“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 sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fill 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 shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23
This Psalm is probably one of the first scripture I learned as a kid. Back then it was more of a learning task than anything else. It really didn’t have the depth of meaning back then that it has come to mean over the last fifty years.
I love this Psalm because it reminds me of how God interacts with his children – how he looks upon us – and how he cares for us. As the years went by and I experienced more of life, became a little wiser, more realistic about how fragile we really are, I began to make my nest in this Psalm… I came to rely on it more.
I remember in Vietnam this Psalm was my morning and evening prayer. I needed to know that God was with me. I needed to know, as people were dropping all around me, that God was there…I needed to know that when atop hill 881 when the mortars came falling from the sky and my team and I started digging fox holes as fast as we could…we needed to know that God was there and that no matter what happened to our physical bodies, God would take care of our soul. Even though I was still very scared, I knew that God would not leave me.
When, at 48, I had a severe heart attack… and almost didn’t live… again through that whole life changing ordeal of heart attack, heart failure, congestive heart failure I have lived with for 18 years, and the fear… my prayer was the 23rd Psalm. Yes, I was afraid… yes, I was reminded everyday this could happen again. But the Psalm was there to bring me comfort that God was there.
Many times when dealing with members who were going through very difficult days – those facing life changing and life ending events… I used the Psalm as a prayer for them. I remember in my second appointment, Mrs. Bessie, a ninety year old feisty lady whom I had visited with in the hospital for months. About two o’clock one morning I received a call: “Come quick, Mrs. Bessie is dying.” All the way to the hospital I repeated the 23rd Psalm to give me strength in order that I may give them strength. I prayed it over and over and over, getting the words out-of-order most of the time. But when I entered that hospital room as a young pastor facing the first member to die… I entered with a sense of peace in my soul that came from that Psalm.
There is something so very special about this Psalm which lets us know that we are loved and never, ever forgotten that touches and renews our soul. I pray that whatever you may be going through today – however big or small – grand or mundane – know that God is walking with you THROUGH the journey – all the way through.
Start praying the Psalm everyday and perhaps it will bring you the comfort you seek daily. Amen.
Grace and Peace