Psalm 23 - The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His Name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, 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. Truly goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
This devotion pairs with this weekend's Lutheran Hour sermon, which can be found at lutheranhour.org.
When I think of Psalm 23, the first two images that pop into my mind are of a very dark valley and our Shepherd ever leading us. Each of us in recalling a well-known or studied portion of Scripture, of which Psalm 23 ranks right near the top, has opinions and thoughts that arise in our gray matter. Pictures or emotions come to the fore, no doubt, depending on how we've previously experienced the text. For me, Psalm 23 has always ranked as a funeral psalm and having studied the text often in the past—interestingly enough, most often in connection with a funeral—I guess it seems that that's where it fits best.
However, I've already confessed to our Shepherd my sin of tunnel vision about this text and have received from Him both forgiveness and the joy that comes from seeing just how truthfully thanks-bringing this text really is. When we open our eyes and ears to the fact that only with and in our Shepherd, this world's One and only true Leader, no matter whatever comes our way and wherever that is—we are blessed.
Therefore, whatever, and wherever. Thank You, Lord. The very first words after my initial study of the text were these words from our brother Martin Luther. The beginning notes of our Lutheran Study Bible on Psalm 23 read as follows: "A psalm of thanks in which a Christian heart praises and thanks God for teaching him and keeping him on the right way, comforting and protecting him in every danger through His Holy Word. Truly haste and tunnel vision are not the best leg to stand on. A psalm of thanks in which a Christian heart praises and thanks God for teaching him? Thank You, Lord, for your speedy teaching of me, Your servant." When thinking of the road or path we walk upon, we might ask, "Where's God as we walk it and into whatever we may encounter? Is He really there?" That's a good question. And our Shepherd well answers that question in this psalm of thanksgiving.
Where is He? Well, He's right here with us. After all, where can one tending the sheep be, but with the sheep? Please hear where God says He is as we walk along the path. And as you see His location, thank Him. "He makes me lie down in green pastures." More than a few years ago, in order to make our infant son lie down and go to sleep, we would stay with him in his room for a bit and then move baby monitor on to another location in our home. Hallelujah! He was a good sleeper. Because my wife and I became parents later along on the path. To make our little lamb sleep we did not say, "Go upstairs and go to bed," and then head out shopping or to mow the lawn or to blow the snow off the driveway. We were there with him and thank You, Lord, for restful green pastures, including Mosaic Stadium.
But how does God know the pastures are green? Of course, He's all knowing. But in our text and its context, the Shepherd is making, leading, restoring, comforting, preparing, serving, and anointing the sheep. Talk about a ministry of presence. He's always right there with us. "He leads me beside still waters." If He is not there, how can He know that the waters are still? If He's not right there with us, but says, "Hey, sheep! Head over in that direction in a little bit you'll come to a river," you and I being the sheep we are will almost assuredly not walk beside the waters, but right into the waters. And if those waters are raging, well, wet wool not only stinks, it sinks. Thank You, Lord, that You are near to lead, direct, and fully care for us. Even in death, God is right beside us. He's not a scaredy cat saying, "See you on the other side of this thing in front of you. Hope you make it through. If so, I'll catch up with you there."
If that's the kind of God you think you have, you've got the wrong one. The One true God, the only God of the universe, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is afraid of nothing and in everything that might startle us or cause us to shake with fear. He says, "I have you in My ever-present, nail-pierced hands. Fear not you are Mine." Through His gift of faith to us, we know and believe that Jesus, even in death—His own death in our place—did not turn and run away from it. He stood there and took the stripes, hung there between heaven and earth for you and me. And for every other sheep that has ever or will ever live, He did not run away even from His own death in the place of every human being, us as sinners, Him as perfect.
He did it to forgive us and to give us what none of us deserves. Thank You, Lord. Please forgive us for not seeing where You are and that You are in whatever we face day to day to day. Amen and amen. Truth is there's more to the text, so see you—or rather come hear His Word this Sunday on The Lutheran Hour. God bless your daily thanking of our Shepherd.
WE PRAY: Thank You, Lord, for the truth that wherever we are and whatever life is throwing our way, You tell us, and therefore it is so, that You are with us in every way we need, shepherding us so that we can perfectly rest in You. Amen and amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Rev. Keith Haberstock.
1. Portraying God as our Shepherd is frequently done in Scripture. Why do you think this is?
2. What do "still waters" look like in your life?
3. How does God's example of shepherding inspire you in your treatment of others?
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