Psalm 23: A Contemporary Interpretation

Lord, we acknowledge you as our shepherd and trust you to meet our needs. In fact, we testify that you give us more than we need.

When we grieve and are distressed you soothe and comfort us. When chaos swirls around us you keep us calm and give us peace. During every spiritual battle you uphold us. After each battle you restore our spiritual strength so we are able to withstand the next round of fiery darts thrown at us. You make it possible for us to overcome every challenge, including fear.

You alone lead us into righteous thinking and behaving. Apart from you we are nothing and incapable of doing any good thing.

Even in our darkest hours we will not fear, for you-Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of life- are with us. Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect and guide us.

You are so good to us that you heap an abundance of spiritual gifts upon us in the presence of our enemies.Your anointing awes them, as it does us for we know we are unworthy.

Because of your word, we are confident that your goodness and mercy shall be with us always and we rejoice in knowing we shall dwell in your presence forever.

Blinded by the Truth

John, chapter 9 tells the miraculous story of Jesus giving sight to a man born blind. The man’s healing was so dramatic (presumably it took place within a few hours) that many of his neighbors doubted he was the same person they had seen earlier in the day and who they knew was blind. Some were so sure the sighted man was an imposter that they sent for the blind man’s parents to affirm their suspicions. The parents testified the sighted man was their son who had been born blind. The parents also said they didn’t know how their son had received his sight. Despite what they witnessed with their own eyes and heard from both the man and his parents some persisted in their unbelief. They were simply blinded by the reality that conflicted with their personal beliefs, experiences and perceptions.

Others believed the parent’s testimony that the man was their son, but they did not believe the man had ever been blind. They thought the man and his parents had spent years playing a hoax on the community. To them, the transformation was in comprehensible. They just didn’t want to accept the miracle that had taken place. Therefore they sought to discredit the miracle by claiming the man’s blindness had been a charade a farce. These skeptics believed in miracles, they just didn’t believe the miracle God presented to them.

They attempted to disprove the miracle by repeatedly questioning the man about how he received his sight. They were trying to catch the man in a lie. So they asked him over and over to explain the circumstances of his healing. The repeated questioning frustrated the man causing him to respond: “I’ve already told you what happened…” (v.27). In spite of his frustration, the man continued to testify about what Jesus had done to him and for him.

Like the once blind man in the referenced Scripture, others redeemed by the Lord testify about what God has done for them. They can’t explain how the miracles in their lives happened. They just know what change(s) have taken place and who is responsible for those changes. They give credit to God. They do not speak about what they do or have done for God and others. Instead, they speak about what God has done in them, through them, for them and in their presence. They are recipients of and witnesses to God’s amazing grace. This is their testimony: Amazing grace shall always be my song of praise. For it was grace that bought my liberty…I do not know just why he came to love me so, but he looked beyond all of my faults and saw [and healed] my needs…”

Not all who experience and recognize God’s miracles testify to His goodness by reciting hymns. Some use the uncomplicated language of their unchurched peers. But they glorify God when they give credit to “The Man upstairs…” and their testimonies are as powerful as the eloquent words penned in Scripture and in sacred songs.

To God be glory for the great things He has done!

The Witnesses

“Go home to your friends,” he told him, “and tell them what wonderful things God has done for you; and how merciful he has been.” So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns[a] of that region and began to tell everyone about the great things Jesus had done for him; and they were awestruck by his story. Mark 5: 19 & 20

Powerful and inspirational personal testimonies always highlight the imperfections of the ones testifying and the grace, love, and power of God. They are inspired by a deep gratitude to God and a desire to introduce others to God.  Such was the case of the testimony of the man described in the preceding passage of Scripture. After the man’s deliverance he was so overcome with gratitude to Jesus for healing him that he went back to where he was from and began “ …to tell everyone about the great things Jesus had done for him…” The Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well responded similarly (see John 4:28-30). After her encounter with Jesus she returned to where she was from and testified about Jesus. ‘Then the woman left her water pot beside the well and went back to the village and told everyone, “Come and meet a man who told me everything I ever did! Can this be the Messiah?”  So the people came streaming from the village to see him.’ John 4:28-30 (TLB)

Notice, the characters in the Bible went back to where they were from to witness to people they knew and who knew them.  The power of their testimonies was derived from the fact that each of them had an authentic encounter with Jesus. They were no longer just people who had heard about Jesus, they had met God.  To meet the Lord is a life altering experience that results in a transformed life dedicated to glorifying God in word, thought, and deed.

Everyone has a story. Some stories are more interesting and inspiring than others. But the stories that have the greatest impact are God-centered and illustrate God’s great love for humanity.  Like those narratives revealed in the previously cited Scriptures, such testimonies are also revealed in and through the experiences of Harriet Tubman, Anne Frank, Corrie Ten Boom and her sister Betsy; David Wilkerson, Cookie Rodriguez, and others. The testimonies are uplifting because they show God is no respecter of persons- what God does for one God will do for others because God loves each of us equally and unconditionally. The testimonies are particularly poignant because each inspires hope for they are proof that God still performs miracles and those miracles are evidence that God loves, saves, delivers, and heals.

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth let there be peace among God’s people!” Luke 2:14