His pen has scarcely touched papyrus, and he’s urging us to avoid gods of our own making. With his very first words in this psalm, David sets out to deliver us from the burden of a lesser deity.

One might argue that he seeks to do nothing else. For though he will speak of green pastures, his thesis is not rest. He will describe death’s somber valley, but this poem is not an ode to dying. He will tell of the Lord’s forever house, but his theme is not heaven. Why did David write the Twenty-third Psalm? To build our trust in God … to remind us of who he is.

In this psalm David devotes one hundred and fifteen words to explaining the first two: “The LORD.” In the arena of unnecessary luggage, the psalmist begins with the weightiest: the refashioned god. One who looks nice but does little. God as …

A genie in a bottle. Convenient. Congenial. Need a parking place, date, field goal made or missed? All you do is rub the bottle and poof—it’s yours. And, what’s even better, this god goes back into the bottle after he’s done.

A sweet grandpa. So soft hearted. So wise. So kind. But very, very, very old. Grandpas are great when they are awake, but they tend to doze off when you need them.

A busy dad. Leaves on Mondays, returns on Saturdays. Lots of road trips and business meetings. He’ll show up on Sunday, however, so clean up and look spiritual. On Monday, be yourself again. He’ll never know.

Ever held these views of God? If so, you know the problems they cause. A busy dad doesn’t have time for your questions. A kind grandpa is too weak to carry your load. And if your god is a genie in a bottle, then you are greater than he is. He comes and goes at your command.

A god who looks nice but does little.

This article excerpted from Traveling Light.

Traveling Light is available on Amazon, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service.

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