Psalm 23 is probably one of the most well known and quoted chapters of any in the Bible, at least recognized if you began to read it. It was the first Psalm that I memorized. I was in the 5th or 6th grade and was challenged to memorize it overnight to recite the next day at VBS. I remember that evening as I struggled to put the words into my mind. It’s also the most used Psalm at funerals.
One thing that I like about going to church on Sunday is to be challenged by the sermon to look at Bible text in a new way, and that’s just what happened this week. Pastor Jon Porter offered up a new way to look at this text.
The Psalms are mostly written by David and they run the gamut of emotions. Many of the songs we sing come from the Psalms and that’s just what they were written as. We turn to them in some of the hardest times in our lives as a source of comfort. We see David in many of his darkest days, but he always finds hope; and so can we!
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.Psalm 23:1-3
The very first line tells us that the shepherd is God. He is good. He is present. Through him our souls are restored.
We are the sheep. Sheep are not the smartest animals (stupid if we look at they way they wonder off). The sheep trust the shepherd and they follow him.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.Psalm 23:4
Our lives are often lived in the shadow and the staff may give me a gentle nudge when I begin to stray. If I continue off course, I might get a stronger tap, until finally I may get a smack from the rod!
God tries in a gentle way to guide us to the path he has for us, but sometimes we’re so preoccupied with what we want, we don’t take notice. He doesn’t correct me as a punishment. He does it because he loves me and wants to keep me on the right path.
It’s the same for the sheep. The shepherd leads them to where they are safe. There are threats all around them and he takes care of them.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.Psalm 23:5-6
The psalmist is a fugitive – they’ve committed a serious crime and the penalty is a life for a life. It’s interesting to learn the customs of biblical times. Every wanderer in the desert was received as a guest in a shepherd’s tent. They were welcomed, their head anointed with oil and they were fed. A man who was running from his past would be welcome in a shepherd’s tent.
Psalm 23 shows us the truth about God.
We honor God at the beginnings in our lives. There are prayers said at the starts — a birth, weddings, an opening ceremony.
In the endings such as winning events, the athlete may point to heaven acknowledging God. We see him when we have funerals or endings.
So, we don’t have a problem with God in the beginnings and endings in life. But what about in between? Where is he then?
He’s the shepherd at the beginning, but we may forget he’s there with us all the way. We need his guidance and grace to deliver us from the poor choices we make along the way. The shepherd provides life and the means to live it.
We tend to think our life is our own, but it’s really not! Left to our own we wander and we call out to God, ”Why did you let this happen?” It’s not God that made the choices, but his does guide us back to the path and he sustains us.
Jesus is the summation of Psalm 23.
- The Good Shepherd lays down his life for us.
- Jesus goes to look for the one lost sheep. (Wouldn’t most of us stay to watch over the 99 and leave the one?)
- Jesus took our punishment on him.
- Jesus brings life to Psalm 23. It’s about life and how we are to live.
- Our lives are filled with darkness and valleys.
- But the shepherd is always there, never absent.
- There has to be a willingness in us to be led.
Goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
What a refreshing look at this Psalm! I will never look at it the same. Instead of associated it with death, I’ll see the hope and love that it brings to us all.
My intention with these blog posts is to bring the message from our pastor at Milan Christian Church to you whether you’ve missed church because of illness, or other situations keeping you away. Maybe you don’t have a home church. If you’re ever near to Milan, Indiana on a Sunday, come and visit. We are here to serve and connect the people in our community and surrounding area to our risen Savior.