contemplating, sometimes in verbal expression and even in music:

Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my meditation Psalm 5:1.

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemerPsalm 19:14.

My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understandingPsalm 49:3.

My meditation of Him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORDPsalm 104:34.

O how love I your law! it is my meditation all the dayPsalm 119:97.

I have more understanding than all my teachers: for your testimonies are my meditationPsalm 119:99.

The verb “to meditate” appears more frequently (x 15) than the noun (only 6 – see above) throughout the scriptures and again mostly in the Psalms (x 9) and twice in the New Testament. Probably the most well known is God’s command to Joshua on the occasion of his taking over the leadership of Israel:

 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good successJoshua 1:8.

This sets the pattern and the boundaries for all true meditation, which must always be within the constraints of the Holy Word of God.

His delight is in the law of the LORD; and in His law he meditates day and nightPsalm 1:2.

All biblical meditation is either on God in respect of His Nature and Character and His Works or His Ways and it is always regulated by the Bible which is the Word of God. To depart from this is to enter the world of the mystical and the transcendental, which is a major error of our time that leads to the fanciful ideas of astral travel and spirit manifestations. In recent copies of the CWM international magazine we have exposed men like Bill Johnson and his wife who teach the commanding of angels – “wakey, wakey” – see www.cwm.org.au This whole heresy devolves from meditation which is not focused on God and not regulated by His Word.

My goal is God Himself is one of my favourite hymns written in April 1896 by Frances Brook whose ill health prevented her from her pursuit of foreign missions.

My goal is God Himself, not joy, nor peace,
Nor even blessing, but Himself, my God;
’Tis His to lead me there—not mine, but His—
At any cost, dear Lord, by any road.
2 So faith bounds forward to its goal in God,
And love can trust her Lord to lead her there;
Upheld by Him, my soul is following hard
Till God has full fulfilled my deepest prayer.
3 No matter if the way be sometimes dark,
No matter though the cost be oft-times great,
He knoweth how I best shall reach the mark,
The way that leads to Him must needs be strait.
4 One thing I know, I cannot say Him nay;
One thing I do, I press towards my Lord;
My God my glory here, from day to day,
And in the glory there my great Reward.

When I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the night watchesPsalm 63:6.

I will meditate also of all your work, and talk of your doingsPsalm 77:12.

I will meditate in your precepts, and have respect to your waysPsalm 119:15

Princes also sat to speak against me: but your servant did meditate in your statutesPsalm 119:23.

This latter reference may well have been in our Lord’s Mind when He told His disciples not to meditate before i.e. not to “premeditate” what to say when they were brought to trial before wicked men:

Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what you shall answer. For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.- Luke 21:14-15.

Likewise the only other usage of the term “meditate” in the New Testament reflects its Old Testament counterpart:

Meditate upon these things; give yourself wholly to them; that your profiting may appear to all. Take heed to yourself, and to the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this you will both save yourself, and them that hear you 1Timothy 4:15-16.

My hands also will I lift up unto your commandments, which I have loved; and I will meditate in your statutes Psalm 119:48.

The raising of one’s hands signifies acceptance and surrender. Here the psalmist states his total acceptance of God’s commands and laws.

Let the proud be ashamed; for they dealt perversely with me without a cause: but I will meditate in your preceptsPsalm 119:78.

My eyes prevent (precede) the night watches, that I might meditate in your WordPsalm 119:148.

I remember the days of old; I meditate on all your works; I muse on the work of your handsPsalm 143:5.

So in this grand finale of the sheep following the shepherd we observe the great CLIMAX which frequently succeeds the CRISIS when the Shepherd by His presence and with His “rod and staff” delivers the “sheep of His pasture” from the enemies that lurk and lie in wait to attack. In the CRISIS the Shepherd holds a “rod and a staff”. In the CLIMAX He carries an anointing vessel filled with oil.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me John 10:27.

During World War I, some Turkish soldiers tried to steal a flock of sheep from a hillside near Jerusalem. The shepherd, who had been sleeping, awoke to find his flock being driven off. He couldn’t recapture them by force, so he called out to his flock with his distinctive call. The sheep listened, and returned to their rightful owner. The soldiers couldn’t stop the sheep from returning to their shepherd’s voice.[1]

On the website referred to previously viz. SheperdsInIsrael.com – “Historical Photos of Shepherds in the Land of Israel”[2] we read the following observation:

In one of the photos a shepherd is pouring oil out of a ram’s horn onto the heads of his sheep. Phillip Keller, in his classic book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 explains how insects and various parasites in the summer can cause great irritability in the sheep especially around their eyes and nasal passages. He writes, “What an incredible transformation this would make among the sheep. Once the oil had been applied to the sheep’s head there was an immediate change in behaviour. Gone was the aggravation, gone the frenzy, gone the irritability and the restlessness. Instead, the sheep would start to feed quietly again, then soon lie down in peaceful contentment.”  Through this we gain a new depth of understanding of what David had in mind when he wrote, “He anoints my head with oil.”

NEXT (Final) – PSALM 23 #06 – THE CONCLUSION THE JOURNEY TEACHES

All of Philip’s Blogs can be read at http:/philiplpowell.wordpress.com/

Please pass the word along.

[1] http://www.enduringword.com/commentaries/4310.htm

[2] http://www.shepherdsinisrael.com/pb/wp_4e81d8d8/wp_4e81d8d8.html

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PSALM 23 – 04 – THE CRISIS THE JOURNEY PRODUCES

PSALM 23 – # 04 – The CRISIS the Journey PRODUCES

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me; your rod and staff comfort me Psalm 23:4.

 The first clause presents us with some obvious conclusions:

  • We are NOT valley dwellers. In the valley we are in transit;
  • It is a valley of shadows NOT substance;
  • We need to keep walking.

Our Good Shepherd Himself and all alone passed through the VALLEY OF DEATH. We have a view of that passage in Psalm 22, which is the PSALM OF THE CROSS and obviously the prelude to this Psalm 23 which is the PSALM of the SHEPHERD and SHEEP. It has been that Psalms 22 to 24 form a:

  1. Psalm 22 – THE SAVIOUR’S CROSS;
  2. Psalm 23 – THE SHEPHERD’S CROOK (STAFF); and
  3. Psalm 24 – THE SOVEREIGN’S CROWN.

Only Christ the Good Shepherd walked into and through the Valley of Death and as a result of that victorious passage through we, His true followers, have lost all fear of death. For us the Valley is a mere shadow, because the Shepherd has removed the substance:

I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be your plagues; O grave, I will be your destructionHosea 13:14.

O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory – 1st Corinthians 15:55.

The Psalmist assures us of two reasons why we need “fear no evil” in the valley of the shadow of death. Firstly because of the presence of The Shepherd – “you are with me”; and secondly because of what THE SHEPHERD holds in His Hand – “your rod and staff comfort me”. The Shepherd holds a rod with which to drive off the enemy and a staff with which to protect the sheep from its own folly in tending to wander and go astray. The staff will be hooked around the neck of the sheep to pull it back onto the right path.

Taking the full Psalm in context and realising that The Shepherd remains with and continues to lead the sheep as they together pass into and through the valley there are salient lessons to be learned in respect of this CRISIS.

  • There was nothing wrong with the COMMENCEMENT OF THE JOURNEY. The sheep bleated out his faith confession, which was true each day – THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD; and
  • There was nothing wrong with the COURSE OF THE JOURNEY. The Shepherd led the sheep in paths which were right and which restored his soul; so
  • The CRISIS was not caused by some intrusion by an enemy. It was simply par of the COURSE. The Shepherd leads the sheep into and through the valley.

Here are truths, which are sadly so often overlooked in respect of the journey and circumstances of the Christian as he follows his Lord. It is something that the so called positive faith confession people fail to grasp.

I recall an occasion when I was preaching in Perth when I made reference to my then aging father who has since, at the age of 87 gone to be with his Lord. After the service I was approached by a man who accused me of lacking faith, because I had suggested that my dad’s sickness was part of God’s plan. He said that my father should be like Jacob who, “Tucked his feet up in bed and died.” The implication of the man’s approach to me was obvious – the patriarch Jacob, he implied, did not suffer sickness and died healthy and well. However the Bible states otherwise.

In Genesis 48 we read of Jacob’s sickness though we are not told what it was. Clearly it was sufficiently serious for his son Joseph to take action. The subsequent passage of scripture makes it clear that it was terminal. I suggest that you read the entire section of scripture – Genesis chapters 48 to 49:

Genesis 48 verse 1It came to pass after these things, that one told Joseph, ‘Behold, your father is sick: and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim …. Verse 21 Israel said to Joseph, ‘Behold, I die’ ….”.

 In the purpose and plan of God Jacob’s sickness led to the remarkable prophetic blessings of his two grandsons and later of his own twelve sons, whom we refer to as The Tribes of Israel. It was Jacob’s sickness that led to his death.

Genesis 49 verse 33When Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people.

 To suggest, as did the man who accosted me following my preaching in Perth, that Jacob simply died without any physical contributing factors, simply reveals a gross ignorance of the Word and Will of God. Like so much that emanates from the Word of Faith and the Prosperity Teaching circles it shows a superficial reading and understanding of the Bible.

Of course THE CRISIS is not always sickness and I honestly believe that our Good Shepherd is well able to deliver us from all sickness in His will and for His glory. On our CWM You Tube channel is a message I brought many years ago entitled By Whose Stripes we are Healed which I believe does not refer principally to physical healing but it includes it – go to: Healing in the Atonement. I trust the message will prove a blessing to you.

My point is that sickness is not always an intruder as a consequence of sin or failure on our part, though it can be sometimes. This Psalm points to the fact that it may simply be par of the course. If as a “sheep of His pasture” the chief Shepherd leads us into the Crisis there must be a reason.

On the website to which I referred in an earlier blog in this series there is listed a number of “100 year old photographs which depict the life of shepherds in ancient Palestine”. Some of these show the Ain Farah region just north east of Jerusalem which is claimed to be the region where King David as a shepherd boy tended his sheep. According to the website the so called Wadi Fara is “a deep cleft nine miles north east of Jerusalem which becomes deeper and narrower as it runs through the almost perpetual twilight of the valley of the shadow of death down to the plain of Jericho….Until 1926, only hermits and shepherds frequented the valley, which was the haunt of coneys (rabbits) and porcupines.” The photographs are available for purchase from the website – http://www.shepherdsinisrael.com/

On that website there is this observation:

“If night overtakes the shepherd before he reaches the fold (which he usually does by sunset) he uses his staff as a sounding rod, striking the ground with it as he goes along, producing a ringing sound for which the tired sheep listen; for by it, they can follow in the path picked out for them by their shepherd.”

It is by this means that the sheep are finally led through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, because the crisis is not the end of the journey. There is a CLIMAX to follow, but the point is there will be a CRISIS (may be more than one) in the Journey of the Sheep as we follow the Shepherd, simply because the method of God involves a crisis. As Dr. G. Campbell Morgan , who has been rightly called ”The Prince of Preachers”, writes in his masterpiece, The Crises of the Christ, which in my opinion should occupy pride of place in every preacher’s library:

“In all the works of God there is to be discovered an unvarying method of process and crisis. The process is slow and difficult to watch in its progress. The crisis is sudden and flames with a light, which, flashing back upon the process, explains it; and forward, indicates a new line of action, which after all is the continuity of that which has preceded it.” [1]

For those with eyes to see the light flashing from a crisis shines both backwards and forwards and it illuminates the path in both directions. Have you ever questioned God in the journey? You are in good company. Our Lord questioned from the Cross – “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” Psalm 22:1. If you read and understand that Psalm of the Cross, which we will look at in another series of blogs, you will see that the Crisis that Christ faced is exactly this light shining backwards and forwards. In reality it explains the mystery of His birth, life and work but more than that it sheds light on His prophetic future. As I say we will look at that later. Suffice it for the present to apply the truth to our own journey for in both of these Psalms (#22 & #23) we see not only the Shepherd but also the sheep. We are the “sheep of His pasture” following the Good Shepherd.

It is part of God’s purpose and plan for our lives that we experience crises for two very good reasons. Firstly so that the reality of the temporary nature of “the valley of the shadow” becomes increasingly known to us – one man remarked – “I am pleased that the Bible so often says, ‘It came to pass. It means that it didn’t come to stay’. The second and more basic reason is so that we can detect the Hand of the Shepherd in leading us into and through the trying circumstances of life. In saying that I do not mean to imply that everything that occurs to us is ordered by God. If that were the case then God should be blamed for everything, which is a foolish position to take. No, some things are the result of our own folly and rebellion and in those cases, in hindsight we can see how God arranges a means of rescue so that ultimately we can acknowledge with Paul, the apostle that “All things work togther fpor GOOD to those who please God and are called according to His purpose” Romans 8:28.

 

All the Way my Saviour Leads – by Fanny Crosby (1820-1915).

In the Sankey hymnal (page 320) is the following comment:

Fanny Crosby had been the recipient of a very unexpected temporal blessing, and while seated in her quiet room, meditating on the goodness of God to her and all his ways, this hymn flashed into her mind. It was written out and given to Robert Lowry, who wrote the fine tune which has given it wings, and carried it into millions of homes and hearts. Sankey, p. 320

All the way my Saviour leads me;
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.

All the way my Saviour leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread;
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living bread.
Though my weary steps may falter,
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.

All the way my Saviour leads me
O the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages—
Jesus led me all the way;
This my song through endless ages—
Jesus led me all the way.

NEXT – PSALM 23 #05 – THE CLIMAX THE JOURNEY REACHES

 

All of Philip’s Blogs can be read at http:/philiplpowell.wordpress.com/

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[1] The Crises of the Christ Pub. Pickering & Inglis – 1935, 47 & 56 – page 11

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PSALM 23 # 03 – THE COURSE THE JOURNEY TAKES

PSALM 23 – # 03 – The COURSE the Journey TAKES

“He makes me to lie down in green pastures: He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul: He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” Psalm 23:2-3.

In the marvellous Song of Songs which, in my view, has been poorly represented by preachers and commentators throughout the ages[1], there is an incident where the Shulamite is asked where her lover can be found. She replies, “My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies. I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine: he feeds among the lilies” SS 6:2-3. In another part of the Song we are effectively told that the way to discover the “beloved” is to follow the flocks which feed where he leads – “Tell me, you whom my soul loves, where you feed, where you make your flock to rest at noon”. The response should be predictable to all true followers of Christ – “…go your way by the footsteps of the flock, and feed your kids beside the shepherds’ tents” SS 1:7-8.

 The lily is the flower that represents purity. Because Christ is pure those who follow Him will seek to make and keep themselves pure. They will NOT ingest impurities:

Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as he is. Every man who has this hope in him purifies himself, even as He is pure” 1st John 3:1-3.

There are three aspects described by the psalmist in this first stage of the Journey of the Sheep, all of them ordered by the Shepherd whom the sheep is following:

  • He makes me to lie down in green pastures:
  • He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul:
  • He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

As a boy, brought up on a farm, I have observed sheep many times. Some three or four years before we left UK for New Zealand our father and mother purchased a “small holding” in the Forest of Dean, where we enjoyed grazing rights for our animals on what was known as “common land”. There the small flock owned by our family would forage for food. I observed that a healthy sheep never lies down to graze. It always stands on its four legs to eat and will lie down to chew the cud and peacefully enjoy the spoils of its foraging. So the psalmist is not describing the place of verdant pasture as a “dining table” so to speak but as a place of refuge, enjoyment, peace and plenty, and it is the Good Shepherd who leads His flock there. In human terms we may refer to the place of “the still waters” as somewhere “far from the madding crowd”. [2] The Treasury of David so aptly states of these two verses – “The Christian life has two elements in it, the contemplative and the active, and both of these are richly provided for. First, the contemplative, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures.” What are these “green pastures” but the Scriptures of truth – always fresh, always rich, and never exhausted?” CHS goes on to say, “The second part of a vigorous Christian’s life consists in gracious activity. We not only think, but we act. We are not always lying down to feed, but are journeying onward toward perfection; hence we read, “He leads me beside the still waters.[3]

Far be it for me to suggest any major correction to so great a Bible teacher as Charles Haddon Spurgeon. I venture only a minor change based on the fact that CHS living, preaching and writing as he did in a major city, was not aware of the fact that sheep do not lie down to feed, at least not unless they are sick or ageing, when they will try to nibble at nearby fodder. The picture here is not so much reading and studying the scriptures but rather of meditating upon the scriptures. Personally now in my 77th year and with a sickness that could well be terminal, I cannot engage so much in reading as I once did. Even in these blogs I largely rely on what I have previously digested from the Bible and I meditate therein. As Psalm 1 reminds us:

“… his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law he meditates day and night Psalm 1:2 cf. Ps 104:34 My meditation of Him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD.”

As CHS rightly asserts it is the contemplative that the Psalmist first describes and he refers to that again in the second consideration of walking beside “still waters”, which results in the restoration of the soul. Interestingly sheep will not drink from turbulent or rapidly moving water. It must be “still”. CHS comments:

“What are these “still waters” but the influences and graces of His blessed Spirit? His Spirit attends us in various operations, like waters – in the plural to cleanse, to refresh to fertilise, to cherish. They are “still waters,” for the Holy Ghost loves peace, and sounds no trumpet of ostentation in His operations. He may flow into our soul, but not into our neighbour’s, and therefore our neighbour may not perceive the divine presence; and though the blessed Spirit may be pouring his floods into one heart, yet he who sits next to the favoured one may know nothing of it.”

“In sacred silence of the mind – My heaven, and there my God I find.” [4]

He leads me in the paths that are RIGHT for His name’s sake.

Later in his life my dear old dad, when I asked him what I should do in a particular circumstance would always respond: “Do what is right.” As I have gotten older I have understood what he was saying and why. Firstly because age renders it more difficult to get our minds around issues; and secondly because the lesson and instruction of a parent as a mentor should have been passed to the next generation. My dad thought I had learned what is right.

Abraham in his great discourse with God asked a rhetorical question – “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Genesis 18:25. What the Great Shepherd does is always RIGHT, which is a lesson that I have increasingly learned, especially now in my present circumstances, which affects not only me but my wife and family and the CWM-Fellowship that I lead, albeit to an ever diminishing extent. Can my sickness be RIGHT? I am not saying it is the best and at times I desire it to be otherwise, but I have come to realise that it is RIGHT. It is par of the course as I a “sheep of His pasture” continue to follow the Chief Shepherd:

1 Thou Shepherd of Israel, and mine,
The joy, and desire of my heart;
For closer communion I pine,
I long to reside where thou art:
The pasture I languish to find,
Where all, who their Shepherd obey,
Are fed, on thy boson reclined,
Are screened from the heat of the day.

2 Ah! show me that happiest place,
That place of thy people’s abode;
Where saints in an ecstasy gaze,
And hang on a crucified God:
Thy love for a sinner declare,
Thy passion and death on the tree;
My spirit to Calvary bear,
To suffer, and triumph with thee.

3 ‘Tis there with the lambs of thy flock,
There only I covet to rest:
To lie at the foot of the rock,
Or rise to be hid in thy breast;
‘Tis there I would always abide,
And never a moment depart,
Concealed in the cleft of thy side,
Eternally held in thine heart.

Author: Charles Wesley – 1707-1788

NEXT – PSALM 23 #04 – THE CRISIS THE JOURNEY PRODUCES

Published 13-02-2015

[1] See my blog philiplpowell for my take on the Song of Songs – not written or posted yet.

[2] The phrase is borrowed from Thomas Hardy’s fourth novel (1874) of the same title – see – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Far_from_the_Madding_Crowd

[3] The Treasury of David – Zondervan Publishing House 1975 – Volume 1 – p354.

[4] Ibid

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