Psalm 23

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Helen Coffey

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
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.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

If ever there was a danger of a Bible passage being too familiar, I suppose Psalm 23 would be in that category, along with The Parable of the Good Samaritan and the Christmas Story.

What I’d like to do is to use the Psalm as a short meditation rather than a sermon. So as they used to say on Listen with Mother … ‘If you’re sitting comfortably, then I’ll begin’.

Try and sit in a relaxed way, you might want to close your eyes … some find it helpful others don’t. The important thing is that you’re comfortable and ready to allow God, through the Holy Spirit, to speak to you. What he speaks to you may not be the same as what he says to someone else. We’re going to allow the words of this familiar Psalm to speak and soak into our very being.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

The God who made the universe and every living creature is our shepherd, the one who takes care of us, the one who gives us everything we need. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd, I know my sheep and my sheep know me”. Jesus knows you, he knows everything about you and he loves you. Do you love him?

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

 

Do you feel after everything that’s gone in this year with the pandemic that you just need a rest from it all? Are you fed up of listening to the conflicting and confusing messages being told to us about Covid? Psalm 23 reminds us that God makes us lie down; he leads us by quiet waters … he enables us to rest. Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest”. What a lovely invitation to each one of us. Come to Jesus now and rest in Him and with Him.
He guides me along right paths for his name’s sake.

 

Which path are you going along right now? In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us that “ … wide is the gate and broad is the path that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life …” (Mw. 7:13-14). Which of these roads are you on? Psalm 23 reminds us that if we choose the right path, the narrow one then God will be there to guide us along the way because He knows how difficult life on the right path is, the Holy Spirit is sent as our guide.

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.

This narrow path of life can be very treacherous and dark at times … no more so than currently. With living through a pandemic we begin to think about our own mortality. God, through Jesus and by the Holy Spirit, is there not only to save us but to comfort us. The staff mentioned in this verse is there to give us rest, it’s a crutch to lean on. Are you leaning on Jesus? The rod is there to protect and guide us. A shepherd in Israel would us his rod to keep predators away whilst also using it to gently prod his sheep if they go off the right path. Let’s allow God to protect us from harm whilst at the same time we need to listen to him and read his word so that we can be corrected from error.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You
anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

This verse tells us that God is gracious host by providing refreshment through food. There are times when we need spiritual refreshment too and God is still the one to satisfy our spiritual needs. God is a gracious host, we are the honoured guest. It would be customary for a host in the middle east to anoint the guest with a soothing oil. A shepherd would use the same oil to treat the wounds of his sheep. The cup overflowing is a demonstration that the Lord provides for us more generously than we either deserve of desire.

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

As soon as we accept Jesus into our life, then this Psalm reassures us that God’s goodness will be with us throughout our lives. Whether green pastures, still waters or the darkest valley … wherever we find ourselves God and his goodness is there with us. Paul encourages us in Romans 8:38-39 to count on God’s love in all circumstances. ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers (including Covid-19), neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ As soon as we give our life to Jesus then eternal life begins, it’s not something to look forward to its here and now.

Let’s draw this reflection to a close by quietly reflecting, allowing God to speak one part of this Psalm to us as an encouragement or a reminder of His promise that He will never leave or forsake us.

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