A Meditation on Psalm 23, Part II

I have been meaning to write a meditation on the 23rd psalm for a while now.  I am continuing to study the bible with Dr. Bill Creasy (see http://www.logosbiblestudy.org/), and right now I am studying the psalms.  This is the second part in a two part posting

Dr. Creasy examines the psalms, as he does the rest of the bible, from a literary perspective.  As discussed before, in Psalm 23, as in many of the other psalms, Dr. Creasy focuses on what it tells us about David.  It is my intent to focus on what the psalm means to the reader, to me.  Like Dr. Creasy, I take the psalm apart and proceed verse by verse. The 23rd psalm, as I like to remember it:

1. The LORD is my shepherd:
        I shall not be in want.
2. He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
        he leads me beside still waters.
3. He restores my soul.
        He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4. Yay though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil;
        your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5. You set a table before me in the midst of mine enemies; you anoint my head with oil;
        my cup overflows.
6. Surely goodness and love (or mercy) with follow me all the days of my life,
        and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Continuing with verse 4, “… though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”, walking into darkness and places where death lurks, is an inevitable consequence of following God as our Lord, Shepherd, and Savior.  If we follow him on the “paths of righteousness”, we will be led into the midst of enemies.  We will have to stand in places we do not want to stand, do things we do not want to do, and face what terrifies us.

God will be there.  “His rod and his staff, they comfort me.”  “I will fear no evil.”  When I pray the psalm, I pray that I will fear no evil.  That I will follow the LORD with courage.  That God will grant me the courage to do his will.  I also remember that he has a rod and a staff.  He will use these to smite my enemies and protect me.  He will also use these to keep me on the path.

My wife herds sheep with her dog.  She has a rod or a staff.  When the sheep is straying in the wrong direction, she will use herd staff to whack the sheep and encourage it to move in the right direction.  She sometimes has to use the staff or a rod on the dog, to encourage it to follow her will.

Like the sheep and dogs, we will get whacked.  But we may take comfort in this, because this keeps us on the right path.  If we do not follow God, we will follow sin to our death.  But when we are in relationship with God, he keeps us on the path for his name’s sake, and he uses his rod and his staff to make sure we do not stray.  And I take comfort in this.

“He sets a table before me in the midst of mine enemies.”  Again, an amplification.  Not only will God protect us from evil, from our enemies, he will exalt us in front of them.  He rubs their noses in it.  We are honored and fed in the midst of darkness, and there is nothing the foes of God can do about it.

“He anoints my head with oil.”  We are given even greater honors, authority, and power.  Still in the midst of our enemies, God makes us Children of God and Kings.

“My cup overflows”.  He gives more than we could want or need.  He is generous beyond measure.  When Jesus turned water into wine in Cana, he turned more water into wine than could possibly be needed or drunk.  And not just any wine, but the very best wine.  God gives us more than we can ever need.

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life”.  Another amplification.  A prayer.  But more than a prayer. “Surely”: we can be sure.  We are not just asking.  We know.  This is hope.  This is faith.  Goodness and love will follow us all the days of our lives.  We trust in the LORD, and goodness will follow.

“And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”  This is the THE blessed hope that Paul discusses in Romans.  We know goodness and love will follow us as long as we live, but we will be with God forever.  “Dwell” is more than lie down.  And to be with God, to live with God, is the antithesis of sin.  If sin is alienation from God, to live with God is to be without sin.  “Forever” not all the days of my life.  We will be with God, without sin, without death, forever.  For a servant and follower of God, there is no greater hope.

Amen.