February 29, 2020
Psalm 23:1-6 (NIV)
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
It’s time to break camp and get back on the road, but what a treat this text has offered us; six days over six verses. We could spend another six weeks and still not exhaust the insights in the twenty-third Psalm.
This is part of the mysterious nature of Scripture. Each text has a fixed meaning and yet it keeps revealing more and more meaning; never new but always fresh. The Word of God constantly speaks on different levels into our hearts and minds concerning the myriad multiple layers and multiple circumstances of our lives. It’s why we are never done with a particular chapter or verse of Scripture. Though the text of Scripture is as fixed as the sun and though it means today the same thing it meant when it was first inspired and written, there is always more of ourselves to give and more of God to receive.
We began with our Good Shepherd in front of us, leading the way. Today we close with this:
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
This is the nature of the glorious greatness of the goodness of God: ever before us, ever behind us, and ever with us. It reminds us of another great Psalm, #139, and these words: You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. (v.5). It reminds us of the great prayer at the heart of St. Patrick’s Breastplate:
Christ, be with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit,
Christ where I arise, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.
And as if all of these blessings for “all the days of my life” were not enough, there’s yet more:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
With my oldest son in college and my two daughters at driving age, I still get to drive my youngest son, Sam, to school every day. I have always tried to lay claim to the time in the car for “versing” the Word of God together. It’s a part of that Deuteronomy 6 effort to “talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” For years now, on most days, we recite the twenty-third Psalm back and forth together. All at once simple and sublime, Psalm 23 is our clarity, our certainty and our comfort. This is the prayer, for which to pray it, is to know it answered.
The version we have rememberized below (Sam’s part is in bold).
The Lord is my shepherd: I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness, for his name’s sake. Yea 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 mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.
People who say such things know there’s no better prayer than the one which carries its own answer.
Father, I want to be a person who says such things. Thank you for Psalm 23. Thank you for a prayer that declares its own answer. Etch these words in the lining of my soul. Let them be for me like a perfectly fitting garment. Give me such confidence I need not even look back, because I know goodness and mercy are following close on my heels. Come Holy Spirit, and train me be such a person of faith. I pray in Jesus name, Amen.
Could God really be this good? Do you ever marvel at the sheer truth of a truth that seems too good to be true? It’s true, you know. It really is.
P.S. I want to publicly thank Timothy Tennent for reflecting on a Psalm every Sunday on the Daily Text. You may not know he and his wife Julie have written an entire singable version of the Psalms. We have it all here complete with the recorded music to help you sing along. Try Psalm 23 out here. And it’s also available in a beautiful volume.
For the Awakening,