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The 23rd Psalm–“Two Ways of Doing Life”

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. . . . . and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. — Psalm 23:6

It was the very last word that my Mother said—“forever.” Every night after her stroke my husband and I would recite with her, as best she could, the Lord’s Prayer, the 23rd Psalm, and then end our nightly time with singing “Jesus Loves Me.” We did that for two months until the Lord took her home with Him. She was a devout Christ-follower and loved her Lord, so the thought of being with Him “forever” was fresh on her mind as she slowly slipped away from life on this earth.

On the other side of the world, our friend from church—a soldier serving downrange—was spending his nights on patrol. Before he would head out with his unit searching for IEDs, he would recite the 23rd Psalm. He never knew what the night would bring, so he wanted truth from Scripture to be fresh on his mind in case he or one of his buddies quickly slipped away from life on this earth.

Perhaps you are familiar with the 23rd Psalm:

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Yea, 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.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil,
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD
Forever. — Psalm 23 (NKJV)

But what if that’s just not the way you look at life, or death? Perhaps you do not know the goodness and saving grace of Jesus Christ? Dr. David Powlison writes, “From Jesus’ point of view, there are two fundamentally different ways of doing life. One way, you’re connected to a God who’s involved in your life. . . . The other way, you’re pretty much on your own and disconnected. Let’s call this the ‘antipsalm 23’:

‘I’m on my own.
No one looks out for me or protects me.
I experience a continual sense of need. Nothing’s quite right.
I’m always restless. I’m easily frustrated and often disappointed.
It’s a jungle—I feel overwhelmed. It’s a desert—I’m thirsty.
My soul feels broken, twisted, and stuck. I can’t fix myself.
I stumble down some dark paths.
Still, I insist: I want to do what I want, when I want, how I want.
But life’s confusing. Why don’t things ever really work out?
I’m haunted by emptiness and futility—shadows of death.
I fear the big hurt and final loss.
Death is waiting for me at the end of every road,
but I’d rather not think about that.
I spend my life protecting myself. Bad things can happen.
I find no lasting comfort.
I’m alone. . . . facing everything that could hurt me.
Are my friends really friends?
Other people use me for their own ends.
I can’t really trust anyone. No one has my back.
No one is really for me—except me.
And I’m so much all about ME, sometimes it’s sickening.
I belong to no one except myself.
My cup is never quite full enough. I’m left empty.
Disappointment follows me all the days of my life.
Will I just be obliterated into nothingness?
Will I be alone forever, homeless, free-falling into void?
Sartre said, “Hell is other people.”
I have to add, “Hell is also myself.”
It’s a living death, . . . .
and then I die.’”—
Powlison, Sane Faith, Part 1

Please read these two carefully—the psalm and the antipsalm. There is peace in one, and anguish from the lies of self-talk in the other. The latter occurs when you don’t abide in Christ.

There are two different ways of “doing life.” This reminds me of the plaque which says, “No Jesus, No Peace. Know Jesus, Know Peace.” Which will you choose?

Work Cited:

Powlison, David, Boundless.Org

Questions to Share:

1. Do you trust in the truth of Psalm 23, or is your thinking more like that of the antipsalm?

2. Would you like to have the peace of confessed sin, forgiveness, and the promise of the fullness of life with Jesus? Then go to Would You Like to Know God Personally? to find that peace.

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