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. (Psalm 23:1-6 NIV)
I awoke this morning at about 3:00 AM with Psalm 23 running through my mind. I am in a difficult and somewhat dark time. Feeling weighed down by a series of challenging life issues. This is a section of scripture that is often used at funerals or memorial services. I know because we have been to two just this year. First my brother-in-law, who died suddenly at the age of 55. Leaving behind my niece and nephew. Then a couple weeks later my husbands Aunt Jo, who was so precious to all of us.
However this morning it reminded me of our journey through life. Our lives can be much like these verses, if we allow the Lord to be our Shepherd and our personal guide. How many times through my own life I have done things my way, only to fall harder than before? More than I care to count. My mind is racing with this scripture and I am going to, for my own purpose, break it down. I am not a theologian, but I am a follower of Jesus and therefore in His ministry. Here goes….
1. The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
This verse can stand all by itself. If I allow the Lord to be my leader and my guide through life, if I trust in Him with everything, if I give Him everything I have, He will give me all I will ever need.
Today, that means that my worldly possessions are His; my husband is His, my children are His. Nothing ever really belonged to me anyway. So my heart attitute and my prayer is that every single day of my simple life I fully commit to Him. No matter what is going on around me, He is my shepherd and therefore I lack absolutely nothing.
2. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.
What I love about this verse is the word picture it paints. The Lord, my Lord says, lie down on a bed of lush, green grass and rest. But He doesn’t stop there. This resting place is right next to quiet waters. He is telling me to rest and be refreshed and filled. This is the life He wants for me. One where He has provided much needed rest from the hustle and bustle of daily life, and a calm gently flowing stream filled with His Words that refresh my dry parched soul, filling me hope. I really need this refreshing and filling up today. And I know exactly where to go.
3. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
This verse is a reminder of who He is, of His vision for my life. The Lord knows everything about me. Where I have come from, what I am doing today, and all of my tomorrows. So often I resist His guidance. I decide that I know what is best for me. Therein lies my biggest problem. My life as a follower of Jesus Christ is no longer what is best for me. But is, however, all about Him. When I jump in and take control, it is no longer Jesus the world sees in me, but selfish, sinful me. I pray that each day I am alive I allow Him to guide me along the right path…for His name’s sake. That my family would not longer see me, but see Jesus shining through. That my attitude is one of a faithful, obedient servant, no matter what I may be feeling.
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.
We live in very dark times. So much pain and suffering. Persecution of the church by some extremist organizations, people taking advantage of other people, killing, drugs, the list goes on and on. I do not want to ignore, nor be numb to the dark forces that surround us. Scripture tells us in First Peter 5:8, Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” I do not believe the Lord used this word picture carelessly. The enemy is very much alive and sadly thriving in our world today. Just watch the news and you will see.
So you see, we are all walking through the dark valley every day. Yet, this verse reminds me, that the Maker and Perfecter of everything is with you and me, so we need not be afraid. His rod and His staff, a picture of His authority and strength, is with me and you. In Mark 6:8 Jesus is telling the disciples, “…to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts—” Through our lives Jesus wants us to rely only on Him. My life as a Christian is rugged, and the path narrow, but the only thing I will ever really need is Jesus Christ. He will carry me when I cannot walk, He will protect me from danger, He will comfort me at all times.
My valley is dark today, and it will end. No doubt to be followed by another. But through it all I know that Jesus is with me. I cannot see and end to my trial of today, but I am comforted in His strength and presence in my life. I pray you are as well.
5. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
I have had to do a bit more reading in some commentaries to receive some clarity on this verse.
What I have found is that David has not forgotten the danger that lurked around him, yet he kept his eyes on the Lord, Jehovah. In the midst of pain, suffering and trials, we too can keep our eyes on Jesus. There we see He has set a bounty before us. If we keep our eyes on Him, we can see this bounty. So often, I do not look to Him, but to whatever situation or trial I am facing. The Lord’s preparation of this bounty reminds me that He knows, sees and cares for me in every season of my life. The fact that He has set it before me shows how important a personal, face to face connection is to Him.
When the Bible talks of anointing, it is saying that we have been dediated to the service of God. This particular oil, the anointing oil, was a special formula, not to be copied. Used exclusivley for the purpose of anointing God’s chosen. It was a sweet smelling oil. A picture of the Holy Spirit and how it never stinks.
I have a choice to view my trial as a dark abyss, or to see instead the special and bountiful provisions He has set before me. He desires an intimate relationship with me and you. He fills our cup to overflowing. Oh what a glorious and generous gift from our Savior. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!
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 forever.
Surely, as sure as there is today, He tells us, goodness and love will be with all of us, all the days of our life. We only need to dwell, abide in, Christs love for us today, tomorrow and always.
In a season such as the one I am curently in, I am clinging to this verse. To have the Lords goodness and love follow me, knowing that when I turn around He will be there is a tremendous comfort to me. Just like the bounty He has set before me. He is also in front of me. Guiding my every move. His love and faithfulness have put a beautiful hedge of protection, provision, purpose and a plan around my life. My part is simple…to believe in Him and follow Him all the days of my life.
Friends, I don’t know what you may be going through. Perhaps your life is going well. If, however, you are in a dark valley, like myself, I pray you can find comfort in these words. The Lord knows what you and I need even if we do not speak our needs to Him. He is pretty amazing that way. But remember our prayers to Him are a sweet fragrance, a sweet, sweet sound in His ear. Jesus wants us to cry out to Him, to ask Him for help and direction. He wants us to lay all of our burdens and blessings at His feet. To give Him everything we have. I pray we can, daily, give it ALL to Jesus. In His precious name, Amen.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. Selah” (stop and think about it.)
(Psalm 46:1-3 NIV)
“Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” (Psalm 139:12 NIV)