For September 2022, I’m trying to read and reflect – briefly – on a Psalm each day. I’ll read the Psalm, pray, and then ponder a few questions:
- What is this Psalm about?
- What does this Psalm teach about God?
- How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?
I’ll close the post with a simple prayer, trying to draw the themes together.
For the 23rd of September, here’s Psalm 23:
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 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.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
What is this Psalm about?
This is a Psalm of David that is explicitly about God, relationship with God, and walking with God, no matter what life throws at the believer. It is a powerful Psalm, a beautiful piece of writing that has resonated through centuries of Jewish and Christian worship and spirituality. I regularly read the Jesus Story Book Bible version of Psalm 23 to my daughters – it is titled ‘found’, and that is the word that describes one of the things this Psalm is about: the real experience of being found in God.
What does this Psalm teach about God?
The image of shepherd is vital – care, strength, healing, protection, wisdom and more – but there is even more going on here. Without becoming an evangelical cliche, there are three vital P’s. First, God’s protection of those he loves, both in terms of protection from evil (v4) and the weariness of life (v2-3), and further in terms of protection from going the wrong way (v3). Secondly, God’s provision throughout the Psalm echoes God’s provision for us throughout our lives – whether it’s water, rest, anointing, goodness, love, and a dwelling place. Thirdly and finally – though there could be more, in a longer reflection – posterity. God is not just a God of creation or a God of redemption, a God of then and a God for now. God is the God of forever – and God invites us to ‘dwell in the house of the Lord’. And the hint – given the rest, respite, refreshment and protection offered by God the Shepherd to us in this life – is that this will be a good place to dwell.
How does this Psalm connect to God’s people today?
The valley of the shadow of death, suffering, and so on, as echoed in verse 4 – these are places where God is present. Psalm 23 serves as a reminder. But I think, perhaps, it is most helpful for God’s people today to remember the three P’s observed above – and particularly the promise of posterity. Often we reduced God to a deity we demand from daily, or the cosmic creator who stands aloof. Yet God is not like that, and ultimately we will know perfectly just how, brilliantly, not like that. I wonder if this is why Psalm 23 has brought such comfort.