Category Archives: Daily Spark

Psalm 23 – Fri – 21-10-08



The 23rd Psalm pictures God as a shepherd. We are the sheep under his care. However, the imagery seems to shift in verse 5, which reads, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” Sheep do not eat at tables, nor drink from cups. So what is this verse telling us about the care of God when we depend on him like sheep depend on a shepherd?

The picture of the table is that of a king preparing a banquet for a guest.* The king’s generosity to the guest is witnessed by the enemies, who can only watch. Anointing the head with oil was done as a special honor to a guest at a feast. The olive oil was probably spiced to have a pleasing aroma. Jesus mentions this practice in Luke 6:42. The overflowing cup was also a symbol of generous hospitality. The host of the banquet lavished drink on the guest.

God’s care for us is not simply providing the basics. He doesn’t just provide our daily needs, guide us in righteousness and protect us from evil. God is so extravagant! He treats us like honored guests at a sumptuous banquet! It seems to echo Ephesians 1:8 which says God lavished his grace upon us.

Don’t just see God as the shepherd, see him as the king pouring out his goodness on us!


*”Psalm 23, ‘…table in the presence of my enemies…'” StackExchange, edited June 17, 2020, https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/15552/psalm-23-table-in-the-presence-of-my-enemies.

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Psalm 23 – Thu – 21-10-07



Psalm 23:4 says, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

Have you ever wondered what the valley of the shadow of death is in this Psalm? Many think it  is just a symbolic reference to death itself. It certainly can be. But it is also a reference to an actual valley, the Wadi Qelt.* It is a 17-mile-long, narrow gorge that runs through the mountainous region between Jericho and Jerusalem. The sides are steep, at times just cliffs. Caves can be found in the Wadi as well. It was dangerous because of falls, rock slides and wild animals. It was also home to thieves who hid in the caves. This is where the Good Samaritan was attacked.

The 23rd Psalm pictures sheep who have no fear in the valley because the shepherd is present. His staff guides the sheep and his club is ready to beat off anything that attacks.

When we are cared for by God, we do not fear evil. As Romans 8:31 says, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” And as verse 35 says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?”

So, walk close to God and have no fear!


*Don Knebel, “Valley of the Shadow of Death,” http://donknebel.com/2013/06/valley-of-the-shadow-of-death/.

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Psalm 23 – Wed – 21-10-06



You know, when you start down the wrong path, it can be a problem. I remember as a Boy Scout, we were canoeing deep in the wilderness along the Minnesota and Canadian border. Our guide steered us to a faint trail on the shore of the lake. We landed and hoisted the canoes and supplies on our backs to carry them to the next lake on our planned route. However, it was the wrong path! The guide had read the map wrong!  We ended up hauling everything much further to a little puddle of a lake. After puzzling over the map a bit, we decided not to haul everything back. We crossed the small lake and portaged over to a different branch of the lake we planned to visit. It was a lot of work and the trail between the lakes was soft and muddy. But we finally got back on track.

The third verse of the 23rd Psalm says God leads us in the paths of righteousness. Maybe you haven’t thought about this before. But one way God cares for us is guiding our path. He won’t steer us wrong, unlike our Boy Scout guide!

This passage is not really about helping us make decisions. It is more about how to live an ethical life. God points us to the path of righteousness, where we won’t fall away from him. Follow his lead!


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Psalm 23 – Tue – 21-10-05



Psalms 23:1-3 says, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul.”

In this famous Psalm, God’s care for us is compared to a shepherd caring for sheep. Notice the sheep are well fed. They are led to rest in a green, lush pasture. They are also led to water. Someone once told me that sheep will not drink from fast flowing water, especially near rapids. They prefer quiet water. This tells us that God provides for us by providing what is most suitable.

But what about the phrase, “He restoreth my soul?” How do you restore the soul of sheep? Do sheep even have souls? What is the meaning of this?

The word can mean “soul,” but it can also be translated “life.” I think Phillip Keller gives a good word picture. He says this refers to a sheep that has tumbled onto his back. Evidently, sheep with a large fleece can become stuck on their backs. They kick and flail about. Without help, they may stay in that position until they die. The shepherd comes and restores them to an upright position.*

Do you ever feel you’ve been knocked for a loop? That the events of life have left you flailing about? Remember, God not only provides for our basic needs, he also gets us back on our feet.


*Phillip Keller, “He Restoreth My Soul,” Excerpts from: A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23 part 4, Antipas, http://www.antipas.org/commentaries/articles/shepherd_psa23/shepherd_04.html.

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Psalm 23 – Mon – 21-10-04



Have you ever wondered about the future? Maybe you follow a sports team and you wonder whether they will make the playoffs or not. Or, do you follow the stock market and wish you knew when the market would turn or a particular stock would take off? Medical tests make us wonder about the future. Have you ever wondered what the diagnosis would be and how that might change your life? I think all of us have gone to the store and wondered what will happen with inflation. Will it ease or grow worse? People are already wondering about the next election and who will run and who will win.

It is difficult to be sure about the future. So many things can happen! But we can have assurance about the future. Listen to Psalm 23:1, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Did you hear the assurance in that verse? “I shall not want.” There is no wondering about the future! There is no doubt in the Psalmist’s mind. Everything will be good. All his needs will be met. Why? Because the Lord is the one caring for him! He is trusting in someone sure — God!

This is the main point in the psalm. We can trust in God to care for us. If we rely on him like sheep rely on the shepherd, then he absolutely will care for us!


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Psalm 23 – Sun – 21-10-03



Have you ever been at a party and someone starts a get-to-know-you discussion with a strange question like “If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?” That may be ok at a party, but sometimes you get that type of question at a job interview! The question is designed to reveal how you think about yourself and whether you can think on your feet or not.  You may or may not think such questions are fun!

Today, I’m asking you that question. If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be? Would you be a lion? Some might say they were an eagle or a horse. Others would probably go for the safe bet,  you know, a dog or cat. Some may get exotic and say they are a dolphin or a unicorn! But I guarantee you no one would say they were a dinosaur, monkey or mule! There is one more animal people don’t identify with, but should — sheep!

Psalm 23:1 says, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” That’s right, if God is the shepherd, then we are sheep. Not very flattering is it? But it can be very comforting when you see the care the shepherd gives to sheep.

This week, we are going to explore the 23rd Psalm and how it describes a good relationship with God. Being God’s sheep is a good thing!


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Pure in Heart – Sat – 21-10-02



Have you ever seen a painting that you admire? I’m sure you have. I am amazed at the skill of artists. They can combine paints of different colors onto a canvas and create fascinating, even striking, images. One of the things artists understand is contrast. To capture the effect of light splashing from a window, they often paint it in a dark scene. The contrast of the deeper colors makes the shaft of light depicted pop from the canvas. Some artists are renowned for the depiction of light.

Understanding a contrast can also be helpful in understanding the Beatitude in Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (NIV) A contrast is found 2 Timothy 2:22. It says, “Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (NIV) In the passage, the evil desires of youth contrast with the pure in heart.

So what are these evil desires? 1 Peter 4:4 lists several, including, “debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.” (NIV) These are the darker colors that reveal the light of a pure heart.

As we leave this Beatitude, I encourage you to care for the needy and keep yourself unstained from evil desires. Remember that God is the source of forgiveness and transformation. Follow him in faith!


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Pure in Heart – Fri – 21-10-01



“What do you want?” People answer that question many ways. Some want to lose weight. Others want a new job. Some want to find a boyfriend or girlfriend. Perhaps a better question is, “What do you want badly enough you will change your behavior?”

Jesus said in Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (NIV) Do you want to have a pure heart? Or should I say, do you want a pure heart badly enough to change your behavior?

So how can we have a pure heart? Obviously, we need to turn to God and seek his forgiveness. But is a pure heart automatic? I don’t think so.

In 1 Timothy 1:5 Paul said, “The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” So, what was the command he referred to? Paul mentioned it in verses 3 and 4, “. . . stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith.” (NIV)

If we want a pure heart, we have to avoid false ideas. These ideas are in schools, universities and much of the culture. Faith in God, not false ideas,  is what develops love from a pure heart.


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Pure in Heart – Thu – 21-09-30



For much of my life, people have been concerned about the environment. I remember news stories about environmental disasters, such as Love Canal, New York, and Times Beach, Missouri and Bhopal, India. Pollution made the areas unlivable. I also remember the Exxon Valdez oil tanker that spilled millions of gallons of crude oil into Prince William Sound.

What about you? Do you remember when a certain over-the-counter medication was poisoned? I’m sure you are aware of all the food recalls because of e. coli or some other bacteria contamination. A few years ago, you couldn’t go to a restaurant and order a salad because all the lettuce was contaminated!

Purity is critically important in many things! The government has spent billions of dollars cleaning up toxic waste. Companies have spent millions of dollars recalling contaminated food and products. Companies spend a lot of time and money on quality processes to ensure the purity of food and medication. In fact, government regulation requires these efforts.

One other area where purity is vitally important is religion. As James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (NIV)

Is this a practical description of the Beatitude about being pure in heart? It seems to fit. We should be generous to the needy and avoid the moral pollution of this world.


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Pure in Heart – Wed – 21-09-29



“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God,” says the Beatitude in Matthew 5:8. We’ve learned that the word pure means clean. And we know that the word heart refers to the entire inner being. But I see a problem, do you?

Proverbs 20:9 puts it this way, “Who can say, ‘I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin’?” (NIV) I know I haven’t kept my heart pure! I bet the same is true for you. Jesus called out the Pharisees because they thought they were good, moral people. He called them “white-washed tombs.”

So what are we to do? How can we be blessed if our hearts are not pure? James 4:7-8 tells us, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (NIV)

James is telling us to change our direction. He uses the idea of washing, not as a ritual, but as our appeal to God for forgiveness. God is the one who can forgive and cleanse our conscience. Having a pure heart is totally dependent on God. We must have the attitude of David in Psalm 51:10. He said, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (NIV) That is the path to blessing!


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