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Distorted Shepherds

This blog is a bit different than my usual writings. It's a bit more interactive. Today, I did a little exercise with Psalm 23 I am excited to share with you! I hope you enjoy it and really take time to think about it. You may want to print it, highlight what stands out to you and take time to process any distorted views of God that come to light. I know I found some of my own today while writing. 

The past few months at the Renovare Institute, we have been working deeply through our views of God and meditating on Psalm 23. It has been so life-changing for me.

Sometimes I have found certain Bible passages have become so familiar to me, I can no longer hear what is actually being said. Something I have found to be very helpful is to write the passage out in a way that is opposite of what it is saying and suddenly I can see some of my wrong beliefs more clearly. 

This morning, I wrote out Psalm 23 several times with differing views of God. As you read the different renditions of Psalm 23, notice what stands out to you and how your heart is responding. Are there phrases in the 'wrong' versions you have been believing or living from? 

The first reading will be the original passage in NIV. The next renditions are the Harsh Shepherd, the Indulgent Shepherd, the Distant Shepherd and the Taskmaster Shepherd. I clearly mark these as my own writings.  I end with one of my favorite translations of Psalm 23.

Perhaps, you will see some of your own distorted views as you read. I know I found some of mine as I wrote. Thankfully, the first and last versions are the true versions because they are the Word of God. I am so glad they are the ones that reveal how God actually interacts with us! As you read, match up your own picture of God to the true picture of God we see in Psalm 23. 

Original Psalm 23 (NIV)

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right paths for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, 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 your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.



The Harsh Shepherd (my own writing)

The harsh God is my shepherd, I have to beg for everything. He makes me lie down in barren land to teach me a lesson; he leads me to raging waters to see if I am strong enough to stand. He makes me feel unsure.

He leaves me to figure out my own way to see if I will honor His Name. When I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I hope you are with me. I wonder if I have been good enough.

Your rod and your staff keep me in line. You prepare a feast before me if I am in the right and you don’t notice my enemies. You don’t notice my shame, fear and anguish. You anoint my head with oil if I deserve it. I’m not sure if I do. My cup overflows with blessing if I keep your laws and do the right thing.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life if I am good. It seems I am never quite good enough to find it. I may live in the house of the Lord forever if I make it. 

The Indulgent Shepherd (my own writing)

The Indulgent God is my shepherd. He will give me whatever I want. He makes me lie down in green pastures of my choosing, He leads me beside the waters I think are good. 

He overlooks my sin and lets me do what I want so that I always feel good about myself. If I go through valleys, I question if You are with me. You aren't a God of the valleys; only the mountaintops. I struggle with fear because I don’t know if you will be with me. 

I am caught in my sin because you do not discipline me, but approve of all I do or just turn a blind eye. You overlook my sin which leaves me stuck.

You prepare a table in the presence of my enemies. You dislike who I dislike and see others as I do. You anoint my head with oil, my cup runs over with all that I think I want.

I measure your goodness,  mercy and unfailing love by my circumstances and this is how I know I am loved or not by you. When circumstances fail, I get angry because you have failed. No matter how I live my life and who I put my trust in, I live with you forever but somehow I can't really find you.

The Distant Shepherd (my own writing)

The distant Lord is my shepherd. He doesn’t notice what I need. He doesn’t care if I am in green pastures or dead spaces. He doesn’t notice if waters rage around me. He doesn’t notice my thirsty soul.

I have to find the path of righteousness on my own for his name’s sake. When I walk though the valley of the shadow of death, I fear evil for I am not sure if you are with me.

You have a rod and a staff but you may not use them with me because you do not care much what I do. You prepare a table before me but I am just one of many. You do not notice my enemies. You anoint my head with oil from far off; my overflowing cup may or may not be from you. 

Your indifference and distance will haunt me all the days of my life. I will dwell in the house of the Lord, but He may not know my name. If He does, I will only be an acquaintance to Him. 

The Taskmaster Shepherd (my own writing)

The Taskmaster Lord is my shepherd. He knows it’s only discipline I need. He rewards me with green pasture and quiet waters. He analyzes my soul. 

He demands I walk on paths of righteousness. I hope I know what those are. When I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I know it must be to teach me a lesson. I fear you have left me on my own and I must pay penance.

Your rod and your staff  beat me if I fall out of line. You prepare a table before me if I serve you hard enough. You look at my enemies with disdain if I am perfect, but you agree with them if I am not. You anoint my head with oil if I have worked hard enough. All blessing I receive I have worked for.

Your nitpicking and harsh judgment will follow me all the days of my life. I will dwell in the house of the Lord finally loved and accepted by you if I am perfect.


Now for my favorite version of Psalm 23 at the moment! 

Original Psalm 23 (the Moffatt version)

The Eternal shepherds me, I lack for nothing; he makes me lie in meadows green, he leads me to refreshing streams, and revives life in me. He guides me by true paths, as he himself is true.

My road may run through a glen of gloom, but I fear no harm, for thou art beside me; thy club, thy staff - they give me courage. 

Thou art my host, spreading a feast for me, while my foes have to look on! Thou hast poured oil upon my head, my cup is brimming over;

yes, and all through my life Goodness and Kindness wait on me the Eternal's guest, within his household forevermore.

*I do not know very much about the Moffatt version. It was just one of 14 translations I studied Psalm 23 in so I am not necessarily recommending the version of the Bible for study. I just really enjoyed how this Psalm in particular was written.

Who our shepherd is matters greatly and who we believe our shepherd to be matters greatly. If we have a distant, uncaring, aloof, unwise, weak or mean shepherd, there can be no Psalm 23. Psalm 23 is only possible because of WHO our Shepherd is .

If any wrong views came to the surface for you, we have a Good Shepherd who knows exactly how to take all of our distorted views and lead us to more accurate views of Himself. Father, open our eyes that we may see You more clearly.

Did you find any wrong views you have that God may want to change? Was there one that you most strongly identified with? Was there any shift for you in your view of God? Perhaps, you want to do what I have done with Psalm 23 highlighting a wrong view so you can more clearly see the right view. If so, I'd love to hear about it!

*If you enjoyed this, another passage I have found very helpful to do this with is I Corinthians 13:4-8. I often put the word 'God' in where 'love' is. We can do this because God IS love. I then write the passage out. God is patient, God is kind.... etc. After that, I write the passage using opposites. 'God is impatient, God is unkind etc.' My wrong views of God often come to the surface when I do this. Doing this exercise was highly transformative for me and when I begin to think of Him with a wrong view, my mind wanders back to I Corinthians 13 and I can more easily detect when my view of Him is becoming distorted. Life has a way of distorting our view!

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