Written by Jolene DeHeer
I have the “spiritual” gift of being loquacious which is exacerbated by my love of words. I love learning new words as well as learning about their origins and history. I particularly enjoy it when a skilled author puts words together in a way that creates a picture in your mind or touches your heart with emotion. I appreciate ministers and speakers who have the gift of using words to encourage and inspire people to grow spiritually. I have great admiration for poets who are so artistic and skillful that not only do the words they use have power, but also the way they physically construct the poem so that it is a work of art in itself.
One such poem is the 23rd Psalm. We can all agree that King David was a master poet. No matter how many times one reads or recites Psalm 23, one discovers new levels of inspiration and comfort. Earlier this week, I had the privilege of listening to my pastor, Rev. Peter Jonker, deliver a sermon on that Psalm that blew my mind! Rev. Jonker cited Hebrew scholar James Limburg who said that if you count the words of Psalm 23 in the Hebrew, “there is an important word right at the center of this poem. It’s in verse 4. That word is the Hebrew word immadi. Immadi is a preposition and an object smushed together in one word. It means ‘With me.’ As in: ‘When I walk through the valley of the shadow you are with me.’
God with us, is the epicenter of Psalm 23.
You can take this analysis one step further. If ‘with me’ is the middle word of the of the poem, what’s the first word of the poem? Yahweh. The Lord. What’s the last word of the poem? Yammim. Forever. Put the beginning middle and the end together and what do you get. ‘The Lord…with me…forever.’”
Isn’t that purely amazing?
In all the times you read that Psalm, did you ever realize that? What comfort! What hope! What assurance! And what artistry in using words to communicate God’s faithful, persistent, loving presence. God, the sovereign, omnipotent, creator of the universe is WITH ME forever – nothing the evil one uses to attack me, no act of man or nature, not even death can separate me from my Father! He is always with me…even in the valley of the shadow of death.
Since I heard the sermon, I have been meditating on those two little common words: with me.
I looked up the word “with” in the dictionary: there were 17 definitions. This is one powerful little word with a myriad of meanings. Here are a few of them…the word can elicit a deep sense of connectedness as in, “she is with child.” It can have the connotation of being on one’s side in a conflict. It can make one feel loved as in having someone ask you to go on a date with them.
But none of those touch the power or depth of what it means to have the Lord with us forever. We are connected with God, He is on our side, and He does love us, but it is so much more. He is not only with us He is also within us through the person of the Holy Spirit. This holy mystery is possible because of the completed, atoning work of Jesus Christ! Holy God now is with and within believers for all eternity.
No matter how I try, my finite mind cannot comprehend the grace, love, power, and mercy that flowed from that cross and into my life! All I can do is open my arms wide to accept this gift of grace as I fall on my knees in gratitude and thanksgiving knowing GOD IS WITH ME FOREVER! And I can live my life boldly, confidently, passionately, and obediently by reflecting His presence wherever I go and in whatever I do.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
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