One of my favorite hikes is Iceberg Lake Trail in Glacier National Park. I would like to use the pictures from this trail as a metaphor for an even better hike through Psalm 103. Hopefully both hikes will lift your spirit as much as they lift mine.
The trail starts in a beautiful aspen grove with the early morning light just touching the tree tops like a crown.
Aspen along the trail
Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion. Psalm 103:1-4
As I gaze at this grove of aspen the more I remember of the crisp cool morning, the birds singing in the trees, the fragrant scent of the forest. In the same manner, the more I dwell on all God has done for me the greater my praise for Him.
Aspen grove, Grand Canyon North Rim
This psalm is so familiar that reading it my mind often goes on auto-pilot, wandering unthinking through the words. Other times I get sidetracked into some memory from childhood. When this happens I have to remember to ask the Holy Spirit to open my eyes and heart, to make these verses jump off the page. After all Jesus calls the Word of God life giving food (Matthew 4:4). Isaiah compares the Word of God to rain and snow sent to accomplish a mighty task, for God’s power stands behind it (Isaiah 55:10-11). Jeremiah 23:29 declares: “Is not My word like fire, and like a hammer that breaks rock to pieces?” So when the words just sit on the page lifeless, I need to ask God for help.
The following is not the final word on this psalm but what I needed for this day.
The 23rd Psalm is about God’s relationship with me:
It is not a prayer, that I say, asking the Lord to be my shepherd. It is God saying “I am your shepherd, I will watch over you.
It is not about my finding water, or a place of rest — I just follow.
It is not about what I try to achieve. He is the one who directs me in path of righteousness by the power of His name.
He is there in darkness and in light, in the good and the bad, no matter where, always, no time outs.
It is not about what happens when I am good enough, or wise enough, or have faith enough. It is God telling me about His relationship to me because it is by His grace, and love, and forever.
Thus the 23rd Psalm is not my prayer to God, but His prayer to me.