This is a psalm that most likely we have all heard.
Perhaps this is one of the most quoted chapters in the Bible… spoken by athletes before games, recited by congregations at churches, written on sympathy cards to comfort those who are mourning, and replayed over and over in our own minds when we are in the midst of deep, dark valleys and long for the loving care, guidance, protection and provision that only The Great Shepherd can fulfill.
Funny side-story here. With six kids whose total age difference spans 12 years, I have, on occasion, seen “holes” in my parenting. You know, like discovering my younger kids never learned to tie their shoelaces, how to clean a toilet, or the words to The Pledge of Allegiance. I am baffled…How did they not learn these things? Well, I had one of these realizations when our family was at a funeral a few years back. It seemed that the entire audience was reciting Psalm 23… uh.. except my youngest two, who had perplexed looks on their faces. They were plenty old enough to know this, but somehow it fell through the cracks, becoming yet one more example of just assuming all my kids learned the same things at the same time. #parentingfail
Psalm 23 is definitely one to memorize… but even more, it’s one to dissect to understand its richness. This psalm is one to share with those who are sad, those who are mourning. This psalm is one to play over and over in our own minds, meditating on its transforming message when we are in the depth of despair. And, it is one pray on behalf of friends who are experiencing depths of pain that we may not be able to comprehend. So, we just pray these beautiful words in Psalm 23 directly to the ear of our Heavenly Father, trusting his faithfulness, his sovereignty, and asking Him to be the
- the one with whom deep, intimate fellowship is so needed and so beautiful.
- the only one who is able to satisfy a mourning soul
- the one in whom trust must be placed
- the one worthy of all praise
- the one who knows never leaves us
- the one who meets us where we are
- the one who understands the beauty through ashes
- the one who has ordained our journeys in life and is using all things for our good and His glory.
Remember, this is David talking. He has personal experience with knowing the needs of the sheep and the many specific cares of the shepherd. He understands very well that sheep are weak, defenseless, and foolish. He knows first-hand how much the sheep need him for protection, provision, comfort, guidance, and need to be lead in the right direction. Picture him sitting under a spreading tree, with his sheep all around him, in the darkness of the night sky, with seen and unseen potential danger about him, singing this song with words that DECLARE his trust in God as THE Good Shepherd.
He is fixing his mind on God in the midst of his emotions. He is claiming the attributes of God that he knows he can trust. And, in so doing, there is gladness and a surreal trust.
God is still the same today… able to sustain us and meet our every need through the darkest valleys. We need only to sit in his presence, fix our minds on Him, and declare our (even if it’s wimpy) trust.
And KNOW.. and CLAIM.. and BELIEVE.. that He is the still waters for the anxious heart. His presence in our heart is enough. He is the restorer of the hurting heart. He is the one who sets our feet on the right path. He is the one able to help us overcome any fear. He is the one who holds us in our mourning. He is the one who gives peace even when on death’s bed. He is the great comforter like none other. He is the one who renews perspective. He is the one who lovingly, patiently shares in the difficult journey. He is the one we will dwell with for eternity.
He is Our shepherd.
And, because he is, we shall not want. (We might want, but when the Lord is our shepherd, He is all we need.)
Dear Lord, I pray for ____ (self, spouse, child, friend) that he would know you as his shepherd. That he would go to you in the midst of valleys and despair and know first hand of your faithfulness as protector, provider, comforter, and guide. May he experience the intimacy of knowing you through times of mourning. May he use his life to proclaim your faithfulness. May he have a tender heart for those who are mourning and be a friend who both prays and is present.
Rhonda heleadsmebesidestillwaters ellis