Commentary | Psalm 23:1-3

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Psalm 23:1-3 (ESV)

Commentary

The Lord is my shepherd;” – The phrase, “the Lord is my shepherd,” in the Hebrew language is Jehovah Rohi, one of God’s many titles. Jehovah, or Yahweh, is the most common name for God used throughout Scripture and appears in the English translations as LORD, all capitalized. Jehovah (or Yahweh) is the one name in Scripture that God gives to himself, during his encounter with Moses in Exodus 3. Moses asks God’s name and God responds saying, “I AM WHO I AM” (Jehovah). Thus, God reveals himself as the great “I am.” For he is all there really is; nothing exists without him. He is the eternal creator of the universe, and he has chosen to reveal himself to us. The second title, Rohi, is the Hebrew word for “shepherd.” When we say “the Lord is my shepherd,” we are really saying Jehovah Rohi. To call God, Jehovah Rohi, is to call him the Chief Shepherd; the shepherd of our souls. He is our ultimate caregiver and protecter; He is our shepherd.

i shall not want.” – To ‘not want’ is to have, and to have is to not lack. We say “I shall not want,” because we lack nothing (in fact, the NIV writes this verse to say “I lack nothing”). We can rest assured that we lack nothing as long as we have Christ in our life, at the center of our life. Christ is the Good Shepherd, and “the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn. 10:11). Christ has never once failed to show his love and provision for us. He has given his life in exchange for ours; there is nothing that we should want more than Christ.

When we have Christ, we have meaning and purpose. When we have Christ, we find satisfaction and fulfillment in life. When we have Christ, we have everlasting life. Thus, if we truly have faith in Christ, then we will find contentment. For the hallmark of our faith in Jesus is our contentment in life, because we know that “all authority in heaven and on earth” has been given to him.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.” – Remember that this is the “Shepherd’s Prayer”, and that it is our prayer that we offer up to the Good Shepherd – meaning that it is we who are the sheep. The nature of sheep is that they are foolish, stubborn, and timid. Sheep are no good at leading themselves, they are slow to listen, and they are often overruled with fear. That is, unless their shepherd is in their midst, proving to them that they are secure. We are all like sheep, and we refuse to lie down; rest; be content unless we are free from all fear, worry, and anxiety. It is through Christ that our fears are cast away.

Therefore, it is a necessity for us all to gain a keen awareness of his presence, knowing that he is always with us. Christ has told us, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:20). Or as another Psalm says, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety” (4:8). Despite our worldly struggles, our souls are in the hands of the Creator, and it is he who “chooses the greenest of pastures for your rest.”[1]

He leads me beside still waters.” – It is only by Christ that we can come to know peace and serenity through the trials of life. James 1:2-4 says “Count it all joy, by brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds. For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness, and let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” It is only through the trials that our faith is refined, and that we begin to reap the benefits of putting our trust in God. Although our earthly body may face temptation or pain, it is our soul that finds rest in the presence of God.

One way to soak in the presence of God is to obey the command that is given to us in Luke 22:26: “Rise and pray.” There is much power in rising each morning to meet with God and to soak in his presence. Phillip Keller, the author of A Shepherd looks at Psalm 23, notes that “those who are often the most serene, most confident, and able to cope with life’s complexitites are those who rise early each day to feed on God’s Word. It is the quite early hours of the morning that they are led beside the quiet, still waters where they imbibe the very life of Christ for the day. . . The biographies of the great men and women of God repeatedly point out how the secret of the success in their spiritual life was attributed to the “quite time” of each morning.”[2] Rise and pray, meet with God, and you will discover the still waters that satisfy the thirsting of the soul.

He restores my soul.” – Although our soul rests in the care of the Creator, there are still times that we find ourselves feeling spiritually dry or downcast. David, the author of this Psalm, admitted to a time of spiritual dryness. In Psalm 42:11 he cries out, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” This term, “cast down” is a term that a shepherd, like David, would know. It alludes to the state that sheep find themselves in when their wool coats are weighed down, and they are unable to get back onto their feet. There is a parallel in this truth that reflects the life of the Christian.

When a sheep’s wool becomes long and begins to accumulate added weight from the “mud, manure, burrs, and others debris, it is much easier for a sheep to become cast, literally weighed down with its own wool.”[3] Wool is significant in Scripture because it symbolizes the old life of the Christian. Our flesh wants us to remain attached to our old life, our previous lifestyle, our prior ideas about the world, and all of our possession and worldly desires. And there are times that we feel cast down and spiritually dry when our focus is on those things. It is only once we regain our focus on God that he reveals to us, once again, the new life that he has given us and called us to walk in. He shears the wool that ties us to the world and weighs us down, and in exchange he gives us a new “coat.” He gives us a new life. It is the life that is free from our old self, free from our past fears and anxieties, free from the weight of this world, and free from the bondage of sin. Therefore, if we find ourselves feeling “cast down,” then perhaps it is a call to redirect our focus back to Christ.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” – It is God who leads and we who follow. As Philippians 2:13 says, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” It God living within us, the Holy Spirit, that grants us power to overcome ourselves and lead us into paths of righteousness. This is the counterintuitive nature of the Christian life: only once we begin to deny our own power do we begin to find the true power of God. As Christ says in Luke 16:24, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself.” “Deny himself” is the key that we use to unlock our true potential. It is only through God that we can come to walk in paths of righteousness, for the path is narrow. When we attempt to walk this path with our own strength, we discount the readily avaible power of the Holy Spirit and we begin to waver.

God calls us to obedience. For obedience towards God is really our only mission in life. And why does he call us to obedience? He does it “for his good pleasure.” He does it because, he being our Maker, is the only one who can lead us into the abundant life that we are called to. God’s mission is to save the lost and to grant us life and “have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10). Christ says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn. 10:11). He lays his life down for us, he offers us redemption and restoration, and he calls us to walk in abundant paths of righteousness that are paved with his love. He does it for “his name’s sake,” for when we abide, we give glory back to God. When we abide, our light shines before others, and God’s name is glorified. Our mission is to abide, and to allow our life to shout the worthiness of Christ; the Good Father; the Good Shepherd.


[1] Evans, Tony. The Power of God’s Names. (Eugene, OR.: Harvest House Publishers, 2014), pg. 119.

[2] Keller, Phillip W. A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. (Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan, 2007), pgs. 47-8.

[3] Keller, Phillip W. A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. (Grand Rapids, MI.: Zondervan, 2007), pg. 58.

Photo is an edit from the original Beside Still Waters by Greg Olsen

Commentary | Romans 1:28-32

Romans 1:28-32 (NIV): 28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.


Commentary

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind,” – The fallen nature of humanity is depravity. As creatures, we belong to the Creator, and this is best. But for those who discount their Creator and think of Him as unworthy will find themselves depraved; hollow and empty, forever seeking to fill the void within the inner longing of their soul with the things of this world.

so that they do what ought not to be done.” – It is due to their depraved mind that they “do what ought not to be done.” This is the answer to the question that so many skeptics ask: “Why does God have so many rules?” The rules are guidelines (to keep us on the narrow path, Mt. 7:13-14), and the guidelines exist so that our being may remain close to His being, for our sake. When we lack God, we lack purpose and fulfillment, so we seek out the pleasures of the world to fill our void. We “do what ought not to be done,” for we are depraved. If we turn to God and accept Him into our lives then we will know our purpose and find fulfillment in his precepts.

Everyone wants to be more than what they are. To be the popular one, the most affluent, the most intelligent, the best looking, the best dressed, the strongest, the hero in the movie, etc. And to be honest, this is all quite natural: the desire to be more than what we are. We all cling on to this fantasy that if we keep chasing the world, we will catch up to it. That time might just decide to stand still for us. However, the truth is that if we aim for the world, then the world is what we will get. This desire of ours to always be something more is indeed truly innate. But this is not a desire that the world can satisfy. The root of this desire of ours; this instinct, this insatiable thirst, it is the Lord’s calling. It is His calling to us and it says “Come to me, come and see, come and be all that I made you to be.” God has made us to be followers of Him, not followers of this world.

They have become filled with every kind of wickedness…– Due to depravity (of God) mankind seeks to fill their inner void. If the depravity is a depravity of God, then what they are seeking needs to be God. If it isn’t God it can only be “wickedness, evil and greed . . . envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malic.” A godless humanity becomes “gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant, and boastful.” These are all of the things that mankind becomes once they denounce God and seek fulfillment and purpose by means of the world.

This defines the true meaning of evil: the deprivation of good. You could make a real good moral argument on just the basis of Romans 1:28-32.

The passage says it is they who “invent ways of doing evil.” It isn’t God who invents this evil. No, it is by the fallenness of mankind, the turning away from God. It is original sin that “invents” evil. To see more about this go to Why Does God Allow Evil?

         “They disobey their parents” – It only makes sense that if a person is incapable of obeying an all-loving and all-knowing God of the universe, then they will absolutely be incapable of obeying their parents who are perhaps loving, but not without fault, and only human. For mankind is rebellious, always bound to rebel.

When mankind casts away all understanding and reasonableness, they have no fidelity, which leads to more sin approval of sin corruption steals their love selfishness no mercy.  A slippery slope indeed.

Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” – Mankind knows God but they deny Him on a volitional basis; they choose to not want to know, and live accordingly. People often seek happiness through their own vices, and often choose happiness over the truth. However, true fulfillment can and will only ever be found in our Creator. The creator of all that is good.

         “People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.” – Blaise Pascal


Feel free to use the discussion questions below for a group Bible study and if you would like, the commentary above to help facilitate the discussion.


Discussion Questions

  1. What are some reasons that people think it’s “not worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God?” If God is so good, why reject Him?

  2. What is the meaning of a “depraved mind?”

  3. What is the result of having a “depraved mind?”

  4. Why is “disobey their parents” listed among this long list of abhorrent crimes?

  5. Why is it that Christians are still inclined to sin, despite knowing the penalty for sin?

Commentary | Romans 1:26-27

Romans 1:26-27 (NIV): 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.


Commentary

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.” – The list of mankind’s habitual sin goes on. Whereas lust has already been deemed sinful by Christ (Mt. 5:28), this verse speaks of another lust: lust for the same sex. This passage is explicitly stating that homosexuality is “unnatural,” “shameful,” and deserving of “due penalty.” This is without a doubt a controversial topic within our culture. However, despite what our governing laws may say to rationalize homosexuality, God, the ultimate governor has already spoken.

Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men,” – Whether man or woman, homosexual relations have already been judged by God to be considered unnatural. There are many verses throughout Scripture that speak clearly on this topic: 1 Tim. 1: 8-11, 1 Cor. 6: 9-11, Lev. 20:13; 18:22. Scripture is persistent in mentioning this sin, and often does so by listing it amongst many other sins: murder, theft, lying, covetousness, drunkenness, and idolatry. Regardless of the offense against God, it is sin.

“But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife (Mk. 10:6-7).” Since the beginning of mankind’s creation, God not only made man and woman, but He then deemed that they were made for each other – for heterosexual relationships.

and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.– What is the due penalty? Whatever it is, it says that they have “received it in themselves.” I believe this is referring once again to the wrath of God, and that it is being revealed by God “giving them over.” That is, their penalty is their slavery to sin (Jn. 8:34), for they “received [it] in themselves.” What God has made to be natural and good has been unnaturally defiled.

This country was founded on Judeo-Christian values, however our culture now seeks to eradicate these values. Let it be known, we are living in a Post-Christian nation. When the U.S Supreme Court legalized gay-marriage in all fifty states on June 26, 2015, it was a direct attack at God’s law. This nation now continues to slowly, but relentlessly attack Christianity.

Persecution in America is commonly perceived to be rather weak, however be warned: Scripture promises that Christians will be persecuted for their faith (2 Tim. 3:12). Our country’s independence may have been founded in the name of our Creator, but that same independence and freedom is being used to elevate the status of humanity and to decrease the authority of God.  

Bernie Sanders, the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, made a verbal assault on Christianity just recently. Sanders claimed the Gospel is “indefensible, it is hateful, it is Islamophobic, and it is an insult to over a billion Muslims throughout the world.”[1] Ladies and gentlemen, these are the words of a man who ran for president. This should not be taken lightly. Please pray for our country, for our government officials, and for God to ignite a revival in this country.

Final Word

All sin is detestable in God’s eyes, and regardless of the sin, it is in need of forgiveness. We may not all have committed murder . . . oh wait (Matt. 5:21-22), never-mind. Nonetheless we are all sinners and we need to accept Christ as our Savior, allow Him to come into our lives, and follow Him. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).


Feel free to use the discussion questions below for a group Bible study and if you would like, the commentary above to help facilitate the discussion.


Discussion Questions

  1. What does it mean for God to “give them over”?

  1. What comes to mind when you think about “unnatural sexual relations?” Why is homosexuality considered a sin?

  1. What does the phrase “received in themselves the due penalty for their error” mean?

[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/06/bernie-sanders-chris-van-hollen-russell-vought/529614/

Commentary | Romans 1:24-25

Romans 1:24-25 (NIV): 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.


Commentary

Therefore, God gave them over” – here we begin to see “the wrath of God” that “is being revealed” from verse 18. His wrath is revealed in the sin that is being committed, by “giving them over” to it. The penalty for their sin is the sin itself. Note: Romans 6:20 & Romans 6:18. The point is, we are bound to be slaves to something, for our nature is to follow. For we are creatures, part of the creation, created by the Creator. Our longing is to follow him but many “suppress and exchange” the truth due to pride.

          “God gave them over” – The greatest penalty is to be separated from God. We get what we choose!

in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another” – Key word: ‘Desire.’ It is by desire that the theme of our life comes to fruition. Those who desire sin will indeed sin. Those who continue to sin will continue to desire sin. For sin opens the door to more sin. It is by God’s grace that our desire becomes His desire. Or should I say: His desires become our desires. We must always remember to continue in prayer, and ask that God will continue to soften our hearts and make our desires – His desires.

          “degrading of their bodies” – our bodies are of much significance, and to be treated as such and taken care of. They’re gifts, and by them our hearts and minds become affected. As Christians, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. For all mankind, our bodies are the vessels of our souls. Protect your body, protect your mind, and God will protect your soul. Keep filth far away.  

they exchanged the truth about God for a lieOnce the truth is “exchanged,” all you’re left with is falsehood. We either receive the truth, and become free from sin and obedient to righteousness. Or we exchange it for deception, and enslave ourselves to sin and rid ourselves of God.  

and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen.Key word: Worshiped (revered). Mankind, once having exchanged the belief in the true God will inevitably worship something. To worship; revere, bend the knee, devote, and to hold high – all makes sense when the worship is for God. For He is worthy. But mankind has so often chosen to worship the creation instead – how ironic! We worship that which we believe to be worthy (and worth our time), and it is all decided by our desires. What do we desire? Money, sex, thrill, “success,” popularity, image?

So many have chosen to worship the mere creation. Whether the flesh of others – by giving into sexual impurity. Or their own self – by holding themselves as high as God, seeking thrill and satisfaction, power and recognition, popularity and security. We chose to worship the things that provide us with momentary satisfaction. Mankind, with our God-given bodies, indulge without restraint, all in the pursuit of satisfaction and fulfillment.  

Mankind chooses to worship the temporal over the eternal. God, both divine and eternal, is the only name to be lifted above every other name, the only One who is worthy to be “worshiped and served.” Why do we, who know the truth, ever dare to worship and serve the created things?


Feel free to use the discussion questions below for a group Bible study and if you would like, the commentary above to help facilitate the discussion.


Discussion Questions

  1. “Therefore” <– what is the “therefore” there for?

  1. What does it mean for God to “give them over?”

  1. Why is sexual impurity referred to as a “degrading of the body?”

  1. What does it mean to “exchange the truth?” What are some areas in our culture or our life where we “exchange the truth?”

  1. What can truth be exchanged for?

  1. What does it mean to “worship & serve created things?”

Commentary | Romans 1:21-23

Romans 1:21-23 (NIV): 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.


Commentary

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools” – God has made himself known. His existence is only denied by those who suppress the truth that has been clearly revealed to them. Their wickedness disqualifies them from glorifying Him and thanking Him. By suppressing the truth, foolishness begins to thrive. For if truth is denied, then lies are accepted. The truth is what softens our hearts and sets us free. Thinking in a godless way is futile and it turns our hearts hard and dark. This leads to conceitedness and self-sufficiency (prideful thinking); the claiming to be wise, but there is no wisdom without God. For without God the truth cannot be known, only foolishness and giving into deception.

and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.” –  Mankind still expresses the belief in the Higher Being and the Divine, for they “exchanged” the glory of God for other images, ideologies, and beliefs. All of mankind is incapable of denying the “higher calling.” They can only “suppress” and/or “exchange” it. The law (the objective moral law) is written on all of our hearts. Mankind gives credence to God’s nature but denies its source. In the context of this passage Paul would be alluding to all of the false beliefs and philosophies that were prevalent at the time (Acts 16-17). Particularly Pantheism and Gnosticism that was made evident through their erection of many statues of different gods. These people didn’t deny the Divine, they only “exchanged” it for false beliefs, especially the beliefs that suited themselves. This type of belief system can still be clearly seen in the modern age.

  • God’s divine nature cannot be denied, for it is He who makes it known. But mankind can choose to “suppress” or “exchange” it.

Feel free to use the discussion questions below for a group Bible study and if you would like, the commentary above to help facilitate the discussion.


Discussion Questions

  1. How is it that mankind can know God and yet not acknowledge Him?

  1. What is the difference between mankind’s wisdom and God’s wisdom?

  1. What are reasons that people suppress and exchange the truth about God?

Commentary | Romans 1:18-20

Romans 1:18-20 (NIV): 18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.


Commentary

“The wrath of God” – God’s wrath cannot be accurately compared to the wrath of man (Jas. 1:19-20). God is not shown to be angry in this passage because of his ego. He is angry (righteously indignant) because although His presence can be “clearly seen,” and the way to him has been made, people are still sending themselves to hell because of their wickedness.

“is being revealed” – notice that the passage doesn’t say “will be revealed” but that His wrath “is being revealed” (present tense). This “wrath” is demonstrated later in verses 21-32, particularly verses 24, 26, and 28. God’s wrath is being presented by giving them over to their desires. That is, mankind’s desire to sin.

“against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness”(Jn. 8:32 – “the truth will set you free.”) God’s wrath is against all of the “godlessness and wickedness,” for it is against Him. Those who suppress the truth are held captive by their wickedness, by their own choosing, and thus God hates it because it keeps people from Him. To come to the knowledge of the truth would mean freedom. However, the truth has been made plain to them. God’s wrath is not necessarily against the people, but the senselessness of the people.   

“since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.Key word: ‘Since’ (or because) God’s wrath is justified because He has made his presence known, and His wrath is revealed (unleashed) for the same reason. None are without blame when they come to meet their Maker (except those who have been born again in Christ Jesus). Why? Because God has made Himself known to all. The truth is able to be known by all, but many “suppress” it and choose wickedness.

  • God is the Creator, the Creator of all things – to include all of the pleasures of the world. Our bodies and our minds are His creation, every neuron and nerve ending. Satan’s only power is that he may tempt us to indulge in these pleasures to an extent that is beyond the will of God.
  • “Moral disagreement exists because some people are suppressing the Moral Law in order to justify what they want to do.”[1]

“For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” – God, the Creator of space, time, and matter, exists outside the realm of space, time, and matter – His eternal power and sovereignty. The whole of creation, from the infinitely large expanse of the cosmos, all the way down to the infinitesimal quarks and the rest of the infinitesimally undiscovered are shouting the eternal power of God. Creation shouts the existence of a Creator. God’s divine nature has been revealed through the life and sacrifice of Christ Jesus, and is now being revealed through his saints, hagioi, as well as the Gospel; the testimony of God incarnate.  

            “being understood from what has been made.” – God has made himself known. The vastness of creation, the cosmos, the microscopic, the diversity of animal and plant life, the uniqueness of humanity – being made in His image, Christ’s ministry, sacrifice and resurrection, the manifestation of His glory within His saints, and the Gospel message. All these things and more leave us without excuse. The truth is “clearly seen.” It is our choice to receive or suppress that truth.


Feel free to use the discussion questions below for a group Bible study and if you would like, the commentary above to help facilitate the discussion.


Discussion Questions

  1. Who are the recipients of God’s wrath in this passage?

  1. Why is God shown to be wrathful or angry? Is His anger justified?

  1. What does it mean to “suppress the truth?” By their wickedness?

  1. What are some ways that God has made Himself evident to humanity?

  1. How is it that God’s invisible qualities can be seen?

  1. William Lane Craig, a famous apologist, once said “The greatest apologetic is your life.”  How is our life supposed to propose an argument for the existence of God?Why is it referred to as the greatest apologetic?

[1]  Geisler, Norman and Frank Turek. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2004), 186.