The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Psalm 23 is one of the most quoted psalms, and for many very good reasons. The familiar words remind us of God’s love for us, love which never wavers or falters. Even when we are surrounded by everyday doubts and fears, we know that the Lord is near, guarding us from harm.
But what if our fear is bigger than that? In my line of work I meet many people every day. Some have so much they do not know what to do with it all. Some have nothing left but their dignity after a life of careful hard work. All are faced with fears and trials that have nothing to do with financial status. All are looking for peace and rest, and Psalm 23 gives voice to that search in a way that speaks to the core of what it means to be small, and human, and weak.
For as much as we clothe ourselves with money, dignity, cheerfulness, love, and good works, there is still a part of us that feels small and helpless. This is the part of our heart that is closest to God.
David’s love of God is also evident in every line as he recounts how God loved and guided him throughout the trials of his life. David himself was a shepherd and knew how difficult it was to properly look after sheep, leading them to food and water, protecting them from wild beasts that could potentially kill the shepherd as well as the sheep.
Being a shepherd is dangerous work. Did the seed of this song grow in the mountains and caves as he hid from King Saul? Did he feel like a shepherd again as he protected his new flock, Israel, from the surrounding nations that would have eaten her up if they could? No one undergoes such trials and dangers unless they have great love for the people they are trying to protect.
Jesus too is a shepherd, our shepherd. He willingly faced the wild beasts of sin and evil to protect his flock. He even let himself be put to death by them, in order to rise again and destroy the power of death forever. We are all sheep of his flock, whether we are the lamb safe in his arms, or the stray in need of rescue. He willingly faces danger for each one of us every day, helping us to battle the darkness and sin in our own lives. We, the sheep, cannot defeat this darkness on our own any more than an actual sheep can fight a pack of wolves alone and win.
We must allow the Divine Shepherd fight those battles in us and for us, as we surrender all to Him, even those things which we prefer to hide. He is shepherd, warrior, defender. He is also the restful waters beside which He leads us. Come aside and rest in Him.
Copyright 2015, Carol Ann Chybowski