It seems like everyone knows the 23rd Psalm. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…” There’s nothing more to learn about it, right?
On a different-but-eventually-related note, for my language requirement in high school, I took Italian. To be honest, I don’t remember a whole lot aside from the basics: “Hello.” “Goodbye.” “Where is the bathroom?” “Where is my book?” “He must die!” You know, vital things like that.
Anyway, one year for Christmas I got an Italian Bible. I did what I assume everyone does when they come across a new version: I looked up passages I know. I could sort of read parts of it; enough at least to recognize what it was saying. One of the passages I looked at was Psalm 23, and I discovered something that I thought was really neat.
The end of verse 3 says, “He leadeth me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (I always recite it in the King James Version.) The Italian rendered the end of that sentence, “For the love of his name.” I was like, “Ooh! I like that!” But I did not think about it much at the time.
Lately, though, I was thinking about it again. It stirred vague memories of other Old Testament passages. Here is the one I was able to find, though there are others:
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you…. Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord God; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel.” – Ezekiel 36:22-25, 31-32
At this point, the Israelites were in exile; they had spent so long dabbling with idols that God’s great patience had finally been exhausted. They could not be called a righteous nation by any stretch of the imagination. They probably felt completely abandoned.
But God had made promises. He intended to restore Israel and keep those promises. Not because they deserved it – they didn’t – but because if he did not do so, it would dishonor his righteous name and that would discredit him among the other nations.
God has made us promises. He has promised salvation to those who will obey him. He has promised to send his Son again. He will keep those promises. Not because we deserve it – we don’t – but because if he does not do so, it would be a dishonor to his name. He will lead us down paths of righteousness for the love of his name.