Hello everybody and welcome in to episode #210 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Psalm 23 today and our focus is on If God is Our Shepherd, Do we Have Free Will? + What it Means that He Prepares a Table in the Presence of Our Enemies. . We are a daily 10 minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in Thanks for listening! Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast! Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan\
Psalm 23 – a short Psalm, but sweeter than honey and packed with deep goodness. Even as a child, I knew Psalm 23 and found it comforting. As I get older, the comfort grows, and my depth of understanding into the shepherding of God over my life seems to grow as well. What does it mean that God shepherds us? This is one of the biggest questions of all, but the metaphor itself helps us to understand the answer: God watches over our lives and tends to our lives very much like a shepherd watches over and tends to his sheep. Of course, I believe God’s watchcare goes further and deeper than the care of even the best shepherd over his sheep, but that analogy does help us to understand better God’s particular providence, care and shepherding of us. In discussing friendship, C.S. Lewis explains one small aspect of God’s shepherding:
But in Friendship, being free of all that, we think we have chosen our peers. In reality, a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another, posting to different regiments, the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting—any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,’ can truly say to every group of Christian friends, ‘You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.’ The Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding
one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others. They are no greater than the beauties of a thousand other men; by Friendship God opens our eyes to them. They are, like all beauties, derived from Him, and then, in a good Friendship, increased by Him through the Friendship itself, so that it is His instrument for creating as well as for revealing. At this feast it is He who has spread the board and it is He who has chosen the guests.
Lewis, C. S.. The Four Loves (p. 114). HarperOne. Kindle Edition.
One might, upon hearing that, say, “But I myself have chosen my friends!” And so you have, but it is God who has shepherded over that choice with His sovereign providence. This doesn’t rob you of free will, but there is a greater power in the universe than your or my free will, and that is the sovereign providence of the Lord our Shepherd.
In two different places in his writings (one fictional, and one non-fiction), Lewis discusses the sovereign shepherding of God and contrasts it with chance, free-will and happenstance. Consider what he wrote to one of his doctor friends:
Suppose that in a novel a character gets killed in a railway accident. Is his death due to chance (e.g., the signals being wrong) or to the novelist? Well of course, both. The chance is the way the novelist removes the character at the exact moment his story requires. There’s a good line in Spenser to quote to oneself: “It chanced (almighty God that chance did guide).”
C. S. Lewis, Words to Live by: A Guide for the Merely Christian, ed. Paul F. Ford, Adobe Digital Edition. (HarperCollins e-books, 2009), 237.
Or consider the conversation between Shasta the friendly horse, and Aslan the lion (who represents Jesus in Lewis’s Narnia books) as Aslan explains the various things that had happened to the horse over the course of the book The Horse and His Boy. Over and over, Aslan had intervened in Shasta’s adventures in a way that the horse had not understood or comprehended could be connected at all, but it was Aslan behind each incident, guiding the horse and his boy to right where he was supposed to be:
“I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”
“Then it was you who wounded Aravis?”
“It was I.”
“But what for?”
“Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no-one any story but his own.”
C. S. Lewis, Words to Live by: A Guide for the Merely Christian, ed. Paul F. Ford, Adobe Digital Edition. (HarperCollins e-books, 2009), 238.
So it is that God shepherds our life in every detail, His sovereignty over-arching our choice; His sovereign shepherding leading us to where He would have us go, as we make real and unforced choices along the way. And, of course, those few words of explanation are hardly enough to discuss such a big subject, but hopefully they will do for now. Let’s read our Psalm, and then we will consider one other important thing.
Note that God is with us through the valley of the shadow of death, and that He also leads us beside still and calm waters. He renews our life and refreshes us AND also prepares a meal for us right in the midst of our enemies. I find this Psalm very comforting and very genuine. Sometimes in life we will go through the darkest and most terrifying valleys – any Christian who tells you that God will protect you from going through the darkest of places is lying – He leads us through those places – we go through them. He is with us. Yes, He leads us through the peaceful and calm rivers of life, but He also doesn’t keep our enemies from coming near us. Indeed, even when they surround us and threaten us, He is shepherding us, feeding us, and caring for us. We will have tribulation, as Jesus says, but He will be with us all the while. Praise be the name of our Great Shepherd!
Bible Memory verses for the month of July: 47 “I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them: 48 He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. When the flood came, the river crashed against that house and couldn’t shake it, because it was well built.” Luke 6:47-48
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