I am in awe – not only does God knit us together in our mother’s wombs (see Psalm 139 ), but he also knits together our lives. He knows us intimately, individually, and he cares about all the intricate details of our lives. He pulls them together for his purposes, according to his ultimate plan for salvation for all.
And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God. And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Last Friday I had the great joy of singing praises to our glorious God with other women. This women’s worship evening had been several months in the making, with much prayer covering the night. Reflecting on the whirlwind of the last couple of months of preparation and planning, I turn to Luke 1. When I shared from this passage with the women’s ministry team all those months ago, I remember being struck by Mary’s heart. My prayer was that, as Mary, my soul would magnify the Lord (v.46 ), and my spirit rejoice in God my Saviour (v.47 ). To think that Mary was giving birth to something new, and all she could do was set her gaze on God, is an example of what it means to turn and trust not in the unknowns of what is to come, but instead in the character of who God is and the wonder of what he has already done. Returning to these verses now, I am overwhelmed with joy, as the Lord fulfils his promises, and sure enough, his word does not return to him empty!!
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Our “Clothed in Strength” night encapsulated how, as women of God, we praise God – for HE fearfully and wonderfully made us (Psalm 139 ), and HE is our strength and our song. He clothes us in Christ’ righteousness, in robes of white, binding up our wounds with his love, changing us from creatures of wrath to vessels of grace.
It was no coincidence that on the night, God placed it on three hearts to share from Psalm 23.
Two of those who shared were women chosen to give a speak-out revealing what God has been teaching them in this season. The first focused on one verse of the psalm, capturing the power of dwelling on scripture, linking us to a fitting song from the verse ( ‘I Shall Not Want ‘ by Audrey Assad). And the second reminded us of the Shepherd who guides and leads even through the darkest valleys of life.
The third … Well, the closing words I gave on the night were as follows: “Let us enter into our last time of worship for the evening, with hearts echoing David’s at the end of Psalm 23: Surely your goodness and love, oh Lord, will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in your house forever”. Um, wow. Thank you, Lord!
Now, two weeks prior, when praying and preparing the script for service leading the evening, God led me to Psalm 23. When I say led, I literally mean led. As I am very visual, when I prayed for what to share, God led me by a pasture, by still waters, reminding me that he was in control. I knew immediately this was from Psalm 23 and opened to the passage accordingly. Knowing his Spirit is the river of life inside, and that the night was his, for his glory, I knew I need not fear. His rod and staff were comforting me.
What I wrote in the overflow of that moment I did not end up sharing on the night. That didn’t matter. God wanted to show me how he shows up! Indeed he knows us intimately and individually! For someone who struggles to cry, I had tears in my eyes (my cup did not overflow though!!) that night, as I was awestruck by how God knitted together the event, using other women to bring this Psalm to the hearts of those present. Ah, how wonderful that the body functions as a whole, and his word succeeds in doing the thing for which he sent it!!
When we meditate on his word we join with others in the body of Christ following his way.
Our Good Shepherd guides us in his way, and is the source of our soul’s rest.
Below, I have decided to share what I removed from the script before the night. My prayer is that this will lead you to his word, and guide you to the good news of the Gospel – the hope and assurance we have in Jesus Christ as our Saviour King and Good Shepherd (see John 10 ).
How good is it to worship our wonderful Father, our glorious God, our hope and our salvation.
Why don’t we all close our eyes for a minute, to set our thoughts, our hearts on him.
On how great he is, and how grateful we are.
Imagine a field. The grass is green.
There is a slight breeze.
Where are you?
Are you laying on the grass?
Are you walking on the grass?
Picture a stream flowing through the grass.
The sun is shining.
The water is glistening.
Is this how you see your soul?
Is it this still?
Or are there storm clouds?
Is there pulled up dirt?
Listen now to his word to you, from Psalm 23.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your 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 overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Psalm 23. Soak it in sisters and brothers. May we allow him to restore our souls. Him and only him.
There is much depth to this psalm for our contemporary faith battle, a struggle “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 12 ).
God has placed this psalm on the hearts of his people across the world, as I also listened to a sermon the other week, Part One in the series “Psalm 23: The Rhythm of the Shepherd and the Soul” by Passion City Church titled “Don’t Give The Enemy A Seat”. You might like to listen to the series here.
Now, if that’s not enough God-coincidences for you, did I mention that on the night of the women’s event there was a huge Shepherd’s staff situated on the stage?? (Something created for the church series on 1 Samuel).
God is good, friends. God is good.
And his sheep listen to HIS voice.
“Truly, truly, I tell you, whoever does not enter the sheepfold by the gate, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. But the one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen for his voice.
He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
When he has brought out all who are his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will flee from him because they do not recognize his voice.”
Jesus spoke to them using this illustration, but they did not understand what He was telling them. So He said to them again, “Truly, truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before Me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. If anyone enters through Me, he will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it in all its fullness.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd, and the sheep are not his own. When he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf pounces on them and scatters the flock. The man runs away because he is a hired servant and is unconcerned for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd. I know My sheep and My sheep know Me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father. And I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them in as well, and they will listen to My voice.
Then there will be one flock and one shepherd.