Its been awhile!
It always is with me and this blog. And yes I have been away doing school related stuff, working, trying to get into the grove of Zomba city life (or should I say village life).
Anyway, I believe I have come to some sort of settled pace down here. There is never a dull moment for sure. Running a family business means one never has a schedule, you just go with whatever is most urgent on the day. Besides that, there is the open door policy in our home where cousins, sisters, brothers, steps, random long lost friends can wander in to stay for awhile and leave just as suddenly. It makes for an interesting life, constantly adjusting to new people, new problems – challenges, and so on.
So, in a way I can say I have settled down to this kind of life. My skin and hair have finally adjusted to the climate; the dust and humidity of the mountain – valley we live in. I have gained some confidence in my vernacular, although people can still tell that Chichewa is not my mother tongue. The driving routes have become ingrained, even as far as the bigger cities of Blantyre and Lilongwe. I am a regular at the local market, I make it a point to go in there at least once a week for fresh produce and spices. For the first time in a very long time; I am not wishing I was somewhere else. I am perfectly happy where I am!
Some weeks ago, I was pounced upon at an afternoon service to give a mini preaching (terrifying for most people who don’t normally preach). I had been meditating on Psalm 23 that week so I spoke on that. At my mom’s church on the other side of town, it is custom to end each gathering with a reciting of the last verse, ‘surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever, and ever, amen.’ So this passage is never really far from my mind.
However, it was the first and second verse that stood out for me that week. (Emphasis mine)
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
The first thing that stood out for me in this passage is that we are on a journey. David did not make this sound like a permanent situation where one is living in a green pasture, because if that was the case then one would not be led beside still waters would they? My imagery of this verse has always been of a nice little cabin in green pastures right next to some form of still waters, in a gorgeous valley – forever summer!
But the next verse makes it clear this journey is far from permanent sunshine.
4 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.
Notice verse 3 says ‘He leads me in paths of righteousness’, and notice how said ‘paths’ have not been specified? Naturally, we like to continue along with the beautiful and easy going imagery from the first few lines on the passage. A great life full of provision, good health, great career and perfect family. A few knocks along the way can be experienced but we expect to live the green pasture and still water life regardless, right? Again, my interpretation has always been that God will always lead me to these good times.
But hey, then we come to verse 4, where I am suddenly walking in valleys of the shadow of death. Death?! That doesn’t seem to be part of the initial plan, how can there be such valleys if we are supposed to be living it up in green valley?
That is what convinced me that this whole verse is talking about life being a journey. An ongoing process where there will be good times and dark times. The main thing that is guaranteed is that in all this, God himself is leading us through it. Remember, He is leading our paths whether it is through rough mountains, deep dangerous valleys, dark times, and the good, life restoring times. We only have to look at the life of David to see the illustration of this passage. He lived through all such scenarious, yet he chose to begin and end this chapter with the positive and encouraging parts; which we unfortunately have fixated upon while ignoring the real challenges of life as part of the whole picture.
The best part of this for me is this statement: ‘for His name’s sake.‘ All the ups and downs we go through as part of the journey is not for nothing; it’s not so we can boast about our sufferings for the Kingdom, or so people will think of us as some kind of elite Christians because we have impressive testimonies. The purpose of our journey is for the sake of the Name of God.
In your sickness, it is for Jehova Rapha’s sake that you are healed. In your distress, it is for Jehova Shalom’s sake that you have peace. In your time of need it is for Jehova Jireh’s sake that you receive provision. You can go on and on for His Name’s are many, and they fulfill each and every need we can ever have in this journey called life.
It is a beautiful passage that David wrote. It continues to speak to me, I believe there are many revelations that can be sought in these few verses of Psalm 23. I hope you are encouraged, I hope you receive insight for whatever part of the journey you may be on, and I pray that God reveals to you more of Himself, for His Name’s sake.
Love and Blessings,