Talk to Me
Some years ago at a social function in England, a renowned actor was asked to recite something for the pleasure of the assembled guests. He agreed and asked if there was anything special which his audience would like to hear. An old minister who was there raised his hand and said, "Could you, sir, recite the 23rd Psalm?" The great actor agreed but added, “I will, if you my friend, after I have finished, do the same." The minister hesitated, but consented. The actor proceeded to recite the Psalm. His voice was pitch perfect, and his intonation flawless. The audience was spellbound! As he concluded, the guests applauded. Then the aged pastor arose and began to recite the Psalm. His voice was not remarkable. His intonation was not faultless. When he finished, there was no rapturous applause. Instead there was silence. There was not a dry eye in the room. Many heads were bowed in reverence. In response, the famed thespian arose to his feet and with great emotion said, "My friends, I have reached your eyes and ears, but the minister has reached your hearts. The difference is this: I know the 23rd Psalm, but he knows the Shepherd!"
As this story points out, it is possible to traffic in unfelt truth: to talk of God as an abstraction. The actor in our story knew the psalm, but did not know the Shepherd. He knew the text of Scripture without knowing or loving its author. Tragically, our heads can be full of knowledge of God and yet our hearts empty of an experience of Him! While we cannot know God apart from the text of Scripture, we can know the text of Scripture without enjoying an intimacy with God.
Given that danger I think there is a principle that comes out of Psalm 23 that will help us keep it real with God. This is a psalm marked by intimacy with God. God was not a theological abstraction to David. There is nothing cold or distant about the language of this psalm. True religion is a matter of personal pronouns and we see it most clearly in Psalm 23. Amazingly, there are twenty-eight personal pronouns used in this psalm consisting of one hundred and eighteen words in our English Bibles. Almost a quarter of this psalm is either written in the third person or the first person. In verses one to three David speaks of God in the third person “He.” In verses four to five David speaks to God in the first person “You.” Please note, King David is either talking about God or talking to God. His communication about God soon morphs into communion with God. David is evidently a worshipful and prayerful theologian. His is an experiential theology. There is no trafficking in unfelt truth for him.
David would remind us that it is not a good idea to talk long about God without quickly turning in prayer to talk to God. Our theology must ever be an invitation to worship God! To read the Scriptures without praying or to study them without worshipping turns the pursuit of God into a cold exercise rather than a warm experience. If truth is to matter in our lives and make a difference in others, then worshipful prayer needs to matter greatly to us. True religion is a mingling of theology and prayer (Acts 6:4). Theology in a vacuum minus worshipful prayer is deadening, if not deadly (Psa. 18:1-3)!