Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Psalm 23 1
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3a he restores my soul. 3bHe guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 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. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

clip_image112Background

The name Psalms or Psalter come from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, where they originally referred to stringed instruments such as the harp, lyre and lute.

The author is King David, one of the most important figures in Jewish history. Born in 907 B.C., he reigns as king of Israel for 40 years, dying at age 70 in 837 B.C.

Biblical Truths

This type of Psalm is called a song of trust. It is an expression of confidence in God’s protection. The Lord is compared to a shepherd. The word “soul” means vitality, life. “Paths of righteousness” or “of rightness,” that is, right paths which suits the context better. “Shadow of death” is the translation we read, but “deep darkness” is the better interpretation from the Hebrew. The Lord is compared to a gracious host. “Dwell in the house of the Lord” means to worship in the temple. “Forever” is Hebrew for “length of days,” meaning “as long as I live.”

The psalm has two basic divisions, each one providing part of the answer to our question about worry. The first four verses focus on God as the faithful and good Shepherd of his people. It calls us to trust Him as such. The second section made up of the last two verses, focuses our attention on God as a gracious host, preparing a splendid meal for a guest, and results in our rejoicing over His grace toward us.

Items for Discussion

  • What does God want us to know about His ability to be our Shepard?
    • His provision is perfect
    • His provision renews and satisfies
    • Conclusion: Rather than worry ourselves to death, why not trust God for what only He can provide?
    • Look at verse 3b — God’s faithful provision is only part of what He does for those who know and love Him. He guides us as well.
  • What do you notice about God’s guidance?
    • He guides you in righteous paths
    • He does it for His name’s sake
  • Finally, what benefit do we as believers gain from God when we are confident in His love?
    • His protection
    • The summary verses (5 & 6) in Psalm 23 tell us to rejoice in God’s grace. Why should we according to David?
    • Because He Spares no Blessing
    • Because it Results in Constant Fellowship with Him

 

Ephesians 5:8-14
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Background

The author is the Apostle Paul, written around A.D. 60.

The city of Ephesus, a Grecian city on the Asiatic coast almost exactly east of Athens, was a great commercial metropolis in the first century, and the capital of the Roman province which was called by the name of Asia. Its greatest distinction had been, not its commercial pre-eminence, but the splendid temple of Diana, which was counted one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The city lay upon the edge of a plain, which extended to the sea, and in its artificial harbor were seen the ships from all the ports of the eastern Mediterranean.

The Temple of Artemis (Diana) at Ephesus was built about 550 B.C. Ephesus is located on the west coast of modern Turkey. This was one of the largest and most complex temples built in ancient times, having a marble sanctuary and a tile-covered wooden roof. The temple’s inner space featured a double row of at least 106 columns, each believed to be 40 to 60 feet high. The foundation was approximately 200 feet by 400 feet. Diana, the temple goddess of the hunt and protector of children, is still actively worshiped today within modern witchcraft.

The Ephesian church was founded by Paul. About the close of his second missionary journey (Acts 18:19-21) he paused at Ephesus on his way to Jerusalem and preached in the Jewish synagogue. Leaving Priscilla and Aquila to follow up the impression which he had made, he went on, but returned on his third missionary journey (Acts 19:1), at which time he spent about three years (Acts 20:31), preaching the gospel with a success which threatened to effect an entire revolution in the city and province (Acts 19:17-20), and finally stirred up the fears of certain trades which profited by the old superstitions to such an extent that Paul was forced to leave the city. Since that date he had not seen Ephesus, though he had met the elders of the church at Miletus when on his way to Jerusalem (Acts 20:17). The letter to Ephesus we call Ephesians was written at a time when Paul was a prisoner (6:20), and hence must have been written either at Cæsarea or at Rome.

Biblical Truths

The Apostle Paul represents to the people, the great privilege they have received. The people, having been in times past idolatrous heathens, were now converted to Christianity and received into covenant with God. Paul illustrates this from a view of their deplorable state before their conversion in the first three chapters. In the latter part, chapters 4 through 6, Paul instructs the people of Ephesus in the principal duties of religion, both personal and relative, and attempts to stir their sense of urgency about these duties. It could be said that we have here a summary of the whole Christian doctrine.

Items for Discussion

If Paul were a medical doctor, what would the diagnosis and the prognosis be from him?

Here is the Diagnosis:

  • Those Who Cover Themselves Up
    • Notice that he is not saying that some people live in darkness and some live in light. Rather, he says that some people are darkness and some people (namely, you, plural, the readers) are light, even though you once were darkness (v. 8). What was it like when you were darkness? The author recalls how, like the darkness, you hid things, covered them up (v. 11). What things? Perhaps you hid the bad things about your own community. Perhaps you hid the good things about another group of people. Perhaps you were double-blinded and even hid the good things you could have offered.
  • Those Whose Activity Achieves No Good
    • But all this hiding created a world of shadows, where there are secrets (v. 12) and dangers, cliffs and dark valleys (Psalm 23:4), and no one can see very clearly (John 9:1). It is a world governed not by truth but by spirits, authorities, cosmic powers, and evil forces (Ephesians 2:1-3 and 6:12). Each people have its own lies and “empty words” with which it deceives itself and others and results in activities that do not contribute to life (Ephesians 5:6). In this world, no one seems to need a guiding shepherd (1 Samuel 16:11-12 and Psalm 23:1). Nor do they appreciate light.
  • Those Who Are Dead
    • This type of darkness that we are does not want any light to shine because it would expose our shameful actions. We see light as a threat that hurts us so much that we fear we will be “blinded by the Light” (John 9:39-41 and Ephesians 4:17-19). Our solution is to keep the light covered and take it to the grave with us. But this death we choose leads to no future; it only ends a life with no fruit (v. 11). Thus the world remains overcast.

Here is the Prognosis

  • Those Who Are a New Creation
    • But because the dead are powerless, they cannot continue to cast their pall over the light. So God shines light on you who are dead and gives you a new life. You know this light as Jesus (John 9:5 and Ephesians 5:14), who woke you up from among the dead. Just like at the beginning, when God created Adam out of the dirt, so Jesus took mud and molded a new people out of you, barely recognizable, because you are now light yourselves, light in the Lord (Genesis 2:4-7 and John 9:5-11). It is as if you were anointed with mud and water (John 9:11) and oil (1 Samuel 16:13 and Psalm 23:5) as God took you in hand to give you a new flesh and a new spirit in baptism – God’s own, always active Spirit.
  • Those Who Reflect Light
    • Surely it feels different to be awake and alert, no longer sleeping or unconscious of reality. This new life is a fruitful one because it does not avoid goodness, justice and truth (v. 9). Paying attention to these things produces good work. When you children of Light (v. 8) shine on what is good and right and true, and expose it in your own life together, you reflect your Parent. You make God’s reality real in this world.
      o Those Who Shine in Public
    • Goodness, justice and truth can still be difficult to find. But notice that if you look at them in the Light (that is, through Christ), you can pursue them while living in forgiveness and mercy all the days of your life. Christ shines on you and makes you look good and just and truthful, just as Christ makes you see how he has made others look good and just and truthful. And so we build one another up.

Discussion Challenges

  • Why do people worry?
  • What is the light that the Church can show in this world?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
Share