…You prepare a feast before me in the presence of my enemies

Referencing The Lord is my Shepherd…

Aaaah….! My African kindred love this part of Psalm 23! I guess this is because this scripture paints the picture of God’s righteous vengeance on our enemies and rightly so. God says of your enemies, of those who trouble your peace… I will take revenge; I will pay them back. In due time their feet will slip. Their day of disaster will arrive, and their destiny will overtake them” Deuteronomy 32:35 NLT. So Absolutely! God preparing a feast for you to the while your enemies look on in dismay and shame is a HUGE deal! However, I heard a sermon that shifted gears for me. Shout out to Pastor Daniel Ngo.

Psalm 63: Picture this… David is still not done with his enemies. He is on the run again. this time he is running from his own son Absalom.  So he runs into a desert, the desert of Judah where he gets really really thirsty. His body is in a heightened state of awareness… His mind is probably playing tricks on him as he keeps seeing mirages that look like oases in the desert. In that state, all a person can think about is food and water as we revert to our primal, animalistic instincts when we are extremely thirsty or hungry. David also needs to stay alert, he cannot afford to slip because he is on the run and his enemies are on the loose.  So what does David do?

He thinks about God and describes his physical experience through spiritual eyes. experience.  He says,

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1 NIV

When you are thirsty every other desire takes second place to the desire for water and so it is with God. When we thirst after God, all other desires and longing need to take second place to the longing to be filled with more of God. This is where I am going with this, David goes on to say:

You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy. Psalm 63: 5 NLT

David speaks of a feast, but not in the context of vengeance but with the realization that God satisfies us even more than the desire for vengeance, for vindication, for recompense. It is easy to ask God to set a feast before you but it takes a greater longing to look beyond the feast to the God of the feast. David said You satisfy me more than the richest feast and believe you me if God spreads a feast for you then you can be assured that it will be the choicest and the richest of feasts. But David had found the secret to satisfaction. It was not in the feast per say… it was in God.

This reminds me of a practice I saw in a Nigerian traditional marriage. During the ceremony, the bride is asked to go to this table where there are many presents and pick one for herself. The expectation is that she picks the bible because in the bible will be her wedding ring. It’s the same concept God lays a spread before for us… You can take what you want from the table. You can choose to magnify the fact that your enemies are present and focus on that and order vindication off the menu and not experience the rest of the meal.  Or you can choose God off the menu and find all you need in Him.

David made his choice. With his enemies all around him, he recognized that the most important feast was to feast on God… O taste and see that the Lord is good Psalm 34: 8 KJV.

Taste is one of the most engaged senses. You can see from afar, hear from afar, smell from afar but to taste.. you have to be intimate with whatever you are tasting. The shepherd has prepared a table before you… your enemies seen and unseen are all around you… What are you going to do? Are you going to focus on the enemies and get only a few things off the buffet table or are you going to let yourself get lost in the experience of the feast,  are you going to taste and see…

Note the scripture did not say see and taste… sometimes we are like doubting Thomas. We want to see first. Sounds like me trying new food (and if you know me you know I am a picky eater)… it must first appeal to my eyes and then my nose before I put it in my mouth but I dare you to take the plunge. Dare to taste of God even when you cannot see Him, even when you cannot feel He’s near, even when His works are not visible. I guarantee the outcome is always the same: THE LORD IS GOOD. That is why he is our GOOD shepherd!

…Your rod and your staff, they comfort me

referencing The Lord is my Shepherd…

The first thing I think about when i think about the rod is discipline perhaps from the scripture “spare the rod and spoil the child”. And while there is an element of discipline in the functions of the rod, there are so many more uses of the rod I will like to explore as God leads.

Shepherds use a rod to protect the flock from predators or reprimand unruly sheep,  and to prod those going astray, or are oblivious to danger. Isn’t it true of us that many times we put ourselves in precarious positions and are in need of being saved from ourselves? Sometimes when our Shepherd intervenes it is not without a reprimand to help us to stay the course. I think about the time when I caught my son trying to stick an object into a socket. As I swooped in to remove him from imminent danger, you better believe i was scolding him in the process! Even though the tone of my voice frightened him and it may not seem like love in the moment, my actions came from a place of overarching knowledge of how electricity works and some bad experiences with live wires  I have had in my own past. Now ponder this scripture:

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, or lose heart when He rebukes you. For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastises everyone He receives as a son.” Hebrews 12:5-6 Berean Study Bible

David, in his former life as  shepherd, recognized that when ever he used his rod, be it to fight of predators or to correct the course of a sheep, it was always used for the benefit of the sheep. So it was not far-fetched for David to associate a sheep’s rod with comfort.

The other piece of equipment a shepherd had in his arsenal was the staff. This is the one with the crook on one end, the symbol of a shepherd. If a shepherd association had an insignia it would the staff. The purpose of the staff is to guide the sheep, to lift the tired ones or rescue stray sheep from places that are difficult to reach. The staff is like an extension of the shepherd’s hands. Now there are two staffs that God uses to shepherd us his flock. Their names are Favor and Union.

So I cared for the flock intended for slaughter–the flock that was oppressed. Then I took two shepherd’s staffs and named one Favor and the other Union Zechariah 11:7 NLT

We discover the function of these two staffs by reading further down about the chaos that takes place when they are broken. We see that when the staff of Favor is broken it signifies an annulment of God’s covenant and when Union is broken it signifies an end to the bond of unity that exists (Zechariah 11: 10-14).

Favor: For the most part whenever the word covenant appears in the bible, the word favor appears alongside it. Jesus Christ negotiated a new and better covenant for all of us and we partake in this covenant by His grace (which is also known as the unmerited favor of God). “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Jeremiah 31:33 NLT. The grace (favor) of God keeps us within the terms of God’s covenant and give us the confidence to claim all the benefits stipulated under this new covenant. Favor goes beyond being successful in an exams, passing a job interview, getting promoted at work, winning that coveted/ prestigious scholarship or award. Favor is not happenstance occurrences in your life. For a sheep, Favor is an everyday occurrence. Or to phrase it another way, for a sheep, the grace of God is an  everyday occurrence. In the presence of the Shepherd you have favor. No wonder the psalmist says:

For surely You, O LORD, bless the righteous; You surround them with the shield of your favor. Psalm 5:12 Berean Study Bible

The second staff is Union or Unity and we know from Colossians 3:14 that the perfect bond of unity is love. Love drove our Shepherd to lay down His life for us and our responsibility as sheep is now to Love the LORD with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind and love our neighbors as ourselves.

But how can we love the Lord with our everything when many times we are being pulled in so many different directions? when sometimes our everything is being held together by many bandages because of the hurt and cares of the world? when many times we have been so broken and hurt by people that we are no longer whole? when we have no love left in us to give? And how can we love our neighbors when they are source of our stress and grief? when their values and beliefs are different from ours? or when they don’t look like I do or act like I would? I am reminded of a prayer of the psalmist:

Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. Psalm 86:11 ESV

The psalmist prays to God to unite his heart, to give him an undivided heart. The staff of Union restores the bond of unity within us and among us so that our worship is unhindered and our love for God and for others is unhinged.

David says of the Shepherd: your rod and your staff they comfort me. They are my consolation, my solace, my support, and my reassurance.  My prayer is that we feel the comfort of God in every circumstance of our lives as we purpose to be intentional in our walk with God.


…For you are with me

referencing The Lord is my Shepherd…

Psalm 23: 4 says “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…” (NIV) 

In this  series I have used the phrase, “the abiding presence of God” so many times that it has almost become a byword and a cliche. So what does the abiding presence of God really look like? What does it mean when we say that God is with us? How do we conceptualize the word ‘Emmanuel’? I recently heard a sermon that connected the dots for me and I’d like to share. Shout out to Pastor Kirk Cowman.

In the previous lesson we encounter David in Gath running away  from King Saul right into the hands of his enemies, the relatives of Goliath. He was literally in the valley of the shadow of death (Gath is in a valley!) and this is what he says:

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? Psalm 56:3-4 NIV

David’s trust is anchored in the fact that God is with him always. He is cognizant of the abiding presence of God and he goes on to say:

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. Psalm 56: 8 NLT

This is a perfect illustration of God’s presence with us always. Do you know how attentive a person has to be to keep track of every time you are sad or sorrowful? Even my husband does not know of every time I am sad or sorrowful and we spend a lot of time together. Oh and do you know how close in proximity a person will have to be to you to catch your tears in a bottle? This is who God is to us. He is so close and always present. Whether it is on a mountain high or in the valleys low He promises to be there. He will never leave us neither forsake us. The psalmist describes this phenomenon like so:

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you. Psalm 139:7-12 NIV

We’ve heard countless times that God is with us. This week, my challenge to you and to myself is to practice the presence of God. What I mean by practicing the presence of God is to be fully aware, to fully embrace the notion that God is with us every second; of every minute; of every hour; of every day; day after day after day. He is always there. Through our highs and through our  lows… through the sun and through the rain…. He is there. When we are happy and especially when we are sad, He is there… ready with his bottle to collect and record every tear drop. Practicing presence means internalizing and having a consciousness of the fact that God is with us. Practicing presence means living our lives with that assurance that God is with us and  so “What can mere mortals do to us?” Practicing presence also means that we are intentional in living godly lives because we know that if God is really that close enough to catch our falling tears, then He is close enough to see all those secret sins.

My prayer is that today you experience the glory of God’s presence all around you and within you and be intentional in living out your faith!





…Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil

referencing The Lord is my Shepherd…

I have always thought of this scripture to mean being a perilous state that could lead to physical death like having an illness, driving in a bad winter storm etc. And while the promise of God to be with us rings true, I recently heard a sermon that encouraged me to extend my understanding of this scripture. Shout out to Pastor Kirk Cowman

David experienced the valley of the shadow of death in ways that are more real and relatable than the proverbial valley of the shadow of death so let’s look together at David’s experience from 1 Samuel 21:10-15.

David was having such a hard time of life. David the future anointed king of Israel, the champion of the young men and the darling of the young women, the one who people sang about in folklore was having a hard time. King Saul was trying to kill him. David was so desperate he ran away to the home of his mortal enemy Goliath. In Gath, the people recognized him and fearing for his life, he pretended to be insane. No truer depiction of the shadow of death! This is how he described his experience in his own words:

O God, have mercy on me, for people are hounding me. My foes attack me all day long. I am constantly hounded by those who slander me, and many are boldly attacking me. They are always twisting what I say; they spend their days plotting to harm me. They come together to spy on me—watching my every step, eager to kill me. Psalm 56: 1-2, 5-6 NLT

Your experience may not be that you are running away from a king but this could easily be your state of mind in a toxic workplace where it feels like everyone is out to get you. Or if you have a neighbor or roommate bent on making life a living hell. Or unfortunately, sometimes the conditions in a church or marriage can spark such emotional feelings of walking in the valley of the shadow of death. But listen to what David says in spite of how he feels:

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? Psalm 56: 3-4 NIV

Wow! David is in the camp of his enemies…. literally at death’s door and his confession is “I will fear no evil”. He has so much confidence and trust in God’s ability to deliver and save. His trust is the antithesis of any fear he must feel. It gives him the confidence to say:

On this day, one of the darkest days of my life because the valley of death has cast a shadow on my life, I will walk before God in the light of life (Psalm 56: 13 NIV Interpretation mine)

I pray that we truly come to the place where our trust is without borders that even in the face of adversity we remain unwavering. David’s trust was grounded in the next statement the psalmist makes in Psalm 23: 4 “For you are with me” 

Stay tuned for the next lesson where we delve into this phrase “for you are with me” a little deeper and be intentional in trusting God even in your darkest valleys: the valleys of the shadow of death!


…For His Name’s Sake

referencing The Lord is my Shepherd…

The first time I pondered this scripture, what I saw in this phrase, “for His name’s sake” was selfishness. But because I know that selfishness is inconsistent with the very nature of God and  I have  also experienced the selfless, “reckless” love of God, I decided to explore this phrase further and I came to understand it from another scripture:

Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. Psalm 31:3 NIV

When I read this scripture, I understand the psalmist is saying, “God I call you my rock and my fortress and so because this is who you are and to be consistent with and protect the integrity of your name, lead and guide me”. That is what “for His name’s sake” means to me. Lets read that verse in context

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Psalm 23: 3b ESV

From the previous lesson, we identified that Jesus is the WAY, the narrow path that leads to life everlasting (Matthew 7: 13-14), and the gate that we must enter if we are to be saved (John 10:9). We also know that Jesus is our RIGHTEOUSNESS… And this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The LORD our righteousness.’ (Jeremiah 23: 6 NASB)

His name is Our Righteousness (Jehovah Tsidkenu). His name is the Way. His name is Jesus (God our Salvation). He is our Shepherd and naturally, all shepherds lead and guide their sheep. In keeping with His name, He can only lead us on righteous paths. So when the psalmist says “for His name’s sake”, he is acknowledging who God is and the fact that God’s character cannot go contrary to His name. The psalmist is inadvertently saying, “God you are my Shepherd and as a shepherd, it is in your nature to lead. So because this is who you are, for the sake of your name [by virtue of your name, to preserve the integrity of your name], lead me in the path of righteousness.

Jesus has the most powerful name in heaven and on earth (Philippians 2: 9). There is healing in His Name. There is wholeness in His name. There is favor in His name. There is deliverance in His name. There is provision in His name. There is love in His name. There is peace in His name. There is joy in His name. Everything we need is in His name.

So dear reader, when next you pray or say this psalm dare to add “FOR YOUR NAME’S SAKE“. Ask God to hear your request from heaven simply because He is the God that hears (Delasi)…. For His Name’s Sake!

…He leads me in the path of righteousness

referencing The Lord is my Shepherd

The word ‘lead’ again… there are 3 definitions of the verb ‘to lead’ from Google that I will like to explore.

  • cause (a person) to go with one by holding them by the hand, while moving forward

This definition conjures an image of God holding me by my hand and leading me on the right path and he does so by His Spirit. Think about this scripture:

“I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, in paths they do not know. I will guide them. I will make darkness into light before them and rugged places into plains. These are the things I will do, And I will not leave them undone.” Isaiah 42:16 NASB

To live righteously is a foreign concept to us because it is not in our nature to be righteous. This means the righteous path is one we do not readily know. But God’s promise is that he will guide us in the path of righteousness and as we seek more of Him through  His word, this path gets illuminated and it becomes clearer and clearer to us (Psalm 119: 105). And where before we had moral dilemmas about whether a Christian should do this or do that, all those rugged places on this righteous path become plain. That is when this scripture will become alive: and you will need no one to teach you (1 John 2:27)

  • show (someone or something) the way to a destination by going in front of or beside them

Picture this: a shepherd going down a rocky path, staff in his hand, sheep in tow. He clears the rocks ahead and makes sure the terrain is passable for the sheep. Then when it is safe, he steps to the side so he can monitor the sheep as they cross the terrain.

That’s who Jesus is to us. He walked the earth as a man and traversed the narrow righteous road, never faltering. He has gone in front of us and now he walks beside us guiding us along the way.

For we do not have a [Shepherd] who is unable to sympathize and understand our weaknesses and temptations, but One who has been tempted [knowing exactly how it feels to be human] in every respect as we are, yet without [committing any] sin. Hebrews 4:15 AMP

  • be a route or means of access to a particular place or in a particular direction

There was a time in the life of one of the disciples where he felt utterly lost so he said to Jesus, “Show us the way to the Father” and Jesus’ reply was, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father because I am the WAY“(John 14: 1-8 paraphrase). We also know from scripture that Jesus Christ is our Righteousness, our Jehovah Tsidkenu.  So when  Jesus promises to lead us in the path of righteousness, He is promising that He will lead us to into deeper revelation of who He is. Not only will his abiding presence be with us but He will also teach us  how to abide in Him.

So dear readers, there is a lot to be gained from having Jesus lead us and on the right path. Is Jesus your Shepherd?