A Personal Look At Psalm 23
Have you ever needed to know that things would be OK?
You hoped even though you got bad news that God is with you that God is for you and nothing could go so wrong to remove you from God’s care and goodness. You feared that the worst was coming true, yet you still hoped that you would overcome the bad thing that was looming.
I am in that spot now. Between trusting God will handle the bad thing and the worst thing devouring me. I want to trust that God is with me that He has embraced me and will not only never let me go, but will protect me. Yet, a storm coming, it’s on the horizon bearing down on me. The storm clouds are forming and darkness has set in. I fear the worst is coming that the tempest will overcome me.
Will God uphold me or will I slip through the seams?
Recently, I was diagnosed with Charcot (pronounced sharko) Foot. The worst side affect to Diabetes other than an open festering wound. What it boils down to is the bones in my left foot have softened and separated. The x-rays are grotesque. Without multiple surgeries and treatments, I will lose my leg and with them, the possibility of saving my leg jumps to 90%. My doctor says nothing I did could prevent this condition and nothing I did caused it. I had been getting my Diabetes under control even losing weight. I was doing all the right things. I see losing my leg a death sentence, which would put a kibosh on my going to seminary this fall and becoming a pastor.
I have been contemplating Psalm 23 since getting this news. I would like to offer my thoughts on this and give an answer to the question preceding the last paragraph. I hope this will help you, dear reader as much as it helps me.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
This psalm possibly the best-known psalm uses two central metaphors expressing God’s care and goodness: the shepherd and the banquet table. These two metaphors are central to trusting that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. That in Jesus, we are loved, embraced, graced, and blessed already. This is not of our doing but all God’s doing.
Jesus is the good shepherd who goes after the one sheep who wanders off and gets lost. Those who follow Jesus come to know Him as the gentle, but strong shepherd who guides us through life. Jesus showed us how to live fully and how to trust God completely. By using the rich image of God as shepherd, we are saying that we, his sheep his followers are utterly dependent on him for food, water, and protection. We cannot do it on our own. We must rely entirely on God to sustain and protect us. Life is a gift, a gift to be cherished and honored.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
This extends the metaphor of the shepherd’s care for the sheep. The Lord lovingly cares for His people. We are saying that Jesus guides as to the goodness of life that he restores us, and renews us to right relationship with God. Jesus points us to God’s care and goodness. We are to seek God and we will be blessed powerfully. Jesus showed us how to live fully and He empowers us to be all that we were meant to be for the glory of God.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
This verse has weighed on my mind and soul. What is being said here? I walk through threats and dangers, deep as a valley, dark as a shadow, and as awful as death itself safely. I will not be lost in this valley in this shadow. No evil can do harm to a child of God. Death cannot separate me from the love of God. No real harm will come. Nothing can defeat the love of God that holds me in the bosom of the lover of my soul. Why should I fear? What should I fear? I have God’s gracious presence with me not just in death and danger, but also at all moments. In every moment, God’s spirit is with me; even though I cannot see Her, I do feel Her with me. Even my darkest moments I know God will never let me go. Not wishful thinking it is the truth, reality.
Jesus, the good shepherd will not only escort his sheep through the valley, where they are in danger of being set upon by lurking darkness; He will not only lead them, but will comfort them when they most need comfort.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely, your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
We come to the final verses of this Psalm. The first sentence of this grouping has always troubled me. What does it mean to set a table before one’s enemies? I think what it means is that God welcomes all and by eating by coming together our enemies become our friends. To dine with someone is to make him or her your friend. God treats us as an honored guest. God’s table is not for the prized few but for all who are willing to come and see.
The illustration shifts to that of a banquet, a victory celebration. I see this as a hint of the Eucharist or communion. It is also a picture of God’s assurance of an eternal home with Him. God wants to embrace, grace, and bless all and will lavish all this and more on those who trust in him and follow Jesus. The deepest truest astonishing expression of God’s character is love. Though God loves all people, he is especially committed to sacrificial, loyal relationships with his people.
Taking up one’s cross is one of Christianity’s most valuable contributions. Christianity is not so much a religion as a way of life, a following the way of the one who didn’t evade the darkness of Gethsemane, the cross of Good Friday, or the descent of hell of Holy Saturday. Diabetes is my cross. I take it up and follow the way of Jesus. Good Friday and Holy Saturday comes before Resurrection Sunday. It may be Friday, but Sunday is fast approaching.
You may already suspect the answer I am going give to the question I promised to answer. Hope is not wishful thinking or wanting something to be true that isn’t. No. True hope is openness and readiness to find meaning in what is to come. I trust God will uphold me. As I go forward and anticipate the best, yet brace myself for the worst, I know God is with me. God is with and for me as I go through the darkest, I will not fear, for God’s spirit will comfort me. I know that nothing will separate me from the love of God, so in the end no matter what happens it will be OK.
Grace and Peace
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