Day 31, Tuesday, September 20
Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness, “When your fathers tested Me, they tried Me, though they had seen My work. For forty years I loathed that generation, and said they are a people who err in their heart, and they do not know My ways. Therefore, I swore in My anger, truly they shall not enter into My rest.” Psalm 95:6-11
The Contrite Heart and Soul Rest
In these verses, the psalmist gives a call to corporate worship, “Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.” The motive for the call to worship follows in the next verse. “For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.” The call to corporate worship comes from the place of soul rest, a deep soul satisfaction in the presence of our Creator. Sheep, under the watchful care of the shepherd, possess a restful, peaceful disposition. They are not dominated by fear. They remain near the shepherd, sensing his guiding and caring hand. Sheep outside the care of the shepherd do not possess such restfulness. The natural inclination of the lamb is to stray. The natural inclination of the human heart is like that of the straying lamb. Isaiah 53 says, “All of us like sheep have gone astray. Each of us has turned to our own way.” Humans, like sheep, have a natural inclination to stray into trouble. There are sheep that remain in the fold and there are sheep that stray. Those that remain in the fold are restful. Those straying outside the fold lack rest. What’s the difference between the two lambs? What’s the difference between the one that wonders and the one that remains? Is it that one lamb lives a trouble free existence? No! Both lambs still face the trials of this world. The world is dangerous and trouble lurks around every corner. Is the difference between the wayward and the reaming lamb driven by the protective gathering of the community of other lambs? No! There is no comfort in the mere company of others. A single lamb is completely helpless. A thousand lambs, without a shepherd, are still completely helpless. All lambs, either as individuals or as a heard, are completely defenseless and helpless. So then is the difference between the wayward lamb and the peaceful lamb which remains in the fold determined by the strength of the individual lamb? Though it is true that some lambs are bigger and faster than others, relative to the dangers of the world around, size and speed matter none. All lambs, regardless of their respective size, speed and strength are completely helpless in their world of danger and are venerable to enumerable assaults. No, the only real difference between the wayward lamb and the lamb that remains is their relationship to their shepherd. Safety for a lamb is not in the community of the herd or the in the individual strength of the lamb, but in the abiding care of their shepherd. A hard-hearted person is like a wayward lamb. A hard-hearted person wonders away from God just as the wayward lamb wonders away from the shepherd. When trouble comes, as will always occur in this life, the lamb that has separated itself from the pasture of the shepherd becomes overwhelmed with fear. They are dominated with unrest. No matter what direction they run, if they are running outside the watchful care of the shepherd, they will ultimately run to their own destruction. They cannot experience rest, soul satisfying rest because no matter how fast they run, there is no help. However, when trouble comes to the lambs that are close to the shepherd, they rest in the shepherd’s care. When trouble comes they run toward the voice of the shepherd. They know his voice. They trust his care. They have experienced the continued love and care of their shepherd. In their abiding with him they have developed and cultivated a restful trust in the shepherd’s care.
This image of the herd wondering away from the watchful care of the shepherd reminds the psalmist of an event from Israel’s history. The whole generation of the nation hardened their hearts toward their Shepherd. God, their Shepherd, called them to the safety. Their Shepherd longed to provide a restful place for them. Instead, the entire generation turned their backs on God as their Shepherd. They went their own way even though they had seen His mighty power to guide them safely through incredible troubles. Soul rest, deep soul satisfaction, comes from remaining close to our Shepherd. We never know when a single, small step away from the safe confines of obedience to our Shepherd may lead to a life of wondering completely outside of His care. Then, as troubles come and trials come, the futile quest for rest comes to no avail. We are called to rest in the presence of our Shepherd. Soul rest, deep soul satisfaction, can only be found in Him.
Oh Lord, protect my heart from chasing after the allure of false satisfaction. You have created me to see, know, experience and enjoy You. My heart is prone to wonder. My heart is prone to seek satisfaction in things that will quickly turn to dust. My heart is prone to take me outside of Your watchful care. Guard my heart today, Oh Lord. Let me hear Your voice. Draw me close to Your presence. Amen.
From Bunyan’s The Acceptable Sacrifice
Man, take him as he comes into the world, and he is not only a dead man, a fool, and proud, but also self- willed and headstrong (2 Peter 2:10). Man is a stubborn creature before his heart is broken. So they are often called rebels, rebellious, and disobedient: they will only do what they wish. 'All day long, ' says God, 'have I stretched out my hand to a disobedient people.' And they are compared to a self-willed horse, that will, in spite of his rider, rush into the battle. 'Everyone, ' says God, 'turns to his course, as the horse rushes into battle' (Jer 8:6). Hence they are said to stop their ears, to pull away their shoulder, to shut their eyes, and harden their hearts, 'against the words of God' (Psa 107:11}. They are fitly compared to the rebellious son who would not be ruled by his parents, or to the prodigal, who would have all in his own hand, and remove himself far away from father and father's house (Deut 21:20; Luke 15:13). Their self- willed stubborn heart will not comply with the will of God before it is broken (Deut 21:21; Luke 15:14-17). These are they that are called the stout-hearted; these are said to be far from righteousness, and so will remain until their hearts are broken; for so they must be made to know themselves (Isa 9:9-11).