The AntiPsalm 23

from J. D. Greear

“A couple of weeks ago in the midst of studying through Hebrews 4 and the concept of rest I was reminded of a series that I did a few years back called BreakOut. As we concluded that particular series I told you that our lives are a process of Jesus teaching us to live as free people. In order to do that, we have to find our identity in Him, look to Him as ultimate satisfaction, trust in His grace alone as our basis of acceptance, trust Him completely with our future. This is what God was teaching to Israel as He satisfied them with manna in the wilderness

I read this in an article by David Powlison and it touched me very deeply because it touches on all the dysfunctional places in my life that cause me so much stress, pain and worry. Ultimately it boils down to still being enslaved to myself with all of my “blind, misplaced devotion,” and not having found the freedom in knowing Jesus as my sole Master.

Powlison contrasts Psalm 23, which describes what it’s like to be free in Christ, with its ‘antipsalm.’ I found it cripplingly revealing. The antipsalm first:

Antipsalm 23

I’m on my own.
No one looks out for me or protects me.
I experience a continual sense of need. Nothing’s quite right.
I’m always restless. I’m easily frustrated and often disappointed.
It’s a jungle — I feel overwhelmed. It’s a desert — I’m thirsty.
My soul feels broken, twisted, and stuck. I can’t fix myself.
I stumble down some dark paths.
Still, I insist: I want to do what I want, when I want, how I want.
But life’s confusing. Why don’t things ever really work out?
I’m haunted by emptiness and futility — shadows of death.
I fear the big hurt and final loss.
Death is waiting for me at the end of every road,
but I’d rather not think about that.
I spend my life protecting myself. Bad things can happen.
I find no lasting comfort.
I’m alone … facing everything that could hurt me.
Are my friends really friends?
Other people use me for their own ends.
I can’t really trust anyone. No one has my back.
No one is really for me — except me.
And I’m so much all about ME, sometimes it’s sickening.
I belong to no one except myself.
My cup is never quite full enough. I’m left empty.
Disappointment follows me all the days of my life.
Will I just be obliterated into nothingness?
Will I be alone forever, homeless, free-falling into void?
Sartre said, “Hell is other people.”
I have to add, “Hell is also myself.”
It’s a living death,
and then I die.

The Real Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
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.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil.
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Powlison says, “Can you taste the difference?””

-J.D. Greear,

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