What is really so special about Psalms 23? There are several popular hymns based on its words. Are these just words? God’s words need to ‘live’ in our heart – not just go in one ear and out the other, as the saying is. In today’s non-stop world, that happens all too easily.
Its’ words should, indeed must encourage a peace of mind that is a rare blessing today! “The LORD is my shepherd!” Have you ever thought that Jesus would have seen his Father as his shepherd and what these words would have meant to him? The LORD shepherded David throughout his life, he “put away” his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah even before he asked, because he knew the overall condition of David’s heart.
A good sheep is ever listening for his shepherd’s call. If the sheep are genuinely listening for the shepherd’s voice they will never be in dire need, there will be still waters – and when life gets difficult the shepherd will be there to see to their restoration.
Of course the need for restoration indicates some difficult or even desperate situation when the sheep might, for a moment; cry out, “My God why have you forsaken me?” We read this at the start of yesterday’s Psalm 22. This surely indicates David had some moment of desperation – before his greater son used those words and then gave the climaxing cry, “It is finished” [John 19 v.30]
“He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his names sake” [v.3] Notice it is “for his name’s sake”- it is because we bear his name, we belong to him, if we have taken on his name in baptism we already “dwell” within the embrace of his loving care.
Do we sometimes become blind to this?. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for you are with me” [v.4]
There are few if any who have not experienced “valleys” – but it is the valleys that help us to appreciate the high hills and the vision they give to us. Life that is lived on a flat plain provides no vision.
What are the “rod and staff” that comfort us? They are symbols, we suggest, of strength and support; and the control (when needed) possessed and given by the shepherd. How marvellous is the vision of the last verse, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow meall the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever”