One of the objectives of this blog is to pass on some thoughts and insights which have especially helped me since my injury. There are several passages of Scripture to which I can turn. But first I’d like to reflect on Psalm 23. This well-known Psalm is a favorite to many people but it has been extremely helpful to me as I meditated on it.
Let’s begin with an overview and then consider some specifics as we go on.
“A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 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. 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 mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23, ESV)
David refers to the Lord as his shepherd. When he says Lord he is speaking of the divine name, sometimes translated Yahweh, but more often Lord. This is God’s personal name which was revealed to Moses in the wilderness (see details in Exodus 3 and 6). Among other things, this name reminds us that God is without limits. Not only does he have no beginning and no end, but he is also all-powerful and ever-present. Yahweh is God’s covenant name, which also reminds us that he is a covenant making and covenant keeping God – nothing is beyond his control or ability. He does whatever he pleases and he does all things well. Being ever faithful to his word both glorifies himself and gives him pleasure.
So this One, who (in the words of the apostle Paul) is able to do exceedingly abundant beyond all that we ask or imagine, has bound himself to us in a personal, loving and gracious relationship. No wonder the psalmist wrote: our help us in the name of the Lord, i.e. Yahweh.
The Lord is our Shepherd. Again David introduces a loaded word: it has more than one nuance. Shepherd – the lowliest occupation in the ancient world – describes Yahweh’s relationship with us. On one level, he protects, provides for, nourishes, leads and guides us. David is using his life experience as a shepherd to describe the way that Yahweh has watched out for him. This is David’s original intent in writing this song. God has watched over him all his life and has promised even greater blessings in the future!
The Lord Jesus used the same imagery to describe himself in John’s Gospel (chapter 10) when he said, “I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” Again, powerful words are packed full of significant content. For now, please notice the intended connection with Jesus. He is our Shepherd and we are his sheep. Jesus says assume the responsibility of completely caring for us as meeting all of our needs. Our greatest need regards our relationship to God. This is why Jesus laid down his life for his sheep: he sacrificed his own life so that we could live in peace and harmony with God.
For me, this truth has been transforming. I realize that I am not my own. I am bought with a price – the life of my shepherd. This reminds me of how much I am cherished by God, who gave his one and only Son for me. More than that, he tells me that the Lord Jesus himself is committed to meeting by every need. This means that I must learn to relax in his care and trust in his providence. Easier said than done…
This leads me to a lifetime of learning how to be God’s quad. For instance, not long after my injury I was haunted with thoughts of how we could survive financially. I knew that I was not prepared for retirement and that my medical costs were escalating. What were we to do? This very brief restatement of my situation is not really seem to do justice to the recurring pressure and anxiety we feel times like this. Have you been in situations where you feel overwhelmed and the circumstances seem hopeless?
This is just were the opening words of Psalm 23 are a great encouragement. The Lord God Almighty is my shepherd. He has gone on record committing himself to care for and provide for the needs of his sheep. As a follower of Jesus, I am assured of his continuing love for me. I often ask him to help me rest in his commitment and relax from my concerns. This of course doesn’t mean that I can act irresponsibly. But it does mean that I can learn to rest his promises and expect his provision.