I heard about a famous actor who went back to his small hometown. They had given him a large reception at the local high school where they had asked him to read a few selections. Someone in the audience asked him to read the 23rd Psalm. He said he would if the old, long-term pastor from that town would come forward and read it also. The actor read the words just right. He accented each word just right. His gestures were perfect. When he was finished, the crowd stood and cheered.
The old pastor, whose voice was raspy from preaching all his life, stood to read. There was no eloquence in his speech, nor did he know how or where to accent for the proper effect. But as he finished reading the Psalm, there was not a dry eye in the house; everyone was weeping.
Later that night a local newspaper reporter, interviewing the actor, asked the actor why the response was so different between the two of them. The actor replied, “That is simple. I know the Psalm, but he knows the Shepherd.”
There is a huge difference in knowing the Psalm and knowing the Shepherd. It is not God’s desire for us just to know about Him, but He wants us to know Him. He wants a personal relationship with us. Throughout history, God has not changed (Malachi 3). One of the most fascinating things found in the Bible is in Genesis 3. When people talk about this chapter, they usually talk about the fall of man. But I don’t want you to miss the most important thing found there. It is that God, the creator of the universe, who stepped out on nothing and spoke the world into existence, came down in the cool of the day to walk and talk with man. He desired a relationship with man then, and He still wants that now.
We can call God many things, Creator, Lord, Judge, Redeemer, Savior, but His desire is that we know him as friend. Is He all those other things? Sure, plus many, many others. But He wants to be your friend. He desires to be that friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). He desires to walk with us thoughout all of life’s experiences (Hebrews 13:5). We become God’s friend by knowing Him and loving Him. It is through having a relationship with Him.
One of the greatest stories we read about in scripture is found in Luke 8. It deals with the difference between knowing about Him and knowing Him, between coming in contact with Him and touching Him. It tells about someone whose name we do not know, only her issue. She had an “issue of blood,” which she had for 12 years, and she had spent all her money trying to find a cure, all to no avail.
Sometimes we miss the seemingly insignificant details that are found in scripture. Let’s not miss this one.
Jesus was expected so a crowd had gathered to see him. It was a very large crowd that had gathered, and a synagogue leader, Jairus, had asked Jesus to come and heal his 12-year-old daughter who was dying. Jesus starting pressing through the crowd when the woman with the issue of blood touched the hem of his robe. She believed that something would happen if only she touched Him, just the hem of His garment would be enough. Immediately, Jesus stopped and said someone had touched him. The disciples were confused because people were all around him; they were pressing up against him. Of course, someone touched him; many somebodies had touched him!
But the touch that Jesus was speaking of was different. It was a life-changing touch. Something had happened. He knew it. She knew it. Scripture teaches us that she was immediately made whole. Many had come in contact with the Savior that day, but she was the only one in the crowd who touched him. It was that one touch, different from all the others in the crowd, that made the difference. In turn, her life was forever changed.
It is that way today, many know the Bible stories; they have heard the good news. They know about God, but they do not know Him. Jesus wants us to know more than Bible stories. He wants something for you and me that is far greater than just listening to a speaker on Sunday morning or a song we can sing along with. He desires a relationship with you. He wants you to know Him in a deep, intimate way. His desire is to be that best friend you have longed for (Proverbs 18:24). That way-maker, that peace-giver in the midst of the storms of life. The greatness of the 23rd Psalm is found in verse one. It is only two letters. It’s the word “my” in “The Lord is my Shepherd.” It is what Jesus desires for you today, a personal relationship with Him.