For His Name’s Sake - Psalm 23:1-3
“He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (23:3, NKJV)
How will the Lord lead us on a path through this pandemic? Even if we might not be experiencing the physical devastation of COVID-19 personally, we are all experiencing the economic impact in our communities as well as the emotional strain of being isolated from significant relationships and rhythms. We need the Lord to lead us and the Psalmist says He will “for his name’s sake.”
When I was a 4th grader I was sent home with a note explaining to my parents that I got in trouble for participating in a crayon fight. The details are a bit fuzzy now about my disruptive behavior but what is crystal clear is what my dad said to me: “Son, you need to realize that wherever you go you carry our family name.”
The writer of the 23rd Psalm, traditionally attributed to King David, uses this image of a shepherd who is Yahweh Himself, a Kingly Shepherd who leads us daily in paths just like He did for the Hebrews in their wilderness wanderings for forty years in the desert. David explains that God chooses to shepherd us “for his name’s sake” (23:3c). What does this mean? It’s helpful to become familiar with God’s name, Yahweh.
In Exodus 3, while caring for the flocks of his father-in-law Jethro near the mountain of Horeb (Mt. Sinai), Moses has an encounter where God speaks to him from a burning bush. God identifies Himself to Moses as the God of his father, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Exodus 3:6). God has heard the cry of his people Israel and is sending Moses to Pharoah to free them. Moses protests but God gives him assurance by revealing to Moses his name: “I AM WHO I AM…I AM…the LORD (Yahweh)” (Exodus 3:14-16). This name Yahweh (YHWH) occurs over 6800 times in the Old Testament as “LORD” but we can never forget the essence of this name is a God who is fully present in our time and space and yet transcends them. God is both time-less and time-full. God’s name will especially be connected to his activity as divine deliver for the Hebrews (Exodus 6:6-7), for David (Psalm 18:2) and for followers of Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:10).
Jesus speaks of Himself as the “I Am” in John’s gospel who is the light of the world, the bread of life, the way, truth and life, the resurrection and the life, the vine and the good shepherd. Jesus, taking on the authority of the “I Am” uses the idea of His name to highlight the symbiotic relationship between God the Son and God the Father: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14). Jesus is so aligned with Yahweh that He instructs His disciples to invoke His name as part of an intimate connection between Father and Son, thus exhorting His followers to see their ongoing ministry as an extension of God’s work.
I recently shared my testimony about how I was captivated by God speaking to me at Hume Lake Christian Camps. The LORD revealed Himself to me and filled me with an incredible joy, delivering me from a life that was empty and without direction. From that encounter I wanted to live in such a way that people would know that this Person is the one who changed me. I wanted my life to give a glimpse of the love that had captivated me.
Though I am many years removed from this specific encounter with God, I continue to strive to remember every day that I live not for myself but for Him. The Westminster’s Shorter Catechism opens with, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” How important it is to realize that even in times of distress we still exist to glorify God’s name, not our own. We can glorify God with our perseverance and hope even while we grieve this season of loss and disruption. We know that God will not abandon us and His name will not be threatened by any calamity, no matter how severe or discomforting.
Living Out God’s Word
Dallas Willard prayed his own paraphrase of Psalm 23 every day. My friends at Soul Shepherding have compiled it here:
The Lord is my Shepherd, I have life without lack.
In his green pastures I’ve eaten my fill so I lie down. At his still waters my thirst is satisfied.
He heals and reintegrates my broken depths in his eternal life
so I can walk in paths of righteousness on his behalf.
Even though I go through loss, hunger, disease, aging, and death I will fear no evil because you Jesus are with me. Your strong rod and protective staff put me at liberty.
Your abundant provision is a feast for me so I’m happy to share with my enemies. You give me hot showers and warm fluffy towels, joyful experiences and deep relationships, to make me feel clean, special, and powerful. My cup runs over so I can be generous without ever running out.
Surely this world is a perfectly safe place for me to be Because I dwell and abide with God in the fullness of his life in the Kingdom of the Heavens forever.
Slowly pray through Willard’s version of Psalm 23, thanking God for leading you good paths and remembering that this life is all about Him and his goodness as we wrestle with the realities of the global downturn we are in currently. Pray over your upcoming week that God’s name would be known through your servanthood, your leadership, your perseverance, and even your listening as you embrace this season of disruption and loss.
LORD, thank you being a Good Shepherd to me personally who delivers me time and again as I twist and turn through this life. Help me remember that when people see me they are learning something about You. Fill me with Your Spirit in my speech, action and my listening that Your name might be known. I exist to glorify You and choose to align myself to Your will and ways today as I seek to bless someone I encounter this week in practical ways. Amen.