The value of a comma


I don’t remember the details but I was very, very young when I committed Psalm 23 to memory. It must have been a Sunday School teacher who encouraged me to memorize the Bible passage that is probably the most familiar to people. What I actually do remember vividly is being confused. Why? Because I learned the psalm in the King James version of the Bible without noticing there was a semicolon in the first sentence. I heard, “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.” And in my childlike faith, I remembering pondering, “Why wouldn’t I want the Lord? Is there a reason people don’t want Him in their life?” I did not share my confusion with anyone. I just knew that I wanted Him even if no one else did.

The NIV version of the Bible records the verse as, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” The comma makes all the difference.

When I read this verse today, it holds dual meaning. I fondly remember that from an early age, I wanted Jesus. I wanted Him to be my Shepherd, taking care of me, guiding me, protecting me, etc. And as an adult, I understand that in Him, I have everything I need.

In John 10:14-16, Jesus declared, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock and one shepherd.”

In the western world, we understand the word “know” to mean “know facts.” But to the Hebrews, the word “knowing” meant so much more. It went beyond just being intellectually aware. It indicated a personal, experiential knowledge…the highest knowledge possible.

That’s what God wants for us. He wants for us to know Him in a committed relationship where we actually experience His presence. He takes great delight in us and wants us to respond by enjoying Him and trusting Him.

Can that kind of experiential knowledge be realized? I say, “More today than yesterday but not as much as tomorrow.”

How? First, I believe that knowing God begins with seeking Him. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).  This is one of my “life verses” because the first time I read it, I knew…that I knew…that I knew…God would be faithful to keep this promise in my life. And He has been loyal to His word. When I commit to seeking Him, I find Him. God is indeed a promise maker and a promise keeper.

Secondly, I think it is imperative that we follow His directive in Psalm 46:10a. “Be still and know that I am God.” Close relationship requires spending time with someone, getting to know their character. I know that slowing down is difficult. Perhaps, because we have been trained by our culture to seek our worth in busyness. But God often operates counter culturally, so we actually discover our true value when we stop and get to know Him.

And last but not least, we can ask, as Paul did in Ephesians 1:17, for ”the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that we may know Him better.” It’s as simple as asking.

Oh, and by the way, Jesus was thinking of me and you (unless you are Jewish) when He said He has other sheep to bring into the flock. We are the Gentiles that He wanted to be part of His “one flock”— the Church He would establish where “there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him…” Romans 10:17.

And yes, He willingly laid down His life…for us, His sheep.

Thoughts to ponder:

Am I actively seeking God?

Am I practicing “stillness”?

Am I requesting wisdom and revelation?

One thought on “The value of a comma

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