“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the 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 thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23 KJV)
You’ve just read the best-known, most-loved passage of scripture in the world. I often read this Psalm with hurting people and it’s the passage I’ve been asked to use for funeral services more than any other … no surprise, as it is filled with hope and comfort.
I call the reading and explanation of the 23rd Psalm, “A walk through the Shepherd’s Psalm.”
Would you join me in an abbreviated stroll through the 23rd Psalm?
The verb “is,” is present tense. He is my Shepherd now; not used to be and not will be, but is currently with me.
The Shepherd leads and feeds, provides and guides in such a way that contentment is experienced and needs are met.
The Good Shepherd accompanies His followers even in death, which is compared to a valley with both an entrance and an exit. Death is transitional, not permanent. It’s not the end of existence, but the beginning of eternity.
There are shadows in the valley and they are ominous, but equally innocuous. I’ve made many hospital visits in my pastoral career and have seen a remarkable array of diseases, disasters and injures … but I’ve never seen anyone hospitalized because they’ve encountered a shadow.
The reason that security is experienced and injury is not incurred in the valley is because the Shepherd is present. His rod guides and His staff is poised to stave off all evil and the enemies of doubt, fear and anxiety.
The question as to whether the proverbial cup is half full or half empty is addressed in the next portion. It is neither! The cup is running over, the table is laden and the blessing of God (anointing) is evident.
Those who follow the Good Shepherd discover that time is looked after. God’s “goodness and mercy” follows them all of their lives. And eternity is spent with the Shepherd, “in the house of the Lord forever.”
Our little walk must end now … The Lord is my shepherd! Is He yours?
Pastor Ross Helgeton is the senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church.