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 redeemer – Psalm 19:14.
My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding – Psalm 49:3.
My meditation of Him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD – Psalm 104:34.
O how love I your law! it is my meditation all the day – Psalm 119:97.
I have more understanding than all my teachers: for your testimonies are my meditation – Psalm 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 success – Joshua 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 night – Psalm 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 watches – Psalm 63:6.
I will meditate also of all your work, and talk of your doings – Psalm 77:12.
I will meditate in your precepts, and have respect to your ways – Psalm 119:15
Princes also sat to speak against me: but your servant did meditate in your statutes – Psalm 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 precepts – Psalm 119:78.
My eyes prevent (precede) the night watches, that I might meditate in your Word – Psalm 119:148.
I remember the days of old; I meditate on all your works; I muse on the work of your hands – Psalm 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.
On the website referred to previously viz. SheperdsInIsrael.com – “Historical Photos of Shepherds in the Land of Israel” 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
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