Year A – Lent 4 – Psalm 23

 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 right paths
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
    I 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
    my whole life long.

 

Summary – Psalm 23 is a beautiful poem which expresses the care of the Lord for his people with the well-known Shepherd/sheep relationship. It is a Psalm of David and calls to mind a young man who came to know God while tending the flock. Just as David was a good shepherd, nourishing and protecting the flock, so the Lord was The Good Shepherd (1 Samuel 17:34ff).  This is one of the most memorable passages in Scripture and has been the comfort of God’s people for over 3000 years. It explains God’s care for us, to lead us, to restore us, to be with us through the darkness, to strengthen with rod and staff, to prepare a table, to anoint us, to cause goodness and mercy to follow us – forever. When God looked on David’s heart, by His grace, David was the kind of believer that placed His trust in Yahweh as Shepherd of His people. This caused David to sing and play psalms of praise to his Lord.

Insight – Psalm 23 is the best known Psalm in the world. It is a tremendous comfort. The first five words, like five smooth stones can bring down the giants of self-condemnation and lack of assurance.

The LORD is my shepherd. That is The one and only Almighty God is the One who cares for me.

The LORD is my shepherd. He is not a vague deity. He is the Covenant Lord (Yahweh) of Israel, a covenant keeping God who has committed Himself to the salvation of His people.

The LORD is my shepherd. Now He IS and ever will be at any time I call upon Him, the only Covenant Lord who is my shepherd.

The LORD is my shepherd. He is certainly the Covenant Lord and Savior of His people and unlimited in His power to save, but I confess now that He is MY personal Shepherd who cares for me.

The LORD is my shepherd. Not only is He the Almighty God and Savior, but He saves me not as a Tyrant, but as a loving Shepherd. So I can claim boldly, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.”

Children’s Catechism – Who is the Lord? The Lord is my Shepherd.

Discussion – Have you learned Psalm 23 by heart? If not can you at least learn the first five words? Which one of these words is most important for you?

Prayer – 
Through Christ you make us a new creation, O God, 
for with Him we pass from sin to the new life of grace.
 Accept our prayers in the warm embrace of your compassion,
and welcome all people to the festive banquet of your table,
 where we may rejoice in your love and celebrate the inheritance you have given to us. 
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Year A – Lent 2 – Psalm 121

Psalm 121: I lift up my eyes to the hills; *  from where is my help to come? My help comes from the LORD, *  the maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved *  and he who watches over you will not fall asleep. Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel *  shall neither slumber nor sleep; The LORD himself watches over you; *  the LORD is your shade at your right hand, So that the sun shall not strike you by day, *  nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; *  it is he who shall keep you safe. The LORD shall watch over your going out and your coming in, *  from this time forth for evermore.

Sing this Psalm! See Psalm 121 Here

Summary – Psalm 121 is one of those psalms giving great comfort to God’s people. One phrase has been frequently used as a call to worship:  “From where is my help to come? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.” For those in covenant with God, like father Abraham, God has promised to bring about His covenant promises and will bring protection. Since God is the maker of the world, the elements of the world will not harm us. We can sleep with ease, because the sun will not hurt us, the moon will not hurt us and we are defended from enemies on all sides. This psalm functions as a benediction upon God’s covenant people.

Insight – All benedictions are general. If we receive the blessing that, God bless you and keep you, it may seem that sickness or trial would be inconsistent with this. But is it? To the unbelieving, every difficulty is a sworn witness against God’s goodness and His willingness to bless His people. But to one who is saturated in God’s word and promises, we know that all things work together for good because He is conforming us to the image of Christ. Abraham went through trials, but they all resulted in His receiving promised blessings from His Covenant Lord. So this psalm calls us to look to the Lord for goodness. We are to look to Him and from His hand we are to receive goodness. We are to trust that the Lord will preserve us from all evil. In believing this, we can weather trials and hardships because the Lord who is sovereign overall does not intend these as evil, but for our eternal good.

Child catechism – From where is my help to come? My help comes from the LORD, the maker of heaven and earth.

Discussion – What are some ways we could use blessings and then benedictions in our lives?

Prayer – O Lord God we trust you because you are the maker of heaven and earth. Grant that we who call upon you may be ever hopeful in your goodness and trustful and your mercy. We pray in Christ’s name, Amen.

Year A – Proper 9 – Genesis 22:1-14

Genesis 22:1-14: After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt-offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.’ So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt-offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Then Abraham said to his young men, ‘Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.’ Abraham took the wood of the burnt-offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac said to his father Abraham, ‘Father!’ And he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ He said, ‘The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt-offering?’ Abraham said, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt-offering, my son.’ So the two of them walked on together. When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’ And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt-offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place ‘The Lord will provide’; as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’

Summary and Insight –  This is one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture.  As with last week’s OT reading, the moral of the story is in the last line.  This is the story of our God comforting Isaac.  Also like last week’s reading, this passage highlights the drama of God’s faithfulness.  To get a true sense of chapter 24, you may want to review 23 which is all about the death and burial of Sarah.  When she died, Abraham, had to go out of his way to find a small piece of land to buy in order to bury his wife.  Remember, this is the man who has already been promised all of the land by God.  Then for several years, his promised son is unable to shake the grief of his mother’s death.  He was forty years old, living in the Negeb [desert] and still walking the fields at night in sorrow for his mother.  And this is the son through whom God promised Abraham he’d beget innumerable descendants!  But God was faithful to fulfill His promise, and in grand fashion.  He did so not only to display His greatness and glory, but also His compassion.  He turned the son of laughter from his tears and He is also a God not unaffected by our sufferings.  He bids us come and find rest and comfort in Him. Hallelujah, our God is a God of comfort!  Perhaps now would be a good time to reflect upon and share those times when you have seen Him restore comfort to you or those you know.

Discussion – How many years elapsed between Sarah’s death and Isaac’s marriage?  Why would someone like Isaac have been so grief-stricken at the loss of his mother?  How does this picture of Isaac differentiate him from the other patriarchs, Abraham and Jacob?  How much water can a thirsty camel drink after a long journey?

Prayer – Heavenly Father, we praise You for Your perfect  faithfulness, even when we are faithless.  We pray that You would comfort our sorrows and cause us to be like You in service to a grieving world.  Thank You for Your Fatherly caring.  Help us to cast all our cares upon You, by the power of Your Spirit, Who is our Comforter, and in the name of Your Son, our Lord, in Whom we find rest.  Amen.
Contributed by Pastor Ben Rossell