Psalm 23

I’ve been pouring the words of the Psalms into my soul these days. I think God gave us the Psalms for the hard days, the suffering and to draw us back to him through it all. They remind us to trust and praise him through the storms of this life.
This pandemic and the state of our country feels at times like the valley of death and while Psalm 23 is often read at the funerals of our loved ones, and I’ve always related it to a dying person, this morning I read it with fresh eyes, weary from the broken world I live in.
In these times, more than ever before, I find myself connecting to His word in new ways.  I’ve certainly suffered before, on different levels and through many trials but I guess I haven’t ever before been in a fight for peace, the way I’ve found myself these past couple of months.  None of us have ever faced a world-wide pandemic and many of us have never experienced such constant unrest, so I’d imagine we’re all wandering through new territory together in this fight for peace. We know that God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow but there’s also a comfort given to us through the Psalms when we see the affliction that was felt thousands of years ago.  We’re able to relate not only to the disparity that brokenness brings but also the joy we find in God that draws us out of the dark places and raises us to our feet in praise of his faithfulness, mercy and love.

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

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.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

grayscale photo of hand reaching out against black background
Photo by Raphael Brasileiro on Pexels.com

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

Jesus, The Good Shepherd, our shepherd, gives us what we need-what we need right now- and what we will need through the next hard thing.  He gives us a peace that transcends all understanding -a peace that comes only from him.  We shall not want or need anything more. He sustains us.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.

He gives us rest. He knows we need it before we know it ourselves.  The way a mother senses her baby’s needs, staying a step ahead of her little one before he cries out in complete distress, so does Jesus stay a step ahead of us. In him we find rest that renews, revives and restores us. Have you ever looked out across a body of still water and felt immediate peace and a calmness that overtakes your whole self? It settled your mind in a way that you forgot all of your worries.  This is what resting in him feels likes.

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

As a shepherd guides his sheep, the Lord guides our paths.  He brings us through the valleys to the tops of the mountains-for his glory and the glory of Heaven.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.

No matter the dark places of despair we find ourselves in, whether near death or in danger of it-our God is always with us. Not even evil shall we fear, because the Lord of Heaven’s armies walks beside us.

Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

The shepherd who walks alongside his sheep, fights off the wolves with his rod-protecting each one in his flock. Just as he protects them, he also will use his hook to draw the sheep that begin to drift, back in to safety.  Jesus is constantly looking after us and protecting us from evil.
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me-just as the Father knows me and I know the Father-and I lay down my life for the sheep.” John 10:14

And when we think we can face no more, he gently taps us on the side with his rod and says, “Come back to me.” 

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  John 10:10-11
Jesus is the host of all good things. In the Holy Spirit, he has given us the fruit-love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. While the enemy is out to steal these things from us, Jesus gives us all we need and all he provides sustains us.
At the last supper, Jesus said to his disciples;
“For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. ”  Luke 22:27
We are his, and he is ours.  He is the vine and we are the branches.  He abides in us when we abide in him.  In the time when all of his promises are fulfilled, we will feast at his table with him.

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

He spared us on the cross.  His blood poured out so that through him, we are forgiven.  Through him, unworthy as we are, we are given the gift of eternal life.  His sacrifice covers us and by the Holy Spirit, breathed into us, and through his fruit, we are given all we need and so much more than we could possibly desire.

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

With him, in us, he goes wherever we go. He walks beside us all of our days and blesses the path before us.  When our last breath on earth is exhaled, our next breath will be inhaled in Heaven and there we shall dwell, in the house of the Lord forever.
Jesus is with us through all of our struggles.  No matter the trials we face, he walks infront of us, beside us and behind us.  We are never alone.  He works all things together for good.
In John 16:33, Jesus says,

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

This prophecy goes beyond the crucifixion.  It was a promise for all generations, not just his disciples.  This Holy Week, as I reflect on his sacrifice and promise to me and as I write his words upon my heart, I’m reminded through Psalm 23 that I don’t walk through this dark time in history alone, just as all who have walked the dark periods in history, have not been alone either.  Whether through this valley or the next,  he is with me, just as he has always been. I hope you too know that he is with you in the darkest valley.
When life feels lonely, remember that you are not alone.  When you’re lost, remember that Jesus is The Way.  When you’re afraid, lean in to the one who has conquered the world.  When the valley feels like the pitch black, cold wilderness in the middle of the night, remember that Jesus meets you wherever you are and his love will light your path.
 I like to imagine it like this; we’re broken and afraid, weeping on the floor but he bends down beside us and puts his gentle hand on our back.  He says, “Come near to me, my child.  Lay your head on me and rest.  Feel my peace upon your weary body.  Are you thirsty? Drink from my cup and be filled with my strength.  I will give you all you need and more.”
So, you can do this, friend.  I know the valley is dark .  I know it’s scary.  I know this isn’t what you’d choose, but it’s a valley that must be crossed.  And there, in the dark, right in the middle of the fear, that’s exactly where you’ll find Jesus with his hand extended to you, saying, “Come, walk next to me.  Put your hand in mine and we will get through this together.”
And He is faithful.  He is merciful.  His love endures forever.  That is the JOY found in the darkest valley.  If we never journeyed through it, how would we really know?

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