Goshen Baptist Church
4124 Mt. Misery Rd NE
Leland, North Carolina 28451
Phone: (910) 371-6899
Pastor Barbara Bell: firstname.lastname@example.org
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9:45am Sunday School
6:00pm Adult Bible Study*
6:00pm Church Supper
6:30pm Kids’/Teen Activities
6:45pm Adult Bible Study*
6:00p.m. Adult Choir*
*Nursery or Child Care
available on request.
****CBF in the letter above represents Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) Goshen Baptist Church is a member of the CBF.
"Hearing Psalm 23 Again for the First Time"
Did you read the first line above the way it is written or the way you expected it to read? When I first read these lines on a social media post last week, I read it wrong. Our minds recognize and remember so many different patterns so quickly that we often see what we are looking for rather than what is actually there.
For this reason, familiar things can be deceiving. We see or hear what we expect and not always what is actually there. Psalm 23 is like this. It may be so familiar that we no longer hear what it says. One piece of advice I received years ago suggested that I change an overly familiar passage of Scripture into the opposite of what it says. Here’s a try:
I am my own shepherd. I take care of myself. I don’t have time to lie down in green pastures. I’m shooting the rapids. I will restore my soul later when I have more time. I follow the paths that I think are right for me, for my own sake. I do whatever I can to avoid walking through dark valleys. I fear all evil. I trust no one. My health and my wealth, they comfort me. No one puts food on my table. My enemies had better keep their distance. Nobody gives me anything. My glass is half-empty. Heartache and trouble are nipping at my heels. I’ve got to stay one step ahead of them. My whole life long.
My “opposite translation” sounds very different from Psalm 23 but it also sounds oddly familiar. It sounds like an attitude I find myself falling into far too frequently. In good times, I can fool myself into believing that by my own effort I can take care of myself without needing help from anyone, including God or God’s people.
The COVID-19 pandemic proves that my attempts to bend the world to my will are a foolish pretense. There are many things beyond my control. Psalm 23 offers to lead me in a more “righteous path.” It describes the path of trust in God. We can trust God to go before us to lead us to abundant life. We can trust God to walk beside us through dark valleys so that we do not have to be alone. We can rejoice that God’s goodness and mercy chase after us, inviting us into God’s house where a table, soothing oil, and an overflowing cup are prepared for us. We are welcome there forever. New situations can allow us to hear familiar words in new ways. How might Psalm 23 speak to you again for the first time?
Dr. Barry Jones
Professor of Old Testament & Hebrew
Campbell University Divinity School
[sent to pastors April 30, 2020]
Psalm 23, NIV
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.