COVID-19 v Psalm 23 # 2
The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want (Psalm 23:1)
Welcome back to this blog on Psalm 23. A few thoughts around the opening verse of this well-loved Psalm.
The Lord is my Shepherd – We’re not really used to shepherds in Australia (about the only shepherds we refer to are the four legged varieties), but in ancient Palestine the shepherd was the central figure entrusted with the care of the flock. He had a warm relationship with the sheep. He knew them by name and they knew his voice. In the modern Middle East it’s still the same. I remember several years ago being told by a friend who once lived in Jordan that he had witnessed seeing the relationship shepherds had with their sheep first hand. He told the story of how on a particular day he saw two shepherds and their flocks come together in the open countryside. The shepherds chatted for a while and the two flocks grazed together. When it was time to move on the shepherds walked off and whistled as they left; with this the flocks divided, each sheep following its master.
That’s the image we are given in Psalm 23. The Lord is my shepherd. He knows us and we know him. It’s a relationship that operates at a warm and caring level. That’s the point of the Psalm. It’s to be an encouragement. We’re not alone, no matter what we’re facing. Having a shepherd doesn’t mean we aren’t going to face difficult times but it does mean the God who rules the world is walking with us through these times and he remains committed to us. There are so many Scriptures that remind us of this (e.g. Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 6:25-34).
The second thing I notice in v. 1 is that that because the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. I think we have to be careful how we read this statement. At one level it sounds like helpful advice. “you really don’t need to worry because the Lord is with you”. That is good advice, and it may be true, however I don’t think it’s given just as advice; rather it’s a statement of fact. It’s bold! I like the way it’s put in the NLT. The Lord is my Shepherd I have all that I need. That’s a big thought. We need lots of things. We need food, shelter, community, health. Clearly having God as our Shepherd doesn’t guarantee us all of these things, nonetheless the idea is we have all that we need because more than anything we need to be in relationship with God. If we have the Shepherd we have everything.
This is where it comes back to the gospel. We were made for relationship with God. We are the Imago Dei. His image bearers. This is the thing that sets us apart from all of creation. There is a dignity to all people for this reason. But even though we were made for relationship with God we walked away from him, thinking we had all we needed in ourselves. Coronavirus, cancer, road accidents and every other tragedy remind us that we have bought into a lie. We need to know the Father. Everything this world offers can be taken in a moment. God is all we need for two fundamental reasons. First, he is all we need because he is the only thing sure. He is eternal and he offers us an eternal relationship with himself. The words in John’s gospel speak loudly – for God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. Secondly, he is all we need because life and happiness are actually found in knowing him. Think about this for a moment. We spend most of our lives hoping to be liked and accepted by others. The more prominent the people that like us the higher our status in the eyes of others. We try and validate our existence through our networks, reputation and bank balance. It usually turns out to be a disappointing and a selfish way to live. The gospel however says that Jesus came and through his death and resurrection he offers us forgiveness and a relationship with the Father. In Jesus we are accepted by the greatest of all persons – God. He is not only our Shepherd but he becomes our Father.
The Lord is my shepherd, I have all I need.
COVID19 V Psalm 23 # 1
G’day everyone, as most of you know Jac and I are on leave at the moment but given the current crisis around COVID19 I thought it could be worth taking time to reflect on the gospel through the lens of Psalm 23. It has always been a Psalm for those with their backs against the wall; a Psalm for uncertain times and for the anxious; a Psalm that reminds us of the true reality of this world.
The plan is, over the next few weeks, to write a weekly blog reflecting on this passage. I may end up being the only one reading it, but if so it won’t be a waste as it will keep my thoughts anchored where they need to be. I’d be honoured if you choose to join me.
To kick it off today please click here and you’ll be taken to an article from The Gospel Coalition. It’s a reflection on two worlds; one without hope and one with Jesus. Hope it’s helpful.