For a number of years now I have been enormously encouraged by the messages contained in Psalms 23 and 84. There are so many respects in which they are sister Psalms majoring on complementary principles yet presenting them from two unique angles.
They were written by two different psalmists.
Psalm 23 comes from the pen of David. In reading some of his other Psalms (apart from this one he wrote at least 72 others) and also his history as recorded in the second book of Samuel I have always been struck by his honest humanity. This was evident even in one of the low points of his life when he had an illicit relationship with Bathsheba and had her husband killed in order to prevent the consequences of his actions becoming public knowledge. He did initially try to hide it, but when he was confronted by the prophet Nathan he wrote Psalm 51 which is the most penitent piece of writing that I have ever read.
In some of the other psalms that he wrote he clearly had no problem in sharing his often roller coaster inner experiences, neither his accomplishments or even his shame.
One gets the impression that he did not seek or expect the limelight. Out of all Jesse's sons he was clearly the least likely one to be crowned king of Israel. When Samuel came around to anoint the new king, David was not even invited to the occasion. He was left to tend sheep in the field because he was not expected to be the one to be selected.
He is my kind of person, but then, I am not the only one to have that view of him. God also called him a man after His own heart added to which he had the honourable title of being the sweet psalmist of Israel.
Psalm 84 was composed by the sons of Korah. They too have a chequered history. Korah, their forefather, was one of a group of men who instigated a very public rebellion against Moses. All the participants in the rebellion died except for the children of Korah. I can just imagine what a burden the memory of their lineage must have been for them in the years that followed. Everybody must have known about the family shame – “there go the offspring of Korah”. Yet they seem to have risen above that. Apart from this particular one they composed 10 other Psalms. Many of their psalms express a yearning for God coming from a sense of deep devotion. Psalm 42 for instance contains the well known line, As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for you, O God. Psalm 45, which is a contemplation of the sons of Korah and a song of love, is actually a prophetic psalm looking forward to the Bridegroom who was to come. They start off by saying: My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition concerning the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. You are fairer than the sons of men; Grace is poured upon your lips. The rest of this Psalm is absolutely precious.
The only reason why I am emphasising the authorship of the two psalms under consideration is because they were birthed in the hearts of people like you and I, people with histories that had all the potential to shut them up as being disqualified in their own estimation and often in the estimation of others. Yet they responded to the God who searched for them, found them and lovingly restored them. They lived their lives in great gratitude and with a spirit of humility because they had met grace in the only place where it can be met authentically; by coming face to face with the love, mercy, unconditional acceptance, forgiveness, restoration and care of the Trinity while at the same time knowing that they have been hiding behind their fig leaves to cover their shame and that the leaves were not fulfilling their function any longer.
An important principle for me in my personal meditation of these Psalms and then sharing them with you is to go beyond obtaining insight into some precious Biblical truths. Truth that is shared must become more than teachings that must be analysed, philosophised about and filed away as another topic of which we now have better understanding. We have to be willing to be helped to convert the truth into a practical lived reality otherwise it is valueless. It is not that which we know and can explain that constitutes our truth, but that which we are allowing the Holy Spirit to flesh out for us in our families, our careers our finances our sexuality, in society in general etc. I can honestly say that in meditating on these Psalms that has been and still is my sole purpose. I desire for God to work them out in my life.
My meditations on these two Psalms will require more than just one blog, so I will kick off by highlighting the heart of the message that speaks to me and elaborate on them later.
A summary of the message
My first impression of the content of the two Psalms was that they contained a number of themes. The more I thought about it the more I realised that there is actually just a single theme in both of them. There are different aspects of the one theme, but they all describe an incremental progression in accomplishing the main goal.
What then is the main theme as I understand it? I will quote a few verses from both Psalms to start off with.
The New King James Version introduces the sons of Korah’s song as follows:
How lovely is Your tabernacle, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, even faints For the courts of the LORD; My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow has found a home, And the swallow a nest for herself, Where she may lay her young—Even Your altars, O LORD of hosts, My King and my God.
The Passion Translation adds a bit more passion to it:
Deep within me are these lovesick longings, desires and daydreams of living in union with you. When I’m near you my heart and my soul will sing and worship with my joyful songs of you, my true source and spring of life!
David ends his Psalm in this way: (first NKJV and then The Messages’s rendering of it)
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.
Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life. I'm back home in the house of GOD for the rest of my life.
It describes the instinctive yearning and longing from the vortex of the human heart for the shalom that was ours by God’s creative intent and our creative place of abode – organic integration with the fulness of Trinitarian life or the dance of the Trinity. It is an echo that has its roots way back in the Garden of Eden because at heart that is all that God ever had in mind for us and then also what He still has in mind for us. All of life, all of destiny, purpose and meaning is supposed to find its origins in this. Everything else must flow from it and nothing must ever take its pre-eminent place.
The rest of the two Psalms focus on the varied aspects of the journey or pilgrimage that we are on in order to regain our rightful inheritance and, very importantly, our Shepherd’s role and our relationship with Him as He guides us out of ourselves and into the fulness of the Trinity.