Today’s post is part of our Psalm Saturdays series from guest blogger Robert Chamberlain. You can contact him by sending a message to bobjc88 @ gmail.com. You can also find him at his new blog at www.roberlain.blogspot.com .
Psalm 23:1–6 (ESV)
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
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.
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 mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
They say familiarity breeds contempt. Well I hope that isn’t true of this, one of the most familiar Psalms to many people. Interestingly, shepherding was a more familiar occupation in Bible times, and was looked down on rather contemptuously as a menial and smelly job.
So our familiarity with the Psalm and unfamiliarity with its context lessens its meaning to us. It becomes a meaningless mantra to be recited at funerals. But what if David had written, “the Lord is my binman, He takes away my rubbish”! We’d be shocked and scandalised, and accuse him of blasphemy!
But are shepherds all that bad? After all, they look after sheep that provide wool for our clothing and meat for our food! Shepherding is good, honest work, even if sheep are stupid animals.
There’s another controversy about this Psalm- if the Lord’s my Shepherd, that makes me a sheep. If I asked you what animal you identified with you might say a faithful dog or a brave lion, not a silly sheep! But we all like sheep have gone astray, and the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.
The Psalm goes on rather promisingly with images of green pastures and gentle streams. “Let’s get the picnic out and dwell here a while” we might enthusiastically say. But then we end up in the valley of the shadow of death.
Death casts its long shadow over all of us, and will overtake us all, unless Christ returns first. And yet even in the midst of that sobering truth, Jesus is right there with us, keeping us on the straight and narrow that leads to glory. We need fear no evil. He is with us to the very end of the age, and beyond!
Even in the midst of opposition we can rejoice in the God of our salvation, and look forward to dwelling in His house for eternity. As God’s sheep, our destiny isn’t the abattoir of hell, but His own house! We look forward to the marriage supper of the Lamb slain for us.
“Good Shepherd of our souls, we rejoice in Your loving care of us and ask that You would take us through death’s dark valley into the light of Your holy presence forevermore. For Your eternal honour and praise, amen.”
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