Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Contented at His Table

Recently I was reading Psalm 23 preparing for a funeral and I realized that this Psalm is much more then simply a Psalm of comfort! It is a Psalm of contentment! David puts himself in the place of a sheep and can declare, "The Lord is MY shepherd." Later he describes himself as one sitting at a table that has been prepared by the Lord just for him. On that table would be all the provision the Lord would have for him. That table was not only a place of provision for David, but it was also a place of protection from David's enemy! But David wasn't simply occupied with the provision of the Lord or even the protection of the Lord, as we read this Psalm, David was really occupied with the person of the Lord Himself! He was so much occupied with what the Lord did for Him or could for him, it was not the blessings that David was absorb with, it was the Blesser! That is where real contentment comes from! 

Things can never satisfy us! David knew this and showed us that true contentment goes beyond the temporal. David was focused on a person, "the Lord is MY Shepherd!" David had a relationship with the Lord. In John 10 the Lord Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep...I am the good shepherd; and I know my sheep, and am known by my own." First, let's realize that this relationship with the Good Shepherd begins when I accept the fact the He, the Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus, gave himself for me, as depicted in Psalm 22. Listen to what the Lord Jesus goes on to say there in John 10:17-18, "Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” My relationship with the Good Shepherd begins when I realize that I am a sinner an that He came into the world to save sinners. I was a lost sheep that had gone astray from God and He came to seek and save that which was lost! It is when I accept what He accomplished for God on that Cross, paying the price for my sin, and I confess to a Holy God that I am a sinner, it is at that very moment that my relationship begins with the Good Shepherd! It is at that very moment that I can declare with confidence that "the Lord is MY Shepherd!" 

Then once this relationship has begun I need to listen to His voice. The Lord Jesus went on in John 10:27-29 to say, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand." Being in the hand of the shepherd is a place of salvation and security, but for us it also needs to be a place of single focus! We need to be occupied with the Shepherd Himself, listening to His voice, getting to know Him daily by being in the Word. The Shepherd is the source of real contentment not what He provides as good as it all is! Recognizing Christ as the source is the secret of being content in all circumstances. Listen to what Paul's says in Philippians 4:11-13, "Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." 

Back in Psalm 23 notice how David was occupied with the Shepherd not simply with the blessings He provided. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the 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; our 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." 

Real contentment is one of the results of being occupied with the Shepherd? But what are some results of being content? Let's look at a few: 

Proverbs 17:22 tells us that "A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones." Proverbs 15:15 adds, "All the days of the afflicted are bad, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast." In both of these verse we see that a heart that is content is satisfied and full of joy. 

Our service for the Lord will be affected by our level of contentment, In 1 Timothy 6:6, 8 Paul says, "Godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content." Hebrews 13:5 reminds us to "Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, 'I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you."Job 36:11 adds "If they hear and serve Him, they will end their days in prosperity and their years in pleasures." 

Psalm 37:7-8 adds another dimension to contentment "Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; do not fret; it leads only to evildoing." Worry flows out of not being occupied and content with the Lord. "Do not fret because of evildoers or be envious of the wicked" (Proverbs 24:19).But a heart in tune with the Lord can say,"O satisfy us in the morning with Your loving kindness, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days" (Psalm 90:14). "For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good." Psalm 107:9 

Listen to these verse that speak of what else is affected by being satisfied and occupied with the Lord. "The fear of the LORD leads to life, so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil." Proverbs 19:23 

"Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance." Isaiah 55:2 

"As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake." 
Psalms 17:15 

"The afflicted will eat and be satisfied; those who seek Him will praise the LORD. Let your heart live forever!" Psalm 22:26 

"With a long life I will satisfy him and let him see My salvation." Psalms 91:16 

"Who satisfies your years with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle." Psalms 103:5 

"The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the soul of the diligent is made fat." Proverbs 13:4 

"He will not accept any ransom, nor will he be satisfied though you give many gifts." Proverbs 6:35 

"Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, 'And what about us, what shall we do?' And he said to them, 'Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.'" Luke 3:14 

"Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:10 

Contentment is saying, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. Contentment is saying, “How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.” Contentment says, “Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips.” Contentment announces, “He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.”.(Psalm 23:1; 36:7,8; 63:3-5; 107:9). 

The real secret to contentment is found in fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. To be occupied with Him through the day. To be able to say "For me to live is Christ..." Oh that I might be able to say with all my heart "The Lord is MY Shepherd, I shall not want."

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