Psalm 23 (part 1)

2 comments Written on April 27th, 2009     
Filed under: Church Year, Formation, Scripture, The Psalms

I notice Psalm 23 is the lectionary text for Sunday, May 3. For whatever reason, I’ve come closer to this Psalm in the past year. I’ve been speaking it and praying it almost daily, and I’ve come to experience the language and movements in surprising ways.

I’ve noticed that the Psalm has three distinct settings, and the first one is particularly appealing to me. The outdoor setting of pastures and streams is what first drew me to this Psalm. When I am in trouble emotionally, intellectually or relationally, I long for the peace and tranquility of a walk with God in a green pasture with close sounds of running water.

I remember, years ago, I was under a great deal of stress at the church where I was on staff. It reached the point where I could scarcely sleep on Saturday nights. Sometimes I wouldn’t sleep all night. During this trial, I would recite Psalm 23 over and over in the night. I would remind God: You cause me to lie down in green pastures. You lead me beside quiet waters. Many times I felt my anxieties melt away as God led me out of  fear and into a peaceful place of trust and rest.

I wonder if our ordinary times with God are supposed to be spent in this setting. In fact, I’m reminded that green is the color for “ordinary time.” The other settings of the psalm aren’t so ordinary, but green grass and fresh water are among life’s most ordinary pleasures, and they represent the way life on earth is supposed to be.

The second setting is the valley of the shadow of death. The Psalmist is a realist and recognizes that people don’t always enjoy the ordinary pleasure of pastures and streams, even when we need them the most. When life takes the worst turn, and we find ourselves deep in a rocky, steep ravine, one thing is certain: God is with us. (I’ll reflect more on this tomorrow. The phrase “You are with me” is at the ultimate center of this psalm.)

The final setting is that of a banquet table– and not just any table. At this table, I am God’s guest, and God shows me hospitality in full view of my critics (enemies). Sometimes my worst enemy and critic are: me, myself, and I. This setting reminds me that we enjoy the full favor of God. Even when fellow humans set themselves against us (and even when we deserve to be at odds with others or ourselves because of our mistakes and failures) God is our public advocate and gracious host. As long as we remain in Christ, we are in God’s good favor—part of God’s household—God’s guest in all seasons of life. God is not ashamed of us, and God publicly demonstrates this favor in front of those who doubt us.

Check back this week, and I’ll keep reflecting. Has this Psalm touched your life and thinking? How?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Report This Post

2 comments “Psalm 23 (part 1)”

This Psalm was made new for me by Jon Foreman. His song “House of God Forever” is beautiful and simple. It is the kind of song you don’t mind having stuck in your head all day.

Report This Comment

someone once told me that they’d traced the narrative of this psalm to a series of incidents in David’s life, while he was ‘on the run’ from Saul. I’ve never found the period of time in question, but it rang true.
It certainly carries some powerful and abiding truths about our relationship with our ‘Shepherd’ – and has become an invaluable part of our worship vocabulary.

Report This Comment

Leave a Reply

Report This Blog